It’s too bad George Bush wasn’t caught hanging out with high-priced call girls. It seems that’s the only way we can get suspect public servants out of office here in America. Lying to Congress and the American people hasn’t done it. Killing more than a million people and laying a sovereign nation to waste hasn’t done it. Abandoning his citizens after the worst natural disaster in history (Hurricane Katrina) hasn’t done it. Violating the terms of the Geneva Convention by allowing torture hasn’t done it. Yet, mere hours had passed after Eliot Spitzer’s sordid little sexcapades became public knowledge before the “I” word surfaced. Now, I’ve been in favor of raising the impeachment discussion, but there’s one little problem. They got the wrong guy.
It’s not that I think Eliot Spitzer should be given a free ride. What he did to his family, first and foremost, is despicable. His behavior certainly makes a sham of his image as a crusader of ethics in government. However, I can’t help but feel that everyone’s response to this scandal is just a bit over the top, particularly when we have such an immoral, law-breaking group of thugs leading what was once seen as the greatest nation in the world.
The Constitution states that government officials can be impeached for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The “high crimes and misdemeanors” portion is, of course, open to interpretation. However, most legal scholars agree that an impeachable offense does not necessarily have to be an “indictable” offense. Impeachable offenses can be behavior that undermines the integrity of a public office; shows disregard for constitutional duties or involves the abuse of power. Richard Nixon’s impeachment was for illegal wiretapping of political opponents and obstruction of justice for trying to cover it up. Bill Clinton’s impeachment was for having sex with an intern and then lying about it to a grand jury. Illegal wiretapping and lying are legal, historical precedents. We have to go no further to justify filing articles of impeachment against George W. Bush.
There are two indisputable infractions that warrant impeachment. The invasion of a sovereign nation (Iraq) under false pretenses is without question an impeachable offense. George Bush and those in his service lied about many things in order to justify the invasion of Iraq, including that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that it was involved in the 9-11 terrorist attacks. A complete list of the Bush administration’s 935 lies leading up to the war in Iraq can be digested at http://www.publicintegrity.org
The second infraction is the illegal wiretapping of American citizens under the guise of protecting us from terrorism. It is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizure, and states that no search warrants shall be issued unless there is evidence of a crime. This action also violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires that a secret FISA court approve warrants for national security wiretaps. It is a crime for government officials to conduct electronic surveillance outside of the limits of that law. It doesn’t end there, however. George Bush has been involved in other reprehensible activities that may also be impeachable offenses.
The Bush administration’s practice of torture, kidnapping and “extraordinary rendition” of detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan to other countries is a violation of both national and international laws. In the case of Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld (2006), the U.S. Supreme Court stated that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay not only violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice but also Common Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention. It should also be noted that both U.S. and international law states that if a prisoner dies because of such a violation, the penalty is death. Many so-called “unlawful combatants” have died under illegal U.S. capture as a result of torture. One such story, about a young Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was beaten to death in 2002 while in U.S. military custody, was told in this year’s Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, Taxi To The Dark Side.
Other potentially impeachable reprehensible infractions include obstructing the investigation into and covering up knowledge of the deliberate exposure of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative. Her husband, Joseph Wilson, was the envoy sent to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from Niger and determined that the story was not true. The faulty intelligence found its way into President Bush’s State of the Union address eleven months later anyway. Wilson was a critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq war and it is widely believed that the White House, as payback for her husband’s position, leaked Plame’s name. There has even been speculation that Bush conspired in the initial outing.
There have been questions surrounding the 9-11 terrorist attacks almost from the beginning. Conspiracy theorists abound and most have been made out to look like crackpots. Yet, there are some nagging facts that can’t be dismissed and that was the reason for pressing for the establishment of the 9-11 commission to begin with. It is no secret that the Bush administration obstructed the investigation into the attacks and that he lied to both Congress and the bi-partisan 9-11 commission. Even the most reasonable person must conclude that this administration has something to hide. Former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who served on the 9-11 commission, criticized the Bush administrations efforts to hide information about the government’s law enforcement and intelligence failures prior to the attacks.