One of the most important tasks which citizens of a democratic society must undertake is that of publicly assessing and acting on the policies and political behavior of their leaders — especially their top leaders. A quotation by former President Teddy Roosevelt speaks clearly to that task: “The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other see,attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.”
Today, the offices of president and vice president of the United States are held by men who arguably have committed more crimes under international and domestic law than any others who have ever occupied those offices. Both men lied to Congress and the American people to launch an illegal war of aggression in violation of the United Nations Charter and Article VI, paragraph 2 of the Constitution. Additionally, they set up a worldwide network of secret prisons, forced prisoner renditions, unspeakable torture tactics and other activities in violation of the Geneva Conventions and other provisions of international, and U.S law.
These are just two of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney’s impeachable crimes.
The organization known as “West Point Graduates Against the War” has published a very comprehensive list of other violations of international law titled “Laws and Treaties Violated by President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney, Public Officials Under Their Authority, and Members Under Their Command.” Laws and treaties on that list include:
- The U.S. Constitution, Article VI. paragraph 2;
- U.S. Federal Law 18 U.S.C. — 2441 (War Crimes Act of 1996);
- Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV);
- U.N. General Assembly, Resolution 3314;
- Nuremberg Tribunal Charter (including “Crimes Against Peace,” “War Crimes,” “Crimes Against Humanity”); and
- The Charter of the United Nations.
To obtain that list and more specific details, enter the following into a computer search engine: “West Point Graduates Against the War, Laws and Treaties Violated by President George W. Bush and Vice-President Richard Cheney.”
Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has strongly emphasized that presidential and vice presidential impeachment is not, and will not be sought by the Democrats in Congress. This is truly outlandish and horribly wrong. Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has collected enough valid evidence to clearly make the case for impeachment and conviction of both the president and vice president. Pelosi should let the chairman do his job. Surely the evidence against both men outweighs the “lying to Congress” misdemeanor concerning Monica Lewinsky for which Bill Clinton was impeached.
Given Speaker Pelosi’s weak response to the crimes committed by our top leaders, why should we citizens continue to apply strong pressure for impeachment? First, violations of constitutional and international law that result in aggressive wars and deadly conflict are the most serious crimes that can be committed by any leader on earth. Consequently, when our top two leaders commit murderous crimes, they — like other citizens — need to be shamed, even if political gridlock promises to prevent conviction. Second, we will never have anything that vaguely resembles peace on earth unless law with justice is brought to bear on issues of international conflict. In that regard, a citizen impeachment campaign offers an excellent opportunity to educate people concerning the necessity of understanding the basic provisions of international humanitarian law, the Rules of War and the provisions of the U.S. Constitution Article VI, paragraph 2, which puts forth the concept of “treaty supremacy” as it relates to the U.N. charter and other U.S. ratified international treaties.
Finally, the call for impeachment also relates directly to our children and their education.
To deny the president’s and vice president’s war crimes is to make a mockery of the concept of responsible application of the law and that of responsible citizenship. Bush and Cheney, and a sizeable portion of the Missouri Congressional delegation who have supported their Iraq War policies, would be hard pressed to speak to a high school social studies class, a Girl Scout troop, a 4-H club or any other civic group and ask them to support and defend the U.S. Constitution when they have, in fact, been grossly complicit in the violation of that revered document’s provisions concerning the declaration and prosecution of war against another sovereign nation.
To find out what you can do to support the call for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to hold impeachment hearings, go to impeachbush.tv. The time to act is now.
Bill Wickersham, of Columbia, is an adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU and a member of Veterans for Peace.