I was unable to blog directly from the Labor Temple but kept my eyes and ears open & rushed home via the first bus possible, to upload my photos & get on-line! (I'll also be posting at http://www.democracycellproject.net , http://www.backbonecampaign.org  & http://www.silencedmajority.blogs.com )
I had always intended to read the Downing Street Memo in full but hadn't completed the task, so the skit - sponsored by the Backbone Campaign - was stunning in its overt plotting behind the backs of the British & American people. The readers wore the costumes and nametags of Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon and other British dignitaries/neocons & Tony Blair was played by a puppet that looked like something between a poodle and a lamb.
I was sitting in the front row between a guy from Vets for Peace/ Washington Truth in Recruiting & a guy who was scaring the heck out of me with conspiracy theoriees. To my left, really close up, was the familiar face of Congressman Jim McDermott. He's familiar because he's from my district, he was in Fahrenheit 9/11, I've voted for him many times, & I was not surprised to see that he was reading the New York Times.
Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign introduced Jim and mentioned that he was the first recipient of the Backbone Award (there are also Spinless Awards). When Jim accepted the invitation, he didn't check with his scheduling people - he just said yes, he'd be glad to speak.
When Congressman McDermott was going to return to Iraq on a fact-finding mission (he had been there multiple times before, investigating depleted uranium effects after the lst Gulf War), he first met in Washington DC with the Ambassador to Iraq. He was told that even if Saddam let the weapons inspectors back in, it was expected that Bush would go into Iraq regardless. This was in September of 2002. The war started in March of 2003. Now the Downing Street Memo proves that what McDermott heard was true.
At that time, in September of 2002, Jim decided to call a press conference to let it be known that the President would mislead us into war. A month later, Jim went to Iraq and was asked by George Stephanopolous whether he still believed this. He said yes, knowing full well that if he didn't, they'd pull out his statement from a month before. This unleashed an assault from the rightwing press such as FOX and Limbaugh and earned him the moniker "Bagdad Jim."
Yet he points out that if the American people had really known and absorbed the truth, we would never have gone to war! Absolute untruths were first told on the floor of the House, then by the President to the people in the form of the State of the Union Address.
Thanks to Ambassador Joe Wilson's piece in the New York Times, the truth was told about the Niger/uranium claim. This unleashed another full-scale assault, this time on both Wilson and his wife.
Recently, Jim sat with retired CIA officers who are very unhappy about the fact that an officer's identity has been "outed" and that the President won't protect agents. This creates a dire emergency and lowers morale. On top of that, there is the matter of Rove, who if "convicted" will probably lose his position rather than going to prison like anyone else would. Jim believes that Judith Miller is probably sitting in prison because she is protecting someone.
Then there is the matter of the Vets. Did the government ever think ahead when rushing to war? & what about the 25,000+ Iraqis killed? The administration now admits we may be in Iraq for 12 years or more. "America is not safer. The Republicans refuse to admit it."
Jim then produced his folder copy of the New York Times and reminded us that today, "everything above the fold is about terrorism" and that more terrorism was unleashed by starting this war. As we know, the American military has the power to bomb but what do they do once the bombing stops? We seem to have turned Iraq into another training ground, like Afghanistan was. This is a democracy?!
Almost half of the Iraqi Parliament signed a letter asking us to end the Occupation, much as in our country, Congressman Conyers did something similar. The US government says we can't leave til they ask us to leave, but then when they do, we can't explain how we will leave or why we are building four full military bases there.
There will be an "Out of Iraq Caucus" with as many as 60 members, probably having a hearing in September. The focus will be ways to extricate ourselves from Iraq, which we need a plan to do. Of course it can't be sudden, with so many there. Jim also informed us that yesterday there was an amendment to a bill in Congress which gives us more of a "blank check" for staying in Iraq.
He compared it to the old West, where we had forts all over the Indian territory, only now it's throughout the middle east. He reminded us that Vietnam War was stopped because of people power, and that democracy, as Churchill said, is not an orderly form of government. We need to organize, to support Barbara Lee's letter of Inquiry which is the first step. We need information and we need a very good case, for cleaning up the mess in Washington.