When my co-author Barbara Olshansky and I wrote The Case for Impeachment during the waning months of 2005 and early 2006, it seemed clear to us that the biggest impeachable crimes of the Bush regime involved the illegal war against Iraq, and the trashing of the rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Almost as an afterthought, we also included a proposed article of impeachment against the president for his insidious efforts to block any regulatory, Congressional or international action on confronting global warming.
Now that the first two UN reports on the causes and magnitude of the threats posed by global warming have come out--albeit in watered down form, thanks in part to the administration¹s continuing efforts to downplay the crisis--and now that independent scientific research is suggesting that the disaster facing life on earth, and human life and civilization in particular is of catastrophic proportions, it seems that perhaps we should turn things around.
At this point, arguably, Bush¹s greatest crime is not the Iraq War, terrible as that has been. Nor is it his revocation of habeas corpus or his authorization of torture. It is not the usurpation of the legislative power of the Congress. It is not the felonious violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or his obstruction of the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
His biggest crime is a deliberate campaign of inaction and active obstruction in the face of a clear need for the United States to act decisively to stop or slow catastrophic climate change.
This president has not simply denied the reality of global warming. He has actively lied to the American people about the dangers ahead, and has had his administration, through intimidation and post-hoc editing by political hacks, block the publication of government scientific reports on global warming. He has defunded projects that would help document the growing crisis, for example cutting funding for satellites that would measure the effects of climate change on the surface of the planet. He has pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocol--the first global effort to confront the problem and try to limit production of greenhouse gasses. He even went back on a 2000 campaign promise to limit carbon emissions from power plants, and instead has given virtual carte blanche to power companies to build the most carbon-spewing coal-powered generating stations possible, complete with gratuitous tax breaks. He has threatened countries with trade sanctions for trying to take actions that would combat global warming, and has even had the US government go to court against state governments, like California¹s and Vermont¹s, to try to block them from acting to reduce carbon emissions on their own, by for example setting mileage standards for vehicles sold in-state.
All of this has meant that for six critical years, when the U.S.--the source of 28 percent of the world¹s greenhouse gas emissions--could have been taking decisive action to start reducing the CO2 that the U.S. is spewing into the already carbon-soaked global atmosphere, America has done nothing. In fact, America¹s contribution of carbon emissions to the global atmosphere has been rising, not falling, as average miles per gallon figures for American autos have worsened, as more dirty power plants have gone on line, and as overall energy use in the US has gone up.
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Stupidity, pig-headedness and yahooism are not impeachable offenses. The Founding Fathers pointedly rejected a proposal by George Washington that maladministration be included as grounds for impeachment. Rather, they stuck with "high crimes and misdemeanors," which they took to mean acts that threatened Constitutional government, or endangered the people or the nation.
Well it seems crystal clear that the president¹s actions and inaction on global warming easily fit that definition.
As the coastal waters rise, as other cities join New Orleans in suffering disastrous flooding, as the Midwestern grain belt and California¹s salad bowl become dust bowls, as forests burn and already threatened species of animals and plants go vanish forever, and as the throngs of refugees of climate change in Mexico and other harder hit lands surge across America¹s borders seeking relief, this president will be remembered best, like Nero and his fiddle, for the two terms during which he dithered, interfered and actively obstructed efforts to stop this predictable disaster from happening.
For that crime against our nation and our descendants, and indeed against the entire human race, Bush must be impeached.
Dave Lindorff is an investigative journalist and columnist based in Philadelphia. His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net and www.counterpunch.org. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).