If Bush lied about going to war against Iraq, starting with its weapons of mass destruction, should he be impeached?So far political observers and media pundits say no.
Impeachment is inherently a political process, and with the Republicans controlling the White House and both Houses of Congress, it is unlikely they would seek to remove one of their own, particularly one with high standings in the polls.
Some even argue that conduct of foreign affairs invariably involves some level of untruthfulness. Besides, the world is well rid of Saddam Hussein ruling Iraq.
It is hard to believe, however, that making false statements about sex, the grounds for the last presidential impeachment, is a less serious offense than lying about the reasons to invade Iraq -- putting aside for the moment the question of whether such an invasion was legal.
The issue of impeachment is also important if one believes that integrity and truthfulness are critical to the proper functioning of our democratic, constitutional system of government.
For the first time in our history, the United States embraced a doctrine of pre-emptive war. The rationale cited for President Bush for the invasion was that we were threatened by WMDs, even though the intelligence agencies and United Nations weapons inspectors found no hard evidence that they still existed in Iraq, let alone that Iraq intended to use them against its neighbors or the United States.
A Washington Post story published in the Times Union on June 7 stated "senior administration officials, including President Bush, expressed certainty in public that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, even though U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting that they had no direct evidence that such weapons existed."
While President Bush stated that Iraq had obtained aluminum tubes to "enrich uranium for nuclear weapons," the CIA had already concluded that these were ordinary rocket materials unable to handle nuclear material. The Denver Post reported on June 29 that "claims by the administration that Iraq had unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering deadly biological agents around the world to the U.S. were known to be false; analysts estimated they didn't have the range even to reach Tel Aviv. ... Several members of the Senate Intelligence Committee told The New Republic that they knew that evidence contradicting the Bush administration's claims had been concealed, but they were unable to reveal it because it was classified."
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the dean of the U.S. Senate, recently said that while "the administration sought to portray Iraq as a direct and deadly threat ... there is a great difference between the hand-picked intelligence that was presented by the Bush administration ... when compared against what we have actually discovered."
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was more blunt when he told Congress on June 10 that "I have seen the American people apparently deceived into supporting invasion ... on the basis of what now appear to be false assurances. ... The administration wanted to attack Iraq for a variety of ideological and geopolitical reasons. But the President knew that the American people would not willingly risk shedding the blood of thousands of Americans and Iraqis without the immediate threat of deadly attack on the United States."
President Bush made numerous statements about WMDs that appear not to true. On Oct. 7, 2002, the President said Iraq "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons."
The President also has said such things as his March 17 statement that "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." On Sept. 12, he said, "intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
Statements made by others in the Bush administration were equally assertive about the existence of WMDs in Iraq.
Vice President Dick Cheney said last Aug. 26 that "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." Cheney also took the highly unusual step of visiting CIA headquarters several times to pressure analysts to make sure they said the same thing.
The most challenging question is not whether the Bush administration distorted evidence to justify its decision to invade Iraq, but whether Congress will hold the Bush administration accountable for it. As Nazi leader Hermann Goering said during at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, "Naturally the common people don't want war; ... But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along ... . All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
Are we going to sit by and let our government do this to us without any consequences? In a democracy, no one, not even the President, should be above the rule of law.
Mark Dunlea of Poestenkill is chair of the New York state Green Party.
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