If the Democrats Want to Win...
If the Democrats really want to prevail over George W. Bush on the Iraq War and on his authoritarian vision of presidential powers, they would put back on the table two options that their leaders have removed: a cut-off of war funding and impeachment.
Rather than all-night debates about resolutions that will go nowhere, the Democrats would make the case to the American people that Bush has trampled on the Constitution; he has ensnared the nation in a catastrophic war by lying; and he has his eyes set on more dangerous chicanery in the months ahead.
The Democrats would explain that Bush has refused to compromise when offered the chance; he has told the people’s representatives that their only war role is to finance whatever "the decider" wants to do; he has declared that he has the right to ignore or break the law; he has engaged in cover-ups of serious wrongdoing by his subordinates and is now counting on his right-wing judicial appointees to protect him from oversight.
The Democrats would call on the American people to stand up at this dangerous moment in their history – when the president and vice president have become enemies of the constitutional system devised by the Founders, a Republic based on the idea that all people possess inalienable rights and governments must ensure those rights.
Never have a president and vice president abused the public trust to the extent that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have. They have engaged in a consistent pattern of deception, not just political spin or cover-ups of petty matters, but lying about the most profound of issues, including war and the meaning of “freedom” and “democracy.”
While Bush’s remaining acolytes – the likes of New York Times columnist David Brooks – continue to gush over Bush’s rhetoric about “freedom,” the reality is that Bush has eviscerated many of the most important civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Claiming “plenary” – or total – powers as Commander in Chief during an endless and boundless “war on terror,” Bush has swept aside the rights that have traditionally defined freedom, including habeas corpus guarantees to a fair trial, protections against unreasonable search and seizure, prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishments.
Bush also has shown contempt for democracy, from blocking a full counting of Florida’s votes in Election 2000 to bullying dissenters prior to the Iraq War to punishing the Palestinians for voting for leaders that Bush doesn’t like.
Yet Brooks and other pundits remain in awe of Bush’s supposed reverence for exactly the principles that he has trashed. For instance, in the July 17 New York Times, Brooks hailed Bush’s “unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea” as expressed by the president during a question-and-answer session in the White House's Roosevelt Room on July 13:
“It’s more of a theological perspective,” Bush said about his confidence that democracy and freedom are on the march. “I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”
But Bush’s declarations about freedom may rank as his most offensive lies of all. They go beyond mere hypocrisy, to some Orwellian formulation that demands public allegiance to an assertion that is the opposite of the truth, like “freedom is slavery” or, in this case, “freedom is obedience” to Bush.
Similarly, Bush appeared before the United Nations on Sept. 19, 2006, praising its Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. He said, “The words of the Universal Declaration are as true today as they were when they were written.”
But either Bush didn’t have the faintest idea what those principles were – or he had grown so confident in never being challenged that he thought he could say whatever he wanted, no matter how false or deceptive.
Among the 30 rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are these:
--“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
--“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
--“Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
--“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
--“Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
-- “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”
--“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
--“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Though Bush’s actions in the “war on terror” have violated many if not all the above-cited human rights tenets, Bush unblushingly cited the Universal Declaration as the foundation for his supposed crusade to spread freedom and democracy around the world.
Bush apparently believes that he is not only a law onto himself but that he gets to define reality, creating his own fantasyland that everyone else must accept as true. He is an imperial president living in an anti-empirical world.
Psychologists may debate whether Bush is delusional or just an extremely accomplished liar, but either way he represents an unprecedented threat to the future of the American Republic and to the survivability of the planet.
So, what can be done?
If Bush is to be deterred, the country – and the Congress – must make clear that the public response will be commensurate to the threat personified by Bush and Cheney. In other words, half-hearted half-measures won’t do. The stakes must be raised and the battle joined.
Since Bush already has made clear he will spurn any constraining war resolutions from Congress, the Democrats must face up to their real options (aside from surrender): move to cut off war funding (beyond what is needed for an orderly withdrawal) and/or commence impeachment hearings for both Bush and Cheney.
Though key Democratic leaders have dismissed these ideas as either impossible or politically risky, they mark the only real hope of forcing Bush into compromising or at least deterring him from other rash actions, such as another military escalation in Iraq or an expansion of the war into Iran.
Impeachment hearings also would give the American people a focus for both understanding the threat that Bush represents to their constitutional system and giving them a way to stand up to him. The public also gets the idea of impeachment -- it's like you're firing the guy -- while they are confused and demoralized by the current legislative maneuvering.
Even if the Republicans succeed in blocking the Bush-Cheney impeachment in the House or their removal from office in the Senate, Congress would have served notice that it rejects Bush’s dark vision for America -- and the momentous issues of Campaign 2008 would be clarified.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.
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