August 15, 2007
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Madam Speaker,
I write to you out of sincere concern for our country. Describing the U.S. Government’s violation of the fundamental trust of the people, Hannah Arendt wrote in Crises of the Republic that
Examples of such failures have become only too numerous; there is the case of an “illegal and immoral war,” the case of an increasingly impatient claim to power by the executive branch of government, the case of chronic deception, coupled with deliberate attacks on the freedoms guaranteed under the First Amendment, whose chief political function has always been to make chronic deception impossible; and there has been, last but not least, the case of violations (in the form of war-oriented or other government-directed research) of the specific trust of the universities that gave them protection against political interference and social pressure.[i]
Although Arendt was describing the Johnson and Nixon Administrations during the Vietnam era, it reads like an indictment of the current Bush Administration. The putative “War on Terror” has precipitated a moral and political crisis representing the greatest threat to democracy and the rule of law in our Republic since the Civil War. The deception and secrecy with which the Bush Administration has cloaked the Iraq debacle; the misnamed “Patriot Act;” the policy of torture; the undermining of international law and institutions; spying on U.S. citizens and detaining them without due process; this litany of abuses of power, unparalleled in our history, has eroded the fragile legacy of liberty and justice that we treasure.
When faced with the Constitutional crisis that Arendt recounts, the Congress responded courageously to check the Executive Branch’s abuses of power. Funding for the Vietnam War was revoked. Impeachment proceedings forced President Nixon to resign. “Sunshine laws” were passed restoring transparency and accountability in government, steps were taken to reign in the F.B.I and intelligence services, the War Powers Act reinforced the Constitutional responsibility of Congress to declare war, the independence of the Judicial Branch was preserved, and Congress aggressively fulfilled its responsibility to provide oversight of the Executive Branch.
I urge you to exercise leadership in the 110th Congress in responding to our current, and even more serious, Constitutional crisis. Congress must reassert itself as a fully equal branch of government by renewing the practice of oversight hearings and of investigating wrongdoing. In fact, I believe that it is past time for impeachment proceedings against President Bush, who has violated U.S. law with impunity and waged an unjust and immoral war in Iraq. How else can he be held accountable?
In addition, Congress must act to end the fiction of the “War on Terror” and the open-ended opportunity for Presidential abuse of the role of Commander-in-Chief that it presents. Discontinuing funding for the war in Iraq would be an important first step, as well as making it clear that terrorists are criminals, not enemy combatants, and should be treated as such. Iraq was never an imminent threat to the United States and had no ties to the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. These facts have been a matter of public record for years, in spite of the mendacious lies that continue to be invoked in justification of our invasion of this sovereign nation.
The American people made it clear in the 2006 mid-term elections that it is time for a change, time for this Congress to redress the grievances of this imperial Presidency and a heretofore compliant Legislative Branch. It seems to me that the only alternative would be a mass movement of civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience arises when a significant number of citizens have become convinced either that the normal channels of change no longer function, and grievances will not be heard or acted upon, or that, on the contrary, the government is about to change and has embarked upon and persists in modes of action whose legality and constitutionality are open to grave doubt.[ii]
We find ourselves in a situation were both of these conditions are present: a sense of political futility on the part of many and a fear for the Constitutional foundations of our Republic. I earnestly hope that the 110th Congress will find the courage to address this crisis before such an alternative becomes necessary.
The Rev. John Kirkley
[i] Hannah Arendt, “Civil Disobedience” in Crises of the Republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc., 1972), p. 93.
[ii] Crises of the Republic, op. cit., p. 74.