Editor’s note: Veteran journalist and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., gave the following speech calling for impeachment.
George Bush has shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law. He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons and defied the Geneva Convention and human rights law in the treatment of detainees. Most egregiously, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public.
This president is guilty, in short, of what in legal circles is known as the “crime of aggression.” And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we do not begin the process of impeachment, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences. For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States—and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare.
We must not allow international laws and treaties—ones that set minimum standards of behavior and provide a framework for competing social, political, economic and religious groups and interests to resolve differences—to be discarded. The exercise of power without law is tyranny. And the consequences of George Bush’s violation of the law, his creation of legal black holes that can swallow us along with those outside our gates, run in a direct line from the White House to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
George Bush—we now know from the leaked Downing Street memo—fabricated a legal pretext for war. He decided to charge Saddam Hussein with the material breach of the resolution passed in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. He had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was in breach of this resolution. And so he and his advisers manufactured reports of weapons of mass destruction and disseminated them to a frightened and manipulated press and public. In short, he lied to us and to the rest of the world. There are tens of thousands, perhaps a few hundred thousand people, who have been killed and maimed in Iraq because of a war that has no legal justification, a war waged in violation of international law. The grief visited on American and Iraqi families demands that we as citizens begin the process to restore the rule of law. The murderous rampages in Iraq demand this. The torture done in our name demands this. The empowerment of states that will act on our lawless example if we do not impeach George Bush and return to a world of standards demands this. Simple human decency demands this.
A rule-based world matters. The creation of these international bodies and rules, as well as the use of our influence over the last half-century to see they were followed, have allowed us to stand pre-eminent as a nation—one that respects and defends the rule of law. If we demolish the fragile and delicate international order, if we permit George Bush to create a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation and the law are worthless, if we allow these international legal systems to unravel, we will see our moral and political authority plummet. We will erode the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies, and see visited upon us the evils we visit on others.