Friday, November 04, 2005

Iraq, the Democrats, and impeachment

Marshall Whittman of the Bull Moose (one of my favourite blogs and certainly one of the highlights of the centrist blogosphere) has an excellent post on "high crimes and misdemeanors" -- that is, on impeachment.

His argument is that "Congressional Democrats are settling on a 'narrative' and a 'frame' for the Iraq War" that leads to an inexorable conclusion: "[A] vast conspiracy concocted a war based on lies." Because of this, it follows, President Bush should be impeached.

The problem, Whittman argues, is that this focus on what happened before the war prevents us from focusing on what has happened during the war and subsequent occupation. So Congressional Democrats are "not pursuing the Administration's mishandling of the war and the failure to achieve victory". Yet "this Administration was negligent from the beginning in planning for the occupation" and "the President and the Administration grievously mismanaged the war".

Therefore: "This Administration should be held accountable for its grave errors and incompetence without opening a wound in our political life that will be very difficult to close." That is, the focus should be on the conduct of the war itself, not on the case made for war. Or, further, the focus should be on the gross mismanagement of the war, not on building a case for impeachment.

I tend to agree -- to a point. I don't think that building a case for impeachment at the expense of ignoring Bush's conduct of the war makes much sense. The war happened. What's done is done. So focus on what went wrong and who may be to blame for what went wrong. To some, impeachment may be the more appealing (and certainly the more satisfying) option, but it's not at all clear that impeachment is even a possibility and it seems to me that the gross mismanagement of the war provides more than enough ammunition for Democrats. (Besides, as we saw during last year's primaries, Democrats are deeply divided over the war, that is, over going to war in the first place, and consensus isn't likely.)

Of course, I say this as someone who supported the war but who then turned against it when it became abundantly clear that it was being grossly mismanaged. Like other liberal hawks, I had high hopes for the removal of Saddam, regime change, and the possible democratization of Iraq and, beyond that, the Middle East. And that may still happen -- whatever our skepticism, let's at least acknowledge it as a possibility (yes, I know that would more or less vindicate the neocons). But it's clear that the Bush Administration is very much to blame for what has gone wrong -- and that includes over 2,000 American deaths.

But I disagree with Whittman on this: The "narrative" or "frame" of the war shouldn't be ignored either. Although I do think that the focus should be on the conduct of the war rather than on the lead-up to war, or the case for war, it may very well be that the Bush Administration lied to the American people -- "deliberate deceit," Whittman calls it. Would this not be grounds for impeachment? If not, what exactly would be? Surely leading the country into war through "massive deceit" is worse than perjury or obstruction of justice, for example. Surely sending American men and women into harm's way for a lie is one of the worst, if not the worst, thing a president can do.

Yes, Congressional Democrats may be building that case. Yes, "the outer reaches of the left" may "already [have] reached this conclusion". Yes, much of the focus should be returned to the gross mismanagement of the war itself. But there is every reason to believe that the Bush Administration lied or otherwise manipulated the intelligence (i.e., the facts) to advance its case for war in the first place. Is that not serious? Is that not something that should be investigated further?

Don't Americans deserve to know what happened and why their country is now at war?

Absolutely.

(I wrote about impeachment back in July -- see here.)

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