When nine white men met and plotted at #10 Downing
Street in London, England, on July 23, 2002, they probably did not
anticipate that three years later a small group of U.S. Congress
Members, led by black men and women, would make that meeting a focus
of public attention. But when Congress Members John Conyers, Barbara
Lee, Maxine Waters, Charles Rangel, Sheila Jackson Lee, and others
hold town hall forums all over this country on the three-year anniversary
of the meeting recorded in the Downing Street Minutes, they will
be demanding an investigation supported by a majority of Americans.
Indeed, the outcome of their campaign could be more than the erosion
of support for the war in Iraq; it could be the erosion of American
credulity for the next several wars that presidents try to sell us
Number 10 Downing Street is, of course, the residence of the Prime
Minister of England, Tony Blair. He met there three years ago with
his Foreign Secretary, Defense Secretary, Attorney General, Chief
of Secret Intelligence, Joint Intelligence Committee Chief, the
head of Britain's armed forces, and a foreign policy advisor who
has since become Ambassador to the United States. Also present
was a foreign policy aide who took the minutes. These weren't just
any white guys. These were the men who controlled the United Kingdom
and, against the will of its people, made it the chief ally of
the United States in its attack on Iraq. Britain's Chief of Secret
Intelligence (the head of MI6) reported at this meeting on discussions
he had just held in the United States with the head of the CIA,
George Tenet, and – it appears very likely – with National Security
Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
The Downing Street Minutes and related documents (all available
provide new and compelling evidence that President Bush, by the
summer of 2002
- had secretly decided to go to war,
- had agreed to go to the United Nations only as a (failed)
attempt to legalize a predetermined invasion,
- and had decided to deceive and mislead the Congress and the
American people with false claims about both weapons of mass
destruction and ties between Saddam Hussein and 9-11.
The Bush Administration's conspiracy to deceive Congress culminated
in a fraudulent letter
to Congress on March 18, 2003, claiming continued U.N. inspections
would endanger the national security of the United States.
This fraud violated the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371,
which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the
United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof
in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements
Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C.§ 1001, which makes it
a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the
United States Congress.
This criminal action constitutes a High Crime under Article II,
Section 4 of the United States Constitution, which says: "The
President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United
States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction
of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Congress Members are not yet using the I-word, but they are moving
the issue forward, and the public is drawing the appropriate conclusion
on its own.
A June 23-26, 2005, ABC/Washington Post poll found
52 percent of Americans believe the Bush administration "deliberately
misled the public before the war," a nine-point increase in
three months. And 57 percent say the Bush administration "intentionally
exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical
or biological weapons."
A June 27-29, 2005, Zogby poll
found 42 percent of Americans say that "if it is found that
President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going
to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through
impeachment." According to Zogby, in Eastern and Western states
supporters of impeachment outnumber opponents.
The 42 percent above is significantly higher than the 27 percent
of Americans who favored impeachment of President
Clinton before impeachment proceedings began in 1998.
Despite this popularity for questioning Bush's pre-war claims
and for considering the possibility of impeachment, most Congress
Members are predictably hesitant. A majority of them are members
of a political party that operates like a dictatorship. And many
of those in the nominally opposition party aren't quite sure they
want to oppose anything. As the Black Commentator has skillfully
documented, this includes some corporatist members
of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Nonetheless, the Congress Members whom activists have learned
to turn to are disproportionately black, although the Congress
is disproportionately white. Let's look at some numbers.
Eight percent of the members of both houses of Congress (43 of
535) are black, one percent of senators (1 of 100), and 10 percent
of House members (42 of 435).
But 44 percent (27 of 62) of the members of the newly formed Out
of Iraq Caucus are black, including five of the eight co-founders,
and the chair, Maxine Waters. The numbers for the Progressive
Caucus, out of which this caucus formed, are similar.
When Congressman Conyers held a hearing on
the Downing Street Minutes on June 16, nearly half of the 35 Congress
Members who squeezed into the small room in the basement of the
Capitol - the only room the Republicans had allowed - were black.
As were five of the seven members who then delivered a letter to
the White House and spoke at a rally in Lafayette Square Park organized
by the After Downing Street coalition. The letter, written by Conyers,
asked Bush five simple questions about the Downing Street Minutes,
and had by that point been signed by over 560,000 Americans and
123 Congress Members.
Of the 123 Congress Members who signed Conyers' letter, 30 percent
(37) are black. Of the 52 who signed a more recent, and yet to
be answered, Freedom of Information Act request (also initiated
by Conyers) demanding information from the White House, State Department,
and Defense Department related to the Downing Street Minutes, 27
percent (14) are black.
And black leadership extends to other steps taken to question
or oppose the war. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is white, but 41
percent (14 of 34) of the cosponsors of her resolution calling
for immediate withdrawal from Iraq are black. Woolsey and Lee are
co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus.
While only 34 congress members have co-sponsored that resolution,
128 voted for an amendment Woolsey proposed on the floor of the
House, which would have required the White House to formulate an
exit strategy and a strategy for rebuilding Iraq. Those 128 were,
again, disproportionately black.
In the last congress, 50 percent (13 of 26) of those backing a
resolution by Congresswoman Lee to disavow the doctrine of preemption
were black, as were 39 percent (18 of 46) of those backing a Lee
resolution to create an independent commission or select House
committee to investigate U.S. intelligence relating to the war.
We all recall that only Congresswoman Lee dared to vote against
the war on Afghanistan. Only Congressman Rangel has dared to introduce
legislation to" remove all restrictions from the public, the
press, and military families in mourning that would prohibit their
presence at the arrival at military installations in the United
States or overseas of the remains of the Nation's fallen heroes,
the members of the Armed Forces who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan."
And only Congressman Conyers has made dragging the truth of the
Downing Street Minutes into the light of day a major mission. In
fact, he's tentatively planning an investigative trip to London
next month focused on finding out more about U.S. pre-war planning,
something the people of our democracy seem best able to learn of
via British sources.
Meanwhile, Lee is planning to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry,
which will likely be referred to the International Relations Committee,
seeking information from our government contemporaneous to the
meeting at #10 Downing Street.
Promoting that Resolution of Inquiry will be part of the agenda
of nationwide forums, study circles, and house parties on Saturday,
July 23, a week from next Saturday. (To find, or create, an event
in your area, see: www.afterdowningstreet.org).
Meanwhile, in the Senate, things are quieter. The Senate Intelligence
Committee had committed to investigating pre-war intelligence,
but put it off until after the election of last November, and then
declared it not worth looking into. On June 22, ten senators sent
a letter to the committee asking for the investigation to be done.
The Senate's one black member did not sign the letter and has not
been heard from on the question of the Downing Street Minutes.
And the Senate's 99 white members are a lot harder for activists
to work with than are those members of the House, mostly black,
who seem to better understand popular movements.
Last Saturday night another leak came out of England, this one
suggesting that the US and UK are secretly planning major reductions
of forces in Iraq, timed to precede the 2006 US elections. While
this would be tremendously good news, if true, there is a danger
that it could cause us to ease the pressure both for an investigation
of what caused this war and for the complete liberation of Iraq
from U.S. occupation. At this point, it becomes critical that we
demand a real exit strategy and a guarantee that the Iraqi people
maintain control of their oil.
While eight major US military bases are being built in Iraq, together
with the world's largest embassy and huge new US prisons for Iraqis,
Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a "Bill to Prevent
Permanent Bases in Iraq."
"We need to make it perfectly clear," Lee said in a
press release, "that there will be no permanent US military
presence in Iraq. An open-ended military presence in Iraq will
only fuel the insurgency and make our troops more vulnerable."
On April 13, 2004, President Bush said: "As a proud and independent
people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither
On February 17, 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, testifying
before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "We have
no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in
Lee said of her new legislation: "the aim of this bill is
to simply codify the sentiments expressed by the President and
the Secretary of Defense that we will not have a permanent military
presence in Iraq."
David Swanson is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer
and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He
is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves
on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper
Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as
a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary
for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator
for the International Labor Communications Association, and three
years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association
of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a
Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia