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Downing St. memo inquiry requested


Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
June 17, 2005 Friday
SECTION: MAIN; Pg. 15A
LENGTH: 562 words
HEADLINE: Downing St. memo inquiry requested;
Democrats demand answers about controversial British war document
BYLINE: Washington Bureau
BODY:
WASHINGTON -- A hearing Thursday on a secret British intelligence memo that said President Bush was committed to waging war on Iraq months before he said so publicly ended with a request for Congress to open an inquiry into whether Bush should be impeached for misleading the nation.

"All we're asking is to know the truth," said John Bonifaz, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org. "Some of his supporters want to say it's a question of failed intelligence. If that's all it was, so be it."

But if not, said Bonifaz, "then the American people and the U.S. Congress deserve to know."

The hearing focused on the now-famous Downing Street memo, named after the Downing Street office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The memo was written July 23, 2002, by a top Blair adviser.

The memo reports that Bush appeared determined in summer 2002 to proceed with war and had "fixed" intelligence to boost his case before the country and the world. The war began March 19, 2003.

The Sunday Times of London published the memo May 1.

The memo says: "It seemed clear that Bush has made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Bush and Blair have denied twisting intelligence or intentionally misleading the public.

Thursday's hearing on the memo was organized by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

It was held in a cramped Capitol basement room and was attended by about 20 House Democrats and some anti-war activists. Republicans, who control Congress, refused to hold an official hearing or to participate, so Conyers termed it a "forum."

Afterward, Conyers hand delivered to the White House a letter signed by more than 100 Democratic House members -- and an accompanying petition signed by 560,000 citizens -- demanding answers to questions raised by the memo.

The White House dismissed Conyers' letter as a political shot by Democrats who have long opposed the war.

"This is an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

At the forum, witnesses said the memo offers new proof that Bush took advantage of a nation and Congress traumatized by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and that he manipulated intelligence to suggest that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said, "The evidence that appears to be building up points to a direction of whether the president deliberately misled Congress. I want so badly to believe that no president would ever sacrifice human life."

"Now we're at $300 billion, countless lives and there's no end in sight," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.

The official cost of the war so far is $208 billion and the lives of 1,704 U.S. troops, according to the Congressional Research Service and the Department of Defense.

This report includes information from Cox News Service.

"The evidence that appears to be building up points to a direction of whether the president deliberately misled Congress. I want so badly to believe that no president would ever sacrifice human life."

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

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