by Gregg Easterbrook
AN ALTERNATIVE HISTORY:
washington, april 9, 2004.
A hush fell over the city as George W. Bush today became the first president of the United States ever to be removed from office by impeachment. Meeting late into the night, the Senate unanimously voted to convict Bush following a trial on his bill of impeachment from the House.
Moments after being sworn in as the 44th president, Dick Cheney said that disgraced former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice would be turned over to the Hague for trial in the International Court of Justice as a war criminal. Cheney said Washington would “firmly resist” international demands that Bush be extradited for prosecution as well.
On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. Thousands of U.S. special forces units parachuted into this neutral country, while air strikes targeted the Afghan government and its supporting military. Pentagon units seized abandoned Soviet air bases throughout Afghanistan, while establishing support bases in nearby nations such as Uzbekistan. Simultaneously, FBI agents throughout the United States staged raids in which dozens of men accused of terrorism were taken prisoner.
Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had “brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks.” British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of “an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law.” White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of “a disgusting exercise in over-kill.”
When dozens of U.S. soldiers were slain in gun battles with fighters in the Afghan mountains, public opinion polls showed the nation overwhelmingly opposed to Bush’s action. Political leaders of both parties called on Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan immediately. “We are supposed to believe that attacking people in caves in some place called Tora Bora is worth the life of even one single U.S. soldier?” former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey asked.
When an off-target U.S. bomb killed scores of Afghan civilians who had taken refuge in a mosque, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar announced a global boycott of American products. The United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn the United States, and Washington was forced into the humiliating position of vetoing a Security Council resolution declaring America guilty of “criminal acts of aggression.”
Bush justified his attack on Afghanistan, and the detention of 19 men of Arab descent who had entered the country legally, on grounds of intelligence reports suggesting an imminent, devastating attack on the United States. But no such attack ever occurred, leading to widespread ridicule of Bush’s claims. Speaking before a special commission created by Congress to investigate Bush’s anti-terrorism actions, former national security adviser Rice shocked and horrified listeners when she admitted, “We had no actionable warnings of any specific threat, just good reason to believe something really bad was about to happen.”
The president fired Rice immediately after her admission, but this did little to quell public anger regarding the war in Afghanistan. When it was revealed that U.S. special forces were also carrying out attacks against suspected terrorist bases in Indonesia and Pakistan, fury against the United States became universal, with even Israel condemning American action as “totally unjustified.”
Speaking briefly to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before a helicopter carried him out of Washington as the first-ever president removed by impeachment, Bush seemed bitter. “I was given bad advice,” he insisted. “My advisers told me that unless we took decisive action, thousands of innocent Americans might die. Obviously I should not have listened.”
Announcing his candidacy for the 2004 Republican presidential nomination, Senator John McCain said today that “George W. Bush was very foolish and naive; he didn’t realize he was being pushed into this needless conflict by oil interests that wanted to seize Afghanistan to run a pipeline across it.” McCain spoke at a campaign rally at the World Trade Center in New York City.