John Conyers Is No Martin Luther King
07/25/07 "ICH" -- -- What do Rep. John Conyers (D,
Michigan), chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary,
and President George W. Bush have in common? They both
think they can dis Cindy Sheehan and count on gossip
columnists like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to
trivialize an historic moment.
I’ll give this to President Bush. He makes no pretence when
he disses. He would not meet with Sheehan to define for her
the “noble cause” for which her son Casey died or tell her
why he had said it was “worth it.”
Conyers, on the other hand, was dripping with pretence as he
met with Sheehan, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, and me yesterday in
his office in the Rayburn building. I have seldom been so
disappointed with someone I had previously held in high
esteem. And before leaving, I told him so. Throwing salt
in our wounds, he had us, and some fifty others in his
anteroom arrested and taken out of action as the Capitol
Police “processed” us for the next six hours.
As we began our discussion with Conyers, it was as though he
thought we were “born yesterday,” as Harry Truman would put
it. With feigned enthusiasm he began, Let’s hold a Town
Hall meeting in Detroit so we can talk about impeachment.
Get out my schedule; let’s see, we need to hear from
everyone about this.
Been there, done that, I reminded the congressman. On May
29, 2007 Col. Ann Wright and I were among those who flew to
Detroit for a highly advertised Town Hall meeting on
impeachment, because we were assured that John Conyers would
That Town Hall/panel discussion was arranged by the Michigan
chapter of the National Lawyers Guild less than two weeks
after the Detroit City Council passed a resolution,
cosponsored by Conyers’ wife Monica Conyers—calling for the
impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. We had
hoped that Monica’s clear vision and courage might be
Husband a No-Show
I had to remind the congressman that he did not show
up for the Town Hall, preferring to put in a cameo
appearance and quickly leave a half-hour before it began.
Apparently, that incident was of such little consequence to
the congressman that he had completely forgotten about it
and was about to try to resort to the same subterfuge. And
that was less than two months ago. Small wonder, then, that
he has apparently forgotten the oath he took, much longer
ago, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United
States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Selective Alzheimer’s? I don’t know. What was clear was
that he had forgotten a whole lot. I pointed to James
Madison’s role in crafting a Constitution that mentions
impeachment no fewer than six times. And for those, like
John Conyers, who may have forgotten, Madison had this to
say at the constitutional convention, “A President is
impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution.) I
mentioned my career as a CIA analyst, said there is abundant
proof, much of it documentary, that Bush and Cheney had
deliberately deceived Congress into approving a war of
aggression, and asked what could be more subversive of the
The congressman’s reply: Madison did not say Conyers has to
impeach every one. Why, if I had to impeach everyone for
high crimes and misdemeanors, that’s all my committee would
have time to do.
I remember from Rhetoric 101 the name of that device:
reductio ad absurdum.
How about just Bush and Cheney? we suggested.
Conyers protested that he would need 218 votes in the House
and complained that the votes are not there. His priorities
showed through in his loud lament that if he fell short of
the 218 votes, the Republicans and FOX News would have a
Frightened by FOX
There was no getting through to Conyers, who seemed
astonished at the direct questions we were posing. While
reflecting on this later, a dictum of my father, also a
prominent lawyer began to ring in my ears; to wit: “When
you reach the age of ‘statutory senility,’ you do everyone a
favor if you retire.” He followed his own advice when he
retired as Chancellor of the Board of Regents of the
University of the State of New York, long before
senility—statutory, or otherwise—set in for him.
Septuagenarian Conyers and, for that matter, 80 year-old
Senator John Warner (R-Virginia) who also seems to have
forgotten his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution would do
well to ponder my father’s dictum. (As for the
“distinguished” senior senator from Commonwealth of
Virginia, you may recall that, as head of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, he caved in to White House pressure to
let the Pentagon investigate itself regarding the abuses at
Abu Graib and elsewhere—letting lower ranking soldiers take
the hit for doing what then-defense secretary Donald
Rumsfeld had made clear he wanted done. At that low point,
surely groaning could be heard from James Madison’s resting
place in Montpelier at the disdain in which successor
Virginians—however “distinguished”—hold his beloved
Constitution. Sorry, but I am a Virginian. And I feel this
keenly. O Tempora, O Mores!)
Attempted Trading on King
Toward the end of our meeting with Conyers, he
showed uncommon chutzpah in referring to Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. That was too much for me. You’re no Martin
Luther King, I found myself wanting to say. Instead, I
quoted a portion of Dr. King’s famous address at Riverside
Church almost 40 years ago:
"We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate
to our limited vision, but we must speak.... there is such a
thing as being too late.... Life often leaves us standing
bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.... Over the
bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the
pathetic words: ‘Too late.’"
I used that quote in a letter I left with Conyers’
aides, in which I tried to express why my colleagues in
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity feel it is
URGENT to find some way to apply the Constitution to
restrain a run-away Executive.
The text of that letter follows:
July 23, 2007
Note to Congressman John Conyers:
On Impeachment and the Edmund Pettus Bridge
We each have our favored crime for which President Bush and
Vice President Cheney should be impeached. Many of us have
But the real challenge is to look AHEAD. What are
Bush/Cheney likely to do in the coming months if the
impeachment process does NOT begin?
One often hears, Oh, they will do what they want anyway,
impeachment process or not. Not true. If we the people and
our representatives in Congress choose the course given us
by our Founders and impeachment proceedings begin, important
swaths of our body politic AND military will be less likely
to follow illegal orders from the White House. These
important constituencies will become sensitized to the peril
into which this administration has brought us and to the
extra-constitutional orders they may be asked to carry out.
NEW ELEMENT: Even the Scaif-owned newspapers have begun to
question Bush’s MENTAL STABILITY.
What could be more important at this juncture?
We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have
been applying all of our analytical techniques to assess the
Bush/Cheney administration. We have helped to establish the
long record of abuses and usurpations of the past. What
about the future?
Iraq is going to hell in a hand basket. A Tet-type incident
becomes more and more likely. The Green Zone is being hit
by mortar fire more frequently than before. It may be just
a matter of time before the Resistance gets lucky and lobs a
shell onto our spanking new $600-million embassy, killing a
bunch of Americans in the process.
What then? Will Cheney tell the president the US military
has found Iranian markings on the shell fragments and we
need to retaliate...and, actually, while we’re at it, let’s
implement Plan A and hit all Iranian nuclear-related
facilities. With Congress voting resolution after resolution
against Iran, how would the president react to such a
suggestion from Cheney?
Many of us intelligence analysts have found utility in
relying, in part, on short studies applying psychoanalysis
to develop profiles of foreign leaders. (This marriage of
psychoanalysis and intelligence work actually goes back to
the early 1940s, when the OSS commissioned such studies on
Hitler.) We called them “at-a-distance personality
Three years ago Justin Frank, M.D., a psychiatrist here in
Washington, wrote a book “Bush on the Couch” in which he
provided keen insights into the president’s mode of
thinking—or not thinking.
Eager to use every tool at our disposal, VIPS recently asked
Dr. Frank to update his observations, with a view to
forecasting, to the extent possible, how Bush is likely to
react to the building pressures of the coming weeks and
months. We will issue, perhaps as early as this week, Dr.
Frank’s latest analysis, fortified by our own input. But we
already have his preliminary analysis; there is no other
word for it: Scary.
In a quick note to us this morning [July 23], Dr. Frank
noted we are “dealing with a potentially cornered man [who]
could lash out, and it is possible that the best way would
be to bomb Iran.... Whatever the root causes of Bush’s
pathology, we have a dangerous man running
things...grandiose and unchecked.”
Some snippets from the Memorandum that Dr. Frank is drafting
for issuance under VIPS auspices:
George W. Bush is without conscience...and destructive,
willfully so. He has always liked to break things...most
shocking is the way he is breaking our armed forces.
He doesn’t care about others, is indifferent to their
suffering...He is almost constitutionally missing the
ability to sympathize or empathize...More indifferent to
reality than out of touch with it, he makes up whatever
story he wants.
Ultimately, he is psychologically unstable...His goal is to
destroy things [and he can do that] without experiencing
anxiety or a sense of responsibility. An equally important
goal is to protect himself from shame, from being wrong,
from being found small and weak.
So what do we do?
At a similarly critical juncture, Dr. King was typically
direct: "We must speak with all the humility that is
appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak....
there is such a thing as being too late.... Life often
leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost
opportunity.... Over the bleached bones of numerous
civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’”
There is today another Edmund Pettus Bridge to cross, John.
And it has fallen to you to lead us across.
Ray McGovern had was a CIA analyst from the
administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. E.
Bush. Three months before the attack on Iraq, he joined
with other intelligence community alumni in founding Veteran
Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), in order to
warn that intelligence was being manufactured to justify an
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