Lee pushes for truth on 'downing street' memo
By Michele R. Marcucci, STAFF WRITER
Congresswoman Barbara Lee worked an overflow crowd Saturday at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland in an effort to gain support for an inquiry into pre-Iraq War intelligence.
"We're letting the president and the administration know that we want answers to the questions we asked in our letter," said Lee, referring to a previous letter on the so-called "Downing Street" memo.
"We're going to force them to answer the questions by any means necessary," she said.
Lee introduced a bill Thursday asking the Bush administration to release communications with British officials on Iraq in the months leading up to the war. The bill's 27 co-sponsors, all Democrats, include Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma.
The memo and related materials purport to show that Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq based on fears the country was linked to terror and was developing weapons of mass destruction. But "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," according to a published version of the memo.
Lee said she and dozens of other members of Congress who signed Rep. John Conyers Jr.'s letter asking whether the memo was accurate never received a response from the administration.
Dozens of people spoke Saturday, many using the opportunity to voice their opposition to the Iraq War and the USA PATRIOT Act — a second version of which just passed the House of Representatives — and to vent still-simmering frustrations about the outcome of the 2000 presidential election and how many feel mainstream Democratic lawmakers have abandoned them and their causes.
"We need to oppose the war and to drive out Bush," said author Larry Everest of Berkeley. "What I'm afraid of is that these people are going to create a fascist police state."
Others blamed what they said is a corporate-owned media for not allowing their message to be heard.
"The Democrats, the press — aren't they all complicit in where this is going?" asked Travis Morales, who said he was from the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Nick Arnett of Gold Star Families for Peace, who attended the event, said he reluctantly supported the war, until it became clear to him the intelligence that was used to justify it was faulty. He has since lost his nephew, Lance Cpl. Wesley J. Canning, to the war.
Others said they were opposed to the war from the outset, and that the Downing Street memo confirmed their opposition.
"I thought it was the smoking gun," said Joe Stein of Berkeley.
Speakers at the event included Steve Cobble, whose Web site calls for an inquiry on prewar intelligence; Bill Mitchell of Gold Star Families for Peace; Daniel Ellsberg, the onetime government worker who released the Pentagon Papers; and Harvey Tharp of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Lee's town hall appearance was one of nine to be held by members of Congress around the country on Saturday, the memo's third anniversary.
Contact Michele R. Marcucci at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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