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From Contra Costa Times


East Bay town halls discuss Iraq war
By Sara Steffens
CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Two East Bay congressional representatives criticized U. S. policy in Iraq during separate town hall meetings Saturday.

At city hall in Martinez, Rep. George Miller met with about 100 constituents to talk about issues ranging from the No Child Left Behind standards to Social Security. The Martinez Democrat told the crowd it is time for lawmakers to focus on ending the war in Iraq.

"It's become increasingly clear that no matter how long we stay, this is not going to be a military victory," he said. "We have to start thinking about ... how do we get out of Iraq?"

The continued presence of U.S. troops is helping fuel insurgency in Iraq, he said, adding that about 100 members of the Iraqi assembly have signed a letter asking for U.S. withdrawal from their country.

One man thanked Miller for adding his signature to a congressional petition asking the president to answer questions about the so-called Downing Street memo.

Leaked to a British newspaper this spring, the document is considered a "smoking gun" by those who believe Bush mislead the public about the need to go to war in Iraq. The memo, which summarizes a meeting of high-ranking United Kingdom officials, reads in part:

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

"We can't get a hearing on that," Miller said. "They spend hundreds of hours on Bill Clinton's Christmas list, they spent five hours on Abu Ghraib and no hours on the Downing Street memo."

Open investigation, he said, will be essential to restoring the United States' credibility in other countries.

"It's unbelievable, the decisions that were made that we are now paying for," Miller said, adding that $334 billion has been spent on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq so far.

Later in the morning, hundreds packed Oakland's Grand Lake Theater for a town hall meeting on the Downing Street memo hosted by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing military action in Iraq.

She told a vocal crowd of supporters that she has introduced a resolution of inquiry asking the president and secretary of state to turn over all information about conversations between the United States and Britain in the months leading up to war.

The resolution is privileged, meaning that if it is not acted upon in 14 days, she has the right to ask that it be brought to the House floor for a vote.

"We knew all along that the president was misleading and lying to the American people about why he wanted to go to war," she said. "We all have a right to know ... We're going to force them to answer the questions by any means necessary."

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Reach Sarah Steffens at ssteffens@cctimes.com or 925-943-8048.

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