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An Open Letter to Congresswoman Pelosi: Please Reconsider Your Pledge to Take Impeachment "off the Table"

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Dear Honorable Congresswoman Pelosi:

In early September 2002, Vice President Richard Cheney and the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, met with the Gang of Four - the four top leaders of Congress, Dennis Hastert, Richard Gephardt, Trent Lott and Tom Daschle - to brief them on the so-called intelligence that supposedly demonstrated Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

As Michael Isikoff and David Corn write, in their new book, Hubris, "They displayed aerial photos of what appeared to be new construction at what Cheney said were Iraqi nuclear weapons sites. They showed drawings of what Tenet described as mobile biological weapons laboratories...[and] they shared snapshots of unmanned aerial vehicles...said to be capable of carrying chemical and biological weapons great distances." [p. 31] The Gang of Four was disturbed by this so-called intelligence. Senator Lott was "sold." [Ibid] Even Senator Daschle "wanted to grant Cheney and Tenet the benefit of the doubt on fundamental questions of national security." [Ibid]

Unfortunately, this episode not only proved that Cheney and Tenet had gotten their briefing routine down pat, but also the accuracy of comedian Louis Black's observation: Democrats are the party of "no ideas," while the Republicans are the party of "bad ideas." After all, as readers of Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, surely recall, Tenet produced a similar aerial photo of a so-called weapons site at President Bush's very first meeting of the National Security Council in January 2001 - and Cheney cheered him along.

Back then, Tenet claimed that the "CIA believed the building might be 'a plant that produces either chemical or biological materials for weapons manufacture.'" And Cheney "motioned to the deputies, the backbenchers, lining the wall. 'Come on up,' he said with uncharacteristic excitement, waving his arm. 'You have to take a look at this.'" [Suskind, p. 72]

But, while a dozen people, including Bush, were gazing "intently at the tablecloth-size photo," [Ibid, p. 73] Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill asked Tenet, "I've seen a lot of factories around the world that look like this. What makes us suspect that this one is producing chemical or biological weapons?" O'Neill's question compelled Tenet to concede: There was "no confirming intelligence" as to the materials being produced at that plant. [Ibid]

But, note the enthusiasm with which Cheney and the ideologues in the Bush administration embraced such dubious intelligence about Iraq at that very first meeting of the National Security Council. It spoke volumes about how the Bush administration would hype and "fix" intelligence to make the case for its illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq. As I will demonstrate below, the Bush administration's illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq requires a thorough investigation -- as a prelude to the impeachment of both the President and the Vice President.

Congresswoman Pelosi, in your recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl you assured her that, if the Democrats win a majority in the House of Representatives and you become Speaker of the House, "impeachment is off the table" because making the Bush administration "lame ducks" was good enough for you.

You made a similar pledge earlier this year. Unfortunately, the definitions provided by Lewis Black notwithstanding, I can only marvel at your "bad idea." Please, you must reconsider. It is ill conceived and will prove to be counterproductive.

As one of the courageous members of Congress who refused to vote for the October 2002 "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq," you retain high moral and political credibility (unlike Senator Hillary Clinton), especially now that the majority of Americans know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda and further believe that the Bush administration deceived them in order to send their husbands, wives, sons and daughters to war.

As you undoubtedly know, in Chapter 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, "Article 2.4, expressly prohibits Member States from using or threatening force against each other, allowing only two exceptions: self-defense under Article 51, and military measures authorized by the Security Council under Chapter VII." [A more secure world: Our shared responsibility, Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, United Nations, 2004, p. 62]

Moreover, when discussing self-defense under Article 51, that report notes that nothing in the U.N. Charter "shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense...until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security." But it adds: "A threatened State, according to long established international law, can take military action as long as the threatened attack is imminent, no other means would deflect it and the action is proportionate." [Ibid, p 63]

Americans now know that the threat posed by Iraq was NOT imminent, because Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction and had no ties to al Qaeda. Moreover, the former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet claimed, "his analysts 'never said there was an imminent threat.'" [Morning Edition, National Public Radio Feb. 5, 2004].

Thus, forthright investigations - not the dishonest, perhaps criminal, stonewalling orchestrated by Senator Pat Roberts -- must be conducted to determine whether the Bush administration misused the intelligence it received (or concocted its own intelligence) to disguise the nature of their illegal, immoral "preventive" war.

Particular attention should be paid to the bogus intelligence fabricated by the untrained, pro-war ideologues hired by Douglas Feith. Such bogus analysis, alleging operational ties between Iraq and al Qaeda, allowed Messrs. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Libby, and Cheney to reject five legitimate Intelligence Community reports, which found no evidence of such ties. (See my article -- ).

Moreover, by staring a war instead of allowing the UN inspectors to continue their inspections, the Bush administration failed to exhaust every means to deflect war - as demanded under international law.

And when it failed to send enough troops to secure the peace after its illegal, immoral invasion -- and, thus, failed to prevent the insurgency and civil war that experts predicted -- the Bush administration abetted the unleashing of disproportionate looting, death and destruction in Iraq. Thus, any and every excuse the Bush administration offered for its unconscionable invasion was immediately besmirched with needlessly spilled blood and lost treasure - due to its criminal negligence.

Finally, when the Bush administration failed to secure a second Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, it gave fallback justifications for invading Iraq that met none of the criteria specified under Article 51. Which is why, U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan publicly asserted that Bush's war was "not in conformity with the UN Charter," and thus was "illegal." [John Burroughs and Nicole Deller, The United Nations Charter and the Invasion of Iraq, Neoconned Again, p. 368]

As you probably know, Congresswoman Pelosi, Article VI of our Constitution states: "The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Thus, the Charter of the United Nations is the supreme law of the land. And, thus, the Bush administration's violation of the UN Charter constitutes an impeachable offense under our Constitution.

Moreover, when one recalls that the United States boldly took the lead in establishing both the United Nations and the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal - and both in an effort to assure that wars of aggression would be outlawed and punished - any failure by United States America to investigate and prosecute its own wars of aggression would be viewed as rank hypocrisy and further debase our national honor around the world.

Thus, what U.S Representative Robert H Jackson asserted in Nuremberg in November 1945 remains equally applicable to America today: "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow." [Michael R. Marrus, The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46 p. 81]

Speaking for the United States, in its opening address of the Nuremberg Tribunal, Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson asserted: "This inquest represents the practical effort of four of the most mighty of nations, with the support of 17 more, to utilize international law to meet the greatest menace of our times - aggressive war." [Ibid, p. 80]

But, he also concluded: "The ultimate step in avoiding periodic wars, which are inevitable in a system of international lawlessness, is to make statesmen responsible to law. And let me make clear that while the law is first applied against German aggression, the law includes, and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgement." [Ibid, p. 85.]

Article 6 of the Tribunal's Charter list "Crimes against Peace; namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging war of aggression" [Ibid, p. 52] as its first and foremost crime. And in its indictment of notorious Nazis, the Tribunal listed as "Count One" the "conspiracy" to commit "Crimes against Peace, in that the defendants planned, prepared, initiated and waged wars of aggression." [Ibid, 58] It then cites the execution of plans to invade Austria, then Czechoslovakia, then Poland, then Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia and Greece - before its invasion of the Soviet Union.

Count Two indicted the Nazis for actual crimes against peace. Count Three indicted them for "War Crimes," including the ill treatment of civilians and the mistreatment of prisoners of war - such as have occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in our recent past. Count Four indicted the Nazis for "Crimes Against Humanity"

In January 1947, lawyer, former U.S, Secretary of War and former Secretary of State, Henry Stimson, published an article - "Nuremberg, Landmark in Law" -- in Foreign Affairs. He concluded: "International law is still limited by international politics, and we must not pretend that either can live and grow without the other. But in the judgement of Nuremberg there is affirmed the central principle of peace - that the man who makes or plans to make aggressive war is a criminal. A standard has been raised to which Americans, at least, must repair; for it is only as this standard is accepted, supported and enforced that we can move onward to a world of law and peace." [Ibid, p 245]

Today, as the "fortunate" escape the whirlwind of torture, death and destruction in Iraq by becoming refugees (1.6 million since 2003) or displaced persons within their own country (190,000 since February 2006) the U.S. and British armies, "claiming to bring democracy and prosperity have brought bloodshed and misery worse than under the most ruthless modern dictator." [Simon Jenkins, "We have turned Iraq into the most hellish place on Earth," The Guardian, Oct. 25, 2006]

Were the United States still a shame-based country, as it was even when Henry Stimson wrote about Nuremberg, the criminals in the Bush administration who unleashed this whirlwind would resign and surrender themselves to the proper authorities, or commit suicide. But, America is not Japan and, as we already know, our officials possess neither character nor shame. Instead, they already are plotting to escape justice.

"Justice," for the crime of invading Iraq, already has been splendidly stipulated by the renowned conservative military historian, Martin van Creveld: "For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C. sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins."

But, in order to thwart justice, the Bush administration's "Plan A," is to win at least one house of Congress in November and, thus, stymie and delay investigations and impeachment proceedings. If "Plan A" fails, "Plan B" is to invade Iran.

Thus, the percentages offered by Middle East expert, William R. Polk, seem correct -- "at least a 10% chance of an American attack on Iran before the November 7 Congressional elections and about a 90% chance before the administration's end on 2008" [History News Network, 10/16/06] -- even if scaring Americans in order to ward off impeachment doesn't figure among his reasons.

And, thus, Congresswoman Pelosi, by taking impeachment off the table, you will have given the Bush administration an adequate substitute for "Plan A" while effectively removing any penalty for pursuing "Plan B."

Please, scrap your bad idea of taking impeachment off the table. Although making the Bush administration lame ducks may be good enough for you, America's lost self-esteem and its lost honor around the world require much more - as does the need to prevent additional Bush administration crimes against the peace. It requires that we Americans "repair" to the standard to which we seek to hold everyone else.
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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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