Nancy Pelosi's attempt to keep impeachment off the table has already
been upset outside the District of Columbia, as grassroots campaigns in
states across the country have begun raising the prospect of
Constitutionally sanctioning President Bush, Vice President Cheney and
members of their administration. More than three dozen Vermont town
meetings endorsed impeachment resolutions in early March, and
legislators in Vermont, Washington state and New Mexico have mustered
efforts to dispatch articles of impeachment from state Capitols to the
U.S. House of Representatives.
Now, Pelosi's moves to silence this discussion in the Congress are
being upset by a fellow Democrat, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
Last week, after meeting with pro-impeachment activists, Kucinich delivered a speech on the House floor in which he said:
This House cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power.
The Administration has been preparing for an aggressive war against
Iran. There is no solid, direct evidence that Iran has the intention of
attacking the United States or its allies.
The US is a signatory to the UN Charter, a constituent treaty among
the nations of the world. Article II, Section 4 of the UN Charter
states, "all members shall refrain in their international relations
from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or
political independence of any state. . ." Even the threat of a war of
aggression is illegal.
Article VI of the US Constitution makes such treaties the Supreme
Law of the Land. This Administration, has openly threatened aggression
against Iran in violation of the US Constitution and the UN Charter.
This week the House Appropriations committee removed language from
the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article
1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to seek permission before
it launched an attack against Iran.
Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration and since
such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only
remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran.
Now, Kucinich, a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nod,
has begun contacting supporters to ask if he should embrace impeachment
as a candidate and an active member of Congress.
"For four years I have been working to end this war, including
leading the effort to cut off continued funding for the war. There is
enough money to bring our troops home and we should do that. But the
Bush administration, with the help of some in Congress, wants to pour
more money into this war. Worse than that, the Bush administration now
is signaling its intention to wage war with Iran. We cannot allow that
to happen," writes Kucinich.
"So I'm asking you: Do you think it's time?" he adds. "I'm talking about time for impeachment."
Noting that "we are now have a condition in this country where we
are told to take impeachment off the table, and keep on the table a
U.S. military attack against Iran," Kucinich concludes: "This situation
calls for us to reconsider very deeply the moment that we're in –-
where our Constitution is being trashed, where international law is
being violated, where our hopes and dreams for the education of our
children, for the health of our people, for housing, for our veterans,
are being set aside as we go deeper and deeper into war."
Kucinich's analysis is right. Impeachment is an appropriate tool,
not only for sanctioning Bush for past wrongs, but also as a threat to
prevent the president from engaging in new wrongs.
There will be those who suggest that, as a long-shot presidential
contender, the former mayor of Cleveland and veteran peace activist is
the wrong messenger. But the initial champions of impeachment are often
political outsiders: like the abolitionist Whigs – including a young
Abraham Lincoln and an old John Quincy Adams -- who sought to sanction
pro-slavery Presidents John Tyler and James K. Polk in the 1840s.
"Radical" foes of the Vietnam War, such as New York Congresswoman
Bella Abzug and Father Robert Drinan, a congressman from Massachusetts,
were among the first to call for impeaching Richard Nixon. They were
eventually joined by a Republican, California Congressman Pete
McCloskey, who had mounted an quixotic anti-war primary challenge to
Nixon in 1972.
The first members of Congress who dare raise the subject of impeaching
any errant executive are invariably dismissed as premature and
intemperate. But history tends to view them kindly, just as it tends to
view poorly the subjects of their proposed sanctions.
The bottom line is that Kucinich is right when he says: "This House
cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain
the abuse of Executive power." The congressman deserves credit for
recognizing that "impeachment may well be the only remedy" for the
Constitutional crisis Bush has created, and for the crises he now
schemes to create. And if his fellow anti-war Democrats in Congress are
honest with themselves, they will recognize that it is time for the
House to start talking about impeachment.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for
Royalism. 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.'"