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    Middle East
     Apr 27, 2007
The Middle East road to impeachment
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Four years ago, the US Congress marred its record by giving a blank check to President George W Bush to unleash an unnecessary and, it turns out, catastrophic war on Iraq, allowing itself to be duped by the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) shenanigans put forth first and foremost by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Today, Congress has a unique opportunity to redeem itself - by supporting an impeachment bill introduced by Democratic

Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Consisting of three articles of impeachment, the proposed bill faults Cheney for (a) his distortions of facts about Iraq's possession of WMD and triggering an unprovoked war on Iraq based on those lies, (b) Cheney's lies about Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda, and (c) Cheney's quest to take the United States into another war against Iran through similar lies.

Kucinich's heroics in introducing this bill have already reverberated throughout the US and world media, and he defended his stance admirably in a CNN interview with (the pro-administration) Wolf Blitzer, who claimed that he has spoken with other Democrats, none of whom support the bill, the argument being that "we are at war".

It is "precisely because we are at war, [one] that was instigated by lies, that the impeachment is called for", Kucinich aptly replied, adding that the Vietnam War did not prevent moves to impeach president Richard Nixon in 1974. "We have to ask, what kind of a nation are we that we can tolerate this kind of behavior?" Kucinich asked rhetorically, pointing out that millions of Americans support his initiative - even though few in the US Congress, including the Democratic leadership, do.

Yet irrespective of how it fares on the floor of the House of Representatives, it would be premature to discount the various ramifications of Kucinich's move. Although brushed aside by the White House and the Vice President's Office, the proposed impeachment bill has cast new light on Cheney's singular role in causing the war on Iraq, recalling his alarmist "mushroom clouds" over US cities in 2002-03. Even a minimalist interpretation of the US constitution would give credence to Kucinich's initiative that accuses Cheney of abuse of authority.

Cheney was not alone, and Bush and the neo-conservative circle around him are equally guilty of gross abuse of public trust in the Iraq fiasco. The impeachment of Cheney would be tantamount to impeachment of the whole Bush administration, instead of letting the warmongering gang, which includes the now-embattled World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, off the hook.

Another war in the Middle East now being cooked up in the Vice President'S Office may be triggered accidentally, particularly in light of the disputed territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, scene of a heavy US naval presence. Kucinich and other anti-war leaders in the US have warned of a "Gulf of Tonkin incident" in the Persian Gulf, recalling how the administration of president Lyndon B Johnson extracted a war-power authority from Congress based on false reports about alleged North Vietnamese assaults on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964.

Unfortunately, one of the net results of the recent incident over British sailors and marines being taken into Iran's custody is potentially to give the US and other foreign forces operating in the Persian Gulf a new justification to trespass in the ill-defined maritime borders between Iran and Iraq. Should US-Iran relations worsen over Iraq and the stalemate over Tehran's nuclear program, such provocative actions are anything but precluded.

For the US Congress currently grappling on how to limit the financial damage incurred by the ongoing Iraq war, it is vitally important to increase its oversight functions over the executive branch's conduct of this war. The current White House-Congress tug-of-war over the Iraq war budget, combined with growing voices in Congress in support of a timetable for troop withdrawal, reflect a new congressional assertiveness in the area of foreign policy. Kucinich's bill gives a new depth to this growing momentum, particularly if it gets past the committee level and comes up for vote before the whole House.

So far, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has not made any statement for or against this initiative, yet she would be remiss to overlook the protean value of Kucinich's move for the sake of "health of the republic", as Kucinich has put it. In the absence of a similar initiative in the Senate, the proposed impeachment bill is unlikely to be adopted, all the more reason for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to give it breathing space in the House, particularly since initial feedback from the US public shows a great deal of support for it.

Kucinich is also running for the presidency and his latest move is bound to ingratiate him further with the anti-war movement and the liberal-left spectrum of US politics. According to the legendary Howard Zinn, a famed historian and anti-war activist, Kucinich is "the best man in Congress". In a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls that includes (establishment) candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Kucinich brings a fresh perspective that increasingly makes him a serious contender.

On Iraq, Kucinich has put forth a number of ideas, including a security role for the United Nations, putting him ahead of the other candidates, who are better at criticizing Bush's "surge" recipe than at proposing constructive alternatives. He has also called more vocally than the other candidates for engaging Iran in diplomatic dialogue.

Theoretically, then, Kucinich has the potential to create a non-partisan broad alliance that goes beyond the anti-war movement, by virtue of his major pluses in the realm of foreign policy. But first he has to show his acumen in forming an alliance in favor of his bill within Congress.

To do so, he may have to reconsider the third article of impeachment, with respect to Cheney's warmongering against Iran, since the vice president's rather incendiary pronouncements do not, in fact, amount to impeachment standards. A certain delinking of the Iran and Iraq issues is called for, particularly since the House of Representatives is dominated by pro-Israel voices who have managed to pass an anti-Iran bill - the Iran Freedom Support Act calls for, in effect, regime change in Iran. Also, they have succeeded in nipping in the bud a feeble congressional move that would have constrained Bush's war-making on Iran by imposing prior congressional approval (as called for by the War Powers Act).

Had Kucinich limited himself to the first two articles of impeachment, then a number of liberal congressmen, such as Barney Frank of Massachusetts, might have thrown their weight behind him. Instead, Kucinich now runs the risk of appearing as a lone wolf in Congress, which he can quickly redeem by seeking a compromise bill that targets Cheney where it hurts most - his proven record of mischief on Iraq.

No matter, the lightning bolt of Kucinich's courageous initiative in the dark sky of US politics - where debate on who has raised the most money on campaign trails has become a poor substitute for a genuine discourse on substantive issues - is bound to register in history books, and the sooner his respected colleagues come to this realization and endorse the impeachment bill, the better.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He also wrote "Keeping Iran's nuclear potential latent", Harvard International Review, and is author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction. He taught American politics for six years.

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