Impeachment drums begin beating

Karl Rove doesn’t want to hear it. George W. Bush certainly doesn’t. Neither does Donald Rumsfeld. “It” is the word impeachment, and it is beginning to be heard in the centers of power in Washington and New York.

Impeachment is a possibility and a problem the president may be facing. The risk stems from President Bush’s very definite statements regarding his reasons for attacking Iraq, made before he asked Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing military force against that country.

Before the invasion, we heard the drumbeat over and over: Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and he is a threat to the United States and the world.

Some examples: “Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”—George W. Bush to the U.N., Sept. 12, 2002

“Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons.”—

presidential radio talk, Oct. 5, 2002

“The Iraqi regime possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”—Cincinnati speech, Oct. 7, 2002

“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”—State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”—address to the nation, March 17, 2003

These statements now appear to be lacking in truth. No weapons have been found. In the past, the Bush administration has been very adept at covering up such matters, but it may not work this time.

John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, writing in Findlaw’s Legal Commentary, said: “Presidential statements, particularly on matters of national security, are held to an expectation of the highest standard of truthfulness. A president cannot stretch, twist or distort facts and get away with it. President Lyndon Johnson’s distortions of the truth about Vietnam forced him to stand down from re-election. President Richard Nixon’s false statements about Watergate forced his resignation.”

Dean went on to say that President Bush should be given the benefit of the doubt at this point, that it is too early to draw any conclusions. He added, however, that it is timely to probe the relevant issues.

The statements made by the president about Iraq were not off the top of his head or spur of the moment. Dean said these statements are well considered and carefully stated; when they concern national security, they are even more scrutinized before being released.

Dean said when the statements are found to be false, they normally are corrected at once. That hasn’t happened with this president. Ari Fleischer, the retiring press secretary, told the press Jan. 9 of this year: “We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”

Bush himself went on very recently to claim that two trailers found in northern Iraq were for making weapons of mass destruction, a claim disputed by several scientists.

The president told us Iraq had WMDs in vast quantities, including “thousands of tons” of chemical weapons alone. So where are they?

We hunted for these weapons before the war started, while it was on, and we are continuing today. Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway, commanding the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq, told reporters: “It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal areas. We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they are simply not there.”

Congress intends to hold hearings soon on the lessons learned from Iraq. They should also delve into the question of why the Bush administration is unable to furnish any evidence to back up its claims of huge weapons stockpiles there.

This issue is not just a matter of simple exaggeration, as some contend. It is far more serious. After all, we have had more than 170 U.S. troops killed, more than 5,000 civilians died and thousands of Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered. Our troops continue to be shot. Iraq remains a dangerous place.

In recent weeks, as the lack of WMDs heated up, we have seen some fancy footwork by the administration in trying to dodge the bullet. Now, we are told the administration didn’t really expect to find any weapons, just indications of them. Now, we are told the purpose of the war was really to free the Iraqi people from Saddam’s rule and then to remove the threat of terrorism by Iraq.

But the cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently admitted the weapons of mass destruction argument was simply a convenient ploy for selling the war. The real reason we attacked Iraq, he said, is that “the country swims on a sea of oil.”

“Perhaps most troubling,” Dean wrote, “the President has failed to provide any explanation of how he could have made his very specific statements, yet now be unable to back them up with supporting evidence. …Was his evidence not as solid as he led the world to believe?”

Sen. Bob Graham, former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggests intelligence was manipulated by Pentagon hawks to present a scenario favoring war. “There’s been a pattern of manipulation by this administration,” Graham said.

The WMD report Secretary of State Colin Powell gave before the U.N. Security Council was presented as bona fide covert intelligence, but the “material” was plagiarized out of a magazine and a doctoral dissertation. This “intell” supposedly came from the British MI5. Reportedly, when he first saw this “intell,” Powell said, “I’m not reading this bulls#*@!”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is under heavy public and press assault for his role in taking the U.K. into the Iraq war, but so far, President Bush is still being treated gently.

There are, however, voices here and there speaking about impeachment. The issue has broken into public debate instead of private back-room conversations. Impeachment has been addressed on National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show,” and ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel. The voices will grow louder and more numerous. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence could—if proven—qualify as a “high crime” under the impeachment clause of the Constitution.

This administration must give an accounting of its stewardship. The American people demand and deserve it.

David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, writing on his Web site waging stated it succinctly. “The buck stops with Mr. Bush. Lying about the reasons for war and misleading the American people into supporting a war has the look and feel of high crimes and misdemeanors for which the Constitution provides impeachment as the remedy.”

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!