Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to keep impeachment off the table has already been upset outside the District of Columbia, as grassroots campaigns in states across the country have begun raising the prospect of Constitutionally sanctioning President Bush, Vice President Cheney and members of their administration. More than three dozen Vermont town meetings endorsed impeachment resolutions in early March, and legislators in Vermont, Washington state and New Mexico have mustered efforts to dispatch articles of impeachment from state Capitols to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, Pelosi’s moves to silence this discussion in the Congress are being upset by a fellow Democrat, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Last week, after meeting with pro-impeachment activists, Kucinich delivered a speech on the House floor in which he said:

This House cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power.

The Administration has been preparing for an aggressive war against Iran. There is no solid, direct evidence that Iran has the intention of attacking the United States or its allies.

The US is a signatory to the UN Charter, a constituent treaty among the nations of the world. Article II, Section 4 of the UN Charter states, “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. . .” Even the threat of a war of aggression is illegal.

Article VI of the US Constitution makes such treaties the Supreme Law of the Land. This Administration, has openly threatened aggression against Iran in violation of the US Constitution and the UN Charter.

This week the House Appropriations committee removed language from the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to seek permission before it launched an attack against Iran.

Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration and since such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran.

Now, Kucinich, a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nod, has begun contacting supporters to ask if he should embrace impeachment as a candidate and an active member of Congress.

“For four years I have been working to end this war, including leading the effort to cut off continued funding for the war. There is enough money to bring our troops home and we should do that. But the Bush administration, with the help of some in Congress, wants to pour more money into this war. Worse than that, the Bush administration now is signaling its intention to wage war with Iran. We cannot allow that to happen,” writes Kucinich.

“So I’m asking you: Do you think it’s time?” he adds. “I’m talking about time for impeachment.”

Noting that “we are now have a condition in this country where we are told to take impeachment off the table, and keep on the table a U.S. military attack against Iran,” Kucinich concludes: “This situation calls for us to reconsider very deeply the moment that we’re in –- where our Constitution is being trashed, where international law is being violated, where our hopes and dreams for the education of our children, for the health of our people, for housing, for our veterans, are being set aside as we go deeper and deeper into war.”

Kucinich’s analysis is right. Impeachment is an appropriate tool, not only for sanctioning Bush for past wrongs, but also as a threat to prevent the president from engaging in new wrongs.

There will be those who suggest that, as a long-shot presidential contender, the former mayor of Cleveland and veteran peace activist is the wrong messenger. But the initial champions of impeachment are often political outsiders: like the abolitionist Whigs – including a young Abraham Lincoln and an old John Quincy Adams — who sought to sanction pro-slavery Presidents John Tyler and James K. Polk in the 1840s.

“Radical” foes of the Vietnam War, such as New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug and Father Robert Drinan, a congressman from Massachusetts, were among the first to call for impeaching Richard Nixon. They were eventually joined by a Republican, California Congressman Pete McCloskey, who had mounted an quixotic anti-war primary challenge to Nixon in 1972.

The first members of Congress who dare raise the subject of impeaching any errant executive are invariably dismissed as premature and intemperate. But history tends to view them kindly, just as it tends to view poorly the subjects of their proposed sanctions.

The bottom line is that Kucinich is right when he says: “This House cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power.” The congressman deserves credit for recognizing that “impeachment may well be the only remedy” for the Constitutional crisis Bush has created, and for the crises he now schemes to create. And if his fellow anti-war Democrats in Congress are honest with themselves, they will recognize that it is time for the House to start talking about impeachment.


John Nichols’ new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'”