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Ending the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex
My weekly column is in an Asian Pacific American paper, so I try to keep my remarks focused on issues of importance to Asian Pacific Americans. As President Bush and Vice President Cheney rattle the sabers for war against Iran, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that no issue is more important to Asian Pacific Americans, and all Americans, than removing these two men from office.
Not only did they lie to get us into the disastrous war against Iraq, but their failed policies have left us less safe, less respected and less well off than we were in 2000. We cannot wait and allow them to lead us into another war, when our economy is failing and our army is already stretched to the breaking point.
Lying about the nuclear threat of Saddam Hussein and the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is closer to the constitutional standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors" than engaging in a sexual act, yet our congressional representatives refuse to open an impeachment inquiry. Sanctioning torture, illegally wiretapping American citizens and illegally using the Justice Department as a political weapon, are other issues that should be investigated in an impeachment inquiry of Bush and Cheney.
The House of Representatives has a solemn duty to start the process of investigating and deciding whether to support the articles of impeachment. Once formally impeached by a majority vote, Bush and Cheney would then have a chance to defend themselves in a trial where the chief justice presides and the members of the Senate act as jury. Two-thirds of the senators must decide removal is warranted, if the case gets that far.
Some Democratic legislators believe they should try to transact business as usual, or simply try to use the investigative powers of Congress to provide oversight to the executive branch. This strategy has failed, however, because the Bush administration has refused to comply with subpoenas or hand over documents, and has expanded the notion of "executive privilege" far beyond limits recognized by most legal scholars.
Other Democrats bemoan the fact that they do not count enough votes to impeach or convict, so they choose to not press forward. History teaches us that there were not enough votes to impeach Richard Nixon, either, when the Watergate hearings opened, but as soon as Nixon's sordid deeds became public, the public put pressure on their representatives, the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach, and Nixon resigned.
If we were to have a vote tomorrow on whether to go to war against Iran, most Americans would question whether we have the human and financial resources to fight yet another war. The crumbling of our infrastructure that we saw last month in Minneapolis and two years ago in New Orleans is directly related to the $477 billion that Congress has taken from the public treasury to spend on the war in Iraq. Yes, it is theoretically possible to have both guns and butter, but not when, as the National Priorities Project shows ( www.nationalpriorities.org), the military portion of the economy dwarfs domestic social spending.
While Bush and Cheney deserve the type of congressional inquiry that could lead to impeachment and removal, our current misallocation of funds for military adventurism will not stop when they are removed. As President (and former Army General) Dwight D. Eisenhower noted in his January 17, 1961, farewell address to the nation, a balance must be struck between enough arms to prevent an enemy from attacking us and so much spending on a permanent arms industry that fighting perpetual wars leads to a curtailment of our freedoms here at home.
Until we rein in what Eisenhower originally called the "military-industrial-congressional complex," we will never have a peace-based economy. As Eugene Jarecki of the Eisenhower Project ( www.whywefight.com) makes clear, weapons manufacturers make sure that their products have components built in as many states and congressional districts as possible, so the threat of constituents losing their jobs keeps most legislators supporting more war.
Speaking of the permanent arms industry that he saw in its infancy during World War II, President Eisenhower said, "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. ... We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Phil Tajitsu Nash is the co-author of "Winning Campaigns Online" and CEO of CampaignAdvantage.com. He writes a weekly column for AsianWeek, and can be contacted at AsianWeek@nashinteractive.com.