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Lee plans town hall on war and Downing Street memo


Representatives across country hold rallies Saturday to criticize Iraq conflict
The Argus
By Josh Richman

Members of Congress — including Oakland's representative — will mark the third anniversary of a British government meeting detailed in the "Downing Street memo" by taking criticism of the Iraq war to the masses.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will host a town hall meeting from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Lake Ave. in Oakland. Eight other lawmakers from New York to Michigan to New Mexico to California will hold district meetings this weekend as well.

Lee will be joined by Berkeley's Daniel Ellsberg, a former government worker famed for leaking the "Pentagon Papers" on U.S. decision-making in Vietnam in 1971; Steve Cobble, an activist and co-founder of afterdowningstreet.org; Bill Mitchell of Atascadero, a Gold Star Families for Peace co-founder whose son, U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Mitchell, 25, was killed in Baghdad; and Iraq Veterans Against the War members.

Lee intends to introduce a resolution of inquiry this week calling on the Bush administration to release all materials related to its meetings with British officials before the congressional vote authorizing use of force in Iraq.

Apparently penned by a foreign-policy aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Downing Street memo contains minutes from a July 23, 2002, meeting of high-ranking officials. Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British secret intelligence service MI6, had recently met with CIA officials in Washington and was quoted as saying "(m)ilitary action was now seen as inevitable."

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction)," the memo says. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

The memo also said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated he would discuss the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that week.

"It seemed clear that Bush had 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 his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

More than 130 members of Congress have written to President Bush. and more than 575,000 people have signed petitions in recent weeks demanding answers from the White House.

Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@angnewspapers.com.
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