George W. Bush is pleading for a second term based on his record as a “war president” who uses military force to wipe out terrorists before they strike again. But that aggressive posture is now stirring powerful opposition from former senior officials, military officers, and legal scholars.

Law professors met with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to deliver an open letter to Congress, dated June 16 and signed by 493 of their colleagues – including 56 from Harvard Law School – demanding that the lawmakers consider impeachment of Bush and other high-ranking officials for the torture of Iraqi detainees.

Prosecution of lower level personnel “while necessary, is clearly insufficient,” the letter states. “Congress has an obligation to investigate and assess responsibility at all levels of the Executive Branch from the highest officers on down for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons.” Abuse of detainees has been “frequent and pervasive” the letter adds. Despite repeated warnings by the International Red Cross and other human rights organizations, military officials failed to “eradicate the pattern of abuse … a grave breach of responsibility.”

Kennedy declined to support impeachment, calling instead for the ouster of Bush Nov. 2. Kennedy pointed out that Attorney General John Ashcroft has refused to release memos justifying torture and arguing that Bush is not subject to the Geneva Conventions. These documents, widely available on the Internet, provide strong evidence that the torture was approved by Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials.

Almost simultaneously, a group of 27 diplomats and former military commanders at a June 16 Washington news conference called for Bush’s removal Nov. 2 for doing harm to U.S. national security.

“Never in the two-and-a-quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated, so broadly feared and distrusted,” said Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, which includes ambassadors, senior intelligence officials, and former generals and admirals. “Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans or Independents. Many voted for George W. Bush. But we all believe that current administration policies have failed in the primary responsibility of preserving national security and providing world leadership. … It is time for a change.”

Blind ideology, the officials charged, “led the United States into an ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain. It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al-Qaeda and the attacks of Sept. 11. The evidence did not support this argument.”

From the start, Bush “adopted an overbearing approach to America’s role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations.”

The statement assailed Bush for “close identification with autocratic regimes in the Muslim world” and “unquestioning support for the policies and actions of the present Israeli government.” It called for “balanced efforts to establish peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” It warned that global problems such as weapons of mass destruction, unequal distribution of wealth, terrorism, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, and ethnic and religious intolerance “cannot be resolved by military force, nor by the sole remaining superpower alone; they demand patient, coordinated global effort under the leadership of the United States.”

Ambassador Phyllis Oakley, former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, told the news conference announcing the statement that all of the signers spent their lives promoting respect for the United States. “Today we see that structure crumbling under an administration blinded by ideology and a callous indifference to the realities of the world around it. Never before have so many of us felt the need for a change in the direction of our foreign policy.”

William C. Harrop, former ambassador to Israel, told reporters that Bush “has chosen American domination of the world as in our best interest. We don’t think that’s going to work.”

Other signers include Adm. William J. Crowe, USN (ret.), former chairman of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; Arthur A. Hartman and Jack Matlock, both former ambassadors to the Soviet Union; Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, Marine Corp (ret.), former commander-in-chief, U.S. Central Command; Gen. William Y. Smith, U.S. Air Force (ret.), former chief of staff for Supreme Headquarters; and Adm. Stansfield Turner, U.S. Navy (ret.), former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

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