Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: The Impeachment Of Bush And Cheney: Jim Goodnow's Vision

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Impeachment Of Bush And Cheney: Jim Goodnow's Vision




Jim Goodnow's four decades of activism include coast-to-coast impeachment drives in the Nixon and Bush administrations - and a recent hassle in a Chicago suburb

By Sergio Barreto - 11/11/06; last updated 11/14/06

Jim Goodnow was born in Maryland a few days before World War II broke out. Some of his earlier memories are of driving around the Baltimore suburbs with his mother, who delivered telegrams for Western Union and would sometimes take him along.

The Department of War (now Department of Defense) didn't have enough personnel to deliver death notices during WWII, so his mother often ended up doing the grim deed by telegram.

"Little Jim saw his mother hand these envelopes to tall people in their porches, and he would hear shrieks and screams and watch people fall to their knees, fall to the ground," Goodnow said. "I learned very early the pain and anguish that war perpetrates upon humanity."

The family later moved to Florida, where Goodnow dropped out of high school to work on a commercial fishing boat. Goodnow had no desire to serve in the military, and not only because of his unsettling childhood memories; he was raised a Christian and never felt that taking up arms was compatible with his beliefs.

But the draft instituted during the Korea War was still in effect, and in 1959 Goodnow decided that if he had to serve he'd do it on his own terms. He went into the Coast Guard because he'd still be working at sea, and in that branch of the service "I felt that you train to save lives rather than taking lives."

After getting a medical discharge two years later, Goodnow returned to Maryland and to commercial fishing. He didn't have to worry about being shipped off to Vietnam, but he was opposed to the war and voted for Nixon in 1968 because of his vow to end the conflict.

"I didn't know at the time that his so-called plan to end the war involved things like Operation Rolling Thunder, the high-altitude carpet-bombing of Cambodia, breaking into [Pentagon Papers whistleblower] Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, and the enemies list," he said. "I felt like I'd been had."

As Goodnow's disenchantment with the Nixon administration grew, the seeds of pacifism planted in his young self blossomed into activism. In the summer of 1973 he formed the Committee to Impeach the President and began gathering signatures for a petition he intended to deliver to Congress.

Despite its imposing name, the Committee consisted of two people: Goodnow and his partner, Barbara Stevens. Running a small operation was a strategic decision. "It ensured us that we couldn't be infiltrated," he said. "The only other person I told about the committee before I started it was my mother, and she begged me not to pursue it."

By next spring the Committee had gathered thousands of signatures, but Goodnow wanted to extend his reach beyond the East Coast. He bought a 1954 Chevy bus, and after a prominent Baltimorean, William Boucher III, loaned him an ARCO credit card to help cover the cost of gas, he was ready to hit the road.

The bus was home to Goodnow, Stevens, and her three boys from a previous marriage during a yearlong coast-to-coast trip. The family slept at rests stops and spent their days gathering signatures and collecting donations to support their mission.

Eventually they dubbed their mobile residence the Magic Bus, after the hit single by The Who. "That song would come on the radio, and Barbara and the kids would start bopping up and down, singing, 'Too much, the Magic Bus," Goodnow said. "Because, you know, we spent long hours on the road, and sometimes it would get a little heavy and depressing."

After receiving some death threats, Goodnow came up with a protection plan. "We hung 'impeach Nixon' signage on the side of the bus with butterfly bolts. At night we'd undo the bolts, lower our colors, and sleep safely."

The bus reached California — Nixon's homebase — in July 1974. By August 8 they had made it to Malibu, and somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway Goodnow stopped at a Union 76 gas station to call a friend who lived in the area, playwright Jerome Lawrence.

"Jerry was so excited," he said. "He wanted us to come up to his house right away. When we got there, he informed us that word had it Nixon had resigned."

Goodnow had mixed feelings about the news. He was happy to see Nixon go, but at the same time he was "terribly disappointed that he didn't go through the full [impeachment] process.

Looking back, Goodnow feels even more certain that impeachment would have been a better outcome because it "might have had a deterrent effect for future occupants of the oval office. Bush doesn't have anything in history that serves as a deterrent in terms of what can happen when a president gets caught lying to the country."

By the time Goodnow called off his impeachment drive, the petition had more than 33,000 signatures. As he drove back to the East Coast, he felt "empty and shallow. It still felt unresolved, and I still felt that the country had been violated. So I took a deep breath and tried to move on."

The family resettled in the North Shore of Massachusetts, and Goodnow spent the next decade and a half doing scuba diving and commanding yachts for moneyed families. After losing Stevens to cancer in 1988, Goodnow decided to start over and moved to California, where he worked as a limousine driver.

Goodnow dabbled in progressive politics every now and then, campaigning against the Moonies in the late 70s and against depleted uranium in the early 90s. In 1997 he joined Veterans for Peace, and soon after that he returned to activism full-time as a reporter for Radio for Peace International

When NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in March 1999, Goodnow was angered by the mainstream media's refusal to cover anti-war demonstrations and made it his mission to plug the information gap.
"I went from coast-to-coast with a little tape recorder," he said. His tapes were sent to a P.O. box in Miami, from where they would be shipped to RFPI's headquarters in Costa Rica. "We were doing an end run around the American media."

In May of that year Goodnow was arrested while covering a counter-recruiting action during an air and water show at Andrews Air Force Base. Despite his press credentials, he was charged with trespassing on military property and disobeying a lawful order of a police officer.

Six peace activists were arrested during the action, including Phil Berrigan and his wife, Elizabeth McCallister. Goodnow was the only one to be subpoenaed for trial. He got a lawyer and prepared to fight the charges, but the case was dismissed five days before trial.

The incident left Goodnow convinced that due process and freedom of the press were endangered. Shaken, he went on a cross-country trip and made a stop in the Texas border town of Terlingua for the Kerrville Folk Festival.

"I was going to stay there for one or two days, but the peace and tranquility there lulled me into a wonderful hiatus," he said. "This was the perfect place for me to try to get my bearings on where this country was heading. I just wanted to become a recluse and drop out after what [the military] did to me."

The first Bush administration did nothing to brighten Goodnow's outlook. "Bush makes Nixon look like boy scout," he said.

Goodnow saw no reason to leave Terlingua until a bout with cancer forced him to travel to Houston for treatment in the spring of 2005. And watching television at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, he learned that a Georgia Congressman had introduced a bill calling for the National Guard and reserves to be deployed along the Mexico border to prevent illegal immigration.

"I was arrested for covering a demonstration at a military base," Goodnow said. "What do you think it felt like when someone was talking about putting the military in my backyard? That told me it was time to show up and suit up and get active again."

With his cancer in remission, Goodnow called Norwood's office to complain and started a petition drive against the border plan. He intended to bring up the issue at the Veterans for Peace August 2005 National Convention in Dallas, but his attention was soon diverted elsewhere.

"This wonderful, wonderful lady from California who had lost her son in Iraq gave a speech at the convention, and she said 'I'm in Texas and Crawford's not too far so I think I'm going to go there to camp out in front of Bush's ranch, and if anybody wants to come along they're more than welcome,'" he said.

"And as I walked to the dormitory that night, I saw people packing up and getting ready to go with Cindy."

So he joined the VFP caravan to Crawford, where he spent "36 days in the ditch in three-digit heat" camped right next to Sheehan. He found the experience to be as inspiring as it was bizarre. "We'd walk out of our tents in the ditch at 7 a.m., and they'd be doing Good Morning America right in front of us."

On the way to Crawford, Goodnow had seen a bus for sale and stopped to inquire about the price and specs. "It seemed to be calling out to me," he said. "And after Camp Casey broke out, I knew that that Eagle bus had a mission. I also knew that I had no money and my teeth were falling out."

VFP put out an appeal for funds, and a member loaned Goodnow $15,000 to purchase and refurbish the bus, and with the Texas connection it seemed natural to name it The Yellow Rose.

With the help of some VFW volunteers, Goodnow gutted the bus and built himself a new home on wheels.

At the same time he resuscitated the Committee to Impeach the President and drew a new petition — this time stating , "We demand that there be absolutely no possibility of 'presidential pardon' or any other type of pardon" to prevent a retroactive absolution like the one granted to Nixon.

The petition doesn't name a specific impeachable offense, but Goodnow is quick to prattle of a whole list of them.

"The lies and deception that led us into the Iraq war ... the condoning of torture, of illegal spying
, the results of what I call this illegal war — I think all of these qualify as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors," he said.

On September 13, Goodnow finally got the Yellow Rose on the road. His first stop was Washington, D.C., where a mass march against the war
would be held later in the month. After a few weeks in the Beltway he headed south for the SOA Watch vigil.

Driving through central Virginia on a Sunday morning, Goodnow decided to stop in Lynchburg and attend church. On the way through town he noticed that he was being followed by a police car.

When he arrived at Thomas Road Baptist Church, the patrol car pulled over and an officer asked, "How many you got on that bus in there?" Goodnow explained that he was alone and was just a Christian on the way to Sunday service, and the cops left him alone.

Goodnow approached the pastor after the service, shook his hand and thanked him for a fine sermon. Then he asked, "'Reverend, now that we've lost over 2,000 Americans in Iraq, don't you think it's time to talk about bringing the troops home?'

"He huffed and puffed and said, 'I support the troops and think their cause is just and noble.'" Goodnow pressed his case, asking "'What do you think Jesus Christ would say about this war?'"

The pastor wouldn't give any ground, and "pretty soon I see guys with earphones walking toward us," said Goodnow, who decided that it was time to go.

The pastor was Jerry Falwell, and on his way out of the mega church Goodnow grabbed a pile of Jerry Falwell Ministries flyers. The pamphlets listed a 1-800 number, and Goodnow passed them out at the SOA Watch vigil in Georgia. "I understand that a lot of people called that number to express their opinion about Christians who support the war," he said.

Goodnow has crisscrossed almost 30 states since. "I'm driving a 26,000-pound traveling poll machine, getting the on-the-road-poll," he said. "I'm receiving about 15 peace signs for every one-finger salute.

"And here's my response to that: I welcome it. It affords me the opportunity to point to a big white cross on the windshield before they can lower their extended finger. I think to myself, 'Well, sir, ma'am, who do you think Jesus would flip off?'"

Goodnow faced a particularly rabid critic while visiting Lawrence, Kansas, in September. He was collecting signatures when a driver stopped and told him to get out of town in 30 minutes or face "serious consequences," forcing him to call the police. But his biggest hassle was yet to come.

While visiting Madison, Wisconsin, in early October, Goodnow called Juan Torres, who has been campaigning to uncover the truth about his son's death in Afghanistan
. They had met at Camp Casey last year, and Torres invited him to spend a few days at his home in the Chicago suburb of Schiller Park.

Goodnow was happy to oblige. He arrived at Torres' house on the night of October 10, and as he sat in the bus waiting for Torres to get home a policeman pulled over and said he couldn't park the Yellow Rose on a residential street.

Goodnow, who hadn't heard any such thing is his travels around the country, chalked up the incident to an overzealous officer and thought he had nothing to worry about. But early next morning an Officer Kubycheck, badge 68, stopped by and gave him a ticket for "parking commercial vehicle in res."

Goodnow produced documentation showing that the bus was registered in Texas as a motor home and insisted that this was not a commercial vehicle. The officer was unmoved but told Goodnow that he could stop by City Hall to contest the ticket.

Kubycheck also said he he had served in Iraq and would be glad to return. "I shook his hand and thanked him for his service," Goodnow said.

Goodnow did some research online and found that the Schiller Park city code defines a commercial vehicle as anything that weighs more than 1,001 pounds or carries more than six passengers. Since the Yellow Rose fits that definition, he concluded that the ticket was legal and decided not to contest it.

But around 11 a.m. two police cars pulled up by Torres' house. An officer said they had a call from someone accusing Goodnow of intimidation. He denied the allegation. "The only person I had a conversation with on the street was a nice lady with a little dog," he said.

The officer also said the switchboard had been "bombarded" with calls about a vehicle that had "anti-Americans slogans and slogans supporting Saddam Hussein," according to Goodnow.

The only slogans on the bus are "Bring the troops home now," "Don't attack Iran" and "For what noble cause? Not one more!"

Goodnow said one of the officers involved in this visit was Kubycheck, who had seen the bus a day earlier and should have been able to attest that there were no anti-American slogans on it. He also noticed that there was a commercial limousine parked around the corner but its owner wasn't getting any flack from the police.

Around 12:30, another police officer came by and "pounded on Juan's door," Goodnow said. "He was yelling, 'Get that bus out of here or I'll have it towed.'"

Goodnow called Schiller Park City Hall and spoke to a liaison to the police department, who said Police Chief Police Chief Robert Radak had told her that he had until the next day to move the bus.

"I managed to dissuade the officer from having it towed," Goodnow said. And the next morning he decided to pay a visit to Radak. "He was a very polite gentleman. We shook hands, and he agreed to dismiss the ticket."

But Goodnow wanted to know who had allegedly accused him of harassment. He also asked Radak if he could produce 911 tapes to prove that there had been complaint calls. According to Goodnow, Radak defended his officers' conduct and said he would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request see the alleged evidence.

Goodnow declined, but he called the ACLU and someone jotted the case down. "They said they like to have a record of these things, to be able to compares if there are patterns."

That night Goodnow headed to the North Shore for the Evanston Neighbors for Peace monthly meeting, and one of the locals he met was Dale Lehman, a Chicago Media Action activist who does a show on WZRD 88.3 radio. Lehman offered to take him in. "He said he thought I could park near his house on Western Avenue."

Goodnow was planning on heading to Connecticut to support Ned Lamont's campaign. But it was getting too cold for him, and he had to order a bus heater. It took several days for it to arrive, and for most of that time the Yellow Rose sat next to Warren Park in the far North Side. The Chicago police, which has its own history of hassling anti-war protesters
, never took issue with it.

Goodnow tried to keep himself busy while waiting for the heater. He drove the bus downtown for a cameo on a protest against President Bush, who'd come to town to stump and raise funds for GOP congressional candidates.

He was also interviewed on Lehman's show, and on a Saturday morning he set up a table at the Evanston Farmer's Market with his petition. In a few hours he had filled nine clipboards with signatures.

By the time Goodnow left Chicago, the petition had more than 10,000 signatures. He made it to New London, Connecticut, barely in time for the final debate between the three Senate candidates. And after two weeks campaigning for Lamont, he claimed not to be disappointed by Joe Lieberman's victory.

"I told Lamont that he was the moral victor," he said. "His candidacy set the whole stage for the anti-war energy that tipped this election."

Currently in Virginia, Goodnow is getting ready for another SOA Watch vigil, and he has no plans to stop filling his petition. "We are still in the middle of a very challenging period for this country," he said. "The election provided a beam of hope. The door opened a little, but now we gotta work twice as hard to open it all the way."

Goodnow has no delusions that his efforts alone will be enough to send the Bush administration packing. "The situation I'm in is like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, spreading the seeds of true democracy," he said. "I'm a high school dropout.

What I'm saying is:

If I can stand up against the lies and oppression that are sapping at the roots of the nation, then anyone can."

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