Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Americans support impeachment.

* Salon:
'Several polls taken in the last two years have shown that large numbers of Americans support impeachment. An Angus Reid poll taken in May 2007 found that a remarkable 39 percent of Americans favored the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. An earlier poll, framed in a more hypothetical way, found that 50 percent of Americans supported impeaching Bush if he lied about the war -- which most of that 50 percent presumably now believe he did. Vermont has gone on record in calling for his impeachment, and a number of cities, including Detroit and San Francisco, have passed impeachment resolutions. Reps. John Murtha and John Conyers and a few other politicians have floated the idea. And there is a significant grassroots movement to impeach Bush, spearheaded by organizations like After Downing Street. Even some Republicans, outraged by Bush's failure to uphold right-wing positions (his immigration policy, in particular), have begun muttering about impeachment. (Yay, us.)
But there's a deeper reason why the popular impeachment movement has never taken off -- and it has to do not with Bush but with the American people. Bush's warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America's support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It's a national myth. It's John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that.

The truth is that Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors, far from being too small, are too great. What has saved Bush is the fact that his lies were, literally, a matter of life and death. They were about war. And they were sanctified by 9/11. Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves. This doesn't mean we support Bush, simply that at some dim, half-conscious level we're too confused -- not least by our own complicity -- to work up the cold, final anger we'd need to go through impeachment. We haven't done the necessary work to separate ourselves from our abusive spouse. We need therapy -- not to save this disastrous marriage, but to end it.
The establishment media, which has tended to treat impeachment talk as if it were the unseemly rantings of half-crazed hordes, has clearly bought this paradigm. In this view, those who want to impeach Bush, or who are simply vehemently critical of him, are partisan extremists outside the mainstream of American discourse. This decorous approach has begun to weaken. A recent U.S. News and World Report cover read, "Bush's last stand: He's plagued by a hostile Congress, sinking polls, and an unending war. Is he resolute or delusional?" When centrist newsweeklies begin using words drawn from psychiatric manuals, it may be time for Karl Rove to get worried. But it takes time to turn the Titanic. The years of deference to the War Leader cannot be overcome that quickly.

For all these reasons, impeachment, however justified or salutary it would be -- and I believe it would be both justified and salutary -- remains a long shot. Bush will probably escape the fate of Andrew Johnson and the disgrace of Richard Nixon. But he's not home free yet. The culture of spin is also the culture of spectacle, and a sudden, theatrical event -- a lurid accusation made by a former official, a colorful revelation of a very specific and memorable Bush lie -- could start the scandal machine going full speed. Even the war card cannot be played indefinitely. If Bush were to withdraw the troops from Iraq, and the full dimensions of America's defeat were to become apparent, all of his war-president potency would backfire and he would be in much greater danger of being impeached. Congress and the media both gain courage as the polls sink, and if Bush's numbers continue to hit historic lows, they will turn on him with increasing savagery. If everything happens just so, the downfall of the House of Bush could be shocking in its swiftness.
* amy:
"U.S. Considers Fallujah-Style Attack on Sadr City
The U.S. military is planning to make a major push into the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City that houses two million Shiites. The Washington Post reports that the U.S. military is considering a wholesale clearing of the neighborhood if political avenues fail. One military officer said "A second Fallujah plan exists, but we don"t want to execute it."

* amy:
Revealed: U.S. Plotted to Assassinate Moqtada Al-Sadr
In other news from Iraq, the British journalist Patrick Cockburn has revealed explosive details about a secret US plan to kill or capture one of Iraq"s best known Shiite leaders, Moqtada Al-Sadr. According to Cockburn, the U.S. Army tried to carry out the plan two and a half years ago by luring Al-Sadr to peace negotiations at a house in the holy city of Najaf. Iraq"s National Security Adviser said the effects of the U.S. plan is still being felt because it lead to Sadr losing all confidence and trust in the U.S.

* amy:
Blackwater Succeeds in Preventing Lawsuit From Going to Court
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper is reporting the private security company Blackwater USA has succeeded in partially derailing a landmark lawsuit brought by the families of four Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah, Iraq three years ago. A federal judge has ordered the lawsuit be decided behind closed doors in arbitration. This will allow Blackwater to avoid public examination of its practices in Iraq. The outcome of the arbitration will be confidential. One of the three arbitrators is William Webster. He served as head of the FBI and CIA under President Reagan and has personal and business ties to several Blackwater lawyers.

* amy:
UK Prosecutors Charge Ex-KGB Agent With Murder of Litvinenko
And this news in from London – British prosecutors have announced they are charging a former KGB agent in the poisoning death of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko. The British government said Andrei Lugovoi met with Litvinenko at a London hotel only hours before Litvinenko became ill with polonium-210 poisoning. Litvinenko was a former spy and prominent critic of the Russian government. The Russian prosecutor-general's office has announced it will not turn Lugovoi over to Britain to be tried.


steven andresen said...

This came up, and it's a further thought about what to do about our many problems,

"...To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness -- come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we're not ready to do that."

This isn't true because I'm sure there are a lot of us who are ready to confront, understand, and reject our violence and self-righteousness.

I wonder whether there's really an understanding of what's wrong with violence and self-righteousness.

I think those Americans who sell the weapons and start the wars and aggitate to kill Shias, or Sunnis, commies, Russians, the Chinese, or the Sioux, think that the violence is warranted.

They think that when they gut the Constitution and the Bill of Rights down to the 11th century, that the world hasn't lost much.

So, is there a clear argument that they are wrong about all that? I have seen that people who oppose the war-mongering don't argue directly to the war mongerers, but instead direct their comments to people already suspicious there's a problem. They speak mainly to the choir.

One reason, we are lead to believe, that arguments can not be directed to the warmongerers and Constitution-gutters is that they are unreasonable and driven by fear and greed and self-serving religious fanaticisms. Well, that's convenient. I really mean such excuses don't justify the inneffective and self-fulfilling prophesying. You can't change their commitments to thuggery if you don't try.

One reason Americans are not ready to confront their inner devils is that the argument has still not been made that they're really in the wrong.

I suspect that, one question to come up after these complaints about Americans being blind to their faults, and then my saying that their faults have not been clearly pointed out to them, would be, well, what have all the critics of Bush been doing all this time? Hasn't Bush been exposed for the monster he is enough, and so why should we think any more patient arguing would do any good?

I hear this question in the recent writing about how fighting in the streets would feel so good to some people right about now. There's impatience about how much work has been done and nothing seems to be changing for the better. The democrats are worthless. There's a war with Iran going to start. There's the uncertainty of the economy. And so on.

I want to argue that just because we haven't had an effective argument that we have been rude and thuggish to ourselves and others, we cannot then conclude that we can never find such an argument. Furthermore, we should not be tempted by the idea that we should resort to the same kind of thuggishness and disrespect that we see in our opponents.

We may not be ready to impeach Bush now because no one has made the argument that he and his supporters in the heart of America need to see the error of their ways. But, it is in such an impeachment trial that we would have the opportunity to make those cases.

steven andresen said...

I've been reading Greenwald again. He hits on the fact that there are kooks in the country with "hair raising" views. He says,

"...The frothing, drooling anti-Islamic hysteria that one finds from Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and right-wing blogs -- not to mention pandering, craven GOP presidential candidates -- is so unhinged and cartoon-like that there is a temptation not to take it seriously, to do nothing but mock it.

But there is something rather extraordinary taking place. Presidential candidates of the political party that has dominated our country for the last two decades are competing with each other to prove who will most aggressively embrace policies such as torture and indefinite detention well beyond even what the Bush administration has ushered in. And this is occurring in the midst of still new extraordinary emergency presidential powers, along with allowing the Bush administration's radical framework of presidential omnipotence, constructed over the last six years, to remain largely undisturbed. The tenor of our political discourse becomes increasingly unrecognizable -- mainstream presidential candidates openly and happily advocate torture and life imprisonment with no charges while the audience wildly cheers..."

It is clear, I think, that a knock down argument against invading Iraq or gutting the Bill of Rights has not been made to these people. It is the Republicans and their fellow travelers who need to hear such an argument.

My complaint about Greenwald's argument isn't that he does not expose and point out the failings of Republican or Bush policies. He does. The problem is that he does not address his argument to the people he's talking about. Instead, he speaks reassuringly with his audience of fellow critics.

Instead of trying to figure out why Republicans are turning into fascists, as I believe they are, and what their arguments are to make such a transformation, he points out to us the terrible costs of doing what they're doing.

Well, to us there will be "terrible costs" because we do not agree with what the Republicans are proposing. I suspect, however, that to the Republicans and Christians who argue for torturing suspects, some of whom are innocent, believe that our security and survival depends on making these "little" compromises. They might think such a trade-off is appropriate.

Greenwald does not address himself to explaining why, for example, these little trade-offs are problematical. He says that we should be wary of how the right wing thinks, because it seems to be thinking the same things as the fanatical Muslims,

"...while right-wing warriors are pointing most enthusiastically to the minority of Muslims who said that suicide bombings may be justified in defense of Islam, isn't that exactly the same reasoning used by the Republican throngs in South Carolina who cheered most aggressively when the GOP presidential candidates talked excitedly about torture last week -- i.e., that if one can even imagine a hypothetical scenario where X is justified, then it should be embraced generally as an option?"

This may not be much of an argument when presented to right wingers. They could argue that when push comes to shove, the truth is you have to take off your kid gloves to protect your own. For them, they may just recognize that there's nothing personal in their constant warring against Muslims. It's what you have to do.

In other words, Greenwald does not usually provide much of an argument to his opponents that they need to change. He usually argues to people who already agree with him that there is no change in their views about the bad guys.

I'm saying preaching to the choir about the badness of bad ideas is not good enough.