(June 19, 2005) — Huddled like a group of church mice in cramped basement quarters on Capitol Hill, the “Downing Street Patriots,” led by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), literally blew the roof sky high with allegations that may lead to formal impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush.
Looking like the Founding Fathers trying to topple the tyrannical rule of Britain’s King George, the panel of four speakers, led by attorney and constitutional expert, John Bonifaz, all presented compelling evidence that Bush may be guilty of high crimes or misdemeanors under Art. 1, Sec, 8, clause 11 of the war powers clause.
Democratic organizers used the meeting to draft a formal House Resolution, asking for authority to subpoena records and documents, the goal being to determine if President Bush lied to the American people and Congress about the necessity of going to war against Iraq.
“If President Bush has nothing to hide, he should be here right now telling us the truth about the war,” said panel member Mary Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and who subsequently organized the anti-war group called Gold Star Families for Peace. “If this war has been predicated on lie, all the families who have lost their sons in daughters deserve to know the truth.
Since the war in Iraq began over two years ago more than 1,700 American troops have perished and more then 100,000 Iraqi civilians have reportedly died.
A Call for Accountability
With so many lives lost, Bonifaz, who has started a nationwide truth movement at www.afterdowningstreet.org, is demanding accountability. He contends the Downing Street Memo clearly shows Bush misled Congress and the American people into war by fixing intelligence data to fit his war policy in order to present a case that Iraq presented an imminent threat to US interests.
First reported as a memo from Matthew Rycroft, a British foreign policy advisor, further reporting showed the explosive statements were actually part of minutes of a top-secret meeting in Downing Street on July 23, 2002, when Tony Blair gathered senior ministers for a briefing on the Iraq situation.
Among those they heard from was Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the UK foreign intelligence agency MI6, who just returned from a Washington visit and who said in the UK-Eyes-Only memo never intended to be heard by the public:
“There was a perceptible shift in attitude, military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
“What we have now is not circumstantial evidence, but official and direct documentation by Dearlove, who is like the head of our CIA, saying President Bush fixed the intelligence reports to meet his war policy,” said Bonifaz to the group of about 75 assembled, representing more than 122 Congressmen, Sen. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and more than 500,000 Americans who have joined the movement by signing a letter demanding accountability from Bush.
Special Delivery to the White House
After the 3-hour meeting, the signed letter was then hand-delivered to the White House, asking Bush to immediately respond to the allegations. Originally, on May 4, 2004, only days after the damaging memo first surfaced, Rep. Conyers and 88 other democratic Congressmen presented Bush with the exact same letter, but never received an answer.
“The White House originally sent us a reply that there was no need to respond to such a letter,” said Rep. Conyers at the Capitol Hill meeting, further suggesting this was an outrage considering the magnitude of the charges and the authenticity of the evidence, which has not been disputed by the White House.
At the meeting, which was held in the basement since the Republican leadership refused to accommodate the group with suitable meeting facilities, Bonifaz, Sheehan and the other panel members, including a former CIA analyst and a former Iraqi US Ambassador, fielded questions from about 20 Congressmen, many of whom openly suggested Bush’s unchecked arrogance and power finally has gone too far.
“What we now have is a monolithic government with no checks and balances,” said Rep. Maurice Hinchey.
Other lawmakers chimed in with similar statements, contending the very setting for the meeting, a small, dark and dank basement room, showed the arrogance and lack of concern by the Republican leadership for the true concerns of the American people.
Echoes of Watergate
Several lawmakers, including Rep Charles Rangel (D-NY), recalled Watergate and the impeachment of President Nixon. He said the political climate now has deteriorated beyond “a by -partisan search for the truth,” which took place during Watergate, but has evolved into a clear “cover-up by one party to protect it’s President who may have committed high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Other lawmakers made comparisons to the Clinton impeachment proceedings, saying the allegations presented against Bush are far more “damning. ” They added Clinton only lied about having sex with a young, female intern while Bush may have committed the ultimate political mortal sin: sending American troops into harms way without a legitimate reason.
“What kind of human being, let alone a sitting President, would do such a thing? It’ just incomprehensible,” said Rep Maxine Waters.
Although thanking the handful of journalists who attended the meeting broadcast on CSPAN 2, lawmakers also expressed displeasure over the lack of media coverage of the Downing Street memo, referring to a recently released Washington Post article where journalists provided excuses or shallow reasoning for not covering the story.
In the article, Post reporters said the story was left uncovered due to lack of authentication of the memo. However, lawmakers at the meeting suggested this thinking was flawed since even the White House has not disputed the authenticity of Dearlove’s memo and the fact the meeting was held with Blair and other high-ranking London officials in Downing Street headquarters.
Since the release of the memo six weeks ago, the media coverage has been abysmal with only a handful of mainstream newspapers carrying the story and only one question is presented to Bush by the White House press corp.
Conyers said he hopes the 500,000 signatures collected “wakes up the press” and that it begins to alert the American people of the gravity and magnitude of the charges and allegations being leveled against Bush, who up until this week’s Capitol Hill meeting has arrogantly dismissed the importance of Dearlove’s comments.
US Media Exposed for Ignoring the Story
Further charges against media bias or outright censorship have been made by the web magazine Salon, after it collected data indicating the mainstream press has done everything possible to keep the issue from readers.
Prior to the Downing Street hearing, a Salon Internet poll found less than 20 US newspapers even bothered to cover the story. The web site went on to say that most of the stories centered on the lack of media coverage rather than substance of the memo, which could eventually lead to criminal charges as well as an impeachable offence for a sitting President.
Further, the web magazine, whose contributors include many former mainstream journalists tired of being censored, found that since the memo was first released only 2 of more than 900 questions addressed to White House Press Scott McLellan during 19 briefings referred to the document. In response, McLellan originally claimed to be unaware of the document.
Besides the original Dearlove memo, a handful of other official documents have surfaced adding to its credibility. Two of the secret documents indicated Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice and Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw knew intelligence reports lacked the necessary information to justify an Iraqi invasion and were desperately searching months prior to invasion for a strategy to justify war.
Fear Used as a Tool to Manipulate the Public
At the meeting, panel member Ray McGovern, a 27-year CIA analyst who also prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration, provided a detailed timeline of official WMD “scare announcements” presented to the American people by Bush administration. He claimed these announcements seemed to fit perfectly with the timing and statements conveyed by Dearlove to Blair, adding to the credibility of the memo.
“If you look at the timing of all the statements made by the Bush administration and how the WMD threat was orchestrated to the American people, it is more than suspicious,” said McGovern, who also commented the state of the American Intelligence community is in shambles and at an all-time low due to undue pressure and politicization by the present administration.
McGovern said in the 27 years he worked in government it was unprecedented for a sitting Vice President to ever visit CIA headquarters or try and influence CIA intelligence gathering, saying even Vice President George H. Bush never made a visit.
However, McGovern said Vice President Dick Cheney has made at least eight trips to CIA headquarters, an unprecedented move, and undoubtedly has tried to influence analysts in releasing information to benefit the administration policies.
“This is not only dangerous, but comprises the ethics of all those working in intelligence,” said McGovern, adding the CIA leadership has become inept and nothing but a mouthpiece for the neo con movement.
Others who attended the meeting included panel member Joe Wilson, former Ambassador and WMD expert, who firmly believes President Bush lied to the American people as well as Rev. Lennox Yearwood of Progressive Democrats of America, Stephen Cleghorn of Military Families Speak Out and Kevin Zeese, director of Democracy Rising.
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