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How the United States Marked the 3rd Anniversary of the Downing Street Memo
How the United States Marked the 3rd Anniversary of the Downing Street Memo
By David Swanson
Hundreds of people were turned away today as capacity crowds packed public forums in U.S. cities to discuss the Downing Street Memo and related evidence that President Bush lied about the reasons for war. Halls were filled to capacity and beyond in LA, Oakland, Seattle, Detroit, Northampton, New York, and elsewhere, for events led by Congress Members, including Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, John Conyers, and Maurice Hinchey.
For the second time in the two months since we launched the www.AfterDowningStreet.org campaign, I've been overwhelmed by what we've tapped into. The first time was when we put up a website about the Downing Street minutes and a demand for an investigation into grounds for impeachment. I'd never seen a coalition grow so quickly or a website receive so much traffic. Today we saw crowds of people in red and blue states chant "Impeach Bush!" at events with leaders not yet ready to use the I word. The much maligned American Public is way out ahead of us – I'm telling you.
I need to get outside the Beltway more! Today I did so, briefly. I drove over and spoke at an event in Montgomery County, Maryland. The questions I got from the crowd were along the lines of "Why is it so hard to get a Democrat from a solidly Democratic district to introduce articles of impeachment? What are they waiting for?"
It's a hell of a question. They know that a Zogby poll in the end of June – the ONLY poll done on impeachment of Bush – found that 42 percent of Americans (meaning a strong majority of Democrats) favor impeachment if the President lied about the reasons for war. They know that 52 percent believe he did in fact so lie, according to ABC/Washington Post.
What are they waiting for?
If they're waiting for a show of public pressure, they got a good glimpse of it today. The blog entries and photos and audio clips that flowed into the www.AfterDowningStreet.org site all day were full of energy, excitement, enthusiasm, and righteous anger.
At an event in Detroit with Congressman Conyers, constitutional law professor Bob Sedler asked the crowd if Bush had committed impeachable offenses, and the whole room shouted "YES!"
The scene in New York was similar. Quoting our blogger:
"I hope many of you are watching this amazing event online. This is a [sic] both a rowdy and a mature crowd! Liz Holtzman was awarded--and she deserved--a standing ovation for her tales of the Nixon Impeachment and her sane cautions about the difficulty of getting Congress to act.
"It will only happen, she reminded us, via the WILL OF THE PEOPLE.
"And now Rep. Hinchey is on fire--clear and direct and comprehensive in his exposition of the various crimes that the Bush Administration has, provably, committed.
"It is incredible to be in this hot hall and to feel the energy of the overflow crowd. The will of the people is remarkably clear here..."
Other reports that came in from around the country described events as small as this one in Ohio:
"Twelve peacemakers from NE Ohio gathered at the Community Center of Newton Falls (zipcode 44444) to hear a dramatic reading of the Downing Street memo and engage in a lively discussion of local peace events and social justice issues. The entrance to the Community Center is prominently marked by a memorial to four young men from this small town who lost their lives in the War in Vietnam. We felt their spirit among us crying out to a new generation: the politicians lied and we died! Honor the dead - reveal the truth and stop the war!"
Or this one in Louisville, Kentucky:
"On this blistering hot day, the Louisville Peace Action Community (LPAC) held its DSM event at a busy intersection in a working class neighborhood in Louisville's southend.
"We had about 40 people with signs & petitions and we had great visibility--thousands of cars saw us and many, many pedestrians talked to us. In our group we had an 82-year-old nun & several babies.
"We also had a visit from 'George Bush' on a megaphone telling people NOT to read the Memo, because he didn't want them to know the truth. He sounded as stupid as ever.
"We had an overwhelmingly positive response and were glad to find a good new intersection for future actions. After two hours in the blazing heat, we hit a local watering hole for a round of congratulations and good laughs. The truth will prevail."
Many events were house parties, like this one:
"A motivated and committed group has gathered at a house party in Raleigh, NC to watch the DVD of the Conyers' hearing and to continue the lively discussion we've already started. We have twice the expected turnout, with participants from all over the Triangle area. We're excited about building on this momentum and adding even more voices to this movement."
Will the media cover these events and the facts that motivated them?
I know of some newspapers, including major ones, doing stories for tomorrow. But the focus appears likely to be on the activism, more than the substance of the discussions. And there was substance!
Former CIA analysts testified on the state of intelligence under Bush-Cheney. Families of soldiers who have died in Iraq, and veterans of the fighting in Iraq told their stories. Legal analysts and other experts provided historical perspective and understanding of the strength of the evidence.
Every event discussed the evidence of the Downing Street Documents. Most events made plans to generate co-sponsors for H.Res. 375, a Resolution of Inquiry introduced by Congresswoman Lee on Thursday that would require the White House and the State Department to turn over all documentation of communications with officials of the UK between January and October 2002.
In New York, Congressman Hinchey engaged in an analysis of strategies related to expanding the special prosecutor's reach or creating a new one. In Oakland, Daniel Ellsberg, known for having released the Pentagon Papers, said that the intelligence committees in Congress have the right to hold minority hearings with subpoena power and argued for pressuring the Democrats to do that rather than pressuring the Republicans to act like they care about their country.
A "mainstream" radio station in one city called me to get in touch with someone at a local event. "It would be impolitic," the producer said, with no sign of intending irony, to simply cover what's in the Downing Street Memo. But, he said, he COULD cover a rally.
C-Span, meanwhile, chose not to cover any of the events, not because the lineup of speakers was not impressive, but – according to their reply to one activist – because they choose not to cover events if too many people ask them to do so. (We asked thousands of people to ask C-Span, which in the past has worked much more often than not doing that has.)
At least we can be satisfied that on this day we became the media and did our own reporting. The results are at www.AfterDowningStreet.org
My favorite of the various short entries I posted today is this one:
"I just got off the phone with Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign in Seattle. They, like the organizers today in New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Northampton, had to turn people away because the space was filled beyond capacity.
"Congressman Jim McDermott, I'm told, gave a tremendous speech, as did spokespeople from Military Families Speak Out, and as I'm sure Bill did himself.
"They also performed a humurous reenactment of the Downing Street Meeting.
"Then they organized groups to write letters to the media, to Congress, and to the Governor of Washington State.
"When I told Bill about the events eleswhere today, he said 'It's the beginning of the end for the Bush Administration.'"
DAVID SWANSON is a co-founder of After Downing Street, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.