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High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Published on Saturday, June 18, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by Ken Sanders
Under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution's impeachment clause, and the historical application thereof, leads to the inescapable conclusion that articles of impeachment should be brought against President Bush for his commission of high crimes against the United States.
It is the consensus among legal and constitutional scholars that the phrase "other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" refers to "political crimes." While not necessarily indictable crimes, "political crimes" are great offenses against the federal government. They are abuses of power or the kinds of misconduct which can only be committed by a public official by virtue of the unique power and trust which he holds. Thus, high crimes and misdemeanors refer to major offenses against our very system of representative democracy. Likewise, high crimes and misdemeanors can be serious abuses of the governmental power with which the President has been trusted.
In the case of Iraq, it is becoming harder and harder to deny that Bush engaged in official misconduct that caused serious and likely irreparable injury to the United States.
Take, for instance, the increasingly notorious Downing Street Memo. According to the Memo, nearly one year before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to disarm Saddam of his mythical weapons of mass destruction, at the White House "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Bush and his apologists dismiss the Memo as meaningless and accuse those deluded enough to find meaning within it of rehashing old arguments. However, aside from dismissing or simply ignoring the Memo, the Bush administration has made no attempt at an innocent explanation for the claim that it "fixed" the intelligence to fit its Iraq policy.
In fact, the Bush administration has never explicitly denied that the intelligence on Iraq was "fixed." The only senior government official to make such an unequivocal denial is Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister. However, while Blair did deny that the intelligence was "fixed," he did not endeavor to explain why such a claim made its way into an official British government document.
An explanation for the Bush administration's reluctance to address the Memo head-on and deny outright its claims of fixed intelligence can be gleaned from circumstantial evidence. It is commonly (and mistakenly) accepted that the false claims about Iraq's WMD were solely the result of a massive intelligence failure. Indeed, two purportedly independent commissions, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. regarding Iraq's WMD, both determined that the White House and Pentagon were innocent victims of bad intelligence.
Whether or not the findings of those commissions are accurate or supportable is an argument for another time. What is telling about both commissions, however, is what they specifically did not investigate: whether the Bush administration manipulated or otherwise misused the "bad" intelligence. In the case of the Commission on Intelligence, a body created by the White House, it was not authorized by the White House to investigate the use of the Iraq intelligence. That issue was expressly out of bounds. In the case of the Senate Intelligence Committee, its Republican members circled wagons and insisted that any inquiry into the White House's use of the intelligence be deferred for a later date. That deferral continues.
The White House clearly has something to hide.
Regardless of what Bush is scrupulously trying to conceal, during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, Bush openly lied about Iraq's nuclear capabilities on no fewer than four separate occasions. Bush knowingly and deliberately manipulated, inflated, and "fixed" the intelligence he was given in order to inflame the nation's passions and fraudulently bolster support for his war.
There is precedent for impeaching President Bush for the high crimes and misdemeanors of involving the country in armed conflict through fraudulent means. Take the case of William Blount, the first federal impeachment in U.S. history. Blount, an original U.S. senator from Tennessee, attempted to incite the Cherokee and the Creek to displace the Spanish from what is now Florida and Louisiana. Blount intended to then sell the land to the British. When the plot was exposed, the House of Representatives leveled articles of impeachment against Blount, asserting that Blount committed high crimes and misdemeanors by undertaking a course of conduct that threatened American neutrality and peace, and potentially violated international treaties.
Clearly, the acts of President Bush regarding Iraq are far more egregious than those of Blount. Not only did Blount's scheme never come to fruition, Blount's machinations did not result in the military invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of U.S. treaty obligations and international law.
Take also the case of President Richard Nixon. The articles of impeachment brought against him in 1974 alleged serious abuses of presidential powers. The articles alleged that Nixon used government agencies, including the F.B.I., C.I.A., I.R.S., and the Office of the President itself, to engage in a series of unlawful acts for political gain. Thus, Nixon was accused of, among other things, abusing his position as President in order to undermine the democratic process.
In the case of the Iraq war, Bush similarly abused his position as President by lying to the public and to Congress, as well as the United Nations, about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Bush "fixed" and falsified intelligence in order to obtain the Congressional authority he needed to invade Iraq, thereby undermining the democratic process and injuring the constitutional system of government. Bush engaged in these acts of wrongdoing to enhance his political influence and to enrich corporate entities with which he and his cronies had financial ties.
The impeachment of President Clinton, by contrast, did not involve an abuse of presidential power. Rather, the impeachment of Clinton arose from his extramarital affair and his subsequent perjury and obstruction of justice in his grand jury and civil deposition testimony. As acknowledged by the Senate in its decision to acquit Clinton of both the articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives, there was no evidence that Clinton's personal misconduct constituted a misuse of presidential power or injured the constitutional system of government. A national embarrassment to be sure, but not an abuse of presidential power.
Whether or not one considers the Clinton impeachment a legitimate constitutional exercise or a vindictive partisan sham, it serves as a precedent for impeachment of the President. If lying in legal proceedings regarding fellatio by a portly intern warranted articles of impeachment, then repeatedly lying to the American public and Congress, as well as fabricating intelligence -- acts of fraud which have resulted in thousands of dead and wounded Americans, and tens of billions of dollars in deficit spending -- ought to warrant the same.
Fortunately for Bush, both the House and Senate are controlled by his Republican supporters and apologists, thereby guaranteeing that he will never be held accountable under the Constitution for the irreparable damage he has done to this country.
Talk about getting away with murder.