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Hinchey asks for war probe
Leaked memo hints at deceit
By Anthony Farmer
KINGSTON -- The Bush administration needs to answer lingering questions that it secretly decided to invade Iraq before seeking congressional authority and later distorted the justifications for going to war, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, said Monday.
Hinchey, D-Hurley, is one of 90 congressmen who have signed a letter written by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., calling on President Bush to answer questions raised by the so-called "Downing Street Memo." The memo, leaked to the British press, purportedly offers proof the United States and Great Britain secretly agreed to invade Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before seeking a U.N. resolution to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
If it turns out Bush knowingly misled Congress and the American public, it could lead to his impeachment, Hinchey said.
The memo is just the latest evidence the Bush administration was determined to invade Iraq and fashioned the facts and intelligence to support its plan to go to war, Hinchey said.
"That is becoming increasingly clear to anyone who's paying any attention to this whatsoever," Hinchey said Monday during a meeting with reporters at his Kingston office.
Blair meeting detailed
The British memo was first reported by the Sunday Times of London May 1.
It summarizes a July 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and some top advisers. In it, Blair's intelligence chief, Richard Dearlove, reports on a recent visit to Washington.
"Military action was not seen as inevitable," Dearlove reported, according to a copy of the memo on the paper's Web site. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam (Hussein), through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Blair denied that was the case during a joint press conference with Bush at the White House last week.
At the same press conference, Bush said, "And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth."
Bush also said that using military force was the "last option."
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said Monday the administration acted deliberately and carefully before deciding to invade.
"You have to look at the history," Lisaius said. "After these things occurred, there is whole period of time when the United States and Great Britain go through the U.N. Security Council and where Resolution 1441 passes unanimously."
The resolution, approved by a 15-0 vote on Nov. 8, 2002, required Saddam to disarm any chemical, biological or nuclear warheads and open his country to international weapons inspectors or face "serious consequences."
Two Republican House members representing the mid-Hudson Valley had a different view from Hinchey's.
"What we need to focus on now is moving forward, taking care of our soldiers, providing them with the resources they need to do their job so they can come home," said Melissa Carlson, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park.
U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, said in a statement there has been, and will continue to be, debate over the circumstances leading up to the war in Iraq.
"Our top focus at this time should not be to play politics with a serious issue, but rather to protect our troops abroad and provide them the support and resources they need to get their job done," Kelly said.
The memo is not the first instance where questions were raised about Bush's reasoning for invading Iraq.
Bush's former treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, have also asserted the administration was set on toppling Saddam and tried to connect him to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Conyers and other Democrats plan an unofficial hearing for Thursday on the matter.
Hinchey said the American public should be allowed to know why the U.S. went to war with Iraq.
"I will continue to press even more vigorously for these inquiries," Hinchey said.
Anthony Farmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org