RUTLAND, Vt. -- Over the weekend, I traveled Vermont with three of the
most remarkable defenders of democracy I have met in a long time:
former Army Sgt. Drew Cameron, former Marine Cpl. Matt Howard and
former Army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne.
We were on a mission: A mission to end an unjust and horrific war,
and a mission to hold to account the men who launched that war.
What made the experience of appearing in close to a dozen
communities with the local Iraq Veterans Against the War campaigners
was not that these courageous young vets had chosen to speak so openly
and so directly about the reasons why they favor ending the U.S.
occupation of Iraq. IVAW members and supporters are speaking up all
over this country, more boldly, more aggressively, every day, telling
the fundamental truth that Drew Cameron, who served as a field
artillery soldier in the 4th Infantry Division, spoke: "Democracy is
not taught through the end of a gun."
Rather, the experience was remarkable because these veterans had
come to the same conclusion as that reached by a growing number of
honest critics of the war: If we are determined to bring the troops
home, we have to get serious about addressing the lawlessness of those
who brought this war on and who now seek to expand it.
We do not do so by promoting "non-binding resolutions."
We express our seriousness by sending a signal that the need to end
this occupation of a foreign land is so pressing that we are prepared
to speak of impeaching the men who promise to maintain their military
misadventure for so long as they occupy the White House.
"If you want to support the troops, you need to support the
Constitution," explained Kinne, who served in the Army from 1994 to
2004 as an Arabic linguist in military intelligence, "And you need to
recognize that if you support the Constitution, you must support
There are millions of Americans who would like to impeach George
Bush and Dick Cheney for the long list of high crimes and misdemeanors
that have been associated with the names of these errant executives
over the past six years. For instance, polls suggest that a majority of
Americans favor impeachment if it is proven that the president lied to
the America people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.
But there are still those casual citizens who suggest that
impeachment is a "distraction" from the important business of the day.
The Americans who established the power to impeach had just finished
a revolution against a king named George. They fought that revolution
on the premise, spelled out by a young Virginia farmer named Thomas
Jefferson, that the people had the power to remove leaders who
disregarded the rule of law and the mandates of morality. "A Prince,
whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant,
is unfit to be the ruler of a free people," wrote Jefferson, who
worried that the presidency would devolve into a circumstance where an
occupant of the Oval Office would govern as a king for four years.
An "elected despotism" is not what we in America fought to achieve,
explained Jefferson, who established that both members of the U.S.
House and state legislatures would have the authority to submit
articles of impeachment.
Impeachment is not a casual act of political retribution. It is not
a game. It is an essential act of the republic, established and defined
for the purpose of preventing presidents from governing as warrior
We are not talking about stained blue dresses anymore.
We are talking about a war that has cost more than 3,000 lives and
ruined tens of thousands more -- need we mention Walter Reed? -- a war
that has cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, a war that is
emptying our federal treasury at a rate of $200 million a day.
Impeachment, as intended by the founders who created a system of
checks and balances in order to "chain the dogs of war," is a political
act -- initiated, at its best, with the purpose of preventing a
president from maintaining a course of action that affronts the
Constitution, endangers the republic or damages democracy.
The war in Iraq does all of these things. And, yet, as the
Bush-Cheney administration proposes to surge 21,500 more young
Americans into the quagmire that is Iraq, and as the Congress debates
non-binding resolutions that, by virtue of their very names, are
guaranteed to be inconsequential, there are those who would dare
suggest that impeachment initiatives might distract the House and
There is no more serious work than ending the war.
The veterans I traveled with this past weekend put no faith in non-binding resolutions.
Instead, they expressed a faith, born of bitter experience, that
only a serious movement to impeach Bush and Cheney will meet these
maladministrators with a response equal to the crisis the president and
vice president seek to perpetuate.
"The first thing I did in the United States military was swear to
defend the Constitution," recalled Howard, who served two combat tours
in Iraq, deploying with the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division. "I
swore an oath to defend the Constitution, and that is what I'm doing
now by speaking out against the war and against this administration."
Over the course of three days, we spoke in schools, churches and
community halls across the state of Vermont about the war and
impeachment. We were encouraging Vermonters to vote for impeachment
resolutions at today's town meetings -- as part of a process to
convince the state legislature to forward articles of impeachment to
Congress and to get Vermont's U.S. representative to propose and
promote such articles. We were joined by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a
slain Iraq War veteran who has long been an advocate of the "Impeach
for Peace" movement, and by Dan DeWalt, the instigator of Vermont's
grassroots impeachment campaign.
If the call for impeachment is raised by the town meetings of Vermont today, it will not be a "symbolic" act.
It will be the right response to the wrong war. It will be the
response that our bravest veterans counsel that we must embrace if we
want to get about the business of bringing the troops home. As Drew
Cameron said, "They're sending us to these aggressive wars overseas and
democracy is eroding beneath our feet here at home so… it us our duty,
it is our service to say something about that."
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for
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 of
the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic
leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the
founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"
Copyright © 2007 The Nation