BY RON HUTCHESON AND RUBY L. BAILEY
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
WASHINGTON -- Two years after the Iraq invasion, the United States seems to be losing its stomach for war.
With polls showing support for the Iraq war at a record low, members of Congress are becoming increasingly vocal about their desire for an exit strategy.
On Thursday, 41 House Democrats formed a new "Out of Iraq" caucus.
And a hearing on the so-called Downing Street memo, that suggests the Bush Administration planned for war months before seeking Congressional authority, ended with a request by one witness that Congress open an inquiry into whether Bush should be impeached for purposefully misleading the nation about the need for war.
The Downing Street memo -- named for the Downing Street residence of British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- suggests that Bush was determined to proceed with war in 2002, eight months before the war began, and was fixing intelligence to boost the case before the country and the United Nations.
It was written by a top British intelligence officer in 2002 and recently leaked to the British media.
Both Bush and Blair have denied the accusations. The hearing was held by Democrats and organized by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. About 20 House Democrats attended.
Witnesses -- including former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and Joseph Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador to several African nations -- said the memo offers additional proof that Bush took advantage of a nation and Congress traumatized by the September terrorism attacks.
"The evidence that appears to be building up points to a direction of whether the president deliberately misled Congress," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "I want so badly to believe that no president would ever sacrifice human life."
"All we're asking is to know the truth," said John Bonifaz, a hearing witness and cofounder of AfterDowningStreet.org and a proponent of a House inquiry.
Bringing troops home
Separately, four lawmakers -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- introduced a resolution calling for withdrawal from Iraq starting in October 2006.
It does not specify an end point for complete withdrawal, but it bucks the Bush administration line all the same.
Its sponsors include Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., a conservative whose district includes the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune. He is hardly a stereotypical dove; in the early days of the war, Jones' anger over French opposition prompted him to propose replacing french fries with so-called freedom fries on the menu in Capitol dining rooms.
The resolution's supporters acknowledged that it has little chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Congress. They said their goal was to start a national debate on bringing home the 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. More than 1,700 Americans have died since Bush ordered the invasion on March 19, 2003.
A recent Gallup poll of 1,003 adults found that 59% of Americans favor partial or total withdrawal. In another sign of ebbing support, 42% said they felt that the war was worth it, down from a high of 76% in the war's early days. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Contact RUBY L. BAILEY at firstname.lastname@example.org .