Friday, July 20, 2007

Impeachment Matters--Even More

Nearly two weeks ago, I took a deep breath and wrote out my thoughts on impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Some readers agreed, though equally many--particularly some who read my essay over at Ezra's--were opposed to initiating impeachment proceedings for a number of reasons, some more logical than others.

Nonetheless, I am more convinced than ever that Congress must begin impeachment proceedings immediately. I'll discuss the rationale for this a bit later, but let me first put this out there:

We must impeach the President and Vice President of the United States, and we must begin proceedings to do so immediately, not just for the purpose of exacting a punitive remedy, but also toward enacting a vitally important preventive measure--one that may be the only available means by which to protect the country from the impending imposition of martial law at home as well as the declaration of war against Iran and possibly other countries in the Middle East.

From Raw Story (emphasis mine):

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts -- a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War -- by quoting the "strong words" which open Roberts' latest column: "Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran."

"I don't actually think they're very strong," said Roberts of his words. "I get a lot of flak that they're understated and the situation is worse than I say. ... When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] ... there's no check to it. It doesn't have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. ... The American people don't really understand the danger that they face."

Worried yet? You should be. That executive order Roberts references is the one George Bush issued this past Tuesday. In it, King George the President declared that he can now freeze and seize the assets of anyone he feels to be a threat to "stability in Iraq". He gets to decide what a threat is, and he gets to carry out this order as secretly as he wishes, without so much as a shred of accountability to Congress or the courts. Nor does he have to inform us--or anyone else in government--what he has seized or frozen, or why. (For more comprehensive legal analysis of the executive order, read nightshift66's excellent essay over at Shakesville.)

I would ask the obvious: is this Dick Cheney's George Bush's reaction to the decision handed down in November 2006 in which U.S. District judge Audrey B. Collins stated that "...two provisions of an executive order signed Sept. 23, 2001, are impermissibly vague because they allow the president to unilaterally designate organizations as terrorist groups and broadly prohibit association with such groups" ? In other words, should Mr. Cheney Mr. Bush feel that obeying the law runs counter to his objectives--whatever they might be--he is somehow legally permitted to simply issue an executive order to custom-tailor that very law so it's more to his liking, claiming "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States"? Is that it, and are you kidding me?

Furthermore, I'd ask if Judge Collins' ruling could in fact be cited as precedent to challenge (and hopefully strike down) this outrageous executive order? (Calling all lawyers...)

In a response to queries from TPMmuckraker, the Treasury Department claimed this executive order will be limited only to the bank accounts of dangerous terrorists:

Tuesday's broad executive order on freezing Iraq-related financial assets is solely intended to target supporters of the Iraqi insurgency, Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise tells TPMmuckraker. If U.S. residents and citizens have their assets frozen by the department, it will be because they're actively abetting a panoply of insurgent and militia groups.

Previously, Treasury hasn't had the authority to target the finances of insurgent groups in Iraq aside from al-Qaeda affiliates and former Saddam Hussein regime elements. The order now provides what Millerwise calls "seamless coverage."

The ACLU, meanwhile, points to the chilling effect on donations to charity as well as the very real dangers inherent in giving the Executive Branch so much unchecked and unchallenged power:

President Bush's new executive order targeting financial assets of Iraqi insurgents risks having "a chilling effect" on humanitarian donations in Iraq, according to Michael German, the ACLU's chief national security security lawyer. And those who find themselves in contravention of the order -- a determination residing entirely within the executive branch -- would have no due process rights to contest the freezing of their assets. [...]

The order skips right over a relevant citation: section 203b(2) (pdf) of the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, which specifically denies to the president the ability to "regulate or prohibit ... donations, by persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, of articles, such as food, clothing and medicine, intended to be used to deal with human suffering." The order accepts the other restrictions applied by IEEPA, intended to protect, among other things, postal communications and legitimate journalism from unilateral executive restriction. And that leads to to the broader problem with the order, according to Gerson: "the complete lack of due process" for those accused of violating it. Once someone's assets are frozen, there's no conviction, no appellate process.

Complete lack of due process. Remember how they killed habeus corpus, and hardly anyone outside the blogosphere even sent flowers to the funeral?

Martial Law. The possibility of a police state. Do you suppose there might be something to that story about Halliburton building massive detention centers? Remember? I quoted a disturbing piece in The Progressive when I wrote about those detention centers last year:

There is so much to question here, one's head spins. Let's start with this: what are we doing awarding $385 million contracts to Halliburton when there are still so many unanswered questions about the colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and overbilling (fraud, anyone?) perpetrated by this company, on America's behalf, in Iraq?

And I'm really curious about something else: why large detention centers, and why now? Then there is the disturbing issue raised by that last sentence in Halliburton's message: "...rapid development of new programs."

While thousands of people were celebrating the contribution America's undocumented immigrants make to our economy, and demanding justice and recognition for workers who are denied basic rights, the government was making plans for large-scale detention centers in case of an "emergency influx" of immigrants.

KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary recently reprimanded for gross overcharging in its military contracts in Iraq, won a $385 million contract to build the centers. According to the Halliburton"the contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." [...]

What new programs might those be?

The web was abuzz with speculation after the contract was awarded on January 24. Pacific News Service gave the most detailed analysis.

It connected the new "immigration emergency" plans with older plans that involved imposing martial law.

Certainly the detention centers raise the specter of WW II Japanese internment camps.

The new facilities could be used for round-ups of Muslim Americans or other American citizens tagged as "enemy combatants.”

The use of military personnel and military contractors in the event of a Katrina-like disaster, which the Halliburton contract provides for, brings us closer to martial law, whether it is officially declared or not.

It also means record profits for Halliburton, which declared 2005 "the best in our 86-year history." David Lesar, Halliburton's chairman, president and CEO, declares on the company website, "For the full year 2005 we set a record for revenue and achieved net income of $2.4 billion with each of our six divisions posting record results."

Not bad for a company that has been repeatedly cited for inflating charges and wasting taxpayer money in Iraq.

The immigration detention centers ought to raise a red flag, not just about nepotism and waste among military contractors, but about what our government has in store for us.

Impeachment, ladies and gentlemen. For the sake of the country, as above. But also because the President and Vice President have committed no small number of serious crimes against the nation, its citizens, and its constitution. To wit:

Abuse of power, in so many shapes and forms as to require cataloging. Violation of the Geneva Conventions and the US Military Code on War Crimes. Illegal spying on Americans. Illegal use of signing statements to custom-tailor legislation (i.e. the Patriot Act) and thus enable de facto end runs around any and all protective measures--requirements for congressional approval, for example--built into said legislation. Illegal detention, as with the Padilla case.

Congress must begin impeachment proceedings in order to fully explore all these and any other crimes of which the Vice President and President, their cabinet, and their staff, stand accused. Congressional subpoenas, apparently, are not going to get the job done: the White House ignores them and/or refuses to comply with them.

I will close with this quote from the venerable After Downing Street:

If we do not impeach when the case is as compelling as it is now, we are effectively removing impeachment from the Constitution.

Your Representatives' contact info is all here. You can also demand your senators stand up for the people, not politics-as-usual, and vigorously condemn the illegal actions of this dangerous imperial White House; their e-mail addresses are here. And for further information and resources pertaining to impeachment, go here.

Also at Ezra Klein and Shakesville.

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