The Declaration of Independence reads like a bill of impeachment, complete with a list of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Authors of bills to impeach President Bush or Vice-president Cheney could do worse than start with, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…."
Yes, they'd need to make the wording friendly to 21st century gender and religious sensibilities. Still, if we agree that all are born with "certain unalienable rights," then lists of high crimes and misdemeanors put forth by myself and others against George W. Bush make a lot of sense.
Thomas Jefferson knew that once you lay down the bedrock principle that everyone is deserving of a fair run at life, liberty and happiness, it follows that the powers of leaders to lie, cheat, torture, wage war, falsely accuse, kidnap and worse must be curtailed. And so it was striking when Bush chose the hours leading to July Fourth to commute the sentence of Scooter Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Hand it to Dubya. It was as near to genius as this president is likely to come, for the timing did double duty. By the evening of July 2 most Americans were headed, mentally at least, to purple mountains' majesty where they'd ignite barbecue grills and fireworks. What patriotic American politician would call his or her President a crook and a tyrant leading up to Independence Day? What news anchor would dwell on it long enough to consider the magnitude of what Libby, Bush and Cheney managed to obscure in getting Libby off the hook? No doubt Bush and his pal Karl Rove figured July 2 was as good a time as any to get the Libby business out there.
Still, there was bitter irony to be had in listening to voices on the radio read the Declaration of Independence on the morning of July Fourth. That's because the Libby case embraced the very sort of abuses King George III visited on America 231 years ago. The Libby case is about nothing if it's not about human rights abuses, war crimes, bearing false witness, lack of participatory democracy and worse.
The roots of Libby's crimes reach into graves of dead people. Lots of dead people. Their remains hallow our hills even now, if Lincoln was right in suggesting the war-dead bring honor to this earth. I have my doubts, because if that's true, then Iraq grows more sacred by the day. Still, it's not the living you should think about when mulling Libby's crimes, for the scandal is really about the reasons people are dying in Iraq.
These are not dignified deaths by and large. I can show you that many have been tortured, beheaded, sickened by depleted uranium, starved, caramelized by chemicals and heat, strangled, raped, eviscerated. Most have been shot or else blown up by bombs from airplanes and exploding cars. All have suffered, civilians most of all.