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
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
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
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). <http://www.blackcommentator.com/241/241_cover_conyers_impeachment_discussion.html> 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
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.]