WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 22 (OneWorld) - Activists seeking to impeach President George W. Bush have planned 300-plus events nationwide Saturday to mark the third anniversary of a top-level meeting of British officials that they say proves the White House manipulated intelligence and lied to Congress to justify its war against Iraq.
Members of Congress were to headline at least eight of the town hall meetings and rallies organized by the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition in Detroit, Seattle, New York, Inglewood and Oakland, California, and other cities.
Organizers said they hoped the events would galvanize the public by raising awareness of the so-called Downing Street memo, which summarized a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his inner circle at Blair's official residence, No. 10 Downing Street.
''The invasion of Iraq was a war crime based on lies. A recent Zogby poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe George Bush should be impeached if he lied about Iraq, and the Downing Street minutes prove that Bush lied,'' said After Downing Street co-founder Bob Fertik.
The Downing Street memo was among a series of documents detailing the run-up to the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq. The papers, which summarized meetings between U.S. and British officials in 2002, appeared to lend support to administration critics' charge that the White House long had been determined to invade Iraq and that it doctored intelligence findings to justify the military offensive.
The documents received prominent play in British media--culminating in the May 1, 2005, publication by London's Sunday Times of the Downing Street memo itself--but relatively scant attention in the United States.
That is why, ''working together, using the Internet and other forms of new media, hundreds of thousands of regular citizens have come together to force the issue of Bush's pre-war deception onto the national agenda,'' said After Downing Street co-founder David Swanson.
That push has yielded some results. The Baltimore Sun and other metropolitan dailies have published the memo in whole or in part and politicians including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada have cited the document in public remarks.
Bush and Blair, appearing together at the White House last month, strongly denied they had manipulated intelligence and said they preferred alternatives to war.
''There's nothing farther from the truth,'' Bush said of his critics' allegations.
Nevertheless, critics have insisted that in the Downing Street memo they have a ''smoking gun'' that proves the White House deceived Congress in making its case for invading Iraq.
According to the memo, ''C [subsequently identified as a senior British intelligence official] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. 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. The NSC [U.S. National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.''
''It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided,'' the memo went on. ''But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.''
Blair's office has not disputed the memo's authenticity.
''C'' would have met his U.S. counterpart about six months after Bush, in his Jan. 29, 2002, State of the Union address, branded Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an ''axis of evil'' that threatened world peace. The senior intelligence officials' meeting could have taken place at roughly the same time as Bush presented his doctrine of pre-emptive war in a June 2 speech at West Point.
By September 2002, Bush warned the United Nations that Washington would take action against Baghdad if the U.N. failed to expose and dismantle Saddam Hussein's WMD program.
The Iraq invasion began on March 19 the following year, following aerial bombardment designed to soften Iraqi defenses.
Some commentators have questioned the memo's worth.
Michael Kinsley, editorial and opinion editor at the Los Angeles Times, wrote last month that ''even on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war.''
Rather, Kinsley added, the document stated that ''war is 'now seen as inevitable' by 'Washington.' That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if 'Washington' meant administration decision-makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.''
''Of course, if 'intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,' rather than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right,'' he wrote. ''And we know now that this was true.''
''But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decision-makers told him they were fixing the facts. Although the prose is not exactly crystalline, it seems to be saying only that 'Washington' had reached that conclusion.''
''You don't need a secret memo to know this,'' Kinsley concluded, noting that on July 22 and 23, 2003, major U.S. newspapers were abuzz with stories about U.S. plans to go to war against and to topple Saddam Hussein.
Other commentators have said Americans and Britons simply no longer care about their leaders' credibility and accountability.
''I am not surprised at the duplicity. But I am astonished at the acceptance of this deception by voters in the United States and the United Kingdom,'' Hearst newspapers columnist Helen Thomas wrote in May.
''I've seen two U.S. presidents go down the drain--Lyndon B. Johnson on Vietnam and Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal--because they were no longer believed,'' Thomas wrote. ''But times change--and I guess our values do, too.''
Even so, organizers of this weekend's events said they would increase pressure on Congress to impeach Bush. Their campaign seeks to capitalize on falling support for Bush's policy on Iraq, where a persistent and bloody insurgency has taken a heavy toll on Iraqi security personnel and generated concern about how long U.S. forces will have to remain in the country.
Begun by a half-dozen liberal activists, the After Downing Street coalition claims scores of international members including U.S. peace, veterans', and military families' groups. These include Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Rainbow/PUSH, Global Exchange, Code Pink, and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
Text of the 'Downing Street Memo'
After Downing Street Coalition
Code Pink: Women for Peace
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