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Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006 | After I had spoken on the Iraq war at USD’s Institute for Peace and Justice following the elections last month, I was surprised and unprepared when a woman in the audience asked what I thought about the movement to impeach George W. Bush. I brushed her question off as not serious, and she came up afterward and let me have it: She was deadly serious about the impeachment movement.
And why not? If we could impeach Bill Clinton for lying about his sexual escapades – something falling far short of the high crimes and misdemeanors required by the Constitution – we ought to be able to impeach Bush for lying us into an unnecessary war that has killed 50,000-100,000 people and has no end in sight. War crimes are equal to sex crimes, no?
Moreover, having taken back the Congress, Democrats now have the capability to pay the Republicans back for Clinton’s absurd impeachment. Type in “impeach Bush” on your computer you’ll see just how many people take the issue seriously.
Nevertheless, Bush impeachment is not serious. To begin with, Democrats lack the Republican animus, the hatred necessary to fund abominations like the Arkansas Project, whose specific aim was to destroy Clinton. And so far they have not found anyone quite so odious as Kenneth Starr to hound Bush through the courts.
Further, most Democrats recognize that impeaching Bush would be bad for the nation. We are up to our necks in it in Iraq, and the need now, as the Iraq Study Group has just recognized, is for bi-partisan cooperation to find a way out of the mess. Let Bush, whose Iraq policy is approved by 21 percent of the public in the latest poll, answer to the electorate and to history for his errors.
The Iraq Study Group report clearly came to him as a shock. He’d trumpeted the report for weeks, expecting it to be a tepid, conciliatory, tut-tutting by a group of Washington insiders led by James Baker, the family fixer. Instead it was a scathing indictment of three years of inexcusable blunders, warning of a “slide toward chaos” that threatens “the global standing of the United States.” It is an indictment of Bush Middle East policy over six years.
One need not translate such potent language into a legal justification for impeachment to grasp the meaning: This president and his administration have committed political and strategic errors that have undermined the interests, influence and reputation of the nation. Either Bush changes policy or the nation will look to the new Congress to pull us out of the mud.
The errors of the Bush Administration are so legion it’s easy to understand the impeachment movement. Boiled down, the errors fit into two broad categories:
- Ideological errors deriving from ignorance of history and denial of reality. This leads Bush not only into gross strategic blunders like war in Iraq, but to taking the wrong side on an issue such as global warming, where the scientific evidence of crisis is overwhelming. Like war, global warming should be bi-partisan: Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, but Bush’s EPA is being sued by the states to enforce the act.
- Errors deriving from shunning consensus, stifling disagreement and punishing dissent. The basic lie Bush perpetrated on the nation was to present himself as a uniter.
If Bush were not so unsympathetic, one might shed a tear for him as a tragic figure. But tragic figures, in the classical sense at least, are people of extraordinary talent brought down by a fatal flaw. In Bush’s case, it is the opposite: he is an ordinary man brought down by a plethora of flaws.
Except for Dick Cheney, the puppeteer, Bush now has been abandoned by all those who egged him on to war in Iraq, assuring him it would be a “slam dunk,” “piece of cake,” “walk in the park” and all the other metaphors used by those who never served. Go down the list of those who designed, promoted or supported this war and you see how many have slunk away. The list includes:
George Tenet, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle. Two neo-con architects of Bush’s disastrous Middle East policy, David Wurmser and Elliott Abrams, still remain, protected by Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Meanwhile, a host of neo-con war supporters in publications such as The New Republic and The Weekly Standard now say – “we were wrong, so sorry.” One former leading neo-con, Francis Fukuyama now equates neo-conservatism with Leninism, denouncing his former comrades as believing “history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will.”
These are the people who plunged the nation into the crisis it now faces, into a “slide toward chaos” in Iraq that undermines the “global standing of the United States.” These are the people who persuaded Bush to launch the war that some would now impeach him for. These are the people who told him his presidency would be defined by the Iraq war -which is the one thing they got right.
We cannot impeach Bush because we all are guilty of his crimes. Yes, there are those in Congress who stood up to him – Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi to name two now being rewarded for their judgment – but most of Congress tainted itself with the Iraq War resolution, giving Bush the powers he subsequently misused.
We are the nation that gave Bush a second term – gave him a second term despite knowing of the lies, the crimes, the failures, the chaos he has created.
Impeachment would not be fair. There’s enough guilt to go around.
James O. Goldsborough has written on foreign affairs for four decades, both from the United States and abroad, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for The New York Herald Tribune, International Herald Tribune and Newsweek magazine for 14 years, reporting from more than 40 countries. Submit a letter to the editor here.