Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It's Time for Truth from the White House


What should the American people be able to expect from the president of their country? Intelligence? Decisiveness? Leadership ability? Assertiveness? Self-confidence tempered with humility? Compassion? Honesty?

Obviously, all of these qualities are important, although rarely all present in one individual. But it's the last quality that is the most important. The president of the United States, after all, puts his hand on the Bible and swears to uphold the Constitution. What worse betrayal could a president commit against Americans than to betray the Constitution?

But that is what recent events appear to show that Pres. Bush has done. The Downing Street memo, published in the (UK) Times Online on May 1, 2005, is the written account of a meeting held in July 2002 between Tony Blair and his top national security officials. That memo contained a report by Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain's M1 intelligence service (the equivalent of the C.I.A.) about a Washington, D.C., meeting with Pres. Bush from which he had just returned. In that meeting, according to Dearlove, Bush indicated his firm decision to invade Iraq for the purpose of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. That decision was to be supported by Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction and its ties with terrorist groups; but, Dearlove said, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." There was minimal discussion of plans for a postwar Iraq.

These decisions were made at a time when Pres. Bush was telling Congress and the American people that he had not made any decision about invading Iraq, and that all options were still on the table. They were made at a time when Congress had yet to pass a resolution authorizing any invasion.

But it gets worse. As Juan Cole reveals in his must-read article for Salon, right after 9/11, Bush did not want to invade Afghanistan; he wanted to invade Iraq. Tony Blair had to promise Bush he would support the U.S. in a later invasion of Iraq, in order to persuade Bush to go into Afghanistan first.

Bottom line: If the revelations in the Downing Street Memo are accurate, Pres. Bush lied. He lied right up to the eve of the war, saying he had not made a decision that he had made at least a year before. He made it clear to everyone around him that he wanted to be given the intelligence that would justify a decision he had already made; he presented that intelligence to the American public knowing it was unconfirmed and had been seriously questioned by intelligence experts. He invaded a country that posed no threat to the United States or anyone else, and ignored much larger and more imminent threats from countries like Iran and North Korea.

And as a result of Bush's lies, people did die. A lot of people, on both sides. There are 1,600 American men and women who volunteered to go to Iraq, believing the President when he said they were needed to keep their country safe, who are all dead now. And more being killed everyday. And thousands more who have lost parts of their bodies, some who will never walk again, many whose minds and hearts have been injured in ways that will continue to affect them, their families, and American society for decades.

Iraqis have died, too, because of Bush's lies -- tens of thousands of Iraqis, most of them not guilty of anything more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those Iraqis who survive face daily bombings and terrorist violence, as well as an often brutal occupation by a foreign country. They lack the most basic necessities of life. They have only spotty electricity in most places, when they have any; they have to drink filthy water from the street because there is no way to get clean water.

The U.S. media has been shockingly slow to report on the Downing Street Memo or to analyze the implications of the memo in any meaningful or consistent way. They have largely failed to discuss, on their editorial and op-ed pages, the strong possibility that the President of the United States manipulated and selectively presented intelligence to support an already-decided policy -- and that later, when the intelligence was shown to be fraudulent, the president blamed his intelligence experts for "getting it wrong." They haven't questioned Pres. Bush about why he sent thousands of young Americans to risk and too often to lose their lives when he knew there was no credible threat to U.S. national security to justify such a sacrifice. And the media have not pointed out that, if George W. Bush did lie to Congress and the American people about his decision to invade Iraq; if he did use intelligence he knew to be either false or unreliable to get Congress to authorize the Iraq invasion and to get the public to support it -- then these are impeachable offenses.

As Americans, we deserve better than to have a President who may have violated the Constitution he swore to uphold. American families deserve better than to have empty seats at tables where much-loved sons and daughters don't sit anymore because they died for a cause that was a lie. And we sure as hell deserve better than to have a press that sits passively by while our leaders betray the very principles of free and open government they profess to be spreading all over the globe, out of terror that Scott McClellan might chastise them.

If the corporate media will not do their job, then we bloggers have to do it. We have to do it by creating blogger alliances, as Melissa McEwen of Shakespeare's Sister did when she created, over the Memorial Day weekend, the Big Brass Alliance: "a collective of progressive bloggers who support After Downing Street." After Downing Street is "a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups formed to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war."

Note that we are not calling for impeachment; we are calling for an investigation into allegations, most particularly from the Downing Street Memo, that, if found to be true, would be impeachable offenses. This is the very least we can expect that our representatives in Congress would do when a real, and strong, possibility exists that the President of the United States has lied to Congress and to all Americans about material facts he used to take our country into war.

There are actions that every person reading any of the blogs in this blogswarm can do to help. You can make a difference whether you have a blog of your own or just like to read blogs.

  • Read, and if you agree, sign, the petition Rep. John Conyers created, calling for Pres. Bush to answer the questions raised by the Downing Street Memo, and tell the truth to the American people. Conyers is trying to get 100,000 signatures; when he does, he will present the petition to Pres. Bush. You can find more information about the petition, as well as John Conyers' efforts to get Congress and the media to hold the White House accountable for these allegations, here and also here.
  • Write to your congressional representative here.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local and regional newspapers. Write letters to national newspapers, too.
  • Prepare informational flyers with these same suggestions for action and distribute them to neighbors, friends, relatives, and co-workers.
  • Call radio and television stations; ask them if they are covering this story, and if not, urge them to do so.

You can also get much more analysis and information by reading other bloggers participating in this blogswarm. The updated list of participants is here.

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