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Didn’t You Get the Memo?

The Green Party and Veterans for Peace come together to demand Bush’s impeachment in the wake of the Downing Street disclosure

On July 7, the Veterans for Peace and the Green Party came together to call for the impeachment of President George W. Bush. Both groups had originally passed resolutions in favor of impeaching Bush following the start of the Iraq war, but both decided to renew their call in light of the Downing Street memo, which they think has strengthened their accusation that Bush deliberately misled Congress and the American people into war with Iraq.

The Downing Street memo was written on July 23, 2003, eight months before the invasion of Iraq, during a time when, publicly, Bush was saying things like “We are doing everything we can to avoid war.”

The memo compiles opinions of British officials about what seemed at the time to be impending war with Iraq. A source referred to only as “C” in the document reports that in his recent talks with Washington, “there was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable.” He later adds, “The intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy.”

According to a Zogby poll in June, 42 percent of voters support impeaching President Bush if it is proven that he misled Congress and the nation into war with Iraq. According to an ABC/Washington Post poll from late June, 52 percent of Americans believe that the Bush administration “deliberately misled the public before the war,” and 57 percent say the Bush administration “intentionally exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.”

Locally, Metroland spoke with a number of people on the mall of Empire State Plaza and in Crossgates Mall. While almost all had not heard of the Downing Street memo, most said it was a given that intelligence had been manipulated in the lead up to the war, but thought it highly unlikely that the president would ever suffer any consequences from that.

John Amidon, local director of Veterans for Peace, thinks that as the American public becomes more informed, more people will support impeachment. “If [the memo] got the same coverage as the London bombings, do you think people’s opinions would change? Sure,” he said.

Mark Dunlea of the Green Party said the renewed call for impeachment is designed to demonstrate to the media that this is an issue that Americans care about and that should be taken seriously. He’s frustrated by hearing people say it’s not OK to lie about oral sex, but it’s expected that you lie about foreign policy. “This is a serious issue that has cost many people their lives,” he said.

Both the Green Party and Veterans for Peace have petitions for impeachment online and circulating by e-mail. Dunlea and Amidon both hope to get local groups like Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace and Women Against War to pass resolutions of their own.

Dunlea also has approached some local media outlets about what he feels was their lack of coverage of the Downing Street memo. “I spoke to [Times Union editor] Rex Smith to find out why the memo was buried, and he says, ‘We are covering Watergate and the revelations about Deep Throat,’ ” said Dunlea. “The president lying to send us to war is much bigger than a third-rate burglary the president had no advance knowledge of.”

According to Smith, he did discuss the coverage with Dunlea but did not use Watergate as an excuse for not covering it. Rather, Smith said he turned down Dunlea’s invitation to be a guest on his WRPI show because he had a speaking engagement at the state museum to discuss his memories of Watergate.

That does not mean Smith has no regrets about the Times Union’s coverage of the memo and related documents. “We did put them on the front page,” said Smith, “but I wish we had gotten them there sooner. Many papers never got them to the cover.”

Smith also believes that those documents have been getting more credit than they deserve. “They are confirming documents, not revelatory documents,” he said. “They do not deserve to be trumpeted, but instead analyzed. They have taken on a mystique they do not deserve.”

Some members of Congress think the memo deserves at least some kind of administration response. Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York’s 22nd District has held two town-hall meetings to discuss the implication of the Downing Street memo. Hinchey has sponsored bills to look into prewar intelligence, and has publicly stated that he feels the memo proves that Bush misled the country. He has also sent a letter to the White House asking for an explanation.

Amidon believes it is unlikely the impeachment will make it through the Republican-controlled Congress. Nevertheless, he thinks it is crucial to move forward with the process. “Is it likely that he’ll be impeached?” he said. “Probably not, but that does not negate his criminal act. According to the Constitution, the government is governed by consensus of the people, and if we have misinformation and are lied to then we can not possibly give consent.”

—David King

dking@metroland.net


What a Week

Another War on Drugs Casualty

Steve McWilliams, a medical- marijuana patient and advocate, committed suicide on July 11 after learning he would face 40 years in prison after a federal raid on the small collective he operated—which served, among others, a 73-year-old leukemia patient and a 70-year-old man with prostate cancer. The California collective had city- and state-granted sanction as a patients’ collective, but a recent Supreme Court ruling nonetheless authorized such raids and ensured prison time. According to reports, McWilliams grew despondent and used his other, prescribed pain medication to commit suicide.

So Why Have a Zoning Commission?

A judge in Carroll County, Md., recently ordered the county’s zoning commission to either reverse its denial of a 254-townhouse project, which had been turned down repeatedly for years due to water-shortage problems, or face jail time. Carroll, which has had its population triple since 1980, suffers from seasonal water shortages and has become so congested that most of its schools now rely on portable classrooms outside the main buildings. More than 600 residents delivered a petition to Judge Michael M. Galloway supporting the commission’s continuing denial of the project. Benjamin Rosenberg, an attorney for the project’s development group, argued that the county’s current inability to support such development shouldn’t stand in the way of such a project. According to the Baltimore Sun, he argued “If need be, it will have to take water allocated for another project.”

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

The federal pissing contest continued last week as Senate Republicans rejected legislation proposed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that would deny security clearance to officials who disclose the identity of undercover agents, saying that such a measure was simply an exercise in partisan politics. In a grand show of nonpartisanship(?), Republicans then countered with their own legislation—this time, targeting the security clearance of officials who mention classified reports on the Senate floor. According to Republicans, Reid had done so earlier this year while discussing a judicial nominee. The heated debate lasted throughout much of the day, with neither bill leaving the floor.



Overheard

Overheard:

"So I gave him $50 for 'cheese' from Vermont, and he brought back $50 worth of actual cheese! It was damn good cheese though."

—late night at the Old Songs Festival campground


Loose Ends

The man whom the Albany Police arrested on July 14 for sexual assault is said to be a suspect in the recent attacks on two 14-year-old girls who attended Hackett Middle School [“Killer or Killers?” Newsfront, June 23]. . . . On July 15, the Albany Civic Agenda submitted petitions with the signatures of 3,756 city residents to the city clerk, enough to get on the ballot in November. The submission comes in the wake of the July 8 announcement by Larry Rosen, the head of Mayor Jerry Jennings’ charter reform commission [“My Reform is Better Than Yours” Newsfront, June 30], that the commission will not attempt to get recommendations together in time to bump the ACA’s charter reforms off the ballot. He also noted that the committee could meet for up to two years. . . . A State Supreme Court judge recently ruled against Donald Hassig and his advocacy group, Cancer Action, in their efforts to prevent a chipboard factory from being built in Lisbon [“Do I Have to Say It Again?,” Newsfront, May 19]. Citing the three lawsuits the group has filed over the last six years against Chatham Forest Products, the judge ruled that the group could not commence any further litigation without approval from state or federal officials.



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