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The NYC Town Hall Meeting
On the way into the town hall meeting held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture center in Manhattan today, four members of Billionaires For Bush were there to greet attendees decked out in top hats, pass out invites for a "yacht party", and chant slogans from the signs they carried such as "Sure The War Was Just - For The Rich!"
Bob Fertik, the founder of Democrats.com moderated the event called "Torture, Lies and Treason: Who Is Accountable?" to a standing room only crowd on a hot summer day in the city. Former Congresswoman Liz Holtzman and upstate New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey were two of the speakers, but Air America's Randi Rhodes received the biggest cheers and a number of "We love you, Randis" from the mixed age, multicultural audience.
Fertik started things by explaining why we were all here today:
"First, we are here to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Downing Street Minutes, the smoking gun which proves the Bush administration deliberately lied to Congress, the American people, and the world, to justify their long-planned invasion of Iraq...But more broadly, we are here to discuss the highest crimes imaginable in our democracy: Torture, Lies, and possibly even Treason."
Liz Holtzman talked to the crowd about a recent article that she wrote for The Nation entitled "Torture and Accountability" and reminded the crowd:
"I'm the only one in the room who actually voted for the impeachment of a President of the United States."
The youngest woman ever elected to Congress - at 31 in 1972 - was also the author of a resolution to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for the secret bombing of Cambodia in July of 1974 though it was rejected. Most of the people in the room probably never heard of the War Crimes Act of 1996; but there's no doubt they know about it now.
Saying that she always "gives credit where credit is due" Holtzman thanked Alberto Gonzales for her "understanding" of the War Crimes Act and that she was a "disciple of his analysis of it."
On January 25th, 2002, the future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote a memorandum for President Bush advising him on the positives to be gained by not applying "the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war [GPW] to the conflict with Al Quaeda and the Taliban." Besides the fact that no GPW "preserves flexibility," Gonzales pointed out a second reason which was pretty much ignored by the mainstream media:
"Substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441)"
But Holtzman pointed out that President Bush did apply the Geneva Conventions to Iraqi prisoners of wars, so the torture or "inhuman treatment" committed at prisons in Iraq like Abu Ghraib could be possible grounds for prosecution of Administration and DoD officials who allowed it to happen, provoked it or even ordered it. We don't need a world court like the Hague, Holtzman explained, we just need a "special prosecutor or an independent counsel" to hold an investigation. But that could only happen if the Attorney General makes it happen, and since Alberto Gonzales could be indicted it's something that won't happen unless the people push Congress to push for it, just like the public's outcry over the Saturday Massacre during the Nixon Administration which was the last straw.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey spoke about the Downing Street memos which since they were "official documents of the British Government" were "critically clear" and "profoundly important" in that they proved that President Bush lied when he claimed that he went to war only as a "last resort." Hinchey went on to condemn the Bush Administration because many of "their activities are criminal" and that we all should "do everything in our power to make sure that this administration comes to an end."
In between jokes that cracked up the crowd, Randi Rhodes spoke at length about a timeline created by Congressman John Conyers (with help from the left side of the blogosphere) of the march to war (PDF file and Conyers' summary).
Rather than transcribe parts of Randi's speech on the timeline (which you should all read and study for yourself), I've decided to post my two favorite jokes. After reciting the criminal past of Bush Administration officials such as John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams, Randi joked: "I think they put their criminal activity at the top of their resumes now."
The meeting ran a little long, so the question and answer portion was shortened to two quick questions (Fertik said something about posting them all at Democrats.com along with answers from the guest speakers). Fertik, himself, had a question: "Could we get Patrick Fitzgerald to expand the investigation" of the Plame leak to include all the possible war crimes committed in Iraq?
Yes. We hope.