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The Growing Case for a Resolution of Inquiry


Written by Kevin Zeese and Ralph Nader
Monday, 13 June 2005
Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution: "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."

It is becoming more evident that an impeachment inquiry is needed to determine whether the United States was plunged into war with Iraq based on manipulated intelligence and false information. Thus far the President and Vice President have artfully dodged the central question: "Did the administration mislead us into war by manipulating and misstating intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's involvement with Al Qaeda terrorism and the danger Iraq posed to the United States and its neighbors?"
With the release of the Downing Street Memo, the findings of the Iraq Commission and a review of intelligence findings prior to the invasion of Iraq a strong case can be made for taking the first step toward impeachment - a Resolution of Inquiry - beginning a formal inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives as to whether the President and Vice President should be impeached.

"Fixing" the Intelligence to Support a Preemptive War
The Downing Street Memo, made public on May 1 by The London Times, comprise the minutes of a meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top-level advisors that was held on July 23, 2002 - eight months before the invasion of Iraq. The document, marked "Secret and strictly personal - UK eyes only," consists of the official minutes of a briefing given by Richard Dearlove, then-director of Britain's MI-6 (the equivalent of the CIA), to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials. Mr. Dearlove reported that the Bush administration planned to start a preemptive war against Iraq having just returned from meetings with high U.S. officials in Washington, DC.

According to the minutes, by the summer of 2002 President Bush had decided to overthrow Iraq President Saddam Hussein by launching a war. Dearlove stated the war would be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]." Dearlove continued: "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agreed saying: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided." "But," he continued, "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, and Iran."

British officials do not dispute the document's authenticity, and, on May 6, 2005, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported that "[a] former senior U.S. official called [the document] �an absolutely accurate description of what transpired' during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington." "Memo: Bush made intel fit Iraq policy," The State, Knight Ridder Newspapers, May 6, 2005.

The Cover-up: Artful Dodging by President Bush and Vice President Cheney

When the 9/11 Commission interviewed the President and Vice President they insisted that they be interviewed together, not under oath, that no transcript be made and that even the notes taken by the commissioners be handed over to the White House before they left the office. The Iraq Commission, examining intelligence failures related to Iraq, was even less effective - they did not even interview the President or Vice President.
In fact the administration used the Iraq Commission to avoid examination of the role of the President and Vice President in manipulating intelligence. The Commission was created by President Bush in response to Chief Weapon's Inspector David Kay's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Kay reported to Congress the failure of his 1,500 person inspection team to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and flatly asserted "we got it wrong," as there were no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. At the time of his testimony Kay recommended to Congress that an independent investigation be undertaken of this intelligence failure. President Bush circumvented an independent inquiry by announcing the creation of the Iraq Commission. When he did so President Bush stated:

"Last week, our former chief weapons inspector, David Kay . . . stated that some pre-war intelligence assessments by America and other nations about Iraq's weapons stockpiles have not been confirmed. We are determined to figure out why."

The Executive Order creating the Iraq Commission issued on February 6, 2004 directed: "The Commission shall specifically examine the Intelligence Community's intelligence prior to the initiation of Operation Iraqi Freedom and compare it with the findings of the Iraq Survey Group and other relevant agencies. . ." The Commission was not given the responsibility to look at whether intelligence was misused or manipulated by the President and his Administration. The Commission found serious problems with Iraq intelligence prior to the invasion but it did not place blame on the failure on the shoulders of anyone.

And the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has aided in the �artful dodging' of the administration. As Dick Pohlman reports: "And while a 2004 Senate panel did criticize the prewar intelligence as �a series of failures,' it didn't look at whether the Bush team had misused the material. That task was postponed until after the election; today, in the words of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, it's still �on the back burner.'" See: Dick Polman, "Memo offers Bush's critics hard evidence on prewar intelligence," Knight-Ridder, June 12, 2006.

On May 5, 2005, 89 Members of Congress submitted a letter to President Bush, asking the President to answer several questions arising from the Downing Street Memo. On May 17, 2005, White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters that the White House saw "no need" to respond to the letter. "British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics," The New York Times, May 20, 2005, A8. The artful dodging continues.

Intelligence Before the Iraq Invasion Showed there Were no Weapons of Mass Destruction

If the Downing Street Memo is accurate, and intelligence was "fixed" to justify the war, then it is surprising how much information from the intelligence community was available that showed there were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear weapons, no ability to deploy weapons, no connection between Iraq and 9/11 or Al Qaeda. Yet, the President and Vice President created a sense of imminent harm if we did not invade. The Tampa Tribune, a newspaper that has endorsed every Republican for President except one since Dwight Eisenhower described the environment:

"His administration terrified us into believing that we had to quickly wage war with Baghdad to ensure our safety. Vice President Dick Cheney said he had �irrefutable evidence' that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrongly asserted that aluminum tubes found in Iraq could be used only for nuclear weapons. And the president himself said he couldn't wait for a smoking gun in the form of a �mushroom cloud.'"[1]

In fact there was evidence from many official sources that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the U.S. was not facing an imminent threat, to wit:

- The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Iraq inspection team, Gary B. Dillon reported that as of 1998, "there were no indications of Iraq having achieved its program goals of producing a nuclear weapon; nor were there any indications that there remained in Iraq any physical capability for production of amounts of weapon-usable material of any practical significance."[2] An update by the IAEA in 2003 reached the same conclusions.

- A February 2001, CIA report delivered to the White House that stated: "We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programs."[3]

- Secretary of State Colin Powell in February 2001 that Saddam Hussein "has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction."[4]

- In his 2003 State of the Union address President Bush carefully phrased claims about nuclear weapons programs in Iraq saying: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Why couldn't the President rely on U.S. intelligence? Because in the fall of 2002, the CIA told administration officials not to include claims of uranium purchases sending two memos to the White House and the Director of the CIA, George Tenet, personally called top national security officials imploring them not to use the claim.

- Bush claimed just before the UN vote on Iraq that "manned and unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons." However, the White House been told by the Pentagon that it was highly disputed that these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were designed as attack weapons. Indeed, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center showed the drones were too heavy to be used to carry weapons spray devices. The president had been told that these were unproven assertions also by the Defense Intelligence Agency who told the White House there was no reliable information showing Iraq was producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or whether it had established chemical agent production facilities.[5]

- The CIA never categorically declared that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. All claims made in that regard used words like "might" and "could" - the case was always circumstantial with equivocations.[6] But the claims from the President and vice president were definitive: Vice President Cheney said on August 26: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," and President Bush said in September: "The Iraq regime possesses biological and chemical weapons."[7]

- The State Department in a dissent to the National Intelligence Estimate said: "The activities we have detected do not ... add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR (State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research) would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."

- The National Intelligence Estimate said in a Top Secret 92-page document in October 2003 that "We have no specific intelligence information that Saddam's regime has directed attacks against U.S. territory."[8]

- Senator Jay Rockefeller, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently highlighted that the Iraq Commission said there was pressure put on CIA analysts noting the report "says that 7 percent of all of those people in WINPAC, which is kind of the weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear proliferation [analysts] in the CIA, felt that they had to change their intelligence to suit the customer, i.e., the executive branch. . . . the point is John Bolton and others clearly tried to exercise pressure . . . on George Tenet."[9]

Thus the United Nations, IAEA, State Department, Energy Department, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center, the U.S. inspectors and even the CIA minimized the Iraq threat. Yet, President Bush told the American public in a radio address to the nation in September 2002 that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given."[10] Shortly before the invasion President Bush said: "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."[11]

Certainly, President Bush and Vice President Cheney knew or should have known before invading Iraq that the intelligence community had reservations about the claims of a nuclear program, weapons of mass destruction and whether Iraq was a threat to the United States. Yet, the Administration was determined to go to war and therefore ignored the facts, pressured the analysts to change the facts and, it seems, manipulated intelligence - in order to invade and occupy Iraq, without giving UN inspectors a few weeks more to finish their job in Iraq.

Post Invasion Revision: The Media Reports Intelligence was Week and Manipulated

As the occupation of Iraq has turned into a quagmire, more and more the truth is coming out - intelligence before the invasion was weak, manipulated and misstated.

James Bamford, a leading investigative writer on intelligence matters, author of The Puzzle Palace and Pretext for War, when asked whether the Bush Administration manipulated intelligence said:

"Intelligence was manipulated, mangled, ignored, and analysts were harassed and bullied to present the false picture that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. In talking with intelligence analysts and case officers, in the months leading up to the war none believed that Iraq posed a threat to the U.S. The most basic evidence was the fact that Iraq had never begun work on a long-range missile system (unlike Iran and North Korea), something that can be easily seen by imaging satellites space with a resolution down to the centimeter. And no country has ever built a warhead without simultaneously building a delivery system.
"One CIA analyst from the Iraq Non-Proliferation section told me that his boss once called his office together (about fifty people) and said, �You know what - if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so.' The former analyst added, �And I said, �All right, it's time, it's time to go . . . And I just remember saying, �This is something that the American public, if they ever knew, they would be outraged.'
"Congress was also lied to. Because Iraq had no long-range missiles, they were told in secret session that Iraq was planning to launch a series of unmanned drones loaded with chemical and biological agents against the East Coast of the U.S. Many members of Congress voted for the resolution exclusively because of that warning. It later turned out that not only did Iraq not have such warheads, the few drones they had were rudimentary, short range, and there was no way to launch them from sea off the East Coast in the first place. There were many such falsehoods."[12]

The ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) summarized some of the press reports highlighting how weak the intelligence was to support the war. On June 6, 2005 he wrote:

"On page A26 of the Sunday, May 22, 2005 edition of the Washington Post, under the headline �Prewar Findings Worried Analysts,' we learned that four days before the President made the now retracted claim that Iraq was trying to buy �significant quantities' of uranium from Africa, the National Security Council thought this case was so weak that it put out a frantic call for new intelligence.

"In the same article, we learned that before an Oct. 7, 2002 Presidential speech in which the President claimed there was a potential threat to the U.S. by Iraq through unmanned aircraft �that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons,' and a contemporaneous claim to Congress by Vice President Cheney and then-CIA Director George Tenet that this was the �smoking gun' justifying the war, �the CIA was still uncertain whether he was lying.'

"On page A1 of the Saturday, May 28 edition of the Washington Post, under the headline �Analysts Behind Iraq Intelligence Were Rewarded,' we learned that the analysts who pushed the now discredited claim that Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes was for the purpose of furthering a nuclear weapons program, have been richly rewarded for this conspicuous failure, receiving job performance rewards in each of the three years since this grave error.

"The same article quotes �some current and former officials' as generally stating �the episode shows how the administration has failed to hold people accountable for mistakes on prewar intelligence.'

"Early this morning on the Associated Press wire, under the headline �Bolton Said to Orchestrate Unlawful Firing,' we learn that the President's nominee to be Ambassador to the United Nations once again exercised his unique diplomatic talents, flying �to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved.' The diplomat's sin? He was �trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war.'"[13]

The Five Falsehoods Used to Justify Invading Iraq

There were five falsehoods that President Bush and Vice President Cheney used to mislead the United States to war. These included:

1. Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government's anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having. Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. President Bush's favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president "We were wrong." See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, January 28, 2004.

2. Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda-9/11. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies - one secular, the other fundamentalist.

3. Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

4. Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator, if not his entire regime. Saddam Hussein was a survivalist first-foremost.

5. The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need "liberation" from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it's been about oil and distortions from other failures in pursuing Al Qaeda leaders and many ignored necessities and problems in our country. In fact, as noted by Porter Goss, the director of the CIA in testimony before the Senate this February, the occupation of Iraq by the United States has created a magnet and training ground for terrorists. This leads to more violence, anarchy and insurrection in Iraq now, but could lead to more violence in the United States in the future.

Impeachment the Constitutional Standard
On December 12, 1998 the U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton for his dishonesty about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Certainly, the House should take the initial step - a Resolution of Inquiry - for the much more serious allegations against President Bush and Vice President Cheney - that they plunged the nation into an illegal war based on lies, falsehoods and deceptions. President Nixon was threatened with impeachment, before his resignation, for his role in covering up information about his campaign's break-in of the Democratic Party's headquarters. Certainly, plunging our nation into war on the basis of manipulated intelligence and repeated false statements to the American people is more serious than either of these two recent impeachment initiatives.

The relevant standard for impeachment under Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution is whether the President and Vice President have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors." The purpose of the impeachment clause is to ensure that the people of the United States, through their representatives in the United States Congress, are able to hold a President accountable for abuse of power and an abuse of the public trust.

When Virginian George Mason suggested the phrase he argued the two other grounds for impeachment, bribery and treason, were insufficient saying they "will not reach many great and dangerous offenses." In explaining the meaning of the phrase in the Federalist pages Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist 65 that impeachable offenses are those that arise from "the abuse or violation of some public trust" and "relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."

James Madison, speaking at Virginia's ratification convention stated: "A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the Constitution." Surely, seeking approval to go to war on false information is a subversion of the Constitution. Perhaps the most relevant analysis to the issue the U.S. faces today comes from James Iredell who stated at North Carolina's ratification convention:

"The President must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate. He is to regulate all intercourse with foreign powers, and it is his duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives. If it should appear that he has not given them full information, but has concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated, and by that means induced them to enter into measures injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them, - in this case, I ask whether, upon an impeachment for a misdemeanor upon such an account, the Senate would probably favor him."[14]

If the evidence revealed by the Downing Street Memo is true - that there was a conspiracy to fix the intelligence to justify the Iraq War - then the President's submission to Congress of his March 18, 2003 letter and report justifying the Iraq invasion to the United States Congress[15] would violate federal criminal law. John Bonifaz of AfterDowningStreet.org writes in a memorandum to Rep. John Conyers, Jr. describes two potential criminal violations: "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.

The United States House of Representatives has a constitutional duty to investigate fully and comprehensively the evidence revealed by the Downing Street Memo and other related evidence and to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to impeach George W. Bush, the President of the United States and send the impeachment to the Senate for trial. A Resolution of Inquiry is the appropriate first step in launching this investigation.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] "Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush for Re-Election," Editorial, The Tampa Tribune, October 17, 2004.

[2] Id. At 203 citing IAEA report at www.iaea.or.at/worldatom/Periodicals/Bulletin/Bull442/articles3.pdf

[3] "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January Through 30 June 2000," Central Intelligence Agency, February 2001

[4] Press Remarks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Amre Moussa, Secretary Colin L. Powell, Cairo, Egypt (Ittihadiya Palace), February 24, 2001.

[5] Defense Agency Issues Excerpt on Iraqi Chemical Warfare Program, Defense Intelligence Agency, June 9, 2003

[6] Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Simon and Shuster 2004, pgs. 194-198.

[7] Id.

[8] Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, Simon and Shuster 2004, pgs. 199.

[9] Meet the Press, April 10, 2005.

[10] Radio Address by the President to the Nation, September 28, 2002.
[11] President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat , Remarks by the President on Iraq Cincinnati Museum Center - Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 2003.

[12] James Bamford interviewed by Kevin Zeese, "Inventing a Pretext for War," DemocracyRising.US, May 23, 2005, http://democracyrising.us/content/view/226/164/

[13] John Conyers, Jr., Mens Rea and WMD, June 6, 2005, www.JohnConyers.com, reprinted at: http://democracyrising.us/content/view/241/106/

[14]J. Elliot, Debates in the Several State Conventions on Adoption of the Constitution, As Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787 (Washington: 1836), vol. 4 at 127.

[15] The Resolution passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2002 authorizing the President to take military action against Iraq required the President to make a formal determination that military action against Iraq was necessary to "protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq..."

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