The lead editorial in the April 11 issue of The Nation, “The Libya Intervention,” leaves one wondering. Whatever the editorial may be, it does not qualify as a resounding condemnation of Barack Obama for his war on Libya.
It begins by naming, a president, but that president is George Bush not Barack Obama. The editorial notes that the Libyan “intervention” comes eight year’s to the day after “Bush began his ‘shock and and awe’ war.” It appears that W wages war, but Obama merely “intervenes.” Noting that Bush’s war ravaged Iraq and brought America’s reputation low, The Nation observes that Obama “seems to have learned this lesson.” Then the editorial goes on to praise Obama for taking military action only as a last resort to prevent a “potential” massacre of civilians. But does that not mean that the Libyan adventure is a preemptive war just like Bush’s?
The Nation then heaps praise on Obama for deciding to “support” the Security Council resolution, ignoring the fact that the U.S. browbeat the Security Council into (just barely) passing that resolution. The editorial continues: “The (UN) resolution makes clear that its goal is the protection of civilians rather than regime change. Thus the administration’s decision to support the UN action is an important defense of a multipolar world that operates according to international law.” Sounds so far like Obama is doing a great job.
Only when one arrives at the fifth paragraph of this nine paragraph editorial do we begin to find criticism of Obama. The fact that Obama has taken the country to war without a declaration by Congress is duly noted – but there is no mention of impeachment as the remedy, not even a hint.
Let us turn the clock back to 2006 for a moment. Then The Nation was a leading voice calling for impeachment of Bush, for example in a landmark article in the January 30,2006 issue, by Elizabeth Holtzmann who help draft articles of impeachment against Nixon. In that article under the heading of “Subverting our Democracy,” Holtzmann writes that “the decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make, and in a democracy the people and their elected representatives, when there is no imminent attack on the United States to repel, have the right to make it.” And when the president denies the people and their representatives that right by lying to them as did Bush or simply ignoring them as Obama has done, Holtzman’s remedy is impeachment. The editor of The Nation was delighted with that article.
Holtzmann goes on to suggest the way forward. She says: “The task has three elements: building public and Congressional support, getting Congress to undertake investigations into various aspects of presidential misconduct and changing the party makeup of Congress in the 2006 elections. Drumming up public support means organizing rallies, spearheading letter-writing campaigns to newspapers, organizing petition drives, door-knocking in neighborhoods, handing out leaflets and deploying the full range of mobilizing tactics.” She even praises “AfterDowning St.” headed by David Swanson for building support for impeachment. Swanson now leads “War is A Crime,” and is an explicit advocate for doing nothing about impeachment in the case of Obama.
So The Nation was in favor of impeachment when the war was Bush’s and it was useful to win votes for Dems in the 2006 elections. The Nation’s editor was delighted with Holtzmann’s article featured on the cover. But The Nation and the same editor now stand mute when the war and the violation of the Constitution are Obama’s. The words of those who place Party over principle merit considerable contempt, especially when it comes to issues of war, but they do not deserve to be taken seriously.