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Impeachment passes at National Lawyers Guild

Impeachment Resolution passes at National Lawyers Guild Convention


http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/28971

By James Marc Leas

The National Lawyers Guild voted unanimously and enthusiastically for a resolution calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney at our national convention in Washington, DC on November 2, 2007.

The resolution lists more than a dozen high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush and Cheney administration and "calls upon the U.S. House of Representatives to immediately initiate impeachment proceedings, to investigate the charges, and if the investigation supports the charges, to vote to impeach George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney as provided in the Constitution of the United States of America." For the full text see http://nlg.org/convention/2007%20Resolutions/Impeachment%20resolution.pdf

National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn and Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner were among more than a dozen cosponsors. In a news release about the resolution issued by the NLG Marjorie Cohn said, "the war of aggression, the secret prisons, the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the use of evidence obtained by torture, and the surveillance of citizens without warrants, all initiated and carried out under the tenure of Bush and Cheney, are illegal under the U.S. Constitution and international law."

The resolution provides for an NLG Impeachment Committee open to all members that will help organize and coordinate events at the local, state, and national level to build public participation in the campaign to initiate impeachment investigation, impeachment, and removal of Bush and Cheney from office without further delay. NLG members wishing to participate in launching this committee should immediately contact Ian Head in the National Office at nlgno@nlg.org.

The resolution also calls on all other state and national bar associations, state and local government bodies, community organizations, labor unions, and all other citizen associations to adopt similar resolutions and to use all their resources to build the campaign.

Passage of the resolution followed two events with John Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, during the convention. First was a House Judiciary Committee Public Policy Forum on failure of the Bush/Cheney regime to observe international law. NLG members Marjorie Cohn, Jeanne Mirer, John Quigley, and Peter Weiss testified in the Judiciary Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building. Jeanne Mirer, Secretary General of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, took the floor toward the very end of the hearing to say that a remedy is needed, that the remedy is clearly provided in the US constitution, and that this committee has the authority to get that process going. Conyers, who chaired the forum, asked her to repeat that point to make sure it was included in the record. He said that he would be holding further hearings and invited the speakers to return to testify on that remedy, impeachment.

A couple of hours after that forum ended Congressman Conyers arrived at the convention to give his keynote address and answer questions before the 400 lawyers and legal workers in attendance. Former NLG president Michael Avery was first to line up at the microphone and asked Conyers what the NLG could do to help Conyers decide to initiate impeachment investigation of Bush and Cheney. Speaker after speaker pressed Conyers to take action on impeachment, many receiving thunderous applause. Although he remained non-committal, Conyers said he would like to participate in a series of public policy forums around the country that he said could consider the illegal actions by Bush and Cheney and that these forums could lead to the ultimate step of the double impeachment. He suggested that we can only expect Congressional action to follow establishment of a widespread public campaign visibly demanding impeachment.

Such a public campaign seems possible given the sentiment found in a new American Research Group Poll that shows that 64% of American voters say that President George W. Bush has abused his powers as president and 70% say Vice President Dick Cheney has abused his powers as vice president.

Particular urgency for massive public action is provided in new books by Marjorie Cohn and Naomi Wolf. At the convention, Marjorie Cohn signed copies of her book, Cowboy Republic, which describes the facts and law regarding six illegal acts by Bush and Cheney: the war of aggression against Iraq; torturing prisoners; targeted assassinations, summary executions, free fire zones, and willful killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan; imprisonment without charge and without due process, spying on Americans without a warrant; and refusing to execute the law. Her book warns that the Bush gang seeks to establish a police state and calls for impeaching and prosecuting Bush, Cheney, and other members of the Bush gang.

Wolf’s book, The End of America, written with input from attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights, describes ten steps taken by our government over the past six years that echo steps that she says are always taken by governments on the way to overthrowing democracy and establishing dictatorship: invoking an external and internal threat, establishing secret prisons where torture is practiced, developing a paramilitary force, spying on ordinary citizens, infiltrating citizen groups, detaining and releasing citizens, targeting key individuals, restricting the press, casting criticism and dissent as espionage and treason, and subverting the rule of law.

Cohn notes, for example, that the Bush/Cheney defense of harsh treatment as necessary for intelligence gathering is belied by the US Army Field Manual which states that "use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear." Widely publicized torture in Iraq is better explained as part of the attempt to dissuade ordinary Iraqi’s from supporting resistance to the US occupation. Wolf predicts that the system of detention and prisoner abuse will grow, and victims will gradually include more Americans to dissuade opposition to imposition of an authoritarian state at home.

Both books end with a call for massive citizen action to defend our constitutional system before it is too late. A model of such citizen action–with lawyers taking the lead--is underway right now in Pakistan. Vigorous action is needed to alert the public, stop further crimes by Bush and Cheney, demonstrate the broad support that already exists for their impeachment and removal from office, and to defend democracy and the rule of law.

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James Marc Leas is a Guild member in S. Burlington, Vermont

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