Wednesday, January 30, 2008

FIFTH ADDRESS TO FORT WORTH CITY COUNCIL: Regarding A Resolution To Impeach, January 29, 2008

This was a morning meeting. Ten a.m. My pal, Ben, was there, and Nell, a retired nurse. The place was packed when I first got there, hardly an open seat in the house. They were there to usher out the retiring City Manager and welcome in the new one. By the time the Citizen Presentations rolled around, the hall had pretty well cleared out.

Up to this point, the Mayor had seemed pretty jolly, perhaps because the agenda, as usual, was filled with numerous applications for gas drilling throughout the city. I get the feeling the Mayor really loves gas drilling. As he called my name, the blood seemed to drain from his face, replaced with the old sour expression I've come to know and love, a look that suggests a case of severe indigestion from eating too much red meat. Again, he gave me his little "pep" talk, almost the exact same one he handed me the last time I spoke, vis, "You've been here several times, now. I'm not sensing any enthusiasm on this council to do what you're asking. I can't keep you from speaking, but I ask you to keep your remarks brief." I gave him a polite reply. Then I spoke:

Mayor, Council members, last time I was here, you told me you had no interest in passing a resolution to impeach the President and Vice President of the United States. No interest.

As you pointed out, I've come in several times to speak to this issue. Today marks my fifth. Each time I've tried to present the facts as clearly as I could. I've not exaggerated anything. There was no need--it seemed clear to me that the facts would speak for themselves.

We have a president and vice-president who have committed egregious blunders and breaches of the law. That's a fact. They have lied to Congress, the U.N., and the American people, in order to launch a vicious attack against a sovereign country, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Those are facts.

Through a long list of abuses of human rights, they have soiled the high regard others held for us, and shamed our country before the world.

I have shown how this unnecessary war has caused a drain on the coffers of every city, including this one. And how the skewed priorities of this administration threatens the very infrastructure of our nation.

I don't believe this is an unreasonable request.

A simple resolution calling for impeachment is not impeachment itself. It is simply a principled stand. It is a voice from one city. . .saying that we don't like it when presidents lie to us. We don't think it's right or moral to attack countries that have not attacked us, and never planned to.

We don't want a government that spies on our citizens. Or one that runs Soviet style gulags where people are put away for years without the most basic right to a lawyer and a fair trial. And we don't believe in torturing people.

But the Mayor insists you have no interest in pursuing this resolution. Can that be true?

According to Plato, reason and justice cannot be a matter of personal conduct alone; they must become attributes of society at large. So we all have an interest in this, do we not?

The city cannot wrap itself in a protective cocoon that insulates it from the affairs of the nation. The crimes our national leaders commit, they do so in our name.

So long as we are silent, so long as we remain "disinterested," I believe they will take our silence and our disinterest for acquiescence and complicity. And they will commit more and greater offenses.

This is not about Republicans and Democrats. Surely, you can't think that you owe these men your allegiance. The only allegiance, the only love you owe, is to the Constitution (here, I held up a copy of it, showing it to them), which you have sworn to defend.

Yet, you say you're not interested.

Dante said, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."

That last bit was suggested by Ben. But before I could unload it on them, the timer beep sounded and the Mayor abruptly cut me off--the first time he's done so, though I've gone over the time limit very slightly in previous talks. I guess he's trying to tell me something.

Well, I'll try to get Dante's quote into the next speech.

Before I left the podium, I held up my dog-eared copy of the Constitution again and said, "I'll just leave this with you. Maybe you can read it if you find the time."

Then I handed it to the City Secretary.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The council met this morning and I was there. This time, one of the news outlets was on hand with a camera setup, so maybe I got myself on TV. I had a feeling before I went up there that the Mayor was going to say something to me. I had no idea what it was going to be, but I felt it coming. I think it's because he kept looking over at me now and then as the meeting progressed. The idea that he was going to say something gave me the jitters, so I tried not to think about it too much.

One thing that was kind of hard to watch during the meeting was the number of park lands that went up before the City Council that the gas companies want to drill under and get out the gas. One after another went before them. No objections. All passed speedily, routinely, with hardly a comment from anyone. And that's a regular part of every meeting, now--every week.

Well, sure enough, after he called my name and as I was on my way up there, he said, "Mr. Harper, this makes several appearances you've made here regarding impeachment." Here he paused and glanced around at his cohorts. "I'm not sensing any interest on the council to impeach the President. I can't prevent you from speaking, but I would ask you to keep your remarks brief."

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say, "Maybe I can change your mind." Instead, I just smiled and said, "I appreciate that." To which he said, "Thank you." Then I gave my spiel.

I will say that, for some reason--perhaps because the Mayor finally spoke to me and I answered civilly, that maybe a little ice was broken. But I did notice that all the members seemed to pay closer and more polite attention to me this time than previously, even including those who had been the most rude before. Maybe they were thinking, "Well, let's give the guy a nice listen, here, 'cause he's not coming back after what the Mayor told him."

Who knows what's in their minds, other than poking more holes in the Barnett Shale? Anyhow, I look upon the Mayor's attempt to discourage me not as discouragement, but as progress, and thus, it seems imperative that I appear before them at the next meeting.

I did manage to come in under the three minute timer, so at the end, I looked up and added, "You have all sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. It seems to me that that should come before paving roads or drilling gas wells." After which, they just looked at me. I thanked them and sat down.

Here's the speech:

Mayor, Council members, I come before you for the fourth time to ask you to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

This past Friday, January 11th, marked the sixth anniversary of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where over 800 men and boys have been held without charge or access to any judicial review.

On Friday and Saturday, thousands of people around the world turned out to protest Guantanamo, including the Philippines, Sweden, Paraguay, Bahrain, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Israel.

The Bush Administration claims these detainees are "enemy combatants." In fact, many were not picked up on or near any battlefield. Only ten percent have been charged with a crime. None have been convicted in a court of law. According to military records, the U.S. has not even accused the majority of them of fighting U.S. Forces or its allies.

The Bush Administration insists the prisoners are treated humanely. He continues to claim that we do not torture.

But according to former interrogators and FBI reports, prisoners at Guantanamo and other places have been subjected to horrible abuses that amount to cruel and inhuman treatment and torture.

The Bush Administration has claimed that summary hearings before three military officers are a sufficient substitute for courts of law.

But such hearings have relied on secret classified evidence, and in many cases, the accused was never told what he was accused of that would make him "an enemy combatant." They've been denied lawyers, they've not been allowed to produce witnesses or evidence apart from their own statements. And the government claims the right to rely on confessions obtained through torture.

So these "trials" are like something out of Kafka or the Third Reich. They contradict every principle the U.S. has held since its founding.

Most Americans are not aware of the enormous international outrage virtually every country in the world feels for this place. It has been condemned by every human rights group, including Amnesty International, the Center For Constitutional Rights, and the International Red Cross.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the prison camp as a shameful blight on U.S. respect for human rights. Britain's third most senior judge called it a "monstrous failure of justice."

And Guantanamo is just one of numerous such detention sites and CIA black sites scattered around the world--whose existence we should all join in condemning. Such places are--or ought to be--an affront to every real patriot in this country.

Again. . .again. . .I ask you to pass a resolution to impeach those who, in your name and mine, tell lies in order to launch illegal wars, and cause the creation of places like Guantanamo.

Thank you.

Sources: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Center For Constitutional Rights, and Democracy Now!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


This was my third approach to the city council of Fort Worth urging them to pass a resolution to impeach the President and Vice-president for various crimes, including torture, launching an illegal war, spying on Americans without warrants, and so on. I'm well aware that this is an exercise akin to staring down the well of futility, but I suppose I will continue this little project for awhile. In fact, that's how I'm starting to look at it, as a sort of "art project."

Art is something you do in hopes that perhaps you will move people in some positive way. But you're also aware that you may move them to anger or they may simply ignore your work. Or they may mock you, they might say you're not even worthy of being called an artist. They may even come out with something completely unexpected. But you go on and do the work, anyway; you do the painting, the sculpture or whatever it is and you put it out there without having too many expectations.

And so far, it would seem my little project is inspiring mostly anger and a degree of hostility, which seems to be increasing with each time I go back. And I can say that already after having gone before the City Council only three times. So it will be interesting to see what it will be like by, say, the fifth or sixth time, let alone the twentieth, that is, if I have the stamina to keep it up that long. I make no promises at this point.

Suffice to say that the expression on the Mayor's face last night was particularly sour. When I ran over a bit, which I always do (but never more than thirty or forty seconds), he urged me to "wrap it up," but sounded more cranky than usual. One of the council members ran her mouth almost the entire time with the person next to her. Finally, I paused and just looked at her, at which point she assumed a mock expression like a high school kid who'd just been chastised by her teacher. It's not the first time she's done it. If it happens again, I may say something to her.

So, here's the third installment of. . ."My Impeachment Project."

Mr. Mayor, Council Members, I come before you for the third time to ask you to consider a resolution to impeach the President and Vice-President of the United States.

There is no doubt the President's unnecessary and illegal war has brought real harm to our states and cities. It has harmed the people of Fort Worth.

To date, our city's share in this war amounts to around 890-million dollars. That's how much money has left this community from the pockets of our taxpayers since the war began in 2003.

And this is from a town whose household income already falls below the national average, whose poverty rate is 5% higher than the national average.

22% of Fort Worth households have a member not covered by health insurance. Twenty-two percent.

With that 890-million dollars, the city of Fort Worth could have provided health care for all those people, and then some.

How many people in our community are struggling to put someone through college? 890-million dollars could have provided 127-thousand scholarships for university students.

The number of homeless veterans is on the increase--due to the Bush Administration's extension of tours of duty that force our soldiers to return again and again to the killing ground far beyond what anyone should be required to do. It's little wonder that many are returning home with their mental faculties seriously impaired, unable to work or even cope.

But the largest percentage of homeless locally and nationally is no longer homeless men, but entire families. That includes people who work, by the way, but whose take-home pay won't take them home.

For the 890-million dollars that left our community and went into this war, we could have built over 10,000 affordable housing units.

Catholic Charities reports a 139% increase in the number of people served right here in this community over the last six years.

This is the story of just one city among thousands across this country--harmed by this war, by federal spending priorities that favor militarism over the needs of human beings.

Our president and vice-president have lied and they have committed crimes. When our leaders subvert the law to their own ends, it threatens our democracy. It undermines the glue that holds us together, not just on the national level, but in every city and town.

A statement issued by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Worth says this:
"Our nation was established as a 'commonwealth.' The very word suggests a form of government that was not an authoritarian state serving the interests of a few, but rather a form of government that serves the common good, the common well being. This means that, along with the privilege of participating in our democracy, we have shared responsibility to contribute to the common good."

To that I would just add that as members of this commonwealth, it is the business of all of us to see that no one who rules over us is above the law. As citizens of a commonwealth who care about our city, our nation and our democracy, I don't see how we have any other choice.

Thank you for hearing me.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...