Abayomi Azikiwe, Pan-African News Wire Editor, covering an anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 25, 2003 (BBC Photograph).
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File
By Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
Note: Black Commentator columnist Larry Pinkney reacts to this article and those who are attacking Rep. John Conyers in the article that follows.
On July 23, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern and I met with U.S. Rep. John Conyers about the issue of impeachment. We delivered a petition for impeachment with one million American signatures. While we met, 400 activists waited in the halls outside his office, along with a hoard of media, to learn what the outcome of the meeting would be. The meeting was a very significant moment for the progressive movement from a historical standpoint. The movement for impeachment and the immediate reactions as to why John Conyers was publicly targeted on this issue reflect how race continues to be, as my dear friend Bill Fletcher says, the tripwire for the progressive movement.
Rep. Conyers is a great mentor to me and my respect for him is unquestionable. He has been fighting for peace and justice and civil rights for decades inside and outside of Congress. He is a man for the people and for America. So, it was a truly disappointing moment on Monday, when we realized – as mentor and mentee – that we do not agree on his role as the Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary committee to uphold our constitution by holding our President and Vice President accountable for their impeachable offensives.
After concluding our meeting I stepped into the hallway with Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern to inform the crowd that he refused to put impeachment back on the table. We then returned to his office and sat down, refusing to leave until Capitol Police arrested us.
Since Monday, our action has been criticized on two fronts. First, by the tedious “maintain the Democratic party line no matter what” folks who think that we should wait Bush out until November 2008 and get back at him by voting in a Democrat for President. Second, by folks who have interpreted our targeting of Rep. Conyers, a deeply respected African-American leader in Congress, as an attack that is fundamentally racist by the White leftists of the anti-war movement.
To uncritical supporters of the Democratic Party, I say this is not a time for partisan politics. To use the American people’s frustration with Bush as political leverage in the 2008 elections, and to ignore the constitutional responsibility the legislative branch has to hold the executive branch accountable through the impeachment process, flies in the face of our democracy. People are dying in Iraq because of Bush’s lies; people are being tortured in Guantanamo because of Bush’s disregard for the Constitution and international law; and the American people are loosing faith in our democracy. But, Congress doesn’t get that, and that is why their current approval rating is lower than Bush’s.
To my African-American counterparts who take issue with the White progressive anti-war movement, I understand your criticism of our recent action in Mr. Conyers office, but I do not agree. It was extremely difficult to challenge a man who means so much to African-Americans, but impeaching Bush is critical to the future of our country. We cannot let the precedent stand that Bush has established, which severely oversteps the bounds of executive power. We cannot send the message that such actions will not go unpunished, or at least unchecked.
Impeachment begins in the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, which Rep. John Conyers chairs. He is in the position to begin the impeachment process or to keep it from happening, and no other human being is in that position. In addition, Rep. Conyers is the recognized authority on Capitol Hill both on impeachment and on the impeachable offenses of Vice President Cheney and President Bush. He and his staff literally wrote the book on them before the Democrats won the majority last November.
Moreover, the action on Monday was not a first resort – it was a last resort. There is no other recourse against Bush for the American people after impeachment, and if Rep. Conyers does not put forth impeachment then we have no recourse and the Democrats will have failed us.
This moment is not about race, it is not about John Conyers, and it is much bigger than the divides within our movements. This moment is about our future as a country, because humanity is at stake. The Bush administration’s hunger for war has caused so much instability in our world that we face a state of permanent wars.
The challenge we face as activists and leaders is how can we possibly bring an end to this madness when the Democrats in power are not with us? We need a broad-based movement that can hold our elected officials accountable and to create such a movement we need to address our internal divides. The reason many African-Americans have interpreted our action against Rep. Conyers as racial betrayal goes deep into the tradition of the progressive movement. How we can begin to address this is something I will discuss in an upcoming article.
In the meantime, for the sake of our country and our world, let us all work to impeach Bush and Cheney now.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. is the President of the Hip Hop Caucus. The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, nonprofit, non-partisan organization meant to inspire and motivate those of us born after the ‘60s civil rights movement.
John Conyers: What of Impeachment?
By Larry Pinkney
It had been my intention to write on a different topic, but after reading Race is the Tripwire for the Progressive Movement: John Conyers and Impeachment, by Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., I felt compelled to write the following:
There has been a bit of a buzz emanating for some time from certain quarters about impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Recently with this buzz has come a virulent attack by certain white so-called progressives and leftists upon US Representative John Conyers who is a member of the Democratic Party and Chair of the Judiciary Committee in the US House of Representatives.
So what of impeachment?
In reading the above mentioned piece, I noted with interest its specific reference to what it termed as "the White progressive anti-war movement." Therein lies a part of the problem, for indeed it is fundamentally a "White" movement, with all the privileged assumptions of there being a supposed American democracy [reference Black Commentator - American Democracy: Legacy of Hypocrisy & Deceit - March 15, 2007 - Issue 221].
This is not a people's movement and definitions do very much matter. At the outset it becomes obvious as to why this "White progressive anti-war movement" apparently felt no compunction in publicly attacking John Conyers. It is, after all, by definition a "White" "anti-war movement."
However, first and foremost, what is needed in the US is a Pro Peace With Justice movement, not a "White progressive anti-war movement" that is, by definition, fundamentally flawed and privileged. I repeat: Definitions do matter. [reference BlackCommentator - Definitions Do Matter-Anti-War... - June 28, 2007 - Issue 235].
It should be clearly understood that no politician, Democrat or Republican, can, if the overwhelming majority of the masses actively demand it, put the issue of impeachment off or on the table. With dogged commitment, education, and organization, the masses of Americans could bring the offices, institutions, and concomitant machinery of this nation to a screeching halt if they so chose and in so doing, irrevocably demonstrate the power of the people. No politician or group of politicians can do this. The people can do this if they so choose.
For a certainty, there can be no question that Bush, Cheney, and their arrogant and bloody ilk (including certain alleged people of color) have committed (and are no doubt continuing to commit) impeachable offenses. However, the public targeting of John Conyers by some in the US white left is undeniably racist, totally unacceptable, and in the final analysis it is self defeating and divisive.
For certain, Bush and Cheney are a despicable and repugnant plague upon this nation and humanity as a whole, and clearly need to be removed. However, this removal needs to be accomplished by recognizing and acting upon the fact that Bush and Cheney are part and parcel of a racist, capitalist system, built upon white privilege.
Ignoring this reality is, in fact, facilitating the continuation of this system and serves to bring about new political bosses who are essentially the same as the old bosses in all but their rhetoric. Thus, for example, a 2008 Hillary Clinton / Barack Obama ticket would not only be disastrous, but would continue the same racist, capitalist systemic madness and hypocrisy, albeit under the hypocritical guise of different rhetoric.
Moreover, it would behoove certain privileged white folks such as David Swanson who are supposedly on the left to cease acting as if they have somehow come into possession of the political holy grail. They have not; their racist arrogance is divisive and unacceptable.
What needs to be impeached by the majority of the people is this entire filthy, hypocritical, bloody, racist, capitalist system. How is impeaching the Bush / Cheney ilk going to provide the immediate decent shelter, clothing, food, and education needed by the victims of Katrina in particular, and Black and other people of color throughout the US? How is impeachment going to provide the immediate viable health insurance and health care so desperately needed by many millions of Americans of both genders and all colors? How is impeachment going to dismantle and stop the US military / corporate killing machine ravaging this planet, and supported by most politicians of both the Democratic and Republican Parties? To reiterate: What needs to be impeached [i.e. dismantled] by the majority of the people is this entire filthy, hypocritical, bloody, racist, capitalist system.
Herein lies another important flaw that is not at all merely a matter of so-called "partisan politics." To the contrary, the Democratic and Republican Parties of this nation are simply two wings of the same Party. They fundamentally do not represent the vast majority of the people. Nor have they ever done so. "The Democrats" (and their Republican counterparts) have, by their very nature, already failed us, which is why brother Malcolm X correctly referred to the Democrats as "Dixiecrats," and to both so-called parties as being either a [hungry] "fox or a [hungry] wolf." Thus, attacking John Conyers and clamoring for impeachment might serve adequately to assuage the consciences of some in white America, but it does not seriously address the horrible ongoing systemic injustices and 21st century economic apartheid, experienced on a daily basis by Black, Red, and Brown peoples in this nation. Only real systemic change will do this.
With all due respect, the virulent and unjustified public attacks upon John Conyers do not in any way serve to weaken or neutralize "the precedent...that Bush has established, which severely oversteps the bounds of executive power." These nasty public attacks are, in addition to being racist and self defeating, quite indefensible. Once again, as my dear Chicano comrade and former Brown Beret, Eddie Perez would say regarding much of the US white left vis-a-vis people of color: "The left has left us out!"
Finally, the public attacks upon John Conyers have nothing whatever to do with "racial betrayal." To the contrary, those public attacks were naive, desperate, and tactically & strategically incorrect - it would have been much better to go after House members (particularly any on the Judiciary Committee) who agree with Pelosi that impeachment is "off the table". Nonetheless, whether impeachment of George W. Bush and / or Dick Cheney were to proceed or not is not at all the point. It is the system itself that must be changed, not merely the Democratic or Republican Party puppets / managers that represent it.
In the final analysis, the majority of Black, Red, Brown, and certain disenfranchised White peoples in America know that the most effective way to keep it real at this stage in history is to really change the system.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.