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2 sides of the memo

Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel
June 14, 2005

Corrine Brown and Tom Feeney pretty much represent the yin and yang of the hottest debate in Washington that is spilling into mainstream America.

Brown, the Democrat who represents Jacksonville and Orlando, is among the growing number of Congressfolk who want President Bush to address recently disclosed British documents that suggest the White House manipulated facts to justify a war in Iraq that it was not adequately prepared to handle.

On the other hand is Feeney, the Oviedo Republican who says that Democrats are using an inconclusive memo as simply another way to throw barbs at Bush.

Feeney's side has more votes.

Brown's has momentum.

The memo was actually the minutes of a meeting eight months before the Iraq invasion in which British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked to top aides who had just returned from Washington. The minutes show the aides had concluded that the U.S. was not planning adequately for a postwar occupation. The memo also suggested that the Bush administration was determined to go to war, saying: "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The memo, known as the Downing Street Memo (after the location of Blair's offices), was first revealed last month by the Sunday Times of London.

Brown said Monday that she has attended too many funerals and memorial services not to ask questions, adding that the real problem is that people haven't asked tougher questions before now. "It is a failure with the Congress," she said. "And it is a failure with the media."

To hear Brown say it, the memo makes for strong documentation that Bush was willing to go to war -- no matter the cost or reason.

But Feeney's having none of that.

"Hindsight is 20/20. And this is sincerely second-guessing," Feeney said Monday. "I find it interesting that the Democrats are more interested in this than why Saddam Hussein was brutalizing his own people, threatening his neighbors and either possessing, or possessing the capability to produce, weapons of mass destruction."

Democrats are calling for hearings. And the letter, signed by nearly 100 members of Congress, asks Bush to answer five questions, including: "Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to 'fix' the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?"

Feeney thinks the matter will fade. "I think it'll fizzle out in a couple of weeks," he said. "The Democrats will be on to something else."

Brown, however, said she couldn't possibly imagine Republicans letting something like this fizzle if the roles were reversed, saying: "I can tell you this: If this president had been a Democratic president, the Republicans would be raising hell every single day."



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