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The Impeachment of George W. Bush | The Nation

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The Impeachment of George W. Bush

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Subverting Our Democracy

Listen to Elizabeth Holtzman make the case for George W. Bush's impeachment on the September 24 episode of RadioNation with Laura Flanders.

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Elizabeth Holtzman
Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman is co-author of Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney...

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Neither Congress nor the courts have taken the exam­ple to heart and stood firmly against presidential crimes or serious misconduct.

Bush lied. People died. Will anyone be prosecuted?

A President can commit no more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war. It is not just that it is cowardly and abhorrent to trick others into giving their lives for a nonexistent threat, or even that making false statements might in some circumstances be a crime. It is that the decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make, and in a democracy the people and their elected representatives, when there is no imminent attack on the United States to repel, have the right to make it. Given that the consequences can be death for hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people--as well as the diversion of vast sums of money to the war effort--the fraud cannot be tolerated. That both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were guilty of misleading the nation into military action and neither was impeached for it makes it more, not less, important to hold Bush accountable.

Once it was clear that no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, President Bush tried to blame "bad intelligence" for the decision to go to war, apparently to show that the WMD claim was not a deliberate deception. But bad intelligence had little or nothing to do with the main arguments used to win popular support for the invasion of Iraq.

First, there was no serious intelligence--good or bad--to support the Administration's suggestion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were in cahoots. Nonetheless, the Administration repeatedly tried to claim the connection to show that the invasion was a justified response to 9/11 (like the declaration of war against Japan for Pearl Harbor). The claim was a sheer fabrication.

Second, there was no reliable intelligence to support the Administration's claim that Saddam was about to acquire nuclear weapons capability. The specter of the "mushroom cloud," which frightened many Americans into believing that the invasion of Iraq was necessary for our self-defense, was made up out of whole cloth. As for the biological and chemical weapons, even if, as reported, the CIA director told the President that these existed in Iraq, the Administration still had plenty of information suggesting the contrary.

The deliberateness of the deception has also been confirmed by a British source: the Downing Street memo, the official record of Prime Minister Tony Blair's July 2002 meeting with his top Cabinet officials. At the meeting the chief of British intelligence, who had just returned from the United States, reported that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." In other words, the Bush Administration was reported to be in the process of cooking up fake intelligence and facts to justify going to war in Iraq.

During the Nixon impeachment proceedings, I drafted the resolution of impeachment to hold President Nixon accountable for concealing from Congress the bombing of Cambodia he initiated. But the committee did not approve it, probably because it might appear political--in other words, stemming from opposition to the war instead of to the President's abuse of his warmaking powers.

With respect to President Bush and the Iraq War, there is not likely to be any such confusion. Most Americans know that his rationale for the war turned out to be untrue; for them the question is whether the President lied, and if so, what the remedies are for his misconduct.

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