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Scattershot Articles to Impeach Bush

In the last hour of today’s hourly impeachment posts, I dissed Ramsey Clark’s ImpeachBush.org website for devoting itself as much to gathering personal information on visitors as to actually getting George W. Bush impeached. But the website does actually have a set of articles of impeachment, ostensibly drawn up by the ubiquitous, self-promoting Ramsey Clark himself. Let’s look at Clark’s reasoning for impeachment. There are 20 “impeachable offenses” listed, condensed somewhat here:

1) Seizing power to wage wars of aggression…

2) Lying to the people of the U.S., to Congress…

3) Authorizing, ordering and condoning direct attacks on civilians, civilian facilities and locations where civilian casualties were unavoidable.

4) Instituting a secret and illegal wiretapping and spying operation against the people of the United States through the National Security Agency.

5) Threatening the independence and sovereignty of Iraq by belligerently changing its government by force and assaulting Iraq in a war of aggression.

6) Authorizing, ordering and condoning assassinations, summary executions, kidnappings, secret and other illegal detentions of individuals, torture and physical and psychological coercion of prisoners…

7) Making, ordering and condoning false statements and propaganda…

8) Violations and subversions of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, both a part of the “Supreme Law of the land” under Article VI, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, in an attempt to commit with impunity crimes against peace and humanity and war crimes in wars and threats of aggression…

9) Acting to strip United States citizens of their constitutional and human rights, ordering indefinite detention of citizens, without access to counsel, without charge, and without opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the Executive of a citizen as an “enemy combatant.”

10) Ordering indefinite detention of non-citizens in the United States…

11) Ordering and authorizing the Attorney General to override judicial orders of release of detainees under INS jurisdiction…

12) Authorizing secret military tribunals…

13) Refusing to provide public disclosure of the identities and locations of persons who have been arrested, detained and imprisoned by the U.S. government in the United States, including in response to Congressional inquiry.

14) Use of secret arrests of persons within the United States and elsewhere and denial of the right to public trials…

15) Authorizing the monitoring of confidential attorney-client privileged communications by the government…

16) Ordering and authorizing the seizure of assets of persons in the United States, prior to hearing or trial, for lawful or innocent association with any entity that at the discretionary designation of the Executive has been deemed “terrorist.”

17) Engaging in criminal neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina…

18) Institutionalization of racial and religious profiling and authorization of domestic spying by federal law enforcement…

19) Refusal to provide information and records…

20) Rejecting treaties protective of peace and human rights…

This list of twenty items was written in 2003 and has clearly been amended over the years, since it includes reference to warrantless wiretapping. It’s too bad it hasn’t been reviewed by a copy editor in that time; the document is a confusing mess. War is listed as a reason three separate times, but it’s really one reason. Similarly, refusal to provide accurate information is listed as four separate reasons, but is really one. Improper detention is listed as six separate reasons when it is really one reason. Domestic spying is listed as three reasons but is one. I am reminded of the fictional Foxtrot‘s Jason Fox and his “brilliant” idea to write a super-long essay for school that would blow his teacher away. The first sentence of the essay: “This is the first sentence of the essay.” The second sentence: “This is the second sentence of the essay.” Apparently, Ramsey Clark is still of the middle-school mindset that quantity trumps quality. There aren’t really twenty reasons here; there are but a handful.

Of that handful, only a few are of merit. A problem with Ramsey Clark’s approach is that he seems to consider “an impeachable offense” to be anything which he takes offense to. A policy can be wrong but not meet the criterion of an impeachable offense: an act that consists of bribery, treason, a high crime or a misdemeanor. Failing to sign treaties that Ramsey Clark would sign if he were President is not a high crime or misdemeanor. Both houses of Congress voted to give Bush authority for his “wars of aggression,” for which we should sack both houses of Congress, not impeach Bush. Racial and religious profiling, since 2001, has unfortunately been given the stamp of constitutionality by cowed judicial authorities, when used under certain circumstances and within certain limits. Refusal to provide information is sometimes but not always illegal, depending on the recipient and nature of the information in question. Not being quick enough to send aid and help people in the aftermath of Katrina is immoral, but under what law is it a high crime or misdemeanor? Every fearmongering government in this history of humanity has probably engaged in propaganda, and it should be resisted, but that doesn’t make it against the law unless very particular laws involving improper contact have occurred, and it is not at all certain that George W. Bush himself was even aware of such propaganda efforts. And so on, and so forth.

Look, there are some good gems in Ramsey Clark’s articles of impeachment, just as there is usually something of value to be found in almost any pile of rubbish. But what most Americans are going to see when they look at Clark’s document isn’t the occasional gem — they’ll see a pile of rubbish. Diatribes have their place. I should know — I’m a diatribey kind of guy. But articles of impeachment are not diatribes. Articles of impeachment should be specific, should be concerned with clear instances in which particular laws have been violated, should be carefully documented, and should not show evidence of the flying spittle of rage. Otherwise, the only people who are going to support them are people whose spittle has already been seen flying about town. Trying to do a reprise of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s little red book and other tracts just isn’t going to cut it — unless one’s goal is attention rather than success.

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