Impeaching President Bush: A Game Of Ambiguity
Impeaching President Bush: A Game Of Ambiguity
By Doug Giebel
“im-peach . . . 2. to call in question”
--Oxford American Dictionary
Rules matter. Only Congress has authority to impeach a sitting president in the political sense; but the private citizen has the ability to impeach a president by calling into question the president’s words and deeds. What follows is one American’s “impeachment” of President George W. Bush. You, dear reader, may be the jury – or you may join the growing popularity of this game and make your own “impeachment” list.
In considering the statements of President Bush and members of his administration, one must remember that these were the national leaders who repeatedly affirmed that Saddam Hussein definitely had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Some claimed we knew exactly where to find those WMD. The Bush Administration spent many hours preparing purportedly factual WMD material that Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations (and the world) with the straight-faced conviction of a Method actor.
The record shows that many Bush Administration statements of absolute “fact” were (and are) either untrue or, at best, gross exaggerations of the truth. Many have questioned whether President Bush and his people deliberately “misled” the nation into the invasion of Iraq. Politically correct administration members and reporters defend presidential virtue by claiming the Bush Administration itself was “misled,” misled by “faulty intelligence.” Few have been willing to say publicly that administration lies led us down the bloody path to Baghdad, but when leaders “exaggerate” and “mislead” then they “lie,” and there’s no doubt about it.
Consider these statements made by President George W. Bush during his December 19, 2005 Presidential Press Conference.
1. “ . . . democracies don't war; democracies are peaceful countries.”
The democratic United States went to “war” with and invaded Iraq, even though Iraq had not attacked the United States. Earlier, the United States went to war with Spain, invaded Grenada and Panama, and has conducted covert “war” missions throughout the world.
2. “In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law [the Patriot Act] for a single moment.”
This is a prime example of Bush Administration exaggeration. In context, the statement implies that Congress (or Democrats) wanted to cancel the Patriot Act, but they did not. Even if the act did not exist, the United States could and would continue to fight terrorism and try to prevent terrorist acts from occurring. Furthermore, it is absurd to believe a pause in the existence of the Patriot Act “for a single moment” would weaken the nation or make it more vulnerable to attack.
The line may sound convincing, but it lacks credibility.
3. “In the late 1990s, our government was following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone. And then the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak. And guess what happened? Saddam -- Osama bin Laden changed his behavior. He began to change how he communicated.”
Glenn Kessler debunked this apocryphal story in The Washington Post (December 22, 2005) suggesting it be filed as an “Urban Myth.” It is possible President Bush believes the story is true. He seemed convinced the “faulty intelligence” was beyond doubt. On the other hand, good storytellers and con-artists convince their listeners with zealous sincerity.
4. “The people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current [National Intelligence Agency] program [to spy and wiretap without a court order], because it enables us to move faster and quicker.”
While the words “faster” and “quicker” are synonyms, the problem this statement of “fact” presents is that the Bush Administration has provided no proof to support the assertion. Near the end of this press conference, a reporter asked President Bush, “Mr. President, in making the case for domestic spying, could you tell us about the planned attacks on the U.S. that were thwarted through your domestic spying plan?” The president responded, “No, I'm not going to talk about that, because it would help give the enemy notification and/or, perhaps, signal to them methods and uses and sources.”
By donning the “secrecy” veil, President Bush and his spokespeople are able to make all sorts of statements they will never have to prove. “Don’t ask. Won’t tell. It’s a secret.” Motion picture fans may recall that a fixture of the Hollywood “Western” was the patent medicine salesman who peddled his snake oil by making extravagant claims as to the tonic’s cure-all properties. Bush Administration talking points and evasions put those old-time hucksters to shame.
5. “Now, having suggested this [NSA spying] idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely.”
Did President Bush truly originate the spying idea? If he did, and if he is later judged to have violated the law by so doing, this admission could be damning. As to whether this president “absolutely” has the legal authority to authorize such spying, the answer is by no means “absolutely” clear. Many legal experts (including some Republicans) believe President Bush does not have the authority he has claimed for himself. Some are convinced this violation of the law represents an “impeachable” offense in the political sense of that word. If a majority in Congress truly cared about constitutional issues, the Congress would investigate the president’s claim without fear and without political bias.
6. During the conference, a reporter said, “[Y]ou've shown a remarkable spirit of candor in the last couple of weeks in your conversation and speeches about Iraq. And I'm wondering if, in that spirit, I might ask you a question that you didn't seem to have an answer for the last time you were asked, and that is, what would you say is the biggest mistake you've made during your presidency, and what have you learned from it?” President Bush did not answer the question. Instead, he maneuvered around the issue of his “biggest mistake” and what he’d “learned from it,” then declared, “And the point I'm trying to make to the American people in this, as you said, candid dialogue -- I hope I've been candid all along . . .”
By dodging the reporter’s question, President Bush was not in any way being “candid.
A different reporter followed by asking, “Are you willing to go before members of Congress and explain this eavesdropping program? And do you support an independent investigation?”
Once more, President Bush did not answer the question. Here’s how he dodged the issue.
THE PRESIDENT: We have been talking to members of the United States Congress. We have met with them over 12 times. And it's important for them to be brought into this process. Again, I repeat, I understand people's concerns. But I also want to assure the American people that I am doing what you expect me to do, which is to safeguard civil liberties and at the same time protect the United States of America. And we've explained the authorities under which I'm making our decisions, and will continue to do so. Secondly, there is a committee -- two committees on the Hill which are responsible, and that's the Intelligence Committee. Again, any public hearings on programs will say to the enemy, here's what they do; adjust. This is a war. Of course we consult with Congress and have been consulting with Congress and will continue to do so.
When President Bush responds to but avoids answering a question, is he “misleading” his listeners?
7. “Everybody thought there was weapons of mass destruction . . .”
Grammar aside, an examination of the record clearly shows that many experts and other knowledgeable people both in and outside the United States did not think that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Many who doubted the administration’s hyped-up claims were ignored by the mainstream media or had their voices deliberately muffled. As this writer has noted elsewhere, there is credible evidence that some top members of the Bush Administration knew Saddam had no WMD even before the invasion occurred and conducted a “snipe hunt” after the invasion for WMD they knew would not be found.
8. “[W]hat we did find after the war was that Saddam Hussein had the desire to -- or the liberation -- Saddam had the desire to reconstitute his weapons programs. In other words, he had the capacity to reconstitute them.”
Whatever Saddam’s “desire” regarding WMD, having the desire is not the same as “he had the capacity to reconstitute them.” President Bush equates having the “desire” with having the “capacity.” What evidence has been found to support the claim that Saddam had the capacity to reconstitute his WMD? I might desire to marry Renee Zellweger. Few would believe I have the capacity to realize the desire.
9. “If you're a -- you know, you find these secret prisons where people have been tortured, that's unacceptable. And, yet, there are some who still want to have retribution against people who harmed them.”
The evidence of administration-accepted torture continues to grow. Of course, it might also be unacceptable to the Bush Administration if some of the alleged CIA-run “secret prisons” were found and exposed to public view. Among those who “still want to have retribution against people who harmed them” is President Bush, whose “war on terror” is aimed at punishing those responsible for the events of 9/11.
10. A reporter asked, “I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?”
President Bush responded, “First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power." He then explained that swearing an oath to uphold the law is a “check” on presidential power, even though swearing an oath has not prevented many of those sworn from lying (under oath). Has President Bush forgotten Bill Clinton’s predicament?
Next, the president asserted that briefing members of Congress amounts to a “check,” as does the constant self-monitoring of administration actions. Thanks to a friendly Supreme Court majority, there can be no “check” on Vice-President Cheney’s meetings with oil company honchos, and there is still no viable “check” on electronic surveillance currently being conducted by the NSA, the Pentagon, the CIA and who knows what other federal agencies.
The president finished his response, “To say ‘unchecked power’ basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.”
However, by granting himself full authority to conduct secret, possibly illegal activities, President Bush has willingly accepted an unknown measure of “dictatorial” power. Only a thorough, unbiased and independent inquiry can determine the extent of such power. It is in the best interest of Republicans, Democrats and the nation to conduct such an inquiry, regardless of the outcome.
11. “We've got young men and women over their sacrificing. And all of a sudden, because of politics or some focus group or some poll, they stand up and say, we're out of there. I can't think of anything more dispiriting to a kid risking his or her life than to see decisions made based upon politics.”
How many presidential decisions (and congressional decisions) are “based upon politics”? Do the “kids” risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan believe decisions regarding their welfare are based upon politics? Is it not ludicrous for politicians whose business (and lifeblood) is “politics” to assert that political issues must not be “politicized”? When this president’s poll numbers dropped significantly, he scheduled a flurry of speeches including a rare address from the Oval Office and news conferences. Do President Bush and his advisors care about focus groups and polls? Of course they do, both in and outside the United States, including Iraq. The Bush Administration desires to create a “democracy” in Iraq where killing will be supplanted by political discourse. In his December 18 address from the White House, President Bush said, “Today in Iraq, seven in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going well and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve even more in the year ahead.” To support a point, the anti-poll president cited “some poll.”
12. In that same December 18 address, the president stated, “It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. . .We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us . . .”
How many “insurgents” are in Iraq? According to Knight-Ridder, in October 2005, “Gen. John Abizaid, the chief of U.S. Central Command . . . put the number at 20,000 in early October, about the same as it was a year ago.” See: Jonathan D. Tupperman http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/?track=hpleftnav-columns
What is the current population of Iraq? The CIA’s web site gives the figure 26,074,906 (July 2005 est.)
It therefore seems a stretch to assert without qualification that 20,000 insurgents would definitely take over if United States and Coalition forces departed Iraq. Do the math. Then ask yourself whether the president’s claim seems credible.
13. “When a unanimous Security Council gave [Saddam Hussein] one final chance to disclose and disarm, or face serious consequences, he refused to comply with that final opportunity. At any point along the way, Saddam Hussein could have avoided war by complying with the just demands of the international community. The United States did not choose war -- the choice was Saddam Hussein's.” (President Bush, December 14, 2005.)
Long before the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had complied with requests to “disarm” by getting rid of his WMD. That is why no WMD were found either by U.N. inspectors or by the United States after the 2003 invasion. (In 1995, Iraq’s weapons chief defected and told U.N. inspectors and the CIA that Iraq’s WMD had been destroyed by . . . 1991! The weapons chief was also Saddam’s son-in-law.) Throughout his rhetoric, President Bush implies that Saddam had to openly admit he had no WMD. Would such a disclosure have satisfied a Bush Administration that portrayed Saddam as an “Axis of Evil” leader who practiced deception and lying? Was President Bush asking Saddam to do the impossible and “prove the negative” that he had no WMD? Apparently so.
As for going to war with Iraq, the United States government “chose” to invade Iraq. It could have chosen otherwise. “The United States did not choose war” is (a) merely the president’s opinion; (b) open to interpretation; (c) a lie. (d) a, b and c.
14. “We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us." (President Bush, June 28, 2005)
This either/or choice is a favorite Bush Administration theme. (“We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities." --October 25, 2004. “We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."--July 4, 2005) Does it make sense?
The image: Iraq as an electric bug-zapper, attracting terrorists just as the zapper lures mosquitoes, moths and other insects to exterminate them. But the bug-zapper does not zap all bugs. Does fighting terrorists in the Middle East mean terrorists will therefore choose to avoid attacking the United States “at home”?
Our military leaders in Iraq tell us the “insurgents” are learning new skills and tactics, that their weapons and attacks are becoming more sophisticated. American commanders have recently confirmed that U.S. bombing raids in Iraq have increased dramatically (meaning even more of Iraq requires “rebuilding”). Will escalation succeed?
When the curtain of obfuscation and secrecy finally parts, the Bush Administration’s “manipulation” and “cherry picking” and “creation” of “facts” will stand naked on the national stage, and no amount of blaming “faulty intelligence” will clothe the truth. The duty of opening this curtain may fall upon whistleblowers who find the administration’s network of lies unbearable and refuse to take it anymore.
Until that day of days, good citizens have the opportunity and obligation to “impeach” the language of our nation’s political leaders, Republican and Democrat alike, the better to hold them accountable when November’s Judgment Day draws near.