August 16, 2007 - Issue 242
Accountability, John Conyers and the Impeachment Controversy
Impeachment Strategy Debate Part 3
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BC Editorial Board
So, what do we make of the controversy surrounding the actions taken at the office of Congressman Conyers when protesters demonstrated against his alleged failure to move impeachment proceedings against President Bush? Did it make sense strategically? Was Conyers the right target? Where did race come into this, if anywhere?
The actions taken by Cindy Sheehan and the Rev. Lennox Yearwood aimed to bring attention to the matter of accountability. In that sense, they were morally correct. They protested the failure of the Democratic leadership to hold this lawless administration accountable, with the threat of impeachment being the preferred method of addressing accountability. There is little question but that most of the world views the Bush administration as composed of criminals, and it is equally clear that as a result, both the US government and the people of the USA are viewed with a jaundiced eye by much of the globe, because the people of the USA permitted the re-election of the Bush group.
That being said, does impeachment make sense strategically? This is where I have differences with my friend, the Rev. Yearwood and others. Yes, emotionally, I would love to see the Bush/Cheney team ousted through impeachment proceedings, but I continue to feel that more immediately, we must focus our attention on strengthening the movement against the Iraq war/occupation, as well as building mass and activist sentiment in favor of major structural reforms, such as single-payer healthcare. To that extent I think the impeachment movement is a well-intentioned diversion.
Let us be clear that the votes are not there to remove the Bush/’Cheney team from office. While there is a strong argument that impeachment hearings would help to bring the criminality of the current administration to light, that would not necessarily - or likely - result in its removal from office. As much as the public may say, and mean, that they wish the Bush/Cheney team out, they would still probably look at impeachment as a useless exercise.
Second point: we need to concentrate on ending the war/occupation of Iraq. This means that there must be escalating pressure on the Administration, particularly in the face of threats of repression, as represented by the peculiar and ominous executive order, signed in July, that claims to be designed to take actions against those who obstruct the ability of the Iraqi provisional/puppet government from operating. This executive order must be studied. In that light, the momentum building toward the September 21st Iraqi Moratorium is critical and must be supported. The question for the pro-impeachment forces is whether the impeachment movement helps or hinders our concrete efforts to end the war.
Separate and apart from this is the question of Congressman Conyers. Some pro-impeachment forces (not including Rev. Yearwood) have engaged in vitriolic assaults on the Congressman because of his reluctance to move the impeachment issue. The first question that must be asked is whether Congressman Conyers should be generally considered an ally. The answer, in my humble opinion, is of course he is an ally. Whether it is on the question of reparations or national healthcare, Congressman Conyers stands where few politicians have the courage to crawl. Does this mean that he should have unconditional support? No, but it does mean that he should be treated as an ally rather than as an enemy.
It is this question of handling differences with allies that has become a flashpoint in the impeachment controversy. I am not convinced that a sit-in in the offices of the Congressman made sense even from the standpoint of the pro-impeachment forces. The reality is that other congressional representatives actually need to be won to this strategic direction.
More importantly, is Congressman Conyers’ refusal to move forward on impeachment some sort of betrayal? It is here that we must stop for a minute and consider this word “betrayal” very carefully. One can disagree with an ally, but betrayal and personal attacks convey something very different. They suggest that someone has gone over to the ‘dark side of the force,’ rather than that a serious disagreement has emerged among otherwise allies. As someone who has differed with some long-time allies on the question of Zimbabwe, for instance, I would suggest that it is important to step back from ad hominem attacks when there is much larger agreement. Sometimes such attacks can result in divisions that can NEVER be healed.
Additionally, many white liberals and progressives do not have a sufficient sense of how attacks on Black elected leaders are taken when those attacks come from outside of Black America (a point that Rev. Yearwood clearly addresses in his recent commentary published in the Black Commentator, August 9, 2007). Black America often goes overboard in supporting leaders who should never be supported in part because of our continuous experience that we, as a people, are under siege and our leaders are regularly under attack. Thus, attacks on individuals such as Congressman Conyers, who have a proven track record of generally being on the correct side of struggle raises the hair on the back of our necks and is, at best, counterproductive.
For these and other reasons, I believe that a strategic and tactical error was committed in the recent actions against Congressman Conyers. First, the impeachment issue, as morally justified as it is, does not make strategic sense at this moment. Second, IF one is going to engage in the impeachment struggle, then one must be careful to distinguish friends from enemies and in this sense, the attacks on Congressman Conyers sent out the wrong signals.
I am re-reading a great book about an outstanding Shawnee leader from the early 19th century named Tecumseh. Central to Tecumseh’s mission in life was the unification of the various Indian nations against the encroachment by the USA. At each moment, however, internal squabbles among the tribes got in the way of a common front, and anger, that in many cases spanned generations, came between strategic unity against a common threat and the increasingly evident possibility of extinction.
We must be careful. We may not get a second chance to reverse the course of this country, and that means being very careful in distinguishing strategic allies; allies of the moment; and enemies.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a labor and international writer and activist, and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.