Impeachable Offense

FINALLY, AND FAR too late, national media are discovering that the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was a combination of willfully gross exaggerations and flat-out lies.

For weeks, various recently leaked or released documents have confirmed that there has never been much, if any, evidence in American and British files that even plausibly pointed to an Iraqi threat of either nuclear or other banned weapons, or Iraqi links to Al Qaeda. Intelligence analysts in both governments did not believe such threats existed.

The new revelations, combined with an utter lack of post-invasion evidence (weather-balloon trailers notwithstanding) that such claims were ever true, are an enormous political scandal in Britain. However, their content merely confirms what opponents of the proposed invasion claimed since last summer: that most of the endless variety of Bush assertions "proving" either Iraqi WMDs or links to Al Qaeda were, on their face, preposterous.

This wasn't simply an abstract policy debate; it was a matter of the Bush administration's swearing to Congress, America, and the world that the threat to U.S. securitythe sole legal justification for invading, conquering, and occupying Iraqwas based on evidence that did not, in fact, exist. The Bush administration made such assertions repeatedly, for more than half a year, and it continues to do so. Such assertions are not simply a typically appalling campaign of Bush administration lies. They are an impeachable offense.

For months, various, mostly liberal and progressive critics of Bush have been whipping up impeachment calls. Such calls have been delusional, boiling down, essentially, to the fact that Bush's critics hate a number of his policies. There were no pending or existing corruption indictments; no evidence of criminal wrongdoing; and no conceivable political route by which the votes for impeachment could be mustered. It was a nonstarter.

Until now.

SHOULD THE EVIDENCE hold upand it willthe Bush administration's lies constitute either an unwitting or witting effort to put American soldiers in harm's way, guaranteeing the deaths of some. America's military was deployed for reasons Bush and his entire foreign-policy apparatus either knew or should have known were false.

They did so to launch a war whose unprovoked nature was a sharp departure from international law and norms. Bush claimed the legal authority for his invasion was last October's congressional vote. On the eve of that vote, in a major speech aimed at Congress, Bush claimed satellite photos gave irrefutable evidence that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear-weapons program. He intoned, mere days after his intelligence agencies put the date at 2010, that Iraq would be able to use such weapons within a year. "Facing clear evidence of peril," Bush told Congress, America, and the world, "we cannot wait for the final proof that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Plenty of the administration's own experts had told the White House this was nonsense. From August to March, Bush and his team insisted, first, that they had evidence which actually did not exist. Then they presented evidence that was either long out-dated or simply invented. In doing so, Bush and his top officials caused the unnecessary deaths of a lot of U.S. soldiers.

The outrage thus far is coming from the media and from the British example. With a few honorable exceptions, such as Sen. Robert Byrd and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, it is not coming from congressional Democrats. Given Democratic spinelessness, no attack on the fitness of George W. Bush and his band of neocon zealots can take hold without widespread public anger, including that of independents and at least some Republicans.

The use of duplicity to lead soldiers to their graves should inspire exactly such outrage. The unprovoked invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq should never have happened. Instead, the White House claimed that Bush spent several months agonizing over whether to launch an invasion, one he had already approved.

BEFORE AND AFTER his secret decision, his administration's claims were largely false. Bush used those claims to sacrifice the lives of American soldiersalong with other coalition soldiers and countless Iraqis, soldier and civilian alike. And he continues his lies.

Iraq is half the size of South Africa, whose banned weapons were found instantly when apartheid ended. Iraq is not, as Bush protests, "a big country"; in two months, American soldiers have exhausted search possibilities. Nor have Iraq's weapons fled the country. Or been found. They have not existed for years. But soldiers died because George W. Bush said they did.

For this egregious abuse of his oath of office, he should be impeached.

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