"Members of Congress -- whether they are Democrats or Republicans -- should do the right thing. They have a Constitutional duty to investigate the facts surrounding the Downing Street Memo. They didn't ask my son if he was a Democrat or Republican when he joined the military. These are life and death questions and should be treated that way."
- Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace; mother of Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq
What Happened At The Downing Street Memo Hearing?
Every Congressman and Congresswoman who spoke at John Conyers' hearing on the Downing Street Memo commented on how sad it was to have to meet in a basement room at the U.S. Capitol that was about the size of "two freight elevators." Every Representative who spoke commented upon their disgust at the Republicans in Congress who have abrogated their sworn duty to the American people by downplaying this information and failing to ask for an inquiry into serious questions posed by the Downing Street memo's public release.
Joseph Wilson was the first witness to speak at the hearing. He stated firmly that he has not worked for America as a Republican or a Democrat. He clarified that he has only worked for America. Wilson believes that, if the information he provided about Niger and those infamous aluminum tubes was ignored because it did not fit certain Bush administration preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.
Wilson was discouraged after seeing the most recent WaPo-opinion piece (Howard Kurtz?), which made it sound as if many journalists in the mainstream press did not see this new memo as a big deal or a smoking gun - with so many journalists acting as if they 'knew it all along' and that this is no "smoking gun". (* so why the heck didn't they REPORT it to the American people?). He reminded the panel that James Baker wouldn't have written a column when he did, just after 2002, and Brent Scowcroft and Wilson himself wouldn't have written opinion pieces in newspapers if they didn't feel the cards had already been dealt well before the American people were misled into war. Wilson said that Gen. Anthony Zinni may not have participated in the debate at the time he did in 2002, had he not known that a decision had already been made to go to war.
Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan, a soldier who died in the Iraq war, was next to speak about the effect which the Downing Street Memo has had on her family. The leak of the Downing Street memo confirmed what she's suspected all along - that intelligence was cherry-picked and lies were told to take our nation to a war that was unnecessary. Ms. Sheehan quoted Mickey Herskowitz, who, in 1999, was hired to ghostwrite a campaign autobiography for George W. Bush, an assignment that was later withdrawn. *Herskowitz later spoke about Bush for an article by journalist Russ Baker:
“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999... It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.”
Ms. Sheehan said that it looks like George W. Bush was ready to go to an avoidable war, well before he became president - lying to Congress is a serious offense - over 1700 brave Anericans (including her son) have died while only trying to do their duty. They are coming home in coffins that our leaders won't let us see. Ms. Sheehan said she wouldn't say any cuss words at the hearing, because she wanted to give her complete respect to the panel, but if anyone has a right to cuss, it is the mother of a soldier who died in a war in which a President had lied to citizens and troops in order to obtain their trust and support.
Former CIA official, Ray McGovern, was next to speak. McGovern has made serious accusations about the Bush administration in connection with the planning of the war in Iraq. McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 30 years. From 1981 to 1985, he conducted daily briefings for Ronald Reagan's vice president, George Bush,(father of the incumbent president.) McGovern began by talking in terms of what he called "AOL" -the Anatomy of a Lie. On August 26, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a major speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and he told them:
"...we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors -- including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."
McGovern makes a very strong accusation, saying that Dick Cheney lied about Saddam's son-in-law in that VFW speech. McGovern quoted page 13 of his own debriefing report which said that Saddam's son'in'law confirmed that all WMD were destroyed in July of 1991, at his order, to prevent the UN inspectors from finding them after the first Gulf war. A whistleblower had leaked this debriefing to Newsweek magazine as the Bush administration's drumbeat for war got louder. The article about it appeared in Newsweek on February 24, 2003, weeks before the war began. The story never got much play because the timid media supressed the story. McGovern said that a "supine press" eager to accept official explanations contributed to the facilitation of this war.
McGovern talked about VP Cheney's personal visits to CIA. He said not only were they "unusual", they were unprecedented. McGovern said that he believed 'the best of the CIA' is gone from the department now. In the old days, you never would have seen CIA acquiesce to fixing the facts around the Executive's policy whims. Yet, when Cheney went to CIA and told them he wanted certain intelligence to take priority to fit the case for war, too many CIA officials became yes-men. In McGovern's time, he said most of the CIA would have walked out if they'd been presented with such a request.
Bonifaz said that, if the documents were proven to be true, the president may have violated a federal law against misleading Congress, and his actions would be grounds for impeachment.
"If the evidence revealed by the Downing Street minutes is true, then the President's submission of his March 18, 2003 letter to the United States Congress would violate federal criminal law, including the Federal Anti-Conspiracy Statute which makes it a felony, (quote), “to commit any offense against the United States or to defraud the United States or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose,” and the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress.
The United States House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to investigate fully and comprehensively the evidence revealed by the Downing Street minutes and other related evidence and to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to impeach George W. Bush, the President of the United States. A resolution of inquiry is the appropriate first step in launching this investigation.
The Iraq war has led to the deaths of more than 1,700 United States soldiers, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Thousands more have been permanently and severely injured on both sides. More than two years after the invasion, Iraq remains unstable and its future unclear. The war has already cost the American people tens of billions of taxpayer dollars at the expense of basic human needs here at home. More than 135,000 United States soldiers remain in Iraq without any stated exit plan. If the President has committed high crimes in connection with this war, he must be held accountable. The United States Constitution demands no less."
Last Note: John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted a letter to President Bush, has now written to the UK's former MI6 chief Dearlove, asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. He also asked precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to “manufacture” the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.
To me, the quote below is the most "telling" statement in the UK Cabinet Office Paper titled: "Conditions for Military Action." (Which showed that the U.S. had no post-war plan). Who knows if there may have been something even more "telling?" The paper, produced by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002, is incomplete because the last page is missing.
17. In the absence of UN authorisation, there will be problems in securing the support of NATO and EU partners. Australia would be likely to participate on the same basis as the UK. France might be prepared to take part if she saw military action as inevitable. Russia and China, seeking to improve their US relations, might set aside their misgivings if sufficient attention were paid to their legal and economic concerns. Probably the best we could expect from the region would be neutrality. The US is likely to restrain Israel from taking part in military action. In practice, much of the international community would find it difficult to stand in the way of the determined course of the US hegemon. However, the greater the international support, the greater the prospects of success.
So, there you have it - Australia and the UK owe the US; France might go along if she feels that she has no other choice; Russia and China might be "bought" for their cooperation; the U.S. is bound and determined; the writing's on the wall. Amen.
Meanwhile, at the same time in history, the Bush administration was telling America nothing about its determination to go to war with Iraq. Here's a good old-fashioned HISTORY LESSON for all of you (from Bob Woodward, LINK at CBS):
“And there's this low boil on Iraq until the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, 2001. This is 72 days after 9/11. This is part of this secret history. President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door and says, ‘What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq? What is the status of the war plan? I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.’"
Woodward says immediately after that, Rumsfeld told Gen. Tommy Franks to develop a war plan to invade Iraq and remove Saddam - and that Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check.
”Rumsfeld and Franks work out a deal essentially where Franks can spend any money he needs. And so he starts building runways and pipelines and doing all the preparations in Kuwait, specifically to make war possible,” says Woodward.
“Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."
July, 2002 - the same time that the secret UK Memo was written.
Now, examine all the statements that the Bush administration threw at you (long after they'd made up their minds).
"It's official: The Downing Street memos, a snooty New York Times "News Analysis" informs us, "are not the Dead Sea Scrolls."
- So begins Greg Palast, in an online testimonial re: The Downing Street Memo Hearing in D.C. today
John Conyers' Hearing on the Downing Street Memo
Dem Bloggers has a videoblog interview with Congressman Conyers available in WMV at their site today. They will be providing a quicktime version, a high quality version, and an mp3 of this interview later this evening.
You can watch the hearing on CSPAN3 Live today - currently scheduled to air at 2:30 pm.
Listed speakers: Conyers, John Jr., U.S. Representative, D-MI Bonifaz, John C., Founder, National Voting Rights Institute Wilson, Joseph, Deputy Chief of Mission (1988-91), Iraq McGovern, Ray, Member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Sheehan, Cindy, Mother
Initially prevented from holding the Hearing on Capitol Hill by the Republicans, Conyers was to hold it at the Democratic National Committee Building in Washington, but now reports indicate the Hearing may in fact happen on Capitol Hill.
"Let me conclude with a comment about those pesky "blogs" that so bother the New York Times. We should stand and offer a moment of quiet gratitude to the electronic swarm of gadfly commentators who make it so much harder for the US media to ignore news not officially blessed. Yes, Judith Miller's breathless reports for The Times that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction may have maintained "access" for the mainstream press to its diet of White House propaganda, but the blogs insure that, whatever nonsense the US press is biting on, the public need not swallow."
"Can [John Edwards] stand up to Democratic constituency groups and tell them things they may not want to hear about fighting poverty while still courting them in another bid for the White House?"
Within this question lies an imaginary gauntlet, set down by Mr. Yepsen himself, that seems quite unnecessary at a time when Democrats are striving to find a way to unite and attract new interest in the party.
Curiously, Yepsen flatly accuses John Edwards of "pandering" to the Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless in Des Moines on Tuesday - and provides no basis for proving his strong opinion. He forwards a notion that he has little faith in John Edwards' sincerity. Yepsen says that, if Edwards "just panders" to the democratic constituency, "we can dismiss his center's work as just another effort to keep some politician in the limelight." Yepsen fails to mention that Edwards was a volunteer with Urban Ministries in Raleigh, NC long before he entered political life.
Yepsen seemingly places himself in a universe where, in order to inspire people to fight poverty, you have to remain ideologically neutral. Has he forgotten the past four years and the policies of the current GOP? Has he neglected to observe some of the most blatant power-grabs, by the majority party in Congress, in America's history? What kind of "fresh thinking" does he imagine the American people are looking for, when it comes to fighting poverty? Does he imagine the highly partisan Bush supporters will say to themselves "Hey - I think John Edwards is right - let's forget our blind support for all things GOP and fight poverty?"
I think Mr. Yepsen is calling for something quite unrealistic, while he seems to be creating a negative view of John Edwards by accusing him of simply being what he is - a Democrat and a politician with strong conviction.
If it's only a watered-down non-ideological call to arms against poverty that will please Mr. Yepsen, all I can say is that I'm awfully glad it's John Edwards who's heading up the Poverty Center rather than Mr. Yepsen, who would kill any inspiration I might have for joining the cause.
Robert Kuttner reports on Hillary Clinton's view of being a political lightning rod:
"She has told associates .. that being a polarizer can actually be a plus, as George W. Bush has demonstrated: It doesn't matter if you rally the other side's base as long as you rally your own base plus enough moderates." Link
In a column where he lays out a realistic set of goals which address the genuine challenges that confront America, Kuttner bemoans the fairy-bubble from which he believes George W. Bush is leading the nation. He says:
"In a decade, historians will ponder how the American people could possibly have reelected a president who lives in a fantasy world and who is doing such damage to the real world." Link
Joan Vennochi explains how, for some American mothers, while it's easier to say 'don't join the Army,' it's harder to say 'don't serve your country.'
"The numbers tell a story about a war that is growing more unpopular with the country, especially with parents whose flesh and blood the Pentagon covets. If the US military presence in Iraq continues at its current level and enough citizens do not volunteer for military service, a draft seems inevitable."
Vennochi, in a cautious way, tells us readers that it's natural for a mother to say "not my son" and that the current war in Iraq causes the volume of "not my son" to be turned up inside a mother's head. (Full blast as far as I'm concerned). She speaks of hearing a father's story about the death of his son - who was a soldier in Iraq:
"Listening to that father mourn, I also thought: not my son. It is a typical baby boomer reaction, in my case, underscored by the belief that this current war does not justify the sacrifice of any son or daughter of America." Link