Thought experiment: Let’s say a government in charge of the United States spiraled out of control. In particular, let’s assume that it was the executive branch (also known as “the administration”) that through a series of poor judgments and inappropriate appointments at all levels became totally insular and had a repeated pattern of power abuse and criminal behavior that was under investigation.
Q: Other than an armed uprising or just waiting it out, what are the legal or historical precedents that would allow a truly pernicious executive branch to be deposed?
It seems not much. Unlike parliamentary systems of government which have the possibility of no-confidence votes, it is difficult to remove an administration in a presidential system. But in the short term we have seen something akin to the stylings of the parliamentary system this week. I would agree with the editorial page of The New York Times which on Thursday wrote, “No matter how the White House chooses to spin it, the United States Senate cast a vote of no confidence this week on the war in Iraq. And about time.”
The administration is looking increasingly discreditable in the mainstream press, and even the right is beginning to see the writing on the wall. This week, noted conservative columnist William Kristol wrote, “If the American people really come to a settled belief that Bush lied us into war, his presidency will be over.” His advice was for the administration to keep refuting the dissenters, because he believes the facts are on the administrations side. But the Bush administration’s admonishment of political dissent as “irresponsible” this week just emphasizes its trapped-in-a-corner mentality. The facts will speak, and they are being uncovered each day.
This is the same week that the deeply irresponsible and hypocritical policies of the executive branch were on full display. On Wednesday of this week, according to the BBC, the United States admitted to using white phosphorus in Falluja as a weapon after previously saying “that white phosphorus had been used only to light up enemy positions.
White phosphorus produces a dense white smoke that can cause serious burns to human flesh. Although the United States is not a signatory to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits its use as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations or in air attacks against enemy forces in civilian areas, the United States may have violated the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which it is a signatory to. The initial denial of its use repeats this administration’s tactic of questionable policies that then have to be covered up or denied.
While illegal or inappropriate use of white phosphorus may not concern neoconservatives who give no credence to the notion of international law when it interferes with their imperial dreams anyway, most Americans are unlikely to agree with the use of chemical-based weapon that the world has collectively deemed unlawful for combat use.
How much must an administration lie before it becomes the constitutional duty of the people to remove it from office?
The most honorable members of the Senate, such as John McCain (R-Ariz.), have long stood up to the more heinous aspects of the neoconservative agenda, but one wonders what type of pressure it will take for other congressmen to return to their senses and move away from the use of the “black arts” the vice president’s office has been maniacally pushing for since Sept. 11.
In the United States, articles of impeachment require a simple majority to be brought forth in the house and can even then be killed in the senate. The current congressional configuration makes the prospect of impeachment unlikely, but the administration may be running out of scare tactics and dirty tricks. Most moderate Republicans realize this administration will be a severe election-year burden. The American polity is finally waking up from its Sept. 11 daze, and although it may not be until 2006, the criminality of the Bush administration will be exposed and they will be deposed in an unceremonious manner.
The question then will be if the American people can resist the temptation to return to an isolationist philosophy and instead find a way to reintegrate the nation into mainstream global civil society.
Denfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.