Democrats Should Focus On Bush's Lies To Congress To Start War In March 2003
Democrats have spent a great deal of time kicking each other over Iraq these last two years. The antiwar side of the party takes its leaders to task for not opposing the October 2002 war resolution (Public Law 107-243), which gave Bush the congressional approval to initiate a war when he determined that further diplomatic efforts would be fruitless to force Saddam to comply with UN resolutions and stop the threat posed against the United States by Saddam’s WMD program and support for Al Qaeda. The Beltway Democrats who voted for PL 107-243 have taken the stance that hindsight is wonderful now, but there were many people of both parties who thought that Saddam did have an active WMD program and was supporting Al Qaeda in 2002, and that it was important to give a president the club of military force to obtain Iraq’s compliance. This ongoing debate has tied the party up in knots for the better part of nearly three years, yet there is a way for the party to untie these knots and refocus the debate on a more easily established battlefield.
Democrats need to focus not on what was known in October 2002, but what Bush said to Congress six months later in 2003 to satisfy the requirements of PL 107-243 and initiate the war. Douglas Jehl’s piece over the weekend confirmed that Rummy’s DIA knew as far back as February 2002 that an Al Qaeda detainee was fabricating claims that Saddam was training Al Qaeda, and Judd Legum and the folks over at ThinkProgress.org show us today that it is now clear Bush knowingly lied about every one of the claims he was making to sell the war to Congress.
We can argue with the GOP and White House until the cows come home about whether or not they lied to Congress in the months leading up to the October 2002 resolution in order to get PL 107-243. But what now seems clear is that by the time of March 18, 2003 letter to Congress, Bush knew that the central elements of his "determination" in that letter were false or based on facts not in evidence.
Plainly put, Bush knowingly lied to the Congress of the United States to start a war. What should be done about it?
Democrats need to strike on this right after Pat Roberts and the Senate GOP leadership find a way to blow off Jay Rockefeller next week on the resumption of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence inquiry. The poll last week by Zogby for AfterDowningStreet showing that 53% of those polled would support a Congressional impeachment inquiry if it appears Bush lied to start the war provides Democrats with the context to elevate this issue.
I am suggesting that Minority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader Pelosi take this effort public by approaching "60 Minutes" and ask for a lead segment in the next 2-3 weeks. In this lead segment, Reid and Pelosi would each designate members who are effective "prosecutors” without 2008 presidential ambitions. This senator and representative would lay out the March 18, 2003 letter and point out how each element of the determination required under PL 107-243 was known at the time by the Administration to be based on claims that the Administration knew itself weren’t true.
Sure, the White House would be asked to comment on this story, but what could they say since the recent revelation is based on a DIA report? And they could try to pressure CBS News to kill the story, but CBS News has already been forced to eat their own story on the Niger forgeries, only to see other competitors zoom past them with that one. And the recent story on the damage done to Valerie Plame shows that CBS News is now willing to come out from under its self-imposed gag order and do real journalism again, even if the White House doesn't want it to.
Patrick Fitzgerald has proven that the American people will listen to a prosecutor's arguments and a well-made and deliberate case, if that prosecutor doesn't overshoot. I acknowledge that Fitzgerald is seen as a nonpolitical prosecutor, and the suggestion I am making clearly applies to political "prosecutors" making the case to the American public. But the recent polls also show that the public wants the Democrats to shake off their shackles and begin asking the tough questions about how this country was led into war.
Now is the time to do that by getting around the Beltway media, and going straight to the country on national TV.
Update: I note the comments from my fellow editor dj moonbat about how the Democrats will have difficulty with my suggestion because it will remind voters that they were weak for not standing up to the Administration in 2002. I respectfully disagree, as does David Sirota over at the Huffington Post. We're beyond worrying about appearances now as far as the voters are concerned. They want to see some accountability and some adults taking charge and responsibility for the mess we are in. Admitting you got conned in October 2002 and then flat-out lied to again in March 2003 is a prerequisite to showing that you know the difference between bad intelligence and fraud.