By Dave Richardson
New Paltz - Last night, more than 500 people hung on Maurice Hinchey's every word.
The Hurley Democrat leaned into the podium and looked gravely at the audience.
"We are in danger of losing our republic," he said. He was far from joking.
The topic of discussion: the so-called Downing Street memos, a series of documents recounting conversations between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and high-ranking British officials in 2002, during the buildup to the war in Iraq.
The memos, which have reportedly been authenticated by British officials, paint a picture of a Bush administration apparently set on war with Iraq long before the decision to invade was supposedly made and bent on "fixing the facts and the intelligence around the policy."
British and American officials have repeatedly denied this is the case.
But Hinchey, as well as more than 100 members of Congress and a majority
of Americans, according to recent polls, say they believe Bush
deliberately misled Congress and the American public about Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction arsenal and its connections to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Last night, to a packed auditorium at SUNY New Paltz, Hinchey pressed his
case to an audience that watched intently and interrupted often with
applause, cheers and two standing ovations.
"The president has said over and over war was a last resort," Hinchey
said. "Many of us in Congress realized this was not the case. And the
Downing Street memos explain the way the president misled our nation,
misled Congress and misled the nations of the world."
Hinchey said Bush planned to oust Saddam Hussein from the earliest days of
his administration and then "twisted and distorted the facts around a
policy decision that had already been made."
"They used the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to
justify what they had always wanted to do: attack Iraq and change the
regime," Hinchey said.
President Bush lied to Congress about Iraq's plans to build a nuclear
arsenal, about its weapons of mass destruction and its connections to
Sept. 11, Hinchey said.
He said the failure of Republicans in Congress to "act responsibly" by
allowing serious inquiries into the issues raised by the memos was
tantamount to a conspiracy between the legislative and executive branches
of government, in direct contradiction to the instructions of the
"This cannot be accepted," Hinchey said. "If this continues into the
future, it will not be long before all the basic democratic principles of
our country are in ruins, and we wake up to a very different nation."
Hinchey urged voters to put pressure on legislators to investigate the
allegations and open impeachment hearings if they are found to be true - a
scenario he admits is highly unlikely in Washington's extremely partisan
"They will fail to do it, and then we must throw them out next year and
replace them with a Congress that will," Hinchey said.