The belated effort by retired officers to oust Donald Rumsfeld is worse than “too little, too late.” It may lead to bypassing the most important target.
While Rumsfeld has consistently failed in his duty to uphold the law, defend the Constitution, advance national security and respect human rights (including the torture ban), his greatest offenses have never involved “mismanaging” policy. The problem is the policy itself–an immoral foreign policy pursued through fraudulent and unconstitutional tactics–created by President George W. Bush. Bush ordered it through the chain of command of the US government, a fact that his military critics surely understand.
When asked about the challenge to Rumsfeld, the President recently declared, “I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best.” This is one time we can take him at his word. From building a fraudulent case for the Iraq War to overseeing torture and indefinite detainment to authorizing illegal domestic spying, Bush makes the decisions and others suffer the consequences. Firing Rumsfeld now is like benching a quarterback for running plays ordered by the coach. It is a start, and Rumsfeld should definitely go, but it is only the beginning.
Bush has committed high crimes and misdemeanors by fraudulently taking us to war with Iraq, authorizing domestic spying, condoning torture and undermining the constitutional principle of separation of powers by repeatedly defying Congress and the courts. Even when his illegal domestic spying program was exposed, he brazenly declared he would continue to break the law, betraying his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That is why it is time for Americans to consider the grave action of removing the President from office. It is a radical remedy for a radical reality, but the long-term health of our democracy depends on turning the national conversation from Rumsfeld and midterm politics to Bush and impeachment.
Invoking the I-word
When I began outlining the case for impeachment, at civic forums and in a new book with my colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), even sympathetic audiences responded with cynicism or discouraging forecasts. It was “That’s not going to happen” or “Isn’t that unlikely given today’s climate?” But one of the most common tactics to stifle a movement–especially for a progressive idea–is to convince people that the problem cannot be fixed. So it is with impeachment.
Before I can even mention the four articles of impeachment in our book, critics usually pile on with predictions about political odds. This happens on the rare occasions when the “I-word” is mentioned on television, and in many conversations I’ve had about our book. (Data is rarely cited, yet polls show 51 percent of likely voters support Congress considering impeachment if Bush “didn’t tell the truth about the reasons for the Iraq war,” while only 27 percent supported Clinton’s impeachment in August 1998.)