Most of the fawning corporate media (FCM) coverage
of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's resignation Monday was even more bereft
of context than usual.
It was as if Musharraf looked out the window and said, "It's a beautiful
day. I think I'll resign and go fishing." Thus, the lead in Tuesday's editorial
in the New York Times, once known as the newspaper of record: "In
the end, President Pervez Musharraf went, if not quietly, with remarkably little
Certain words seem to be automatically deleted from the computers of those
writing for the Times. Atop the forbidden wordlist sits "impeachment."
And other FCM – the Washington Post, for example – generally follow that
Very few newspapers carried the Associated Press item that put the real story
up front; i.e., that Musharraf resigned "just days ahead of almost certain
impeachment." In other words, he pulled a Nixon.
How short our memories! Three articles of impeachment were approved by the
House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974; Nixon resigned less than two weeks
later. But what were those charges, and how do they relate to George W. Bush
today? Among the charges were these:
-- Without lawful cause or excuse [Richard M. Nixon] "failed
to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas
by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House…and willfully disobeyed
such subpoenas…thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary
to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested in the Constitution
in the House of Representatives."
-- "Endeavoring to cause prospective defendants…to expect favored treatment
and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony."
-- "Endeavoring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency."
The New John Conyers
Fortunately, John Conyers, who now chairs the
House Judiciary Committee, was among those approving those three articles of
Unfortunately, he seems to have long- as well as short-term memory loss.
On subpoenas, he has let the Bush administration diddle him and the committee.
What about favored treatment in return for silence or false testimony? What
did Conyers do when President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, in a
transparent effort to prevent Libby from squealing on his bosses?
Conyers moved manfully to do what he always does: he expressed "frustration,"
wrote a letter to the president, held a hearing, and then – nothing. This, despite
special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's parting admonition, "There is a cloud
over the vice president…And that cloud remains because the defendant [Libby]
Misuse of the CIA
What about this serious charge? Here too Conyers'
behavior has been nothing short of bizarre, even though he has been repeatedly
briefed on how the Bush administration played games with intelligence to "justify"
an unnecessary war.
If further proof of the misuse of intelligence were needed, Senate Intelligence
Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller provided it in early June, when he released
the findings of his committee's investigation of administration misrepresentations
of pre-Iraq-war intelligence. Rockefeller summed it up succinctly:
"In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented
intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted,
or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe
that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed."
Despite all this, Conyers has not ventured beyond flaccid rhetoric. White House
minions no doubt poke fun at the talking-shirt-cum-fancy-tie to which Conyers
has reduced himself. He has given them – and the rest of us – little reason to take
him, or his committee, seriously.
But now…now with the wide attention drawn by the serious revelations in Ron
Suskind's latest book regarding White House misuse of the CIA, John Conyers
wants us to believe he is really serious this time. It brings to mind the image
of Lucy setting up the football for another try by Charlie Brown.
On Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now" on Aug. 14, he said he was "the
third day into the most critical investigation of the entire Bush administration."
And in order to demonstrate his seriousness of purpose Conyers said, "We're
starting our work, and then we're doing it in a period where Congress is in
recess. I'm calling everybody back."
Many of those listening to Conyers assumed he meant Committee members. Not
so. Others thought he must have meant key staff. Not so, either. There must
be something in the water here in Washington that prevents people – even formerly
honest people – from distinguishing between exaggeration and a lie.
As if to prepare us beforehand for still more timidity and ineptitude, Conyers
rang changes on an all too familiar theme. He complained that he is "maybe
the most frustrated person attempting to exercise the oversight responsibilities
that I have on Judiciary" – a clear reference to how he has let himself be
diddled by the White House…and an equally clear sign that he is likely to remain
If the Constitution Is Good Enough For Pakistan…
Tell us, John: if Pakistan
can move forward to impeach a sitting president and force his resignation, why
can't you? You must recall voting for those three articles of impeachment on
that momentous day, July 27, 1974, and how on August 9 Nixon waved goodbye from
his helicopter to the few remaining friends lined up on the White House lawn.
You were proud to be part of the triumph of our Constitution in 1974. Is being
chairman of Judiciary simply too demanding at your age – many years beyond what
lawyers used to call the age of "statutory senility."
Without any apparent tongue in cheek, Tuesday's New York Times editorial
pointed a sanctimonious finger at Musharraf's abuse of power, noting that "the
presidency must also be stripped of the special dictatorial powers that Mr.
Musharraf seized for himself, including the power to suspend civil liberties."
The Times noted, "President Bush underwrote Mr. Musharraf's dictatorship,
but it said nothing of the example Bush himself has set in such matters – including
rigging elections, as Musharraf did.
It seems the height of irony that the relatively young and fragile democracy
of Pakistan has been able to successfully exercise the power of impeachment
inherited from the framers of the U.S. Constitution, while a constipated Conyers-captained
congressional committee cannot.
Under Pakistan's constitution, the country has a bicameral legislature with
100 senators and over 300 representatives in the National Assembly. The president
is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Sound familiar?
The difference is that, even though impeachment of a Pakistani president requires
a two-thirds majority in the legislature, Pakistani lawmakers summoned the courage
to check Musharraf's unconstitutional accretion of power by exercising their
constitutional power to impeach. And, facing almost certain impeachment, Musharraf
In sorry contrast to your Pakistani counterparts, John, you have chickened
out. At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
The original version of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.