Impeachment: We've Got a Job to Do
The following remarks were offered by John Kaminski, Chair of the Maine Lawyers for Democracy, at the Citizens Summit for Impeachment Rally that took place in Kennebunkport, Maine on Sunday, July 1st, 2007:
Thank you to the Maine Campaign to Impeach and thank you to the Kennebunk Peace Department for organizing this rally and march -- they have done a great job. Their countless hours of effort are the reason we are able to be here today.And thank you all for standing with me on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, instead of being at the beach, a picnic or a softball game or fishing with President Putin in the ocean off Walker's Point. Thank you for recognizing that we've got a job to do together.
I am the Chair of Maine Lawyers for Democracy, an organization of around 80 Maine lawyers who have called for impeachment. We firmly believe that impeachment is ultimately about accountability. And there is much to hold the Bush - Cheney Administration to account for.
I am in some ways very traditional and old-fashioned. I still believe that the power in this country ultimately rests with the people, not the corporate interests and the military-industrial complex. But, we have the power only if we band together, rise up and use that power. So, the power is in our hands, the burden is on our shoulders, to change history by holding this Administration to account through impeachment. No one else will do it, so we must. It is our obligation to ourselves, our children, our neighbors, our Nation and the world - it is our responsibility. We have a job to do.
Let's talk more about our job in a minute or two. Before that, I want to talk about the reasons that this Administration must be held accountable.
High crimes and misdemeanors - the standard for impeachment - have been committed - let me list just a few instances:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢They deceived the country into the Iraq War by abusing the intelligence gathering process and telling us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, leading us to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks and was a direct threat to the United States. We now know that none of that was true and we continue to learn more about the ugly and dishonest process that took this Nation to War. I cannot conceive of a more significant reason to impeach a President and Vice President than brazenly misusing the capabilities of this government to start a War. That War has cost the entire world dearly. The price we are paying continues to grow. The country of Iraq has been destroyed along with over half a million Iraqi people dead. Our Nation has lost the lives of thousands of young men and women, seen many more come back wounded or disabled and disrupted the careers and family lives of our National Guard troops - the suffering and damage is beyond comprehension, and yet it goes on and grows. And beyond that, we have spent billions upon billions of dollars that have mostly been borrowed from future generations. Consider for a moment what those billions could have accomplished if they had not been wasted. And all of this for what? I am outraged by every part of the decision to start this war and the way that they have carried it out. And I ask you, are you outraged? I ask you, given this picture must Bush and Cheney be held accountable?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ I am outraged that here in this country, they listened to phone conversations, intercepted emails and spied electronically on Americans with a program that was so clearly a violation of the law that even Bush's own attorney general, John Ashcroft, refused to certify it as in compliance with law. I ask you, must Bush and Cheney be held accountable?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢In this country, at Guantanamo and around the world, they illegally captured and detained people without appropriate hearings and safeguards in a way that was determined by the Supreme Court to be a violation of the Constitution. Just Friday, the Supreme Court took the very unusual step of re-opening its consideration of an appeal from Guantanamo. I ask you, must Bush and Cheney be held accountable?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢They used torture and sent prisoners to other countries where they would be tortured even more severely -and the Vice President was one of the chief architects of the torture program. I ask you, must Bush and Cheney be held accountable?
And we see even more reasons to impeach - the blatant disregard for the rule of law is rampant in this Administration. President Bush uses signing statements to announce which portions of laws passed by Congress he will not obey or enforce. The Administration refuses to cooperate with legitimate Congressional inquiries or to comply with subpoenas. And then there is the secrecy and the covering up - the refusal to comply with Federal law about preserving secret information, setting up a separate secret email system and then deleting thousands of emails, the order to the Secret Service to destroy all logs of visitors to the President and Vice President. I can only imagine how many more grounds for impeachment there would be if we knew all they are hiding.
But, outrage and anger are not enough. We have a job to do and that job is to hold this Administration accountable and take this country back. The power to change history is on our hands. We share a positive vision that we can help our Nation change for the better. We are the ones that we've been waiting for. There in no one else who will do our job. But our job is not easy. As we've called for impeachment, we've heard many objections - even from those who believe that there has been serious wrongdoing.
We've heard that: It's more important that we end the Iraq War than become distracted by impeachment.
It is difficult for me to imagine the Iraq War ending with President Bush still in office unless he is substantially weakened politically through the impeachment process. Impeachment proceedings are on the path to peace, not off the path to peace. Our job is to stay on that path to peace.
We've heard that: Impeaching Bush and Cheney will generate sympathy for them and distract from the more important priority of electing a Democratic president in 2008.
Let's think about that. All of these reasons not to impeach Bush and Cheney are strategic and tactical considerations. That somehow it's not convenient right now to hold them accountable or impeach. Many, including Congress, believe that more good will come from letting the wrongdoers off the impeachment hook than will come from holding them accountable.
I believe differently. I believe that doing the right thing, the moral thing, the just thing has a way of working out for the best. We must impeach.
As many of us have gone around Maine the last few months gathering nearly 13,000 signatures supporting impeachment, we have heard one consistent point: that we cannot let them get away with it - we cannot allow the precedent that would be created by permitting the abuses of the Bush-Cheney Administration to go unchallenged.
We've heard genuine concerns about precedent from a member of Congress, from state legislators, from the former mayor of Portland and a town councilor, from lawyers and physicians, from teachers, from students, from artists, from some of the many shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works, and, yes, even from Republicans.
We have a job to do. It is hard, but we cannot shirk our duty. As I think about whether our Nation will make the difficult moral choice to impeach or the convenient choice to simply look the other way, I am reminded that confronting government and wrongdoing is never easy, convenient, without trouble or without fear. There will always be a reason or a rationalization to avoid the confrontation. But sometimes the abuses are so outrageous we have no choice. This is one of those moments.
History presents us with decisive moments, forks in the road, where the stakes are high and the moral and just choice is the difficult path. There was no convenient moment for African Americans to take on the cause of civil rights, yet they did and we are all far better for that. There was no convenient moment for the German people to confront the Nazis in the 1930s, and they did not confront them and the world paid a horrendous price. We cannot afford to let our moment to take back our Constitution and our country pass because it is not convenient to us or because we are afraid. We have a job to do.
We in New England have a history of doing our job even though it's hard and risky. The American Revolution started in New England over 200 years ago, and we New Englanders continue to take out job very seriously. Just last week, a high school senior from Wellesley, Massachusetts named Mari Oye showed remarkable courage. She was being recognized at the White House as a presidential scholar. Before the photo opportunity, she presented President Bush with a letter signed by 49 Presidential scholars urging an end to torture, illegal detention and advocating for the human rights of detainees. Mari saw her job and did it courageously.
We must do our job. Today we stand here to do our job to hold this Administration accountable for its extreme abuses by using the most serious tool that the Constitution gives us - impeachment. Here in Maine on the shores of the Atlantic, the tide is turning and the powerful wave of the people calling for accountability and impeachment will be felt around the world. Together we will change history.
Today, we will march to call for an end to the abuses of the Bush-Cheney government. Today, we are representatives of people all over the country and around the world. As we march today, let us remember that our message will travel far from Kennebunkport. We may meet others along our walk who believe that we have chosen the wrong path. They may shout at us, they may insult us, they may attempt to provoke us or drown out our message. There is no need to take them on or to confront them -- disruption is their agenda, not ours. They are not the ones that we are trying to convince to join us. We know that we are on the right, moral and just path and we will keep our focus. After all, we have a job to do.
A large part of doing our job is convincing Congress to do its job. Only the House of Representatives can impeach a President of a Vice President. The tide is turning. Already 11 members of Congress have co-sponsored Representative Kucinich's resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney.
We must contact our representatives in Congress and tell them that we will not stand for them letting the wrongdoers off the impeachment hook because it's political expedient or convenient or because they are afraid. We must get others around the Nation to join us in our call for accountability and the restoration of power to the people.
Finally, we have a stark choice: we can condone these abuses and see them repeated in the future or we can impeach and change history. So, I ask you, given the choice of impeach or condone, what must this Nation do?
Given the choice of impeaching to defend the Constitution or condoning Bush and Cheney's outrageous abuses, what must Speaker Nancy Pelosi do?
Given the choice of impeaching or excusing Bush and Cheney, what must the entire House of Representatives do?
Given the choice of impeaching or condoning, what do the people want?
Impeachment is ultimately about accountability. We have the power. It's our job to choose to use it. Let's hold them accountable. Together, let's change history.
John Kaminski is the Chair of Maine Lawyers for Democracy and practices law in Portland, Maine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org