By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 15 June 2005
Almost five hundred years ago, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, initiating a sequence of events which forever altered the geometry of global religion, politics and power. Luther's Theses began with the words, "Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg."
Another document is going to be nailed to another door on Thursday, June 16th. This door opens not to a church, but to the White House. This document is freighted with hard truths, stern demands and nearly a million names. This document, once nailed up, likewise carries with it all the possibilities of change.
Very slowly, and after an embarrassing gap of silence from the news media, the American people have come to hear about the Downing Street Minutes. This document, once confidential but leaked by a British version of Deep Throat, describes in plain language the manner in which the Bush and Blair administrations planned to manipulate their way into an invasion of Iraq. The Minutes describe how intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion, and that a pretense for war had to be manufactured in order to paint a veneer of legitimacy over what everyone involved knew was a patently illegal military action.
Subsequent secret documents have followed the release of the Downing Street Minutes, further exposing the lies, distortions and moral convolutions put forth by the offices of Bush and Blair in their rush to war. According to these documents, which have been verified as genuine by the British government, the decision to invade Iraq was made as early as April 2002, months before anyone in America or Britain became aware that such an act was even being considered.
This April 2002 decision was made between Bush and Blair at a summit in Crawford, Texas. The fact that the decision to invade had been made so early shatters all the mealy-mouthed protestations of Bush and his people, who spent those months before the attack preaching peace and international cooperation while sharpening their knives behind closed doors.
One document, a briefing paper partnered with the Downing Street Minutes, states bluntly that British officials knew an invasion would be illegal, but had no choice but to figure out a way to frame it as legal, because Bush was going into Iraq no matter what and would use British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia to do so. This would make Britain complicit in the invasion even if they decided not to send troops, and so it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.
How does one go about creating the conditions for legality? By framing facts and intelligence around the policy, of course. The word "Lie" does not appear in any of the released documents, but the need to lie, the decision to lie, in order to justify war permeates every word.
This document also exposes the Bush administration's rhetorical nonsense about "supporting the troops" by describing how their war plans did anything but. In a section of this briefing paper titled "Benefits/Risks," the authors wrote, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."
Virtually silent. 1,706 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq thanks to the virtual silence of the Bush administration, for a total of 1,891 "Coalition" soldiers dead. Multiply that number by at least ten to count the wounded and maimed. Twenty-five American soldiers have been killed in the last week alone. Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded, and the car bombs continue to explode on a daily basis.
The decision to make war at all costs, the decision to lie about the reasons for going to war, the massive trans-Atlantic effort to make an illegal act appear legal, and the astounding fact that more effort went into manufacturing a political pretext for invasion than went into planning for the invasion and aftermath, all of this led us into the horror-show that is this occupation.
The American military has all but conceded the fact that this war is lost. "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations," Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, chief American military spokesman in Iraq, said last week. "It's going to be settled in the political process." There are no more viable military options. The war is lost. It is going to be settled in the political process.
So be it.
On Thursday, June 16th, Rep. John Conyers will hold a hearing to investigate and expose the facts revealed by the release of the Downing Street Minutes and the other documents. A variety of witnesses will be called to describe the contents of these documents, and to describe what has been done to Iraq, and to us all, by this administration. Lurking in the corners of the hearing will be a phrase - "High Crime" - that aptly describes what has taken place.
The Conyers hearing will be held on Thursday at 2:30pm EST in room HC-9 in the Capitol Building in Washington DC. This is a small room, so any overflow of public viewers will be directed to the Wasserman Room in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
At 5:00pm EST, a rally will take place in Lafayette Park, at the gates of the White House. Rep. Conyers will speak, along with Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq in May 2003, as Bush was unfurling his "Mission Accomplished" banner. The hearing and rally have been organized by the After Downing Street coalition, a collection of more than 120 organizations and news outlets that came together for the purpose of nailing the facts of the Downing Street Minutes to the White House door.
That, just before the opening of the rally on Thursday, is exactly what will happen. Several weeks ago, Rep. Conyers published a letter demanding answers from the Bush administration regarding the Minutes. That letter has been signed by more than one hundred Congresspeople, and by nearly a million American citizens. Rep. Conyers will personally deliver this letter and all those signatures to the White House on Thursday.
Jawaharlal Nehru, who with Mahatma Gandhi successfully freed India from British colonial rule, once said, "A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the sound of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."
Thursday, June 16th, may see such a moment come to pass. It has been a long time coming, and so much remains to be done if the terrible damage of these last years is to be repaired. But a moment is before us. Let us see where this moment takes us.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.