Revolution #87, May 6, 2007
April 25: Impeachment Demand Fights Its Way Onto the Table
Tuesday, April 24--U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich entered a resolution into Congress to impeach Vice President Cheney.
Wednesday, April 25--50 prominent voices of conscience stood up in front of the U.S. Capitol to demand the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Cheney.
Thursday, April 26--as the Senate voted on the Iraq war appropriations bill, two 20' x 30' banners dropped from high in the atrium of the Hart Senate office building, one with the impeachment clause of the Constitution, the other saying: "Your Silence, Your Legacy."
Opening the press conference for the impeachment action on April 25, John Nichols of The Nation magazine declared: "We’re here to tell Congress to put impeachment on the table where it belongs, at the forefront of its agenda."
The air in Washington was electric last week as writers, actors, activists, former and current government officials, and others gathered across from the Capitol. This was the moment to break out the movement to impeach Bush and Cheney. The specter of a constitutional showdown between the White House and Congress was percolating over the Democrats' inclusion of a time line for withdrawal from Iraq in the war appropriations bill and Bush's veto threat. Revelations, accusations, and subpoenas against the Bush administration were mounting daily. Bush and Cheney, bellicose as ever, made clear their determination to go ahead with their program of escalating the war in Iraq, threatening Iran, rewriting legal procedures to even further limit Guantánamo detainees' access to lawyers, hailing the theocratic and anti-women Supreme Court decision restricting abortion rights — all while defending their lying legal architect of torture, Attorney General Gonzales.
All this--and as many as 655,000 Iraqis killed (according to a study published in the British medical journal Lancet) and 3,333+ U.S. military deaths--was the stage upon which the demand for impeachment was raised. Complicity and responsibility, the rule of law, and the necessity to act before even more death and damage is done were themes that echoed through the statements at the press conference.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of American Fascists Chris Hedges, captured the gravity of the stakes: "This president is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the ‘crime of aggression.’ And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we do not begin the process of impeachment, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences."
For several weeks running up to April 25, e-mails were circulating as prominent voices of conscience wrote statements, worked to clear schedules, and made commitments to be in D.C. On April 19, actress Olympia Dukakis announced the upcoming action before a national TV audience of millions on the The View, causing Rosie O'Donnell to leap out of her chair, fists in the air. Endorsements and statements came in from Ed Asner, Russell Banks, Jackson Browne, Ariel Dorfman, Eve Ensler, Graham Nash, Gore Vidal, and Alice Walker, among many others. As April 25 neared, Representative Kucinich scheduled his filing of articles of impeachment against Cheney for the day before.
At Kucinich's announcement of the impeachment on the 24th, the press ridiculed him for standing alone — while studiously avoiding the substance of his charges against Cheney. As the gathering of the prominents began next day, Kucinich strode up the Capitol steps to the microphone and said, looking around at those assembled: "I was asked yesterday, who stands with you? No one stands with me but the people on this. The people will be heard from!"
Most of those assembled on the 25th have spoken out against the war and Bush before, including advocating for impeachment. But never before had there been a gathering with such a breadth of prominent voices of conscience coming together to say impeachment must begin now. The main speakers included Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Kucinich, Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, and Eric Oemig, the state legislator who introduced an impeachment resolution in the Washington state legislature. They stood with the first poet laureate of New Jersey, Gerald Stern; Broadway actors Kathleen Chalfant, Eunice Wong, and Frank Wood; poet Anne Marie Macari; former intelligence and military officials David MacMichael and Ann Wright; and a score of other notable resisters, artists, activists, and military families. This was an assembling of people who have been, in different arenas, at the forefront of opposing Bush and the war. Their standing together, demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, began puncturing the "realpolitik" that all that is possible is what is already going on, and the cynical, criminal position of leading Democrats that impeachment will undermine their Presidential campaigns.
Cindy Sheehan, standing with others who had lost family members in Iraq, “The only solution to end this war is to impeach the liars, impeach the murderers, and get our troops home."
Many speakers expressed grave concern that the rule of law has been grievously undermined by Bush. Rocky Anderson said that initially he had thought impeachment was too extreme, but today he thinks that "Perhaps impeachment is most crucial for us as a nation and for those who come along in the future, to say that we will never allow these atrocities, these violations, this disregarding of the rule of law in our name."
Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison when he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 as a way to stop the Vietnam War, said, "To fail to impeach these officials, to fail to identify these as impeachable crimes, is to be fully complicit in their assault on the Constitution and democracy. That applies to every citizen, not only to members of Congress."
In discussions after the press conference, participants spoke of this week as a beginning, perhaps a turning point. As there is great turmoil over the future in Washington's halls of power, the action of these well-known voices of conscience was a new step in carving open political ground for a movement gathering from below to demand real change.
Speaking as Director of World Can't Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime, I issued a challenge in my opening remarks at the April 25 press conference: "To those who say it is premature to raise the demand for impeachment now, we ask: how tolerable is the situation in Iraq to you -- to allow it to continue for 2 more years? How tolerable is the build-up towards war with Iran? How long will you live with Guantanamo and torture carried out in your name? If now is not the time, then when will it be? If we do not demand impeachment and act to bring the Bush program to a halt, who will?"
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