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Peace and Impeachment in Los Angeles

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This past Friday night and Saturday, Ann Wright and I spoke at four events in the Los Angeles area on the topics of peace and impeachment.  I flew home, but Ann intended to keep going at the same pace for another week or more without ever leaving L.A.  The people of Santa Barbara and Oxnard and Venice and Santa Monica turned out in large numbers on Friday and Saturday nights and even Saturday morning to talk about what they could do to end the occupation of Iraq and the illegitimate administration of Bush and Cheney.  Young people turned out too and are creating their own events with Ann.  Los Angeles even has a busy office known as the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center.  If only this same energy really were national!  At three events I asked rooms full of Californians whether they would risk jail by sitting in their congress members' offices to impeach Bush and Cheney.  Every time, 90 percent of the people present raised their hands.  And when I asked whether they would submit to waterboarding if it rid our government of these criminals, 80 percent raised their hands.  Now, THAT's asking what you can do for your country.

This is roughly what I told all these beautiful Californians, whom I hope to join if they secede before Vermont does:

When the Nazis were tried, not every low-ranking grunt or good german was put on trial.  Rather, those at the top were considered most responsible.  When people are tried for the crimes of Bush and Cheney, it's those at the lowest levels who take the fall.  If you join the U.S. military as a public soldier or a mercenary, you may someday be prosecuted for having obeyed illegal orders.  But those at the top are considered immune.

Rumsfeld may face prosecution if he travels too much.  Gonzales may possibly someday face prosecution.  And many of us will not rest until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.  But Bush and Cheney consider themselves and their top collaborators above the law.

As you've heard, thanks to Senator Schumer and California's own Senator Feinstein (whose husband is a war profiteer), the Senate is likely to approve as our top law enforcement official a man who refuses to call torture techniques torture because doing so might aid in the prosecution of torturers.  Feinstein claims that Mukasey admits that the military cannot waterboard.  But she avoids the fact that the CIA has been doing the waterboarding, and that Mukasey will not reject the practice.  Feinstein then turns around and proposes banning waterboarding, as if it were legal.  She adds that the Senate should question Mukasey about it... AFTER confirming him.

Bush was prepared to have no Attorney General if not Mukasey.  And why not?  Gonzales never exercised any independent thinking while holding that office.  There was always something ludicrous about impeaching him.  Having no Attorney General would be appropriate, I think, in a government in which we've gone for years without any people's representatives in Congress.

This is the year of the living dead in Washington.  And it will be two years if we don't do something.  The Democratic Congress took power in January with the intention of keeping Bush, Cheney, and the occupation of Iraq around for two years, so that they could run in the next elections against the same things they'd just been elected to deal with.  

So, the Democrats faced a dilemma,  How do you keep a war and a criminal administration around while appearing to oppose them for two years?  You do it by introducing bills.  And the fight for the doomed bills becomes an electoral campaign funded by taxpayers.  Of course, you know from the start that with very few exceptions any decent bills, especially on Iraq, will be vetoed if not filibustered.  But if you sell the idea hard enough that you simply must have a bill, then what you can do is watch good bills fail and then introduce bad bills and watch them be signed into law.  

But we have actually known since last November that there would be only two useful things this Congress could do – although it could do lots of other things after doing these two – and neither one involves passing a bill.  

The first thing is to announce that there will be no more bills brought to the floor to fund the occupation of Iraq.  Ed Schultz on his radio show this week asked Harry Reid why he doesn't just do that.  Reid had no answer and sounded as if he'd never thought about the idea.  He admitted that he could do it, but said he would not.  Pelosi has, in her trademark phrase, said that the idea is “off the table.”  But 41 senators could filibuster the funding, and Senator Boxer is the single most likely senator to find the nerve to do it.  She is the only senator who has said she supports impeachment, and she was the only senator to challenge the Ohio election results.  

Boxer and her colleagues can establish the model for ending the occupation funding by following Chris Dodd's lead and filibustering a bill to legalize unconstitutional spying and grant immunity to violators of FISA and our fourth amendment.  

In the House, 90 congress members have committed to voting No on funding bills that don't end the occupation by January 2009.  See

The funding to bring every soldier, sailor, marine, contractor, and mercenary home is pocket change to the Pentagon which routinely “misplaces” greater amounts of our hard-earned money.  But if Bush wanted money to pay for the withdrawal, Congress could certainly give him that and nothing else.  But to do that out of fear of the media would suggest an attitude in Congress not yet ready to take on the White House and its propaganda machine, a Congress like the one in which Pete Stark apologizes for saying a few true words.  We're going to need congress members to go grassroots and join us in challenging the military industrial media complex.

And I don't think fear of the media is the largest force keeping Congress from acting.  I think more important is congress members' obedience to party leadership and that leadership's cynical decision to keep the war going for electoral reasons that will probably fail on their own terms.  What we have to do is make it easier for each congress member to oppose the leadership on this than it is or them to continue opposing the will of the majority of Americans.

A lot of us believe we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis.  We have a White House that ignores subpoenas, rewrites laws, lies to Congress, lies to the public, spies without warrant, detains without charge, tortures, murders, uses illegal weapons, abandons cities to destruction, rigs elections.  Et cetera.  We could take up the whole night listing the abuses.  

Most congress members do not believe we are in a crisis.  After all, people still treat them as big shots and offer them piles of cash.  And even though Bush and Cheney ignore their subpoenas, they can send letters to the White House that sometimes get printed in newspapers.  But quite a few congress members would think they were in a crisis if they cut off the war funding, because Bush and Cheney would simply steal money from the Pentagon to keep the occupation going – illegally,

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)

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