President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan rendered his resignation on Aug. 18 in an announcement released just hours before the Pakistani Parliament was to have launched impeachment proceedings against him. Thus, a military dictator removed himself from power. One might observe: How simple — if the goods are there, just the threat of exposure and trial is a sufficient motivator to resign.
The people of Pakistan in their recent democratic election made it clear that they would no longer tolerate the actions of Musharraf — the sacking of his opponents in the Supreme Court and his declaring a state of emergency led to the downfall of his party in elections earlier this year. Musharraf’s thirst for power and the attendant corruption once attained is a scenario with an all too familiar ring.
In the United States there seems to be a parallel to what has happened in Pakistan. Musharraf took over his government in a 1999 military coup; Bush and his neocon minions assumed power in a 2000 political coup. Musharraf abused his power and neutered an essential element in a democratic country, the Supreme Court. Bush is abusing his power and has effectively nullified the balance of powers so dearly inscribed in our Constitution. However, there is a significant difference. Pakistan’s Parliament was actively moving toward an impeachment while the Congress of the United States has allowed and sanctioned impeachment investigations to be “off the table.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in declaring “impeachment is off the table,” has amended the Constitution of the United States. She has stated that an essential ingredient in the document that makes us a nation governed by the rule of law — impeachment is mentioned six times in the Constitution — is no longer operative. Imagine the outcry had Ms. Pelosi held that the First and Fourth Amendments are “off the table” — no longer operative. Oh, I just remembered, President Bush with the complicity of the Congress has already done that with the USA Patriot Act (twice) and the recent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill.
Where is the outrage? Where does our Maine delegation in Congress stand on the issue of impeaching members of a criminal administration? What position have they taken on holding the Bush administration accountable?
Our two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, have been silent with regard to holding the Republican administration accountable. Rep. Mike Michaud wrote a letter last December to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee urging the commencement of impeachment hearings. Rep. Tom Allen, despite acknowledging that he believes “impeachable offenses” have occurred, has steadfastly refused to either co-sponsor any of the impeachment resolutions presented in the Congress or file his own resolution.
The rapidity with which the potential of an impeachment resolution led to the resignation of Musharraf — parallel to what happened when President Nixon was confronting possible impeachment — belies the excuses offered by Rep. Allen and others that there is not enough time and there is more important work for the Congress to accomplish.
Holding our officials accountable for the abuse of power, for the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors — and possibly treason — is the most important work facing this Congress and our nation. To do otherwise is to invite the continuation of a fascist government in future administrations.
Where is your outrage?
Herbert Hoffman of Ogunquit is an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate.