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The "Drama" of the Downing Street Memo Presented in Seattle
By Rita A. Weinstein, PDA
Bill Moyer, Director of The Backbone Campaign
Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rory Steel, from Congressman Jay Inslee's office
Bear Dyson and Lisa Gill of Military Families Speak Out
Paul Rogat Loeb, author of The Impossible will Take a Little While and The Soul of a Citizen
The event took place in the Labor Temple in downtown Seattle. The auditorium audience of over 300 was standing room only. Congressman Jim ("Baghdad Jim") McDermott was the featured speaker. Bill Moyer ("Without the 's', but it helps to get calls returned."), Director of the Backbone Campaign (www.backbonecampaign.org) organized and hosted the event. His opening message to the full spectrum of Seattle's progressive community opened with the immortal lines of Robert Burns: "O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." He explained that part the agenda of the Backbone Campaign, a member of the Afterdowningstreet.org coalition, is to provide creative accountability tools for our leaders, such as The Backbone Award and the Spineless Citation.
After Bill's introduction, several members of the Backbone Campaign did a dramatic reading of the Downing Street minutes, in which Tony Blair was portrayed by a poodle puppet, which merely barked in agreement with whatever was being said by the other participants. The Blair puppet also occasionally rolled over. The reading was concluded by a speaker who quoted Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister of propaganda: "The argument should be crude, clear, forcible, and appeal to emotions, not intellect. Truth is irrelevant."
Congressman Jim McDermott entered the room to a standing ovation. He received a second standing ovation when he began his speech by saying that the current situation is a DIRE emergency: 'D' for Downing Street, 'I' for Iraq, 'R' for Rove, and 'E' for Everything else. He described the recently passed bankruptcy law as a prime example of what this administration is about: pitting single parents with children against the banks and credit card companies. He then spoke about his trip to Baghdad during the runup to war in 2002-2003. In advance of his trip, during the period in which weapons inspectors were still operating in Iraq, he met with the Iraqi foreign minister. McDermott recalled that the foreign minister told him, "You might as well start bombing now. It won't matter what the inspectors find or do not find. You are going to attack us and there will be a war."
McDermott said that when he first said, on the steps of Congress, that the president would mislead this country in order to start a war against Iraq, he was ignored. But when George Stephanopoulos asked if he thought that during the Baghdad trip, his affirmative response opened him up to vicious personal attack by the right wing media. He believes that the administration could not afford to let that idea sink into the American consciousness as their propaganda machine was running full tilt. As he said in the film Fahrenheit 911, fear is the weapon the administration has used time and again in the last six years to push through what they want.
McDermott pointed out that today's New York Times above-the-fold coverage is entirely about the terrorism the US unleashed when we invaded Iraq. We destroyed the training ground in Afghanistan and created a new and better one in Iraq. As of today 126 of the 275 members of Iraq's newly created and highly touted "democracy" have signed onto a letter requesting that the occupation end. The media is not reporting this story. The four full-scaled bases being built only serve to confirm that the administration never had any intention of leaving Iraq and we will be there even beyond the 12 years that they now admit it will take to stabilize the country.
His speech was punctuated with applause and members of the audience adding their two cents to what McDermott said. He finished by exhorting the attendees to "keep pushing. We need you back in DC doing it."
Rory Steel from Congressman Jay Inslee's office read a letter in which he stated that Congress has a responsibility to our troops and to the dead to discover the truth. That among the many insults to democracy was the outing of Valerie Plame. He has just cosponsored a resolution demanding that the administration reveal the truth of how she was outed by releasing all communications, emails, etc. He reminded us that it was at his forum in his district that Joseph Wilson first expressed his desire that Karl Rove be "frog-marched out of the White House." Inslee believes the DSM are at core about whether any president should be allowed to silence dissent and damage the national security. The letter ended with, "We are not going away. We will not let a Supreme Court nomination distract us."
The audience then broke into four subgroups to discuss activities that would carry this work forward. The groups discussed outreach to the Washington Congressional delegation, lobbying Governor Gregoire on bringing the National Guard home, writing letters to the editor and visiting editorial boards, and outreach to broadcast media.
When the groups reconvened in the auditorium, Paul Rogat Loeb concluded the event with some inspirational words, recalling that it was 12 years from the time Rosa Parks attended her first NAACP meeting and the fateful day she refused to give up her seat on the bus. He quoted Jim Wallis of Sojourners: "Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change." He reminded us that history will shift when we participate and he quoted Vaclav Havel: "There are so many people speaking out, they cannot jail them all."
Bill Moyer ended the day by saying, "This is the beginning of the end—of the Bush administration!"
The only mainstream media in attendance was the local ABC affiliate, KOMO 4 News. Independent media was represented by Pepper Spray productions, among others.