Judiciary Chairman John Conyers is set to begin "preliminary hearings" on Dennis Kucninch's article of impeachment on Thursday, July 25, according to impeachment activists working the Hill. Conyers is tying himself in knots trying to avoid using the word "impeachment," but that's what Kucinich's article is: an article of impeachment against George Bush, tightly focused on claims that Saddam possessed WMD and that he had a connection to 9/11, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
The congressional game is to attempt to appease the impeachment movement with some sort of action while keeping it as quiet as possible, lest the general electorate catch wind that, coming to life creaking and groaning, the sinews of democracy are actually working and might yet shift into high gear with a push. Once you give people hope, all kinds of nasty things start to happen, in congress's view. People who have never called their congressman start calling. People who have checked-out in disgust start reading the paper.
Congress has come this far only by being manhandled by Americans of all political stripes. The crucial break of 9 Republicans, not counting the 10 abstentions, who voted this week to send the Kucinich article for a certain hearing in Judiciary signals that a few of them would rather keep their jobs than continue to follow Bush over a cliff. Pelosi's fealty to Bush has earned her a challenge by Shirley Golub in the primary as well as Cindy Sheehan waiting for her in the general election after she's been softened up a bit, if Golub doesn't win. The signal from Pelosi and Steny Hoyer that this is suddenly at the edge of the table again, and the move by Conyers, is the result of absolutely nothing except democracy working the way it's supposed to: citizens taking ownership, bringing to bear all forms and angles of pressure, until doing the right thing becomes the path of least resistance.
We need to ask them why they aren't hollering "cover-up!" the way any competent politician would do after Bush has just claimed executive privilege in the release of an FBI interview of Dick Cheney in the matter of Valerie Plame. Send out letters to the editor, call them directly, hold a sign at an intersection. It's not Watergate that brought Nixon down. It was the cover-up.
Before the Far Right spun it into an issue of whether or not Plame was really an undercover agent (she was), many, even on the right, were predicting that this was the scandal the administration would not survive, because it involved the betrayal of a real, live agent working to keep WMD from our shores. The overdrive in which the Far Right spin machine swung into action to put out the talking points that Plame went to parties in Washington (she didn't) and that she had an office at CIA headquarters (so she couldn't be undercover) is an indicator of how critical it was to manage peoples' perceptions of what happened.
What happened was we became a lot less safe on the day Plame was unmasked. In testimony before the Waxman-Dorgan hearings on Plame in 2004, Special Forces Colonel Patrick Lang said, because of the leak:
"the possibility of penetrating these groups, the possibility of knowing that they're going to carry 10-pound bags of explosive in the subway stations, will go right down the drain."
"A former diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said yesterday that every foreign intelligence service would run Plame’s name through its databases within hours of its publication to determine if she had visited their country and to reconstruct her activities." Former diplomat quoted in Walter Pincus, Washington Post, October 4, 2003
The Far Right spin operation was a smashing success, as outrage subsided and people began to shrug.
But that scar in the credibility of our intelligence services in the area of human intelligence, HUMINT, is still fresh. HUMINT is when a foreigner, maybe because he likes America, finally talks to the agent who has been cultivating him for years and he slips that agent the number of a cargo container, on the understanding that that agent is protecting their secret with his or her life. This includes the understanding that the agent's own government will not suddenly splash her profession all over the front pages of every newspaper in the world. When that happens that informant knows he is a dead man. Maybe not now, maybe not next month, but dead.
There are some who say 'Bush must be doing the right thing because there hasn't been another 9/11 since.' We are letting slip a popular victory in Afghanistan because of a neglected reconstruction, Al Qaeda has regrouped along the border and is poised to strike the U.S. again, the tactics they are using in Afghanistan were invented and perfected in the laboratory we gave them in Iraq, and we have no reinforcements to send to Afghanistan because they are all stuck in Iraq. On top of that Iraq is seen as a war of aggression for oil among young Muslim men, even those who initially supported overthrowing Saddam, because he's gone, but we're still there. This gives bin Laden all the recruits he needs for both Iraq and Afghanistan, keeping the cycle fresh. Funny, I don't feel safer.
It hasn't rained yet. Does that mean I don't see the thunderheads building on the horizon, and I feel safe from getting wet?
Many people don't know this, but Afghanistan has a 40% unemployment rate, and the Taliban pays $8 per day, to men who have no other way to feed their families. The dirty secret is the renewed insurgency was entirely avoidable.
We've got this mule called congress a third of the way there. It's braying and stomping its feet, but we're in charge. Call them and email them, and say, ok, Bush said "executive privilege," now you say what? Anyone? Anyone?
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