Thursday :: Jun 16, 2005

Answering History's Call

by pessimist

We certainly live in interesting times, and for those of us who lived through Watergate (which is itself enjoying a resurgence of interest thanks to the revelation that Mark Felt was Deep Throat - and that he was ordered to search for himself!), we are reliving that historic moment, if in a newer, more modern guise.

But despite the ensuing years since we have forgotten the role that Watergate Hotel security guard Frank Wills played in the downfall of an administration fraught with hubris, some things are again the same - an imperial president, obstructionist minions, and a slow-to-rise-but-incessantly-more-aware media:

Sieg Heil!

WH Press Secretary Mocks 'Downing Street Memo,' as Congressman Calls for Inquiry

I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place [Conyers] and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.
- White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan

Cracks In The Iraq Story

Mid-May saw the leak of the so-called Downing Street Memo written by high-level British national security officials offering textual proof of what those of us who've been paying attention have long suspected: The Bush administration was determined to invade Iraq almost immediately after September 11, and the whole business with WMD, UN inspections, and so forth was just so much kabuki theater designed to lay the groundwork for a policy whose true motives lay elsewhere.

This weekend, a second memo, leaked to the Times of London, provided further background. The British government, it seems, had committed itself to joining the United States in this war and was rather gravely concerned that the policy to which it had committed itself violated international law, making it necessary to design an appropriate pretext. Those sort of legalistic points strike a bit of a false note here in the United States, where international law isn't taken nearly as seriously as a concept as it is in Europe.

On Sunday, however, Walter Pincus -- whose excellent reporting on the machinations behind the Iraq War has been almost entirely buried in the back pages of The Washington Post for years -- was finally allowed onto page A1 with information that may prove more cutting on this side of the Atlantic: that the war was terribly ill-advised. The memo obtained by Pincus, likewise an official British government document, notes that though "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace ... little thought" had been given to "the aftermath and how to shape it."

But where have the investigations been? A hearing here, a subpoena there, some kind of indication that the Republican Party stands for something other than the greater glory of President George W. Bush could bring this all to light. Clearly, what we do in Iraq from here is more important than rehashing how we got there in the first place. But we can't even begin to formulate an Iraq policy without confidence that the policymakers are telling us something resembling the truth about what they're trying to do and why.

Pass the popcorn. The curtain is rising on the second act of this tragic farce.

It isn't just the lying of Bu$hCo, or the over 1700 American deaths in Iraq alone, that is so tragic. It is also the idea that the past is intended always to be the prologue:

Jack Uldrich: JFK knew how a myth could be worse than a lie

Forty-three years ago last weekend, on June 11, 1962, President John Kennedy addressed the graduating class of the Yale University. In his speech he said:
"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
At this moment in our country's history, it is appropriate -- indeed, necessary -- to reflect on the wisdom of his words. Every time we kill an innocent man, woman or child - or falsely imprison one - we gravely wound our future security by fostering an environment that breeds new enemies. And every dollar we spend prosecuting the war in Iraq is another dollar not invested in creating a brighter, more secure future for our own citizens.

It is not enough to simply hold Bush accountable for his blatant disregard for the truth. We, as citizens, must also take to heart the second part of Kennedy's prescient advice and challenge the many myths that still shroud our policy in Iraq because they are just as insidious -- if not more so -- than the president's deliberate lies. No amount of public posturing, patriotic speechmaking or partisan spinning can free us from the fact that we invaded Iraq on the false grounds that Saddam harbored weapons of mass destruction. We now know that he did not.

Let us have the courage to admit it. Contrary to the opinion of some, our willingness to take a critical look at ourselves and our motives does not make us weaker, it makes us stronger.

Thankfully, each time the nation needed a true patriot, one would rise and take that necessary stand, the one that causes all of us to take a closer look at the truth of a situation that proves not to match the image being presented to us. This 'Pantheon of Patriots' includes the likes of Joseph Welch, whose outraged retort to Joseph McCarthy ended his reign of terror; it includes John Dean, whose decision to honestly answer the questions put to him by Senator Sam Ervin's elect Committee to Investigate Campaign Practices ended the undermining of the Constitution of the United States by Richard Nixon, and who continues in this role with his call two years ago - in 2003 - for the impeachment of George W. Bu$h.

Joining these American Heroes is Michigan Representative John Conyers, who manages to get around the roadblocks placed in his path by extremely frightened and defensive Republicans:

Conyers heads back to Capitol with Downing Street

Rep John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee who was told by House Republicans that he would be refused rooms for Democratic hearings, has found a space in the Capitol for his fourm Thursday on the Downing Street documents, RAW STORY has learned.
Conyers and other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee were recently told the Republican majority staff had instituted a new policy to deny any request from a Democrat to use a committee hearing room.

His efforts are only beginning to show results:

John Conyers

Following the hearing, I will personally deliver a letter with stacks and stacks of signatures to the White House. This is the culmination of all of your efforts and I hope Thursday makes you very proud. I also hope at the end of the day tomorrow, we will all feel that the truth has begun to be known by more and more Americans and that we are all re-invigorated to do the critical work that comes next.

Tought problems in tough times call for tough men asking tough questions. Rep. Conyers is asking them:

Questions Prompted by the Downing Street Memo

* 1. Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

* 2. Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

* 3. Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

* 4. At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

* 5. Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

[For more on the Conyers DSM Hearings, check out:

Raw notes of Conyer's hearing

Streaming audio recording of the hearings

Representative Conyers is being joined by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid - who I have to admit is exceeding my original expectations in that role. Senator Reid had these pertinent remarks to offer in his commentary concerning the nomination of John Bolton as UN Ambassador:


Let me remind my colleagues that this is no small matter. Concerns about this Administration hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly. U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq today largely because this Administration told the Congress and the American people that Iraq not only possessed stockpiles of WMD but was also capable of using them against us and our allies.

Subsequently, we have learned that the Administration's own investigator concluded Iraq did not possess either the stockpiles or the means of delivery. And just as importantly, there are a series of unanswered questions about whether senior officials in this Administration dramatically and intentionally hyped this threat to justify their desire to invade Iraq.

So Mr. President you can see why we believe it is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence.

Let's be clear about what is happening in Washington and the Senate today. We have a White House that continues to drive a radical agenda, determined to consolidate its power and abuse it when necessary to push its unpopular policies. This disagreement over the Bolton nomination is not about partisan politics, ideology, or even reform at the United Nations. It is about whether we permit this Administration yet again to walk roughshod over the Constitution and our duty as Senators to ensure that our country is represented by qualified and ethical individuals.

One thing Sam Ervin had that Representative Conyers is just beginning to see arriving over the hill like the rescuing cavalry they are supposed to be is a media that reports the news - and not the output of a partisan Ministry of Truth:

While editors nationwide call for increased scrutiny of Downing Street Memo, biggest editorial pages remain silent

Since the publication of the Downing Street Memo, a secret British intelligence memo suggesting that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war in Iraq, the editorial pages of four of the five largest U.S. newspapers -- USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times -- have remained conspicuously silent about the controversy surrounding the document.

But a Media Matters for America survey of U.S. newspaper coverage from May 1 to June 15 shows that of the 20 editorial pages across the country that addressed the memo, from large-circulation papers such as The Dallas Morning News to smaller papers such as the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, 18 emphasized the importance of the document, many calling for further investigation into the explosive questions it raises. The dissenters were editorials in The Denver Post and The Washington Post, both of which claimed that the memo merely reinforces what was already known from other sources and argued that U.S. attention is best focused on how to win the war in Iraq.

Further, of 12 editorial page editors nationwide who addressed the memo in op-eds, eight asserted the importance of the memo and four took the position that it contains nothing significant or new, though three of those were nonetheless critical of the Bush administration, in some cases, harshly so. In addition, five of the six reader representatives or ombudsmen who addressed coverage of the memo argued the story warrants more coverage than it has received in their own papers or the media at large.

Following are newspapers that ran editorials referencing the Downing Street Memo:

Editorials emphasizing the importance of the memo:
Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) -- 5/5/05
The Salt Lake Tribune -- 5/16/05
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) -- 5/17/05
The Palm Beach Post (Florida) -- 5/19/05 and 6/8/05
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- 5/20/05
Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee) -- 5/25/05
Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia) -- 5/25/05
Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- 6/1/05
Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina) -- 6/1/05
Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts) -- 6/2/05
Bergen Record (New Jersey) -- 6/7/05
Minneapolis Star Tribune -- 6/9/05 and 6/15/05
The Dallas Morning News -- 6/9/05
Houston Chronicle -- 6/9/05
San Francisco Chronicle -- 6/10/05
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- 6/10/05
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) -- 6/11/05
The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) -- 6/13/05

Op-eds emphasizing the importance of the memo:

Tuscon Citizen (Arizona), Billie Stanton - 5/17/05
The Oregonian, David Sarasohn - 5/18/05
Rock Hill Herald (South Carolina), James Werrell - 5/20/05
Cleveland Plain Dealer, Elizabeth Sullivan - 5/26/05
Raleigh News & Observer (North Carolina), Steve Ford - 6/5/05
Philadelphia Daily News, Carol Towarnicky - 6/8/05
St. Petersburg Times (Florida), Philip Gailey - 6/12/05
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Steve Berg -- 6/15/05

Reader representatives critical of the coverage of the memo by their own paper or the media at large:

The Washington Post, Michael Getler - 5/15/05
The Palm Beach Post, C.B. Hanif - 5/22/05
San Diego Union-Tribune, Gina Lubrano - 5/23/05
Orlando Sentinel (Florida), Manning Pynn - 6/12/05
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kate Parry -- 6/12/05

The following report of the situation at PBS illustrates the difficulty Rep. Conyers faces with the Religio-Radical Republican Reporting Regime [R5]:

PBS Updates Editorial Standards

PBS, which rejects accusations of liberal bias, said it has been reviewing its procedures since before Republicans in Congress moved to cut its financing. The Republican chairman of the corporation, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, specifically accused the show Now with Bill Moyers -- which Moyers no longer hosts -- of featuring guests hostile to conservative views.

Meanwhile, the corporation's inspector general is investigating $15,000 in payments that were made to two Republican lobbyists last year, according to a report on The New York Times Web site Wednesday night. People who are involved in the inquiry but wished to remain anonymous told the Times that one of the lobbyists was retained at the direction of Tomlinson. The inspector general's office is also examining $14,170 in payments to a man who provided Tomlinson with reports about the political leanings of guests on Now. None of the payments were disclosed to the corporation's board, the Times reported.

As the old saying goes, 'Money Trolls, and Thermally-activated Male Bovine Excrement Strolls' - at least within the unfriendly confines of Bu$hCo.

If this was all there was to the situation, it would be all over. The fat lady would have sung, and the Lady With The Lamp might as well extinguish it. But in the manner of the Pantheon of Patriots I created above, many American citizens took up the cause of defending their nation and fulfilled the role that the corporate-captive media has failed to perform:

Don't fear the media - BE THE MEDIA - Jello Biafra

And the effort of these citizens was noticed:

Blogs, the Media and Democracy

It's official: The Downing Street memos, a snooty New York Times "News Analysis" informs us, "are not the Dead Sea Scrolls." You are warned, Congressman, to ignore the clear evidence of official mendacity and bald-faced fibbing by our two nations' leaders because the cry for investigation came from the dark and dangerous world of "blogs" and "opponents" of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush.

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.

Bloggers' 'victory' over Iraq war memos

Since early May, left-leaning blogs have been trying to get mainstream media to pay attention to one - and now two - leaked secret memos from meetings that Prime Minister Tony Blair had with key cabinet members and intelligence figures in the summer before the war in Iraq. With the release of the second memo, blogs can take some credit in raising the profile of the story in the US media.

Bloggers have had some success in getting the press and some members of Congress interested in the memo, says Professor Michael Cornfield who has studied the emerging impact of blogs on politics in the US. Some are calling for a congressional investigation.

What is more likely is that Republicans will lose control of the daily agenda in Washington and lose their aura of political invulnerability. "That would make it a formal institutionalised story and a large daily embarrassment for both administrations," he added.

The Downing Street Memos and the Revenge of the Bloggers

Michael Smith of the London Times not only acknowledges the pressure put on the US corporate media by the bloggers, but he also points to a virtual social movement around the Downing Street memo (often shortened to 'the DSM' on websites), with emails and petitions circulating in the hundreds of thousands and giving the Democrats in Congress their first high-profile investigatory opportunity of the Bush presidency.
The bloggers have forced the issue into the corporate media, and are helping create a real buzz around the Conyers hearings scheduled for Thursday.
The seeping of blogistan into the pages of the Times of London with regard to its own scoops seems to me a bellwether of the kinds of changes that are being produced in our information environment by the blogging phenomenon.
The gatekeepers at the New York Times and the Washington Post can no longer decide whether a leak is a story or a non-story. Such members of the press and editorial elite used to get to decide whether to bury a scandal or pursue it. Now, that power has been democratized by the world wide web. The public decides what a story is.
If the Democrats can take back the Senate in 2006, all of a sudden they could schedule real investigatory hearings at the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Armed Services Committee, into Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, into Cheney's pressure on the CIA analysts, into the fabrication of intelligence and the political lies that dragged this country into the Iraq quagmire.

Imagine what the Republicans did to Bill Clinton for merely fibbing about a desultory relationship (13 meetings) with a young woman that did not even involve intercourse. What would be the appropriate punishment for lying about Iraq's non-existent nuclear weapons program? Or launching a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter?

Bush knows very well he will be a lame duck by January 2007. The real question is whether he will end up being roasted duck.

Bloggers will help to decide the end of the story.

Michael Smith, the Times of London reporter who revealed the Downing Street Memos, adds this observation which supports this contention:

Michael Smith: I think Blair will go although I personally think Bush is much more at risk because there is an unstoppable public feeling against the continued presence of U.S. soldiers as targets for insurgents. The polls and the public pressure are not going Bush's way. There is no doubt in my mind that the administration lied and distorted the truth.

Once Congress begins to realise the scale of it, Bush could be in serious trouble.

More importantly, the more Red Staters realize the scale of Bu$hCo transgressions, the more Bu$hCo better hope that God isn't the Old Testament version, but is instead that of the New Testament that they claim to worship. It would serve them right if he is the God of the Old Testament.

Sic Semper Tyrannis.

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