Friday, November 03, 2006

Purest Reasons for Ignoring Treason

Disregarding Republican treason is good government, good for the country, and good for the Democratic party. Dems should take a pass on impeachment and go straight to massive and continuous oversight hearings.

Historically, the offense of treason lies in “encompassing the death of the King.” Not solely killing the King, but planning to, has customarily been chargeable. In United States law the assassination of a President is not inherently treasonous; a President is not regal. The US’ people are sovereign and the government devolves from them, rather than God being sovereign and the King drawing limited earthly sovereignty from God. In a republic, the Kingly function of representing the entire country transfers to the Constitutional structure itself, not to the momentary Chief Magistrate.

As you can kill neither God nor the people, treason is in practice an attempt to kill the Constitution. The formulation “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” is inadequate if understood solely in a military sense. But the notion is quite alive and useful if it is understood that an enemy of the United States need not be, and very often is not, foreign.

Usually you hear about treason in connection with Spanish gold, French gold, British gold, CIA gold or Moscow gold being spent to subvert government officials, almost always as a part of espionage. The Readers Digest model of treason incorporates left-wing (never right-wing) ideologues, conveniently forgetting the recent spate of traitors-for-hire, most of whom worked for alleged US allies.

According to the irreducibly precise 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the severities of the punishments for treason in English law were owing to “the conception of treason as a breach of the oath of allegiance” to the King. In a republic, the parallel would be a breach of the oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

The manifest, manifold and maladroit treasonable actions of George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney, and Donald W. Rumsfeld are indisputable. They brazenly and continuously lied to the Congress and the American people about the connection of Al Qaeda to Iraq (none,) the sale of nuclear materials to Iraq (none) and the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (none.)

Bush’s personal attacks on the Constitution include the use of signing statements to vitiate laws, acceptance as law of a bill not passed in identical form by both Houses of Congress, conspiracy to cover up the intentional exposure of an intelligence asset, fostering torture and illegal detentions, and overriding legal wiretap authority limitations.

“Failure to see that the laws of the United States be faithfully executed,” as was charged of Richard M. Nixon, covers it all.

Offenses punishable under the ordinary criminal law would include energy price-fixing in the VP’s office and crony capitalism in Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans and the Education and Homeland Security Departments. These do not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors in that they do not threaten the constitutional structure. The others are and do.

However, it is arguable that no impeachment effort, for treason or for other just cause, ought be made in the 110th, destined to be known as the Oversight Congress. Rather than concentrating on impeachment, the 55% administrative cost level paid to Halliburton in Iraq is the kind of issue that the 110th should investigate starting next January. Rampant cronyism in government contracting has been the Republican hallmark. It should come back to plague the Lying, Spying, Corruption, Incompetence and Indolence Administration and its supine non-overseers in the former Congressional majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, together with the 110th’s Democratic preponderance, would do well to leave the treason of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld severely alone, concentrating instead on the ordinary criminal violations perpetuated by the Republican machine. That will leave the Bushites twisting slowly, slowly in the wind, a posture for which their intellectual lethargy properly suits them.

The multiple treason of the Bushites verges on the metaphysical, in that they did not seek out a foreign enemy in whose interests to betray the Constitution. Rather, they were themselves the enemies of the republic, bent on destroying the Constitution in their own interests.

This solipsism might not seem important had not charges of treason formed such a staple of Republican rhetoric from 1946 to the present day. Only last year the ranking Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee was described as a traitor on the floor of the House by a Republican, deluded by thoughts of “victory” in Iraq and incapable of grasping that the conditions for its existence were obliterated by our very invasion.

Yet impeaching the Bushites would look too much like revenge for the otiose ordeal of William J. Clinton. Holding two years of oversight hearings into Republican contracts, spying, torture and intelligence failures would be a greatly more noble endeavor. It would play into the larger narrative of the Democrats as governmental but the Republicans as posturers. And such a course of action, in support of such a narrative, just might assist in electing a Democratic President in 2008.

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