The event in Northampton is overflowing! Someone from the building just came in and asked if we could move to a different room because there's an overflow of people in the hallway; a "wonderful problem", mused Tim Carpenter from the Progressive Democrats of America, who are cosponsering this event. He would later speak after the showing of an 8 minute film, "Hijacking Catastrophe", produced by the Media Education Foundation. This film ties together events before 9/11 to point out the Bush administration's intention to invade Iraq, such as the letter from the Project for the New American Century sent to then President Clinton. This letter advocated taking action military action in Iraq, and of those neoconservative who signed it, Bush hand picked many of them to be in his cabinet.
The film then points to other evidence, testimonials, and documentation straight fom officials in the Bush administration proving that an attack on attack was pre-planned, and 9/11 and terrorism was used as an reason for this attack even though it was already in planning once Bush got into office. It ends with an interview with Tariq Ali who asks says that the interesting question is why we invaded Iraq -- then it flashes "EMPIRE".
Tim Carpenter says that the PDA are "progressives first, democrats second", and that we can "build a bridge between the social justice movements and electoral politics."
Carpenter said that he met Congressman John Conyers in DC a week after the Downing Street Memos broke into the news in Britain, and said that "Congressman Conyers couldn't get an AP reporter to cover the Downing Street Minutes." He asked Conyers to help bring coverage to the Downing Street Memo, get this into the US media so that people know about it. Eventually, Carpenter said, this led to the petition which received over 500,000 signatures.
"Not one member of Congress had the courage to talk about getting out of Iraq. Today, there are 62."
To introduce John Bonifaz, Carpenter said that he has been a senior member of the PDA, has been hard at work to get a recount done in Ohio, and he authored a memo on the Downing Street Memo to Conyers which galvanized these 400+ meetings and house parties all around the country.
Bonifaz started his speech with a review of the history of the Consitutional convention in 1787, where some framers wanted to leave the power of deciding to wage war slely with the president, but most other framers noted that this was a dangerous precendent to set because it gives the executive too much authority to wage war for whatever reason, and looking at the wars in Europe and the tragedies which resulted from them.
"No other language in the Constitution is as simple and as clear," Bonifaz said, on the Consitution's wording which states that only the Congress has the power to declare war.
Bonifaz then says that in October, 2002, Congress passed a resolution giving the president the sole authority to decide when a war with Iraq would be waged. There was some opposition to this, Bonifaz notes. Senator Byrd pointed out the Gulf of Tonkin incident which led to the Vietnam war, but the Johnson administration lied about this incident to the American people -- effectively abusing his executive position to take this nation to war. Byrd then asked if urusping Constitutional authority to give the president the sole right to wage war is really what our our ancestors fought for?
Those in Congress who supported the resolution, Bonifaz said, defended it by saying we should "trust the president because he has the facts" and "that the president has solid information that, with a small amount of uranium", Iraq could become a nuclear power.
A few minutes later, Bonifaz repeated this "trust the president" point as a segeway into a discussion about the Downing Street Memo, the minutes of a meeting involving senior British government officials, and quoted Sir John Dearlove, the head of M16 -- the British equivilent of our CIA -- as saying in Bush's march to war in Iraq, but "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by his administration.
Bonifaz then says that After Downing Street, a colation launched over 2 months ago, is asking for Congress to investigate whether or not President Bush has committed impeachable offenses to goto war in Iraq. This was met with a round of applause. Bonifaz also notes that our founding fathers said that impeachment was for public officals who abuse the public trust and give false information to the Senate. He quoted one founder as saying, "If it should appear that [the president] conceals important intelligence that should have been comminucated ... then such conduct should be seen as an impeachable offense."
Bonifaz then says, "The question must now be asked that, with the release of the Downing Street Minutes, has the president committed impeachable offenses?" He then read from the letter that Bush sent to Congress 48 hours before the war, in which he stipulated that Iraq posed a continuing threat to the United States and linked Saddam Hussein to the events of 9/11.
If the president lie, Bonifaz says, then he is in violation of the False Statements Accountability act of 1996, which makes it a felony to make false statements to Congress. Bonifaz then noted that Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a Resolution of Iniquiry in the House Foreign Relations Committee, asking that the government release Bush administraton documents related to the Downing Street Memo.
"Barbara Lee needs our support with this," Bonifaz said, because not many members of Congress have pledged support to this resolution so that it can be debated and passed. He urged everyone to contact their Congressional representative, especially if they are part of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Bonifaz then turned to the outing of Valarie Plame, discussing Wilson's op/ed piece in the New York Times. "And here was Ambassador Wilson blowing all the credentials" of the Bush administration's claims, and "the White House was determined to go after Wilson," which led to the outing of his wife. "As big as this scandal is..." Bonifaz said, "We believe that Patrick Fitzgarald should expand his investigation and goto the motive of why the White House wanted to out Valarie Plame." Bonifaz linked the outing of Plame to the Bush administration doing everything possible to cover up how they broke the law by lying to Congress about the threat which Iraq posed to the United States, and how it's up to us to provide the public pressure and activist muscle to bring justice to this case. And that is the goal of the After Downing Street coalition.
During the question and answer period, Bonifaz noted that Kenneth Starr's investigation into Clinton did not start with Monica Lewinsky, it branched into that. He also noted that the investigation into corruption within the Nixon administration started with a simple break in at Watergate, and look what that spiraled into. Likewise, Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation should not be limited to Valarie Plame.
Tim Carpenter also chipped in again to list some activist events that will be happening. In August, the PDA and Democracy for America, Dean's organization, will be working to arrange meetings with 100 members of Congress during their recess period, and urged people to organize with the PDA to meet with their member of Congress. He also said to tell your Congressional rep that we'll be seeing them in Washington, D.C., on September 25-26 to place pressure on them to have the events which led to war in Iraq investigated. Along with placing pressure on our politicians, we need to apply pressure to the media and keep writing letters to the editor.