On Friday, June 4, 2004, United States Representative Adam Smith met a delegation of seven members of United for Peace of Pierce County at his offices in the Federal Building in downtown Tacoma to discuss UFPPC's call for investigations into a pattern of illegal conduct on the part of high officials of the Bush administration. For details see the report below, as well as the text of the letter the delegation left with Rep. Smith....
REPORT ON A MEETING WITH REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA, 9th DISTRICT)
By Mark Jensen
United for Peace of Pierce County
June 4, 2004
This afternoon Representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th District) received a delegation of seven members of United for Peace of Pierce County in his offices in the Federal Building in Tacoma, Washington: Doug Brewer, Bill Evans, M.J. Ewing, Mark Jensen, Burk Ketcham, Ted Nation, and Kristi Nebel.
UFPPC had requested the meeting at the prompting of the national coalition to which it belongs, United for Peace and Justice, which called on member groups to organize meetings with Congressional representatives. Kristi Nebel arranged and coordinated the meeting. Members handed him the letter reproduced below, which is based on UFPPC's "Statement on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses and a pattern of illegal conduct," adopted on May 13, 2004, calling for Congressional and judicial investigations into a pattern of illegal conduct for which high officials of the Bush administration appear to be responsible, as well as a copy of the statement itself.
Adam Smith said that he shared many of the values and concerns of UFPPC, including the right to dissent, but that at present there is no prospect of the sort of investigations we would like to see, since both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans. He said he did not believe there are enough moderate Republicans to overcome this partisan obstacle. "There are no moderate Republicans in Congress," he said, perhaps hyperbolically.
Rep. Smith characterized himself as "intensely practical," and so declined to promise that he would take additional steps to try to bring about the investigations into the violations of the U.S. Code, the U.S. Constitution, and international covenants and conventions to which the United States is a signatory to which the letter from the UFPPC delegation refers, despite the fact that the United States House of Representatives possesses, under Article I, Section II of the U.S. Constitution, "the sole power of impeachment" by which "the President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States" can be held to their constitutional duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" (hence the expression "the executive branch"). If he had the power alone, Rep. Smith allowed, things might be different.
The administration's claim that it has legal authority to hold persons as "enemy combatants" outside the scope of any judicial or legal oversight is a matter of special concern to him, said Rep. Smith, who said that he was interested in introducing legislation that would guarantee such individuals some rights. The UFPPC delegation pointed out that the Bush administration argues that the president's authority in this domain issues from his "plenary power" as "commander in chief" in wartime, so the administration would regard such legislation as unconstitutional -- an egregious twisting of the philosophy of which the U.S. Constitution is the expression that exemplifies the very pattern of illegal conduct that gave rise to our discussion.
A point of difference emerged in our discussion of the "war on terrorism." Rep. Smith endorses this war. UFPPC, however, argues that the concept of war is disastrously misplaced in the context of international terrorism, and that the "war" being waged is more likely to produce additional terrorists than to "win" the war. (See UFPPC's March 25 statement "On Iraq and the 'war on terrorism'" for a fuller exposition of these views.) Furthermore, since what is being fought is an amorphous ideology that inspires individuals and groups that make up loose amalgamations that are not true "organizations" with "members" that can be clearly identified, the "war on terrorism" is in fact a recipe for an endless war whose prosecution has the potential of changing unnecessarily the very nature of our own free and open society. Furthermore, members of the delegation argued that the concept of "war" implies that there is a military solution, which is not the case in the struggle against transnational terrorist groups.
Rep. Smith agreed that the war that is being waged is not really "against terrorism," but against a particular sort of terrorism, but this was as far he went toward addressing our concerns about the "war on terror." Acknowledging that he did not agree with UFPPC on all points, he said, nevertheless, that the defeat of George W. Bush in the November 2, 2004, presidential election would go far toward making progress on UFPPC's fundamental concerns: respect for human rights and support for international law through multilateral diplomacy. He said that this effort was the main focus of his current activity.
The UFPPC delegation expressed to Rep. Smith its appreciation for his willingness to meet and discuss our mutual concerns.
LETTER FROM A DELEGATION OF UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY TO UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SMITH OF WASHINGTON STATE, NINTH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
June 4, 2004
The Honorable Adam Smith
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Smith:
Thank you for receiving us today as a delegation from UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY, a group of Pierce County residents dedicated to opposing nonviolently our nation's reliance on unilateral military actions, and to supporting the exercise of cooperative diplomacy in the spirit of international law and in favor of human rights.
We meet on the eve of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, an occasion that makes more timely our desire to reaffirm ideals that were articulated as national policies in the aftermath of World War II in documents like the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions.
The honor, safety, and security of our nation require that the rule of law be upheld and that human rights be respected. We expect those acting in the name of the United States of America to respect human rights and to uphold the rule of law.
On May 13, UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY adopted a 2-page statement entitled "On the Abu Ghraib Prison Abuses and a Pattern of Illegal Conduct." Our wish to meet and talk with you springs from our desire to urge you, as a member of the United States House of Representatives representing residents of Pierce County, to do all you can to seek the investigations for which this statement calls.
We believe that Congress should investigate whether the present administration has deliberately violated the U.S. Code, the U.S. Constitution, and international covenants and conventions to which the United States is a signatory.
In particular, we believe that there is reason to believe that
- by devising a policy to ignore the Geneva Convention protections of Iraqis regarded by the U.S. military as potential sources of useful information,
- by holding prisoners at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere in undisclosed locations, as persons with no juridical status, such locations being outside the borders of the United States and the individuals being considered "enemy combatants," and
- by misusing provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and applying them in areas that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism,
high officials in the Bush administration may well be guilty of violations of the law.
We need not remind you that under the Constitution of the United States the president is charged to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" (U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section III), having taken a solemn oath to "faithfully execute the office" and, to the best of his ability, "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States" (Article II, Section I), or that the Constitution entrusts to the House of Representatives of which you are a member "the sole power of impeachment" (Article I, Section II), to which "the President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States" are subject (Article II, Section IV).
It is our request that you, as the Representative of many residents of Pierce County who share these views, do all in your power to ensure that thorough investigations by appropriate legislative and judicial bodies delve into these matters.
We attach the full May 13, 2004, statement adopted by UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY for your consideration.