Now Bush is intent upon ignoring the will of a very large majority of Americans by escalating a failed war, by repeating a failed strategy. Bush doesn't care that an overwhelming majority of Americans across the spectrum oppose him on almost every issue. An independent Congress might have held a rogue President in check. The case of Richard Nixon is often cited. But even that tends to point up what might prove to be a fatal flaw in the American system of government. The US Constitution clearly states the powers of Congress in a time of war. But, when it counts most, where are the teeth?
Consider the case of Richard Nixon.
In the very early days of the Watergate Scandal, when it had not yet hit the front pages, Nixon was bombing Cambodia and lying to the American public about it.
Some writers have said that it was the Viet Nam war -until Iraq, the most controversial war the United States had ever conducted -which led ultimately to the collapse of the Nixon administration. By the time Nixon targeted Cambodia, the public had already soured on what looked like an endless war, George Orwell's perpetual war. It is fair to say that Congress found in Watergate a way to check a rogue President.
How does Congress oversee a secret war? Nixon planned to destroy what was called Area 353. To do so, the Pentagon would send 60 B-52s to bomb so-called "legitimate" targets in South Vietnam. But most - 48 of them - would be secretly diverted to Cambodia upon a signal from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Nixon lied about about the bombing, he lied about Cambodia's neutrality, he lied about "winding down the war". In The Price of Power, Seymour M. Hersh confirmed that rather than checking Nixon's rogue administrion, Congress, then as now, seemed all too compliant. No congressman wanted to be seen as "weak". No congressman wanted to oppose plans to "... ferret out the Viet Cong headquarters" as Congress had been told of the "mission".
Nixon committed atrocities in Cambodia and lied about them. Cambodia was a neutral nation that had not attacked the US and had not taken sides in Viet Nam's internal conflict. Nevertheless, American and South Vietnamese troops together committed war crimes consisting of the destruction of villages and towns. It does not excuse Congress that Nixon lied to them and got away with it. It does not excuse Congress that no attempt was made at "oversight". It does not excuse Congress that Presidents have become dictators.
Indeed, it is a pity that a fourth article of impeachment was rejected by a Congress that seemed willing, even in triumph, to subvert its charge and abrogate its duties under the US Constitution. The rejected fifth article of impeachment against Richard Nixon reads:
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, on and subsequent to March 17, 1969, authorized, ordered, and ratified the concealment from the Congress of false and misleading statements concerning the existence, scope and nature of American bombing operations in Cambodia in derogation of the power of the Congress to declare war, to make appropriations and to raise and support armies, and by such conduct warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.Bush is no Nixon. Less intelligent, he is more dangerous. Nixon had hoped to pacify Congress or, at least, distract it. The war in Viet Nam was said to have been "winding down" as combat roles were transferred to the "government" in South Vietnam, as Bush would love to do now in Iraq but cannot. Like Nixon before him, he will escalate the war; unlike Nixon and more like Hitler, he will do so in "...full view of the world". ( the phrase ...in full view of the world". was used by Hitler to describe his persecution of Jews) For an unexpurgated history of Nixon's war crime against Cambodia see: Lying for Empire: How to Commit War Crimes With A Straight Face by David Model.
Article V, Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon
To be fair, Viet Nam tainted every President since Eisenhower. To be fair, it is not only this Congress that has fallen down on the job. It is not only Republicans who actively conspire with war hawk executives. It is also Democrats who fear to be seen as weak.
It takes courage to oppose a tyrant. Until the Democrats in congress find the courage to oppose a rogue and tyrannical chief executive, the Iraq war will not "wind down" nor will the Iraqi people, blamed unfairly for Bush's war crime against them, step up to pull Bush's fat out of the fire.
It is easy to make analogies to Nixon but few are in as good a position to do so as John Dean, White House Counsel to Richard Nixon.
You will find Dean's book, Conservatives Without Consciences, reviewed on this blog.
And now for something completely different --Oscar Peterson and Andre Previn:
Peter Nero Plays Gershwin
The Existentialist Cowboy