March 1, 2008
AN OPEN APPEAL AND INVITATION TO A PUBLIC DISCUSSION:
What the Brattleboro “Indictment Resolution” is Really About
Dear Brattleboro Residents,
At first glimmer, the article
(the “Indictment Resolution”) that will
appear the ballot on this Tuesday — the
article which, as you know, has been eliciting many different reactions from townspeople — was a largely symbolic gesture, something conceived of as a “container” for the moral outrage that Americans justifiably felt. It was born simply out of the devastating
realization that our Constitution and entire system of government were
— and still are — under assault, and that such extraordinary circumstances sometimes call for extraordinary measures. But we soon learned that the initiative also had real legal teeth...please read on!
Another initial hope for the resolution was that it would stimulate meaningful dialogue about crimes and war crimes…and it has. It has aroused significant national attention, inspiring statesmen and attorneys from around the nation to begin to frame legal arguments to
support it, and to forge the language and implement the procedures appropriate to the situation. Constitutional lawyers have assured us
that, under a legal provision known as “Common Law Application,” municipalities have indisputable legal standing to apply laws against any alleged criminal who violates Federal law — which encompasses violating treaties, being party to war crimes, or engaging in any other criminal activities. We have also been assured that the language in the resolution is well suited for implementing this provision.
In short, we have the legal justification to call for a legal remedy, because the government cannot nullify the rights invested in its citizens to invoke Federal or international criminal law. Put another way, any town has the right to pass laws to address war crimes, or any other Federal crimes, and to indict the people alleged to have committed them.
Now as most Americans know, the Constitutional method for addressing
criminality at the very highest levels of government is impeachment — a remedy used in the past to investigate far less egregious offenses. However, this Congress, unfortunately and incomprehensibly, has thus far refused to make use of it to protect the Constitution today.
This ballot referendum is not meant to supersede impeachment efforts.
Rather, it’s designed to parallel them or to provide an effective and legal alternative in the event that Congress continues to abrogate its responsibilities.
Impeachment is certainly the proper course to take, but impeachment
efforts have a finite shelf-life — they are limited to the time that the offenders occupy their high offices. In contrast, an indictment for criminal activity has no such time constraints. So if an impeachment hearing, inexcusably, never comes to fruition, this demand for indictment can live on in its stead, serving the same intent, and becoming the ultimate resort.
This resolution is simply a significant attempt to step into a breach and develop specific ways of dealing with a crisis.
The crimes which Cheney and Bush have committed — crimes for which, again, Congress will not hold them accountable — are many.
• They have admitted to authorizing illegal wiretaps.
• They have violated international law by illegally invading another country (based on 935 instances of false statements to the American public and a sham at the United Nations).
• They have committed War Crimes by illegally sanctioning torture.
• And they continue to disregard laws Congress has duly passed, arbitrarily and imperially deciding what is to be executed and what is to be ignored, blatantly placing themselves above the law.
The complete list of scandals, cover-ups, and obstructions of justice by this Administration is appallingly long. And if its criminal acts are not addressed and repudiated, our systems of law and of checks and balances will be severely compromised, and the Executive branch can become increasingly and even more dangerously unitary. Historically, an unfettered Executive which disobeys laws or makes its own laws as it sees fit has been known as a dictatorship. This is not supposed to be part of the American system, yet we might be getting perilously close to it.
Finally, then, this resolution was put forth to make it clear that in the United States of America, no citizen is above the law: accountability is required of everyone, of every stripe and jurisdiction. Over two centuries ago, our nations’ founders decided that in the face of grievous actions from another imperial regime, they had to take action upon themselves. The authors and supporters of this resolution feel
that there is no choice but to follow in their footsteps.
At the moment:
Brattleboro is the first municipality to address these concerns in this manner, but this bold step has galvanized the imaginations and consciences of citizens across this nation, ordinary people who are realizing that important new avenues for redressing the current crises are still available. They know — as we do — that acting in full accordance with our Constitution and standing up unequivocally for our
system of justice is neither just a local concern nor in any way a partisan issue.
Support for this initiative has come from throughout the social-political spectrum, from conservatives and liberals alike, and from all parts of the country. In the face of this administration’s acting outside of the law, of making itself impervious to the strictures of their sworn oaths of office, many reasonable people now see such a measure as essential to the restoration of the integrity of our
Constitution, to the validation of the principal that no person is above the rule of law, and to the redemption of our reputation, both at home and abroad.
In fact, a USAToday national poll indicated that 65% of respondents were in favor of this indictment initiative. Thousands of emails and
comments have been streaming into Brattleboro, most of them praising our town and its citizens in the loftiest of terms for taking the courageous steps of bringing this resolution forward and bringing its terms to national awareness. It is already being modeled in other communities. Brattleboro can be proud of its role in the national debate.
We hope that many Brattleboro citizens will join us on Sunday afternoon, from 3-5, at the River Garden, to continue to learn more about this resolution, to truly get the facts, and to participate in a thoughtful discussion of this initiative’s merits. On hand will be
local and national impeachment experts, including the widely esteemed David Swanson of After Downing Street. Additionally, Cindy Sheehan, among others, will be supporting it from afar.
And on Tuesday, we hope that a majority of residents will vote to
support it right here at home.
Note: The Indictment Article is on the back side of the Brattleboro ballot. Please look for it!