After the death of her soldier son in Iraq, and after it became clear that the misguided policies that put her boy in harm's way would not be changed, a then little-known woman named Cindy Sheehan wrote a letter to the man responsible for those policies: George Bush.
In the letter, she told the president, "I will make it my life's work to see that you are impeached." And so she has, first by taking her protests against the war to the roads outside Bush's Crawford,Texas, ranchette, and then to cities across the country to declare that Congress has a fundamental responsibility to hold this president and vice president to account.
When tens of thousands of Americans participated Sunday in rallies, forums and teach-ins organized by the afterdowningstreet.org coalition and its allies to say that they want impeachment "on the table" for the new Congress, I joined Sheehan in New York at one of the largest of the gatherings.
"Impeachment is not optional. It's not something that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can say is not on the table," Sheehan said of the incoming Democratic leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, who have expressed caution about employing the tool created by the founders of the American experiment for the purpose of sanctioning errant executives. "It is their duty as officers of the Constitution, who who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution, to carry out impeachment."
With the crowd that packed an auditorium at Fordham University's law school cheering her, Sheehan declared, "If George Bush isn't impeached then we should never impeach anyone else. We should just take [the sections outlining the impeachment process] out of the Constitution. It is a meaningless clause of the Constitution."Like many of the activists across the country who rallied Sunday, Sheehan made a direct connection between impeaching Bush and ending what Lynn Kates, an organizer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who joined the New York forum identified as "an illegal, immoral, unethical war."
"The war and impeachment are intertwined," said Sheehan. "George Bush has said over and over again that the troops aren't coming home while he is president. That just means we have to get a new president."Sheehan and other members of Gold Star Families for Peace will join activists with the World Can't Wait movement and other groups in Washington in the first week of January to lobby Congress to take up impeachment. It will be a frustrating process initially, as House Democratic leaders are working hard to keep a lid on pro-impeachment sentiment among members of their caucus.
So far, only one member of the House, outgoing Georgia Democrat Cynthia McKinney, has proposed actual articles of impeachment against Bush and Vice President Cheney. But more than three dozen House Democrats, as well as Independent Bernie Sanders, who in January will join the Senate, signed onto incoming House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers' resolution to establish a select committee to examine whether impeachment might be the right response to charges that the president and vice president doctored intelligence regarding reasons for going to war in Iraq and committed other acts that could reasonably be defined as high crimes and misdemeanors.
Sheehan is not letting Democrats, or Republicans, off the hook.
"Some issues transcend politics," she argued Sunday. "Our Constitution, our rule of law, our very humanity, demands that Congress begin impeachment proceedings."
John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism has been hailed by author Gore Vidal as "essential reading for patriots." David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, says: "With The Genius of Impeachment, John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so."
The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com