I caught a replay of today's Downing Street Memo hearing, chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), which gave voice to those who want the whole truth from this Administration about why we went to war in Iraq. I think it's safe to say that this issue has begun to reach critical mass; there in my email box, it was one of my top five stories, and it didn't even involve a celebrity or a missing white girl:
At a public forum where the word "impeachment" loomed large, Exhibit A was the so-called Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government to The Sunday Times of London a month and a half ago. Rep. John Conyers (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the event.
The president "may have deliberately deceived the United States to get us into a war," Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "Was the president of the United States a fool or a knave?"
The Republican leadership tried to obfuscate or shut down this meeeting at every turn. First they denied access to the Capitol. Then they relented and gave them a tiny room in the basement (the hearing room looked like it was for a local town hall meeting rather than a group of Congressmen). Then they scheduled 11 major votes on the same day so legislators would have to shuttle back and forth to the House chamber.
Didn't work. Once you give people a taste of the truth, they tend to want to know more. They want to know why, in the words of British intelligence, "the facts were being fixed around the policy" in Iraq. They want to know, as Cindy Sheehan does, why her son had to die for a war that may not have been necessary. They want to know why a pliant media yawned and exclaimed "old news" at this piece of documentary evidence, the first tangible sign of a plan to hoodwink the American public into war.
They want to know why a US Congressman, not a terror suspect, not an illegal foreign national, but a US Congressman, was stopped at the White House gates today:
The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates."
Conyers and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate later Thursday when they hand-delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the Downing Street memo. When Conyers couldn't get in, an anti-war demonstrator shouted, "Send Bush out!" Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions at the gate and took them into the West Wing.
It's another act of denial. If we can just get through this rough patch, I can imagine Frank Luntz saying, people will forget about this. Just deny and play defense until it peters itself out.
Well, it's not going to wear itself out. Very few days anymore are historic, but today was. Already, hundreds of thousands of Americans, fully 1 in 500, want to know why war with Iraq was inevitable, why intelligence was twisted and shaped rather than analyzed. It will turn into millions. To let this peter out would do a disservice to the 1,700+ dead soldiers and their families, to the tens of thousands of wounded, to the untold thousands of Iraqi civilians, all of whom suffered for a lie. That's right, a lie. Nobody in that Capitol Hill meeting room was afraid to say it today, and neither am I. The collective power of this thing is going to reach from coast to coast. And if we're to believe the primary source, there'll be plenty more to discover:
Michael Smith: Yes there are other facts you still don't know and the media should be using these public documents as a base from which to find them out because it is those facts that will really damage Bush. Some of the media already are on the case. Knight Ridder went in very early on in this story and I see is still going. The LA Times and The Washington Post and lots of smaller papers have all been doing their bit. They need to keep going. If the administration, as it claims, did nothing wrong, it has nothing to fear from journalists looking for the facts.
I don't care about damaging Bush. I want some truth after 4 years of misleading and muddying the waters. I want some accountability from an unaccountable government. I want the American people to know they can trust their leaders to make determinations in their name, not in service to some other unidentified goal.
This is just going to get bigger and bigger. The Administration would do well to just answer the questions. They won't be able to play defense forever. This is the beginning of a movement for truth and accountability.