By taking impeachment “off the table,” the Speaker of the House of Representatives seems to believe that she’s sparing the nation a gross-out of monumental proportions, and she may be right. If the House actually undertook to investigate every last crime committed by this president and his vice-despot, they would be busy for five years just cataloging the offenses.
Aside from the hundreds of blatant breaches of his Constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” the president has obstructed justice repeatedly, politicized, in violation of federal law, dozens (possibly hundreds) of government agencies and offices, violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over and over again, breached federal prohibitions against violations of treaties and conventions in hundreds of individual cases, waged war in violation of U.S. and international law, and wilfully violated the Constitutional rights of uncounted masses of individuals. The populace would be numb to his lawlessness after a few days’ exposure to the charges against him, and an exhaustive exposition would go on for months.
Daunted by the prospect of extended hearings, the Speaker might be disposed to put impeachment back on the table if she considered what prosecutors do in cases involving multiple offenses. A state’s attorney typically proceeds on the charges that have the most evidentiary support and that will bring on the harshest penalties. Six burglaries are good for at least 30 years in my state, and so our state’s attorney doesn’t need to prosecute all 18 of the break-ins that he knows his defendant did. Prosecuting the half-dozen cases with the strongest witnesses and the surest link to physical evidence is the preferred method when a mulitiple offender is caught in the act.
That’s what’s happened here. Bush had a war, lost when the war was exposed as a racket, and got caught red-handed at the center of the web of corruption. If he’d won his war, he’d be sitting pretty, regardless what means he’d employed, but he lost, and now his utter lawlessness is laid out for the world to see. The nation has been injured grievously, and he’s to blame, and it’s clear to all that his actions were corrupt across the board. Who cares what his motives were? He’s a villain, and he has no defenders I can find outside government and the embedded commercial media.
So he’s been caught in the act of more criminal offenses than we can possibly count. To hold him liable for all of them, a prosecutor would have to weave a plot so complex and convoluted that no jury could untangle it. Anything that confuses or distracts the jury accrues to the advantage of the defendant, because it is the prosecution that must prove its charges. And so the prosecution has to focus on something.
Multiple offenses are almost always part of a pattern of wrongdoing, especially when many people are involved. From the prosecutor’s point of view, a pattern of wrongdoing is a natural focus when the charges are numerous. It gives the jury a theme, a board on which to hang the bits of evidence until they form a recognizable pattern. In Bush’s case the pattern of wrongdoing is compelling. The stink of the altogether corrupt enterprise commonly referred to as the war leads to a pattern of wrongdoing that can be proved entirely with evidence that’s on the public record. Between the admissions of public officials and the testimony of witnesses before Congress, evidence on the record establishes a pattern of criminality unparallelled since Hitler’s subversion of the German republic.
If the House impeached Bush and Cheney solely on war racketeering charges, the task of cleansing the executive would become finite and doable, and it wouldn’t require months of hearings. A comprehensible and compelling pattern of criminality in the waging of Bush’s so-called war could be established with a week or two of focused fact-finding. It’s not necessary to prove everything they did. The proof is sufficient if it establishes a pattern that the people can recognize as criminality. This racket emerges as a web that interconnects the falsification of intelligence, the exposure of a covert agent, the elimination of incorruptible military officers, illegal and unauditable contracts with private armed forces, illegal surveillance of U.S. residents, the adoption of torture and imprisonment without due process, the illegal diversion of cash and munitions, systematic cover-ups of misconduct by high-ranking U.S. officials, and the corruption of federal agencies that might otherwise interfere with the racketeering enterprise.
Just this past week, a set of facts emerged that fits nicely on the pattern-board: pallets of hundred dollar bills unaccounted for in Iraq, all the losses documented and acknowedged by government officials. The account matches up with a recent disclosure that boxes and boxes of rifles and ammo were missing in the combat zone. Dealing recklessly with ordnance and military appropriations is as much a crime as putting government property in your own pocket. “I didn’t know,” isn’t a defense to malfeasance when the commander lets his subordinates steal or, worse, misplace arms and munitions. The Uniform Code of Military Justice classifies the failure to safeguard military property as criminal conduct. As a commander, what you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to Army property, especially if you happen to be looking the other way when your people are looting the armory. Bush can be impeached and removed on this charge alone, and his plea that he didn’t know is no defense. Not knowing is as much an offense, if you’re commander-in-chief, as knowing and doing nothing. And that’s just a single pattern of criminal conduct among the top ten or so that a competent prosecutor would develop.
If the House won’t bring charges of war racketeering against Bush and Cheney, maybe the people can do it on their own. It wouldn’t be difficult to assemble a legal team, maybe under the supervision of Ramsey Clark or his designee. Prepare an indictment that is simple and easy to understand, with each item of criminal conduct clearly stated, showing a pattern of criminality in the waging of war. Get in touch with every public access channel in the country plus C-SPAN and YouTube and bring in a video crew to record the proceedings. Assemble a jury of 100 to simulate the Senate. Prosecute the case with evidence on the public record. Give the prosecutors eight or maybe ten hours. Give the defendants an opportunity to rebut. Give the case to the jury and see what happens.
A well organized and well publicized exercise of this kind could prompt our leaders to reconsider their unalterable decision not to hold the executives accountable for grievous injury to our republic.