I spoke on the morning of Sept. 17, along with John Nichols of the Nation, David Green of Hofstra, former federal prosecutor and author Elizabeth de la Vega, and long time anti-war activist Marcus Raskin. Later, in the afternoon, a second group of people spoke on the same topic, including veteran former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, Jennifer van Bergen (who first exposed Bush's secret "signing statements"), Michael Avery, president of the National Lawyers Guild, and former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY).
It was Holtzman who stole the show, with the former member of the House impeachment panel that drew up impeachment articles against Richard Nixon noting that one of those three articles was for spying on American citizens. Holtzman, who has a new book out on impeachment herself (The Impeachment of George W. Bush,), said that when she and the other's on that committee--Democrats and Republicans alike--unanimously voted out those articles, which led to Nixon's resignation from office, "I thought we had protected the Constitution for generations to come."
And yet, scarcely one generation later, the threat of presidential abuse of power is back, inclulding the same crime of illegal spying--this time more seriously than before.
Holtzmen observed that when Nixon was ordered by the Supreme Court to produce the tape recordings that the government had learned had been made in the Oval Office, after some hesitation, he agreed, and his fate was sealed. This time, she suggested ominously, Bush and his gang might decide to ignore orders from the Supreme Court.
That, everyone agrees, would be the moment when tyranny--the very thing that the Founding Fathers feared most, and that was their motive in including an impeachment clause in the Constitution--would be upon us.
As the NLG's Mike Avery noted, at that point, the only remaining recourses for the American People would be impeachment, or Thomas Jefferson's other remedy: "revolution."
Speaking of arms, Ray McGovern announced at the session the electrifying, if not wholly unexpected news that Naval officers had notified his organization of former intelligence officers aboutr secret orders that had gone out for a Naval battle group to set sail immediately for the Persian Gulf, with a planned ETA off the coast of Iran of Oct. 21--less than three weeks before Election Day. (McGovern, before he resigned in disgust during the Bush first term of office, had been in charge of threat assessment at the CIA.)
"It would appear," one well-connected Washington source informed me after hearing about the Naval maneuvers, "that the Bush administration's internal polling is telling them that they are in serious trouble in November and that they are getting desperate."
Maybe so. If Bush and his gang cannot get all their crimes retroactively approved by the current compliant Republican Congress, he and Cheney, fearing impeachment and war crimes prosecution, may have decided to go with a "Hail Mary" strategy--an aerial bombardment of Iran's nuclear facilities just before Election Day designed to rally Americans once more around the already abased and abused Flag.
This time, though, such a desperate, jingoistic strategy may not work. In fact, if such an act of unprovoked war leads Iran to unleash Shi'ia militias in Iraq against American forces, it will lead to an exponential increase in American casualties at a time that Americans are massively turning against that war.
The potential for an attack on Iran to become a new Tet is probably as great or greater than the likelihood of its rallying the public around an already widely discredited president and war.
Crucial in determining which way things would go is how Democrats respond to news of a new war in the offing. If they run true to form and start cheering for more war, they will have nailed the coffin shut on the Democratic Party as a functioning political organization. If they finally stand up against this abuse of American power and say no to yet another Bush war, the end to this nightmare could be in sight.
And which way the Democrats react will depend on what the American people do between now and any new Bush war.
As McGovern said darkly, "We have only seven weeks to act to stop this from happening."
Impeachment Talk: What Are the Democrats Afraid Of?
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