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Law Prof. Francis A. Boyle on Impeachment

Broadcast 05/05/06 Talk Nation Radio

Professor Boyle argues for the use of impeachment to remove Bush, Cheney, Gonzales and Rumsefeld before they can take us into another war in Iran and farther along into an American police state.
 

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TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to Talk Nation Radio, a half hour discussion on politics, human rights, and the environment, I’m Dori Smith.

“We were in dire straights under Nixon in Vietnam and we impeached Nixon, ended up with Gerald Ford, and the Vietnam War was wound down. So I don’t think we can ever give up hope but we really have no alternative.”  – Francis Boyle

Intro: International law expert Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois is our guest this time to discuss Iran, presidential powers, the Plame Affair, the President’s decision to override 750 laws, and the professor’s draft impeachment resolution against President George W. Bush written back in January of 2003. In debates held at that time with administration officials Attorney Boyle came under sharp criticism for maintaining that the President and others in the administration made false statements that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. As Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle struggle to evaluate any illegality on the part of the President and others in his administration, Professor Boyle’s warnings about the direction the government was moving in now seem prophetic.

Dori Smith: Professor Boyle, welcome to Talk Nation Radio.

Francis A. Boyle: Thank you very much for having me on and my best to your listening audience.

Dori Smith: You wrote your draft impeachment resolution against President Bush back in January of 2003 and in the time since we have learned a lot more about pre-war intelligence manipulation and the various kinds of disinformation provided to the American people about Iraq. Just talk about the ongoing effort to impeach since your resolution in 2003. Do you think enough is known for impeachment to proceed and can we get there?

Francis A. Boyle: Yes, I think those of us in the peace movement in the fall of 2002 were publicly stating that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and this was just a bald faced lie and propaganda to generate momentum towards war. And I think we have now been proven to be correct. Where the impeachment campaign stands now; I have to review just a little bit of history.

On 13 March 2003, that is just before the outbreak of the war against Iraq, Congressman John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, convened an emergency meeting of 40 to 50 of his top advisors, most of whom were lawyers, to put in emergency bills of impeachment against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and at that time Ashcroft, to head off the impending war.

He invited me and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark in to debate the issue in favor of impeachment. The debate lasted two hours. We had my draft resolution on the table and Ramsey also had his draft resolution; we don’t disagree at all in how we see the issues. And to make a long story short the lawyers there did not disagree with me and Ramsey that Bush merited impeachment for what he had done and was threatening to do so far.

The main objection was political expedience and in particular John Podesta was there. He had been Clinton’s White House chief of staff. He stated he was appearing on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and that as far as the DNC was concerned it was going to hurt their ability to get whoever their candidate was going to be in 2004 elected President if we put in these bills of impeachment. I found that argument completely disingenuous when the Democrats had no idea who their candidate was going to be in 2004 as of March 2003. We had no idea.

In any event I’m a political independent so I didn’t argue that point. It was not for me to tell Democrats how to get their candidates elected. I just continued to hammer on on the merits of impeachment. Now, Ramsey, as you know he’s a lifelong Democrat so he did argue that issue and Ramsey’s argument was the he didn’t think it was going to hurt and it might help to put in these bills of impeachment immediately. Unfortunately, the Podesta argument prevailed and those draft bills of impeachment are still sitting there at the House Judiciary Committee. I’ve been updating impeachable offenses since then sending it in there to the House Judiciary Committee.

So the main problem we have now is political. That the Democratic leadership in the House where the bill must originate and also the Democratic honchos at the DNC are opposed to putting in bills of impeachment against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and now Gonzales. So this is not a drafting problem, a substantive problem. We’ve already debated these and Ramsey and I won the arguments. And as time has gone on since I drafted my bill and this debate before Congressman Conyers, more and more evidence has come out of the lies, propaganda, disinformation, and further crimes that the Bush Jr. administration has engaged in. –Recently; spying on the American people in violation of the 4th Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which is a felony so obviously another impeachable offense that Gonzales approved.

So that’s where we stand. So far we need one member of the House of Representatives with courage, intelligence, integrity, principle, and a safe seat, willing to put in a bill of impeachment or bills of impeachment against the four of them. Right now we do not have that member of Congress because the leadership of the Democratic Party is taking the position that this would be politically counter productive as far as they are concerned.

Dori Smith: You mentioned the NSA spy program. There is also the right now Patrick Fitzgerald is working on involving leaks of the name, Valerie Plame Wilson, who as we know was a CIA agent. We have many documents that have been coming out and so I want to talk with you about that. And finally, I do want to touch on the more recent story about the President quietly assuming the authority to disobey 750 laws since he took office. This is a story by the Boston Globe’s Charles Savage, April 30, 2006.

So taking them one at a time, you mentioned the NSA spy program. Are we on the verge of seeing a bipartisan effort to question Bush on that program and could that possibly bring up the issue of impeachment if the President is unwilling to listen, say, even to the head of the U.S. Senate

Francis A. Boyle: Well it would be nice if we were on the verge but Senator Specter was making some noises that he was going to do something and maybe have some hearings but so far we don’t have them. I really don’t know what to say. Again, the issues you mentioned all involve impeachable offenses. There’s more than enough there on the substantive merits across the board to impeach these four individuals but I regret to say I just don’t think the Democrats have the guts to do it. (See update in breaking story Thursday, May 4, 2006, one day after this program aired that Senator Specter has called for hearings on the President’s failure to obey 750 laws. Hearings Update

My conclusion is that basically the incumbent Democrats have pretty much been complicit with everything Bush has done since September 11, 2001. In the NSA spying scandal it came out that the leadership of the Democratic Party, the 14 top leaders in the House and the Senate, knew full well that Bush was spying on the American people and said nothing at all to the American people.

It was the New York Times as you know who broke the story, but they sat on it for a year. Well let’s put the New York Times responsibility aside, the Democratic leadership who knew should have said something. Now they gave the lame excuse saying well the information was classified. That’s baloney. In the Constitution there is what is known as the speech and debate clause that gives any member of Congress absolute immunity from both civil and criminal proceedings to say anything he or she wants to say from the floor of the House or the floor of the Senate. This happened in the impeachment campaign against Bush Senior where I was counsel to Congressman Henry B. Gonzales and did the first draft of his impeachment resolution that was introduced January 16, 1991, and in support of that resolution as matters went on Congressman Gonzales repeatedly got up on the floor of the House and released classified information.

Of course Bush Sr. went irate. He sicked the CIA to investigate Congressman Gonzales but nothing could be done because of the speech and debate clause. As long as the member of Congress only talks on the floor of the House or the Senate they can say what they want. They can’t go back and have a press conference on classified information.

So everyone knows this and in my opinion my reading then went with the NSA spy scandal it came out that the Democratic leadership has simply been complicit with Bush. They were complicit on the war against Afghanistan. They were complicit in the war against Iraq. We in the peace movement told the leadership of the Democratic Party that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction for those of us who also have been following this matter for 20 years. You know, these are intelligent people, they had access to the same information I did and Ramsey Clark did and others. So, the problem is we have a leadership in the Democratic Party that has been complicit in all of these Constitutional violations being inflicted by the Bush Administration.

I think we are going to have to elect people; men and women of good faith whatever party, who are willing to put in bills of impeachment because otherwise we are quickly degenerating here into a dictatorship. You mentioned that story in the Boston Globe. The President is just ignoring laws or issuing these signing statements saying he is not going to enforce them. Well the President has an obligation under the Constitution to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. If he believes they are unconstitutional he has to go to the Supreme Court and get the Supreme Court to strike them down.

He has also taken an oath to uphold the Constitutional laws of the United States as required by the Constitution. So this behavior, this pattern of behavior rises to the level of an impeachable offense. The test is subversion of the Constitution and clearly you have over 700 laws that the President has said he is not going to enforce.

Dori Smith: In terms of which laws we are looking at his unwillingness to adhere to laws recently passed, since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution. And now this has gone to issues like torture. He has said he can bypass the torture ban. There are other laws involving the Military, armies, the ability to declare war, make rules for captured enemies, make rules for government and regulation of the land and Naval forces and also regulate the Military; and this is traditionally a role that Congress does play.

Francis A. Boyle: That’s correct. If you read the Constitution Congress is given all sorts of powers with respect to the conduct of warfare and most importantly the power to declare war, not the President. Look what we have in operation here is the [Fuhrer] principle that was rejected by the Nuremberg Charter judgment and principles that the President is above the law, he’s above the Constitution, he’s above international law, he can do whatever he wants. He can take United States citizens, strip them of their rights, and throw them into Military brigs. We have to remember that in the first draft of the USA Patriot Act that was done by a Federalist Society lawyer for Ashcroft, in the first draft they tried to have in there the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus which is all that stands between us and a police state. -It’s your ability if you are detained by any law enforcement official to have a lawyer go into court and the judge you know produce the body, a person appears in court, and then the government has to explain what is the legal authority for this person to be detained and if there are any problems with condition of detention, I.e., torture or something like that.

John Ashcroft and his Federalist Society lawyers tried to get Congress to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus for all of us U.S. citizens. Fortunately a Congressional staffer saw that and it was struck out. But clearly that is their ultimate objective; to set up a police state.

Dori Smith: Well now you say that, a lot of the laws that were ignored did turn out to be military rules and regulations, but also there were Affirmative Action provisions, requirements Congress be told about immigration service problems, whistle blower protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research. We could look at any one of those and find lots of stories to work on, but let’s talk about the nuclear aspect because I know you have looked at that as well and we do see a new nuclear arms race going on where the White House is now working on how to describe programs that are already underway, we are already looking at testing, we are already looking at development and replacement with some of the weapons systems and various kind of new technologies; and an emphasis on new weapons that may be “usable” under the new sort of description of a nuclear conflict, which is the old traditional label of “Low Intensity Conflict” that has to do with these surgical strikes again with a nuclear warhead.

Francis A. Boyle: That is correct. As you know in December of 2002 they put a new policy on the White House web site, a new National Security Policy that supplemented the one they had done earlier that fall in September endorsing preventive warfare. And in the December 2002 policy and I discuss this in my book, Destroying World Order they made it clear that they were prepared to use weapons of mass destruction to carry out that policy. And now it has come out from the Seymour Hersh article in the New Yorker that they are prepared to use nuclear weapons against Iran they say low yield, but we are talking of orders of a little bit less than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

Just recently President Bush and Secretary of State Rice were asked about the use of nuclear weapons with that name, by the way, with respect to Iran, and both the President and the Secretary of State said “all options are on the table.”

If you look at the Pentagon policy manual on war fighting, which I have reviewed, that came out I believe a year ago, implementing then the December 2002 policy on weapons of mass destruction, and they are currently integrating nuclear weapons with conventional weapons all up and down their operational policy. So this is going on now as we speak.

As you know at Nevada they have this, Nevada test site, this Operation Divine Strike, that is again going to simulate bunker busters, and it’s clear they are getting ready there to resume nuclear testing. So if you add it all up it looks horrendous and of course then you don’t want nuclear whistle blowers going out and trying to tell the American people what’s really going on. But if you make a very close examination of what’s already out there in the public record it is startling and extremely disturbing.

If Bush were to go ahead and actually do what Seymour Hersh says he is going to do we could be witnessing the outbreak of the third world war. And I know Noam Chomsky has recently taken the same position on that independently of me.

Dori Smith: That brings us to CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson again but it turns out that she was working on Iran at the time she was outted by this White House, then we see that her husband Joseph Wilson had been in Niger on a mission to determine the degree of any validity to this suggestion that Saddam Hussein was trying to get nuclear material from Niger, that turned out to be false and of course he said so in his OP-ED piece that is now so famous. So here we see two people who did try to in a way warn us back at the time that this was all starting to come out and now we see that every argument they made is being legitimized if you will with more and more of the documents that are coming out through the Special Prosecutor as he proceeds with his case.

Francis A. Boyle: You know Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers has publicly stated that it is in the interest of the preservation of our republic that people inside the government who have this information have to start leaking because otherwise I’m afraid the Bush people are going to lead us into a total catastrophe. It could be a nuclear catastrophe.

As to Mr. Fitzgerald my reading of him is he is not an Archibald Cox or Leon Jawarski. Remember he was appointed as U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois by President Bush himself. So he is not really independent of anything and it seems to me he is pretty much going with their play book which is to narrow his focus as much as possible and zero in on underlings and avoid the responsibility of the people on the top. So I’m afraid we really can’t rely on Mr. Fitzgerald to do the right thing. He might. I’m not discounting him. But he’s no Archie Cox he’s no Leon Jawarski. He is a creature of this administration.

Again, it’s really going to be up to us, the American people, to take a stand here because otherwise the Bush people I’m afraid will lead us over a precipice with this purely concocted crisis with Iran. It’s the exact same playbook they used on Iraq. It appears they are timing it to coincide with the November elections, again, Karl Rove at work again. It looks like the Republicans are afraid they are going to lose control of either one of both houses. And what better way to keep that control than to manufacture this crisis with Iran, distract attention from all their other problems that they have, and try to hold on to the House and the Senate, to prevent a bill of impeachment or investigation or whatever. So this is the dilemma we are in as American people.

Dori Smith: I just want to ask again about the potential to use impeachment as a remedy for the present crisis in Washington; a crisis of economics, a crisis of leadership, and as it turns out a crisis of just plain old honesty because we have seen again and again corruption at the highest levels of the land and so often we can trace that directly to the doors of multinational corporations. Let me just ask you if the American people are ready to hear that they need to stand up for impeachment and if we can translate that into a state by state effort.

Francis A. Boyle: First of all it did work with Nixon so we have a very powerful precedent there. Now, I admit at that time the Democrats controlled Congress, it was a different party. But even eventually most of the Republicans came along to the need to get rid of Nixon just for the good of the country. So we have that precedent.

Number two, we have the precedent of what happened all over this country for immigration reform. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets all over to advocate in a peaceful nonviolent way for human rights, for undocumented aliens in this country. So there is an enormous potential out there that the peace movement is going to have to mobilize. As I see it we are going to have to sit down and figure out how did the immigration reform movement turn all those people out and we are going to have to start turning out similar numbers for impeachment of Bush and trying to stop the war in Iraq, it’s killed now over 2400 U.S. service members, all needlessly killed, we have no idea how many Iraqis, probably 200,000 at least, and to head off what could be a nuclear catastrophe in Iran.

Dori Smith: Finally, you have written about Obliterating Fallujah and what the U.S. Military did there. And we have had as a guest on our program Dahr Jamail who drew a very devastating picture of what was going on in Fallujah, as did a few others who had been there and spoke with us about that, Jo Wilding and Rahul Mahajan

We get the impression that not much has been done there by way of reconstruction so we see this city basically destroyed, and we see other cities in Iraq getting to the point of destroyed, and we see lots of refugees being created from the cities; To what extent do you think that this is going to have such an impact in the region that that too could provoke more war and wider war?

Francis A. Boyle: Fallujah will probably be like Grozny which is completely demolished and almost uninhabitable over in Chechnya. What I was pointing out in that essay was the legal principles of State; you have to go back to the Nuremberg Charter that said quite clearly that the wanton devastation of a city, town, or district, is a war crime. And what I pointed out was to obliterate an entire city like Fallujah or Grozny, these are Nazi crimes to try to put them into perspective. That we prosecuted, convicted, and executed Nazis at Nuremberg for doing this type of behavior. Now, I’m against the death penalty for anyone including Bush and the rest of them. I believe they should be impeached, they should be indicted and they should be prosecuted, but not executed. -I wrote that piece to try to put this behavior into perspective and right now as you saw Senator Biden making the proposal that Iraq should be carved up into three pieces? Well that’s been their policy all along is to destroy Iraq as a viable state. And I am very afraid then that this will be implemented and you could see a massive convulsion of civil war in Iraq that could draw in, even against their best wishes, the neighboring states particularly Turkey, Iran, and others. It’s a very volatile situation over there. You have Russia arming Iran, China pretty much supporting them. You have close to two thirds of all the oil and gas supplies in the world at stake there. I don’t think I or Professor Chomsky have underestimated the potential cataclysm that could happen if the Bush Administration continues on its campaign.

But look, we were in dire straights under Nixon in Vietnam and we impeached Nixon, ended up with Gerald Ford, and the Vietnam War was wound down. I don’t think we can ever give up hope. But we really have no alternative.

Dori Smith: We see Israel in the press now relating to Iran. The latest being that Israel announced the sale of some rockets from North Korea to Iran, I believe these were scud type missiles, and Iran has been talking about the destruction of Israel and has said some very harsh things about the Holocaust. -A very inflammatory situation. Just talk about Israel under the new leaders and where we stand in that regard.

Francis A. Boyle: Well I have to agree with the study by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. If you look at the record here in the United States, the only people pushing for war against Iran are the Israel lobby people, their sources, assets in the news media, and also in Congress. I don’t detect any great sentiment here on the part of the American people to go to war against Iran.

It’s clear under the philosophy of the Neo-Conservatives that they wrote Clean Break” (”A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, By Douglas J. Feith and Richard Perle.) and everything, they want the United States to take out Iran as a favor to Israel and so I think we have to be aware of these strategies and who is mongering for war against Iran. Again, that’s not just my reading of it. That’s also what Professor’s Walt and Mearsheimer have stated in their article in the London Review of Books with all of the footnotes at the Harvard Kennedy School. I agree with them.

Dori Smith: Francis A. Boyle teaches law at the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy, and bio warfare. Professor Boyle also serves as counsel for Bosnia Herzegovina in application of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide pending before the International Court of Justice. He also represents associations of citizens within the country and has been instrumental in developing the indictment against Slobdon Milosovich for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He received a PHD in political science from Harvard University. You can find Professor Francis A. Boyle’s writing online at Counterpunch.org.

Some of Professor Boyle’s Books:

The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence

World Politics and International Law

Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11th

Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations 1898-1921


For Talk Nation Radio, I’m Dori Smith. Talk Nation Radio is produced in the studios of WHUS at the University of Connecticut. WHUS.org to listen live Wed. at 5 pm. talknation.org and talknationradio.org for transcripts and discussion. Our music is provided by Fritz Heede. http://talknationradio.org

Francis A. Boyle teaches law at the University of Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes, genocide, nuclear policy, and bio warfare. Professor Boyle also serves as counsel for Bosnia Herzegovina in application of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide pending before the International Court of Justice. He also represents associations of citizens within the country and has been instrumental in developing the indictment against Slobdon Milosovich for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He received a PHD in political science from Harvard University. You can find Professor Francis A. Boyle’s writing online at Counterpunch.org.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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