President Bush should be impeached for war crimes

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:55 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Bill Wickersham is an adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU, a member of Veterans for Peace and a member of the national steering committee of Global Action to Prevent War.

In June 2004, the Bush Administration issued a statement that detailed its rationale and legal stance for denying terror suspects the protection of international humanitarian law. The statement included hundreds of pages of White House communications intended to counter widespread criticism that George W. Bush had personally endorsed the plans used to justify the interrogation abuses of U.S. prisoners held in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and other worldwide locations. At that time Bush said, “I have never ordered torture.” Ordered or not, it is now clear from recent reports that Bush was well aware of, and approved plans for, the questioning of known and alleged al-Qaida prisoners being held by the CIA.

On April 9, 2008, ABC News reported that Bush’s National Security Council Principals Committee had dozens of top-secret talks and meetings at the White House to review interrogation procedures to be used by the CIA on al-Qaida suspects. Condoleezza Rice chaired the committee, which included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Collin Powell, George Tenet and John Aschroft. According to ABC, the principals discussed and approved specific details of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — “CIA-Speak” and “Pentagonese” for torture, including face slapping, pushing, sleep deprivation and the simulated drowning technique known as “waterboarding.”

According to a recent article by Dan Eggen of the Washington Post, Bush publicly defended the principals’ torture policies and decisions saying, “Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people. And, yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue, and I approved.” As previously noted, Condoleezza Rice chaired the Principals Committee and played a key role in development of policies that cleared the way for U.S. torture practices. In 2004, the CIA sought additional assurance by the administration for use of torture on “high value” CIA captured suspects. In addressing this episode, ABC News reported about Rice: “Despite growing policy concerns — shared by Powell — that the program was harming the image of the United States abroad, ... (she) did not back down, telling the CIA: ‘This is your baby; Go do it.’”

When stories regarding detainees at the Abu Grahib prison in Iraq became public, blame for the illegal crimes was placed on “a few rotten apples in the barrel,” low-ranking U.S. soldiers, some of whom are now serving jail sentences. It is now very clear that there were also “bad apples” in barrels at the White House, the Pentagon and in Langley, Va., at CIA headquarters. Much of the torture that has occured is the result of orders fully approved by the White House. Thus, the neo-conservative Bush administration, which purportedly invaded and occupied Iraq to free its people of Saddam’s heinous atrocities, is now guilty of its own, including the killing of innumerable Iraqi citizens via aerial bombardment and house-to-house invasions.

In addressing the torture policies of the National Security Council Principals Committee, University of Illinois Professor Francis A. Boyle, one of the world’s foremost authorities on international humanitarian law, said, “Clearly this was criminal activity at the time they committed it. At the very least, it violated the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, The War Crimes Act, and the federal anti-torture statutes. Clearly these are impeachable offenses.”

Given the “high crimes” committed by top administration officials in violation of the U.S. Constitution, what is to be done? From the first revelations of the Bush/Cheney war crimes, many writers, including Professor Boyle and I, have strongly called for impeachment of the president. Thus far, Nancy Pelosi and other key members of Congress have failed to live up to their oath of office by failing to defend the Supreme Law of the Land. On June 10, 2008, Missourian writer David Rosman wrote a very informative piece citing many reasons to avoid the impeachment process. However, I continue to disagree with Rosman’s position that somehow health care, deficit spending, education, trade, the war and so on take precedence over concern for criminal violations of the basic provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including Article VI section 2 of that revered document. In terms of war, there would have been no war had Bush fulfilled his obligation to defend the Constitution. And the impeachment process, even without conviction of the president and vice-president, would offer a warning to future U.S. leaders that they must obey the laws of war.

Having said this, I certainly do agree with Rosman’s view that “when Bush and Cheney are once again civilians, then file criminal charges against the former holders of the executive office for treason and high crimes against the people. Jail time sounds so much better.” I favor impeachment and jail time for Bush and Cheney and the filing of criminal charges against all of the top officials involved in the planning and approval of prisoner interrogation crimes.

Bill Wickersham is an Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies at MU, a member of Veterans for Peace and a member of the national steering committee of Global Action to Prevent War.

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Richard Hayden May 14, 2008 | 1:29 p.m.

Dear Bill,
Please get a grip, take a breath and relax, those that are willing to die for our freedoms are out there, on guard risking their lives for us. GOD blesses both their right to protect us and your right to condemn those that do. Anticipating your response, or in other words, "The ends don't justify the means".
Or do they?

(Report Comment)
Mesa Riley May 14, 2008 | 3:27 p.m.


There are many people, tens of thousands rallied to pursue this agenda greatly. There's even a group started with one of the Presidential candidates thats running for President this year. The impeachment group is on the GPUS organized website for Cynthia McKinney for President
Former six-term congresswoman Hon. McKinney has been at every antiwar protest and has submitted impeach papers to congress. You probably have not heard about her cause of what she and her supporters want to do is imprison the Bush administration and many other democrats and republicans in Congress. We are at terrifying times; not from international terrorism but from our own government and the power of the military machine. Hon. McKinney will be on every ballot this November for the Green Party.

The question thousands are asking is how to organize a massive movement without them saying we are anarchic or socialists or whatever catch phrase they demonize us with. If her campaign can organize a platform for impeachment and gather enough supporters to force impeachment it will happen. Then you have the corruption of the current politicians in Congress that are profiting millions from military contract companies being in Iraq. Of course the example of Nancy Pelosi who was talking all the talk to get elected than as soon as she got elected threw impeachment off the table. I'm disgusted as many other patriots are with the take-over of our government by corporate power and loans from the Fed reserve. Then you have Bush using his so-called power to create new laws against the constitution that empower himself and eliminate power of the people. Every time we think of a way to move forward they create vicious propaganda forcing us back again.

I was wondering if you could think of any ideas to publish, like... What to do next, or this is how we can do it, cause petitions are not going to work cause they are not listening cause the entire democrats and republicans are guilty of war crimes, along with the media.

Then you have the clinton who wants to create 'massive' war with Iran or obama who will invade and take over pakistan. mcccain will 'wipe north korea off the map' and fish the work in Iran. You can already see the *.mil organizations releasing workshops on the next advancements to war in other countries.

Help us,
What do we do?

Again thank you for writing this, keep up the fight and save lives ...

(Report Comment)
Robert A. Robinson May 15, 2008 | 4:42 p.m.

Bill - While I agree with much of what you wrote, I do have a question. You mentioned a couple of times that Rice was chairman of the NSC principles committee. Unless things have drastically changed in the last couple of years, Rice, as secretary of state, is a member of the principles committee but Dick Cheney, as vice president, is chairman, unless he personally designated Rice to chair the discussions on interrogation techniques.
Also, while much focus has been on the principles, traditionally this issue would have been thoroughly discussed first in the covert action subcommittee of the NSC, then recommendations would have been passed up to the deputies committee, where draft policy papers would be written, and that would be passed to the principles, who would make changes if needed and then pass their final decisions on to the president. The principles really don't do a whole lot of work, they make policy decisions on the work of others.

(Report Comment)
Robert A. Robinson May 16, 2008 | 4:02 p.m.

Of course, that should read "principals" committee. Whether the principals actually have principles is a whole other discussion.

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