Monday, August 06, 2007

catching up: some links, Cindy Sheehan, and impeachment

photo:wikipedia/Ben Schumin

first, some recent items:

Micah Holmquist: "World peace is more likely than impeachment, and Democrats appear ok with this"

Eric Alterman: "But your lovin' don't pay my bills ..."

Marc Lynch, from "Alawi: on the way out?":

The best line I've heard lately came from someone whom I shan't identify: "There is no Iraqi government... there's just a bunch of bodies living in the Green Zone collecting paychecks and wasting oxygen."

Rob Payne recommends these three Tom Dispatch essays on new defense secretary Rob't Gates:

Roger Morris: The Gates Inheritance

Roger Morris, "The World That Made Bob

Roger Morris: "The CIA and the Gates Legacy

as well as a companion piece of sorts,

"Iraq by the Numbers: Surging Past the Gates of Hell"

Jonathan Schwarz, "Our Crumbling America"

There is no question the bridge collapse in Minnesota last week is a tragedy, and our hearts should go out to the families of the perished. Nevertheless I couldn't help but reflect it represents a loss of life due to senseless tragedy that's about the same as just another day in Baghdad. I don't say that to suggest that ordinary people should necessarily feel responsible for knowing what to do about it. A lot of people responded by voting democratic in the 2006 midterms, because that's what we're taught and conditioned to believe we're supposed to do. Fewer, but still undoubtedly substantial numbers of people wrote or faxed or emailed their congresspeople or senators. I have one nice letter from Michael Burgess and another from Kay Hutchison to prove I've done this, vis-a-vis not attacking Iran. Do I think these gestures matter?

Well, no-- not really.

But collectively, not knowing what to do is not the same as not being responsible. We have a government that doesn't give a damn what we think or feel , but we are, ultimately, responsible for it. Some people, like Cindy Sheehan, decide to take their responsibility and run with it, and try to do something constructive. In Sheehan's case, of course, she has mostly been reviled, at least in formal venues like op-eds and opinion news tv, and at the intermediate and higher levels of the democratic party food chain. I don't know that every decision that she's made has been the most tactically successful one, with respects to her various sit-ins and protests, but I also know that really isn't the point. I say that for two reasons:

One: she's kind of been out there by herself, without a net as it were, since the once well-worn trails of peace activism are generally cold, having been little-traveled for the past 30-35 years or so-- so she's had to figure out a lot of it on her own.

Two: criticizing her for occasional missteps and thereby suggesting her contribution is dismissable as misguided and irrelevant is a little like Glenn Beck or some other conservo-schmuck saying Al Gore doesn't have a right to talk about protecting the environment because he doesn't live in a cave and actually uses electricity. The nerve of that guy, with his toothbrush and running water, trying to tell me to conserve! Of course in the liberal/progressive context, there's an additional problem with that sort of criticism of Sheehan: implicitly you are ceding authority to the hidebound leadership, and conceding the right to set an agenda for progressives to that leadership.

And boy, was there ever a more undeserving bunch!

I also think, in Cindy's case, there's a certain amount of resentment involved by some lefties, insofar as she's been doing what they know they should be doing, and she makes everybody else look bad.

Arvin Hill has discussed the fecklessness of the democrats and the apparently tepid response to Cindy Sheehan deciding to run against Nancy Pelosi. I saw Cindy with Bill Hemmer on CNN in July, saying she would only run if Pelosi persists in her "impeachment is off the table stance." Sounded pretty reasonable to me, although initially I wondered if she might be better off running against someone like the old democrat warhorse Tom Lantos, because A. he might be easier to beat, and, B. Replacing him with Cindy in the congress sounds like it would be a genuine improvement.

Arthur Silber, "inoperative":

The NSA warrantless surveillance program had been one of the strongest and clearest grounds on which to impeach Bush. The program violated then-existing law, and Bush admitted it. What had been illegal is now fully legal -- thanks to a Congress controlled by the Democrats.

It is now impossible for Bush to be impeached on this basis. How exactly would that argument go? "This heinous and illegal program was so blatantly unconstitutional that it merits impeachment as a high crime and misdemeanor. In fact, it's so heinous that we've now made it legal!" Yeah. That'll work.

I'm not sure what can be done at this point, but it's pretty clear to me that voting and sending faxes and emails is insufficient. Actually, unlike Silber I believe impeachment is still possible, but the people are the problem. If you are grown men and women, and we are, and you know the politicians won't do anything without a firecracker up their ass, and we do, then the unwillingness to supply the firecracker makes it our fault.

Do you remember 2006? It wasn't so long ago. Large numbers of semi-content, middle class Americans freaked out in 2006, when they saw literally millions of Mexicanos demonstrating in their streets on tv, in April and May. As I've said before, apart from the unquestionable racism involved in so many people's discomfort, another dynamic was at play: Americans who aren't allowed to be Americans were showing the rest of us how to be American.

Without taking any citizenship tests, they showed us they knew what being American is (supposed to be) all about: You care about your rights-- you insist on them, you go forth and make some noise and make sure you're heard.

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