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Commentary :: Human Rights : International : Media : Politics : War and Militarism
One Cheer for the New York Times
18 Jul 2006
But to get the other two cheers, the paper would have to take things a lot further. Not in terms of logic, but in terms of courage.

NOTE: DAVE LINDORFF will be speaking on his and Barbara Olshansky's new book "The Case for Impeachment," on July 20 at 6 pm at Trident Books, 338 Newbury St., in Boston. For directions call 617-267-8688
In an editorial that surely ranks as one of the most daring in the paper’s history, the Times editorial board declared on July 16 what most Americans have long realized: that the Bush administration’s so-called War on Terror has always "had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power."

The half-page editorial--which certainly rates one cheer-- focused on just two issues: the imprisoning, without any kind of honest trial or tribunal of hundreds of alleged “terror” captives from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the world in violation of U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions, and the warrantless spying on US citizens by the National Security Agency.

The Times might have gone a lot farther in laying out this abuse-of-power case, and the cynical and fraudulent exploitation of 9-11 and a bogus “war” on terror, not to mention a real, if totally unnecessary and criminal war against Iraq, by a president and vice president obsessed with dreams of dictatorial power.

Take the stripping of citizens' right to an attorney, to hear the charges against them, to face their accusers, and to have a fair trial. The president has asserted, using the same argument that he used in ignoring the Geneva Conventions, that as commander in chief he has the power to declare anyone, even an American-born citizen, to be an “enemy combatant,” with no rights whatsoever.

Take the issuance of signing statements used to ignore or invalidate over 750 laws passed by the Congress. Again the president argues that as a commander in chief in “time of war,” his powers are “at their zenith” and that he can act as not just chief executive, but as legislature and court combined, and decide which laws to enforce, and how to interpret them.

What the Times, in its editorial, failed to mention, is that when the U.S. Supreme Court, by a slim majority of 5-3 with Chief Justice Roberts recused (he had voted the wrong way as an appeals court judge in the same case), ruled in late June that the president did not have any special power to over-rule Constitution or law--in particular the Third Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War, which has long been incorporated into U.S. law--they were effectively undermining his justification for most of the abuses of power that he has engaged in over the course of the last five years.

The same reasoning the court used in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld would equally apply to the warrantless NSA spying in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Fourth Amendment. The president has no special power as commander in chief to ignore that law or that article of the Bill of Rights, as he and his "mob attorney" over in the "Justice" Department claim.

The same reasoning applies to the signing statements. The president has no special "unitary executive" powers to override the Congress or the courts. He must obey the Constitution, which grants "all legislative power" to the Congress.

The Times might have earned another cheer had the editors taken their newfound awareness of presidential abuse of power and laid out its true scale and its full implications.

This president, in fact, is in violation of his oath of office, which pledged him to protect and defend the Constitution. Instead, he and his vice president have been actively subverting the nation's founding document. This is an impeachable High Crime of the first order.

The president, in asserting that he and the military do not have to obey the Geneva Convention on Treatment of POWs, is in blatant violation of both U.S. and International Law. As such he is by definition a war criminal, and should be impeached and then indicted. Indeed, people have died as a consequence of this violation, and the penalty for that in the Geneva Convention and in U.S. law, is death.

The president, in denying habeas corpus to Jose Padilla and Yasir Hamdi, two American-born citizens, has violated both the Constitution and older Common Law, and has committed an impeachable crime.

Arguably, the president has also committed a grave abuse of power in refusing to cooperate with either the Senate and House Intelligence Committees or the Bi-Partisan 9-11 Commission, stonewalling requests for information, and barring some key administration officials from testifying or testifying fully (himself included). Now that the Times has recognized the administration's true motive--using 9-11 to aggrandize power--shouldn’t the paper (and Congress) be demanding that the administration be called to account for its whole handling--or ignoring--of pre-9-11 threats and warnings?

Clearly, when an elected leader so abuses his authority, and when he so cynically uses a national tragedy as a smokescreen to allow him to subvert traditional checks and balances, it behooves a leading member of the Fourth Estate to take a far more skeptical look than the Times has taken to date, at what the government was really up to in the months leading up to September 2001.

The Times would earn its third cheer if it would take this new understanding of Bush administration deceit and criminal abuse of power to its logical conclusion, and call for serious consideration of impeachment of the President for High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Bush's unconstitutional actions, surely, are the exact kind of tyrannical usurpation of power which the Founding Fathers had in mind when they decided to include impeachment in the Constitution.


To find out more about the new book, "The Case for Impeachment," go to: For early review quotes, check out the “Impeachment News” box on the top right of the homepage at "This Can't Be Happening!" .

For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to
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