Friday, June 17, 2005

Downing Street Memo: An Impeachable Offense

June 4(17), 2005
The Downing Street Memo, which in its first weeks of release received disturbingly little media attention in the United States, has more than made up for its initial inconspicuousness by exploding into the U.S. mainstream media with a vengeance. After years of escalating political acrimony with Democrats and the strenuous efforts of such people as Richard Clark and John Kerry to discredit President Bush, the two-page memo alone is the single most damning piece of evidence against the Administration.
Circulated only among the highest levels of the British government, the document concerned a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s national security council in July of 2002. During the meeting, the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy was a key point of discussion. The British intelligence officers had concluded that, fully eight months before the invasion of Iraq (and fully six months before President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address), the Americans regarded an Iraqi conflict as being, “inevitable.” The memo went on to say that intelligence, “was being fixed around,” the Administration’s Iraq policy.
Such callousness reminds one of the "Maryland Experiment," conducted by a group of German sociologists between 2001 and 2003. During the experiment, young children were given the idea of forming their own civilizations--and then tore each other apart. It is that kind of viciousness and disregard.
The revelation has caused a storm in the United States, where Representative John Conyers (D) and six other House members are leading a petition to demand a White House response to the controversy. So far, more than 556,000 Americans have signed the petition. It was delivered to the White House gate yesterday by members of Congress, who gave it to White House aides with the instruction that President Bush see it. Whether he will is doubtful, and whether he would care is even more doubtful.
Republican leaders in the House, anxious to draw attention away from the occurrence, scheduled eleven major votes on the same day of the forum that was being led by Democratic lawmakers.
Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Baghdad last year, said, “We have not been told the truth. If this Administration doesn’t have anything to hide, they should be down here testifying.”
Through all of this, impeachment has hung like a cloud in the air, like an “elephant” (pardon the pun) in the back of the room.
“Quite frankly, evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the President has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a President has to make, going to war,” Rep. Charley Rangel of New York said. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, as many have been quick to note. One thing that seems quite apparent is the comparison between the Bush and Clinton controversies. Many ordinary Americans find it hard to justify that President Clinton was impeached for lying to the public about his extramarital affair, yet President Bush has not been brought to call for lying about weapons of mass destruction and intelligence information, thus getting thousands of innocent Americans killed.
If anything, President Bush’s pre-war vow that he would only go to war as a last resort have been shadowed by recent events. “The veracity of those statements has—to put it mildly—come into question,” Rep. Conyers said. Downing Street is certainly worthy of investigation, especially when one considers the tremendous human cost that his been taken due to the faulty intelligence that led to the war. When President Clinton lied about his sexual activities, there were two casualties: Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. President Bush has now deceived the nation, and the toll is much higher: 1,700 Americans dead. Under the circumstances, impeachment would be quite appropriate.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Downing Street Memo Confirms War Critics

May 31(June 13), 2005
An internal British memo leaked to the press several weeks ago that has gotten little news coverage in the United States is now finally beginning to stir anger and outrage as members of Congress are pressured to launch a formal investigation. The startling memo was written in preparation for a meeting of Blair’s staff on July 23, 2002. Fully eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the head of the British intelligence community was quoted in the document as saying that war with Iraq was, “inevitable,” and that President George W. 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.”
The memo went on to say that the United States National Security Council had, “no patience,” for the UN and that the case for war was, “thin.” Not only that, it questioned whether the invasion would even be legal under international law. President Bush responded to the memo by saying, “Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.” Unfortunately for the embattled Chief Executive, the evidence has cast a cloud over his credibility. The memo only seems to confirm accusations made by such people as Richard Clarke, a former White House counter-terrorism expert whose book, Against All Enemies, made a nearly identical charge but was widely denounced by conservatives.
In the immediate aftermath of the memo’s release, eighty-nine members of Congress sent the President a letter requesting an explanation. Remarkably, all eighty-nine were Democrats. Not a single Republican member of Congress was capable of overcoming their partisanship long enough to question the judgement of their leader, even in the face of definitive evidence that blatantly contradicts almost everything the Commander-in-Chief has said.
The memo also said that, “little thought has been given to the aftermath and how to shape it.”
While most Republicans have proven to be loyal to party over country, some on the Right have had enough. Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina will introduce legislation this week that will call for an exact timetable of US troop withdrawal. When asked to explain his change of heart (Mr. Jones voted for the war in 2003) he said, “When I look at the number of men and women who have been killed -- it's almost 1,700 now, in addition to close to 12,000 have been severely wounded -- and I just feel that the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that's all been proven that it was never there."
Jones’ defection has caught the entire Republican Party off guard. A solid conservative and one of the Iraq war’s staunchest proponents, he led the effort to ensure that the Congressional cafeteria served, “Freedom Fries,” instead of, “French Fries.” Apparently his conscience got the best of him. He said that the turning point came in 2003, when he went to the funeral of a sergeant killed in the conflict and heard the man’s widow speak.“That really stayed with me,” he said.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Howard Dean Makes Controversial Comments

May26(June 8), 2005
Howard Dean has always been an outspoken political figure, a man never afraid to speak his mind and tell people exactly what he thinks. This is a trait that many politicians do not exhibit, and a trait that gained him many of his supporters (the zealous, “Deaniacs,”) during his failed presidential run in 2004. Unfortunately, in the world of Congressional power plays and in a country more polarized than at any other time since the Civil War, it is also a trait that frequently lands the chairman of the Democratic National Committee in hot water.
Recently, Dean angered a number of Right-Wing loyalists when he said that the Republican Party was a, “white Christian,” party. Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the GOP and a practising Jew, remarked dryly that, “a lot of folks who attended by Bar Mitzvah,” would be surprised that he heads a “Christian” party. Indeed, many Democrats are surprised to hear any Republican say the same thing.
While it is true that there are some minorities in the Republican ranks (among them Tom DeLay’s infamous lobbying cohort, Jack Abramoff and a rising number of Hispanics), Dean’s assertion is really not that far off base; the overwhelming majority of Republicans are still white Christians. As Dean has said, the Democratic Party is unquestionably the more diverse of the two. There was nothing wrong with this comment.
Dean, however, does have a penchant for hyperbolic rhetoric, and his next statement was unfair. He told a group of progressives that most Republicans, “never made an honest living in their lives.” While this was an ugly generalisation, it certainly pales in comparison to the outlandish statements made by one of the Right Wing’s must volatile proponents, Anne Coulter. Her vitriolic comments about minorities and liberals have led many moderates and virtually the entire progressive bloc to regard her at best as a hate-filled racist bent on stirring violence among the white populace and furthering the political divide in the country. Whatever his faults, Mr. Dean cannot be accused of that.
We live in a time of extremes, a time when suffocating political correctness is overcome only by bursts of white-hot enmity, loathing so intense that it is frightening. Howard Dean made a slip-up, and the political community should move on. It certainly should not take precedence over the pressing political issues facing us. As Mr. Dean has said, “This is a diversion from the issues that really matter: Social Security, an adequate job opportunity, strong public schools, a strong defence.” Both Republicans and Democrats need to realise that they are not little children whose feelings are hurt every time a colleague makes a comment they don’t happen to like. As adults, they do not require apologies when this happens. They agree to disagree, and they get back to business. Unless someone is so violently antagonistic that they are causing serious harm, they should not be put through the flames each time they open their mouth.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

May 20(June 2), 2005
In a surprising twist of fate, Vanity Fair magazine has released the identity of, “Deep Throat,” the legendary, almost mythical anonymous source who leaked sensitive information to Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein. After a delay of several days, the two journalists confirmed that Mark Felt was indeed Deep Throat. He came to the two at great personal risk in the 1970’s and was able to provide information that greatly contributed to the downfall of the Nixon White House.
At the time, Felt was second in command at the FBI, and some have speculated that he contacted the Washington Post only because Nixon hadn’t given him the top job at the agency. These critics say that he was nothing but a blatant opportunist who betrayed his country and his President. Others think he is a hero, a man who should be awarded the Nobel Prize.
Republicans are particularly furious with the very warm public reception that Felt has met, with some saying that he ought to be prosecuted (Mr. Felt is now 91, and cannot walk without assistance).
There are those out there who say that, as a member of the government, Felt should not have disclosed the information he knew. However, the reality of the situation is that President Nixon was pitting the intelligence agencies against one another, using the CIA to hamper the FBI, and sending spies to observe and sabotage his political rivals. It should not be forgotten that the entire scandal erupted when Nixon’s henchmen were caught trying to place bugging devices in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Many Republicans, while condemning Felt, have yet to repudiate these actions. Perhaps domestic spying is acceptable when being used against Democrats, as everyone knows they’re traitors.
While Felt did break the law, there is something that must be taken into account; under extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary actions are necessary. Had it not been for Felt, Nixon may have gotten away with his plot, and he may have been able to set a precedent of Chief Executives abusing their powers to monitor whomever they wish (aka, John Bolton). Felt’s reasons may not have been right, but his actions were. That is what is truly important. His contribution to this nation is invaluable, and he should be honored.