Monday, February 18, 2008

Gandhi Peace Brigade/ Leslie Meets with Congressman Conyers on Impeachment

Dear Friends, Impeachment Fasters and Supporters

I met with Congressman Conyers for over an hour on the 12th day of my fast, after many postponements. He asked me about my father, Ed Blankenheim, and I pulled out my copy of Freedom Riders, 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. I showed him the picture of my dad bent over chocking after the Freedom Riders' bus was set on fire. "This could have easily killed everybody on the bus." he said. He paged through the book and continued to talk. "Look at this bus after they got through with it. Boy oh boy, so much violence ... and law enforcement was involved in so much of it ..."

"And they are now." I replied. "I've attended both of the Mukasey hearings. Apparently he believes the president is above the law. It seems he will do nothing to hold him or the members of this administration accountable. That's the reason I've come to speak with you today, why I'm fasting ... to plead with you to begin impeachment hearings."

I read him an excerpt from the book describing why my father joined the Freedom Riders: "Farmer had asked "to keep an eye out for potential Freedom Riders" and [Dave McReynolds] felt he had found a good prospect in Arizona. Blankenheim had seen enough of the South ... to be wary of directly challenging the region's racial shibboleths, and he knew full well that he "was being invited on a trip into the Deep South as part of a mixed-race bomb." After a little prodding from Farmer, though, he could not resist joining the Ride." "I was no less concerned about the danger of my commitment," my father later explained, "but all that I had seen in the South and all that I had learned from Dave stared me down. I had come too far and I couldn't turn back."

"This is how I feel ... we've come too far and I can't turn back. There are now 42 people who have joined the fast. We're desperate to hold this criminal administration accountable. We respect you, we honor you, and we're asking that you PLEASE start the impeachment hearings against Dick Cheney.

"Have you heard about the contempt of Congress charges we've issued to Miers and Bolton?" he replied. "If they don't comply, we'll challenge them in court. We're not depending on him (Mukasey) to comply. He'll do what Gonzalez did and not enforce it. We think this is a historic step forward."

"But if you held impeachment hearings executive privilege wouldn't apply. You could subpoena Cheney himself." I talked about the Watergate hearings and Vice President Agnew's decision to step down before he had to face an investigation and John Dean's crucial testimony which led to Nixon's resignation. Neither would have happened if there hadn't been open hearings. The Congressman reminded me he introduced the first impeachment resolution for Nixon. "And you could do that now. Bush and Cheney are far worse than Nixon ever was. Tell me what I need to do to reach you." I asked. He replied, "I think you've reached me."

I read him a statement from a dear friend, Gael Murphy: "We come to you with a heavy heart, overflowing with the sadness of the American people, and the state of our beloved country. The government's inability to deliver justice to its people, creating so much mistrust that it is destroying our inner fiber. It is time for a cleansing of all of the crimes, known and unknown. The war, the torture and the lies committed in our name and their consequences cannot be ignored or they will be repeated. When South Africa began to create its democracy it chose a path of truth and reconciliation to resolve conflicts left from the past. We desperately need such a process in this country to be able to move forward and to accomplish that which you devoted your entire career to achieve. Good policy is good politics. The Congress has a sworn duty to impeach if crimes are committed. The Constitution says Congress SHALL impeach. It is not a choice. Bringing Justice to the American people is the only successful road forward."

"Truth and reconciliation is what our country wants. The American people and the world need to see us hold these criminals accountable for all the suffering, the war, the shredding of our Constitution. Sir ... Bush and Cheney continue to threaten Iran, even after the N.I.E. came out with a report stating they have no active nuclear weapons program. They're just looking for an excuse. I'm so afraid Bush will attack Iran before he leaves office" ... and I started to cry. I showed him some of the beautiful photographs Jes and I had taken during our trip to Iran last May and I told him stories of the wonderful people we met there. He was silent.

His staff reminded him he had an appointment, so Congressman Conyers ended our talk by saying, "I see many people across the country and I have many friends who want me to take this action [of impeachment]. I think about it every day. It's a decision I've taken lots of advice on, but I have to decide. I'm deeply moved, but the decision I make I will have to live with and I will soon have to answer to my friends. They will either agree or disagree with what I do."

He signed my copy of his book Constitution in Crisis (see slide show photos below), we shook hands and then I hugged him. He told me, "I'm sympathetic to the issue you raise and feel your deep passion and belief."

I believe Congressman Conyers was touched by my plea, but he's not yet willing to start impeachment hearings. I will continue the fast.

Peace and Freedom,

Leslie and Jes

Leslie meets with Congressman Conyers ... a short flickr slide show:

The Folly of Attacking Iran: Lessons from History
Almost 60,000 people have viewed this YouTube on Iran:

Jes & Leslie ... A Journey for Peace and Freedom:

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