Monday, June 20, 2005

Not a Time for Silence

A couple of posts back, I put up a press release regarding the Democratic hearing regarding the Downing Street Memo. John Conyers held the meeting under hostile circumstances last Thursday. The letter Mr. Conyers sent to the Washington Post regarding the story they ran was so eloquent, that I'll let you read it for yourselves. Truly, this is a principled leader. I'm glad he's one of ours.

This is not a time for silence. Accept the challenge to make Downing Street Memo a phrase most Americans recognize. The right is already swinging the lie machine into place to discredit it. Think about it. Why wouldn't they? In the past they have used this ruse to control the perception of John McCain, John Kerry, voting irregularities in Ohio and Florida, the Patriot Act, the Pat Tillman fiasco, WMD's, and so many others it almost hurts to think about the web of lies that are commonplace in America these days. Mainstream media seemed cowed, and misinformation carried the day. No more. Draw your line. It's time.

If you have not joined the Big Brass Alliance, I encourage you to do so. See the sidebar, you can't miss it. Another extremely important task you can take up is to regularly email mainstream media and ask about their DSM coverage or lack of it. They are starting to wake up. We need them to reach Joe and Jane Schmoe, and yank their blinders off. If we want any degree of accountability, force the media to inform the masses. Small angry voices can only carry so far. We are the tinder; it's time to fan the flames.

Here, in it's entirety, is Mr. Conyers lambaste of the Washington Post. (Link kudos to Lew Rockwell.)

Mr. Michael Abramowitz, National Editor;
Mr. Michael Getler, Ombudsman;
Mr. Dana Milbank
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Sirs:

I write to express my profound disappointment with Dana Milbank's June 17 report, "Democrats Play House to Rally Against the War," which purports to describe a Democratic hearing I chaired in the Capitol yesterday. In sum, the piece cherry-picks some facts, manufactures others out of whole cloth, and does a disservice to some 30 members of Congress who persevered under difficult circumstances, not of our own making, to examine a very serious subject: whether the American people were deliberately misled in the lead up to war. The fact that this was the Post's only coverage of this event makes the journalistic shortcomings in this piece even more egregious.

In an inaccurate piece of reporting that typifies the article, Milbank implies that one of the obstacles the Members in the meeting have is that "only one" member has mentioned the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of either the House or Senate. This is not only incorrect but misleading. In fact, just yesterday, the Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, mentioned it on the Senate floor. Senator Boxer talked at some length about it at the recent confirmation hearing for the Ambassador to Iraq. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recently signed on to my letter, along with 121 other Democrats asking for answers about the memo. This information is not difficult to find either. For example, the Reid speech was the subject of an AP wire service report posted on the Washington Post website with the headline "Democrats Cite Downing Street Memo in Bolton Fight." Other similar mistakes, mischaracterizations and cheap shots are littered throughout the article.

The article begins with an especially mean and nasty tone, claiming that House Democrats "pretended" a small conference was the Judiciary Committee hearing room and deriding the decor of the room. Milbank fails to share with his readers one essential fact: the reason the hearing was held in that room, an important piece of context. Despite the fact that a number of other suitable rooms were available in the Capitol and House office buildings, Republicans declined my request for each and every one of them. Milbank could have written about the perseverance of many of my colleagues in the face of such adverse circumstances, but declined to do so. Milbank also ignores the critical fact picked up by the AP, CNN and other newsletters that at the very moment the hearing was scheduled to begin, the Republican Leadership scheduled an almost unprecedented number of 11 consecutive floor votes, making it next to impossible for most Members to participate in the first hour and one half of the hearing.

In what can only be described as a deliberate effort to discredit the entire hearing, Milbank quotes one of the witnesses as making an anti-semitic assertion and further describes anti-semitic literature that was being handed out in the overflow room for the event. First, let me be clear: I consider myself to be friend and supporter of Israel and there were a number of other staunchly pro-Israel members who were in attendance at the hearing. I do not agree with, support, or condone any comments asserting Israeli control over U.S. policy, and I find any allegation that Israel is trying to dominate the world or had anything to do with the September 11 tragedy disgusting and offensive.
That said, to give such emphasis to 100 seconds of a 3 hour and five minute hearing that included the powerful and sad testimony (hardly mentioned by Milbank) of a woman who lost her son in the Iraq war and now feels lied to as a result of the Downing Street Minutes, is incredibly misleading. Many, many different pamphlets were being passed out at the overflow room, including pamphlets about getting out of the Iraq war and anti-Central American Free Trade Agreement, and it is puzzling why Milbank saw fit to only mention the one he did.

In a typically derisive and uninformed passage, Milbank makes much of other lawmakers calling me "Mr. Chairman" and says I liked it so much that I used "chairmanly phrases." Milbank may not know that I was the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee from 1988 to 1994. By protocol and tradition in the House, once you have been a Chairman you are always referred to as such. Thus, there was nothing unusual about my being referred to as Mr. Chairman.

To administer his coup-de-grace, Milbank literally makes up another cheap shot that I "was having so much fun that [I] ignored aides' entreaties to end the session." This did not occur. None of my aides offered entreaties to end the session and I have no idea where Milbank gets that information. The hearing certainly ran longer than expected, but that was because so many Members of Congress persevered under very difficult circumstances to attend, and I thought – given that – the least I could do was allow them to say their piece. That is called courtesy, not "fun."

By the way, the "Downing Street Memo" is actually the minutes of a British cabinet meeting. In the meeting, British officials – having just met with their American counterparts – describe their discussions with such counterparts. I mention this because that basic piece of context, a simple description of the memo, is found nowhere in Milbank's article.

The fact that I and my fellow Democrats had to stuff a hearing into a room the size of a large closet to hold a hearing on an important issue shouldn't make us the object of ridicule. In my opinion, the ridicule should be placed in two places: first, at the feet of Republicans who are so afraid to discuss ideas and facts that they try to sabotage our efforts to do so; and second, on Dana Milbank and the Washington Post, who do not feel the need to give serious coverage on a serious hearing about a serious matter – whether more than 1700 Americans have died because of a deliberate lie. Milbank may disagree, but the Post certainly owed its readers some coverage of that viewpoint.

John Conyers, Jr.

There is something irresistible when petty dis-information is met with factual scorn. I never tire of it.


At June 20, 2005 8:42 PM, Blogger windspike said...

Thanks for linking and posting the full letter. Some on the reichwing are suggesting that the "Memo" is not a factual document or something that has been fabricated. As it is a document that relays the minutes to a cabinet meeting, I don't know how they can suggest such a thing, but for only reason as to further obfuscate and confuse the public. When the real truth comes out to the whole public, the spray from the fan is going to stink a whole lot and let's hope the smell sticks to the guilty.

P.S. I'm going to link up to you here.

At June 21, 2005 4:13 AM, Blogger Jet said...

I agree, windspike. That's why it's so important to keep the pressure on main stream media to report, and report factually, on the memo. The best counter to the lie machine is to make sure the general public is hearing about the memo from traditional sources. They've done an abysmal job up to this point, but in the past week they are all on the story. We must keep their feet to the fire. Write those emails, folks. The link in my post will give you three new MSM email addresses every day. I wrote one letter, and I copy and paste for each email I send. Make the noise!

At June 21, 2005 9:45 AM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

Back in the saddle, eh, Jet? Bellissimo!

On thing that really bugs me is that the media are willing to report that "some say" the Downing Street Minutes are phony, but they do nothing to establish the truth. Nor do they pursue the obvious story by locating sources inside the administration to confirm the minutes. With "Deep Throat" still fresh in our minds, why aren't so-called journalists inspired to get to the bottom of this thing?

At June 21, 2005 4:57 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

This is further proof that the media is decidedly not "Liberal", you know? Think about it. I disagree entirely that he media is liberal. Reporters, atleast most reporters, like to get facts. When someone lies or denies, like Bush does, these reporters get angry and that's when they start investigating you. That is why so many reporters have written articles that make Bush look bad. It's because he DOES look bad. Most reporters are not liberals. The reporter of this article about Conyer's meeting is DEFINITELY not liberal. She's the new breed of reporter coming out these days, the Right-Wing Spin reporters being popularized by groups like Fox BS and Sinclair Broadcasting. Most of the real reporters these days are afraid to report the real news anymore because of right-wing backlash. My hat's off to Conyers. My wrath is directed at our enemies. The truth is on our side my friends. Let's continue supporting Conyers and the truth WILL get out.

At June 21, 2005 5:49 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks, BK. I'm throwing it out there and seein' what sticks. The media dropped the ball, and the truly weak organizations would rather fudge than admit it. Others, like AP, said they blew it and started covering it.

I agree, OKDem. With the exception of The Nation, there is no liberal media. Dana Milbank is a guy, I believe, and seems to fit the bill of reporting for ratings. God help us if this is the best WaPo can muster. The modern day Deep Throat should pursue the NY Times.

At June 25, 2005 12:09 AM, Blogger Pamela Leavey said...

John Kerry and Senators Pressing for Answers from Senate Intelligence Committee on Downing Street Memo
24 June 2005

John Kerry’s office has released a copy of his letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee requesting an investigation of pre-war Iraq intelligence failures (and the Downing Street Memo) to

June 22, 2005

The Honorable Pat Roberts, Chairman
The Honorable John D. Rockefeller, IV, Vice Chairman
United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller:

We write concerning your committee's vital examination of pre-war Iraq intelligence failures. In particular, we urge you to accelerate to completion the work of the so-called "Phase II" effort to assess how policy makers used the intelligence they received.

Last year your committee completed the first phase of a two-phased effort to review the pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Phase I-begun in the summer of 2003 and completed in the summer of 2004-examined the performance of the American intelligence community in the collection and analysis of intelligence prior to the war, including an examination of the quantity and quality of U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the intelligence on ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and terrorist groups. At the conclusion of Phase I, your committee issued an unclassified report that made an important contribution to the American public's understanding of the issues involved.

In February 2004-well over a year ago-the committee agreed to expand the scope of inquiry to include a second phase which would examine the use of intelligence by policy makers, the comparison of pre-war assessments and post-war findings, the activities of the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG) and the Office of Special Plans in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and the use of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress.

The committee's efforts have taken on renewed urgency given recent revelations in the United Kingdom regarding the apparent minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his senior national security advisors. These minutes-known as the "Downing Street Memo"-raise troubling questions about the use of intelligence by American policy makers-questions that your committee is uniquely situated to address.

The memo indicates that in the summer of 2002, at a time the White House was promising Congress and the American people that war would be their last resort, that they believed military action against Iraq was "inevitable."

The minutes reveal that President "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The American people took the warnings that the administration sounded seriously-warnings that were echoed at the United Nations and here in Congress as we voted to give the president the authority to go to war. For the sake of our democracy and our future national security, the public must know whether such warnings were driven by facts and responsible intelligence, or by political calculation.

These issues need to be addressed with urgency. This remains a dangerous world, with American forces engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other challenges looming in Iran and North Korea. In this environment, the American public should have the highest confidence that policy makers are using intelligence objectively-never manipulating it to justify war, but always to protect the United States. The contents of the Downing Street Memo undermine this faith and only rigorous Congressional oversight can determine the truth.

We urge the committee to complete the second phase of its investigation with the maximum speed and transparency possible, producing, as it did at the end of Phase I, a comprehensive, unclassified report from which the American people can benefit directly.


John Kerry

Co-signers: Sens. Tim Johnson, Jon Corzine, Jack Reed, Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Boxer, Edward Kennedy, Thomas Harkin, Jeff Bingaman, Richard Durbin


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