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A Motion for Censure | The Nation

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A Motion for Censure

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On December 20, 2005, I issued a 273-page report outlining the Bush Administration's panoply of misconduct associated in the run-up to and since the Iraq War.

About the Author

Rep. John Conyers
John Conyers, chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, has represented Michigan's 14th District since 1964.

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Fifty years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that all citizens have an "unremitting obligation" to respond to Congressional subpoenas. Karl Rove has breached this obligation.

Civil liberties and national security are not contradictory: they are inextricably linked.

In brief, I have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice President and other high-ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration.

As further detailed in the report, there is at least a prima facie case that these actions by the President, Vice President and other members of the Bush Administration violate a number of federal laws, including:

  • Committing a fraud against the United States, for example, the President saying he has not made up his mind about invading Iraq, when all of the documentary evidence shows otherwise.
  • Making false statements to Congress, for example, the President saying he has learned Iraq is attempting to buy uranium from Niger, when he had been warned by the CIA not to say that.
  • The War Powers Resolution and misuse of government funds, for example, redeploying troops and initiating bombing raids before receiving Congressional authorization.
  • Federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment--for example, ordering detainees to be ghosted and removed--and tolerating and laying the legal ground work for torture and mistreatment
  • Federal laws concerning retaliations against witnesses and other individuals; for example, demoting Bunnatine Greenhouse from the Army Corps of Engineers because she exposed contracting abuse involving Halliburton.
  • Federal laws and regulations concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence; for example, the President's failure to enforce the law requiring disciplining those who leak classified information, whether intentional or not.

While I found these charges clearly rise to the level of impeachable misconduct, because the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have blocked the ability of members to obtain information directly from the Administration concerning these matters, more investigatory authority is needed before recommendations can be made regarding specific articles of impeachment. As a result, I have introduced legislation establishing a select committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war detailed in my report to the Committee on the Judiciary on possible impeachable offenses (House Resolution 635).

In addition, since the President, Vice President and others in the Bush Administration have failed to respond to myriad requests for information concerning these charges, or to otherwise account for explain a number of specific misstatements they have made in the run-up to war and other actions warrants, their misconduct, at minimum, warrants censure by the Congress, and I have introduced two resolutions doing that (House Resolutions 636 and 637).

While the scope of my report was largely limited to Iraq, I believe it holds lessons for our nation at a time of entrenched one-party rule and abuse of power in Washington. If the present Administration is willing to break the law in order to achieve its political objectives in Iraq, and Congress is unwilling to confront or challenge their hegemony, many of our cherished democratic principles are in jeopardy. This is true not only with respect to the Iraq War, but also other areas of foreign policy, privacy and civil liberties, and matters of economic and social justice. Indeed, as my report was being finalized, the nation was learning of another potential significant abuse of executive power by the President, ordering the National Security Agency to engage in domestic spying and wiretapping without obtaining court approval in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which may also rise to the level of not only crimes but "high crimes and misdemeanors."

It is tragic that our nation has invaded another sovereign nation because "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," as stated in the Downing Street Minutes. It is equally tragic that the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have been unwilling to examine these facts or take action to prevent this scenario from occurring again. Since they appear unwilling to act, it is incumbent on individual members of Congress as well as the American public to act to protect our constitutional form of government. I intend to continue doing exactly that.

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