Memorial Day: Honor Our Troops with the Truth

Memorial Day was first celebrated by an organization of Union veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic, three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868. It was a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers; today, we mark the occasion with a national holiday that finds families gathered around the flag—and often, a barbecue. Regardless of how one chooses to celebrate, however, the purpose is the same: honoring those who have died for our country.

Since the terrible tragedy of 9/11, when terrorists struck on American soil to devastating results, there has been an increasing sense that supporting our troops is the province of a particular political party. Our president gravely intoned, in an infamous with-us-or-against-us speech, that those who disagreed with the actions taken by a Republican administration and a Republican-led Congress were siding with the terrorists—a sentiment that came to mean, for many on the Right, that even liberal American patriots who might disagree with the president’s course of action were traitors. Dissent, an important and necessary part of any democracy, was suddenly treasonous.

Bush’s entire presidency has relied on his ostensibly unique ability to “keep America safe.” His reelection campaign exploited 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for every ounce they were worth, with his supporters demeaning the possibility that any other political party could oppose his actions yet still be patriotic Americans. And even many of those who oppose the Iraq War supported the Afghanistan invasion, because its purpose was to eradicate the al-Qaida terrorist network which had perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. So what would it mean if this national security president had never wanted to invade Afghanistan, had never wanted to pursue al-Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden (who remains on the loose to this day)? What would it mean if Iraq, which contrary to administration claims had no weapons of mass destruction with which to harm America or America’s allies, had been the only target all along? And what would it mean if the case for that war had been conceived out of thin air?

It would mean that we all had all been hoodwinked, including our soldiers who had been sent to die by a president who cared not for bringing to justice those responsible for an attack on American soil, and had cared not for the truth. It would mean a national disgrace.

The following is a passage from a recent Salon article by Juan Cole clearly intimating that Tony Blair had to convince George Bush to go after al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and Bush would only do so in exchange for Britain’s support of the Iraq invasion:
Astonishingly, the Bush administration almost took the United States to war against Iraq in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. We know about this episode from the public account of Sir Christopher Meyer, then the U.K. ambassador in Washington. Meyer reported that in the two weeks after Sept. 11, the Bush national security team argued back and forth over whether to attack Iraq or Afghanistan. It appears from his account that Bush was leaning toward the Iraq option.

Meyer spoke again about the matter to Vanity Fair for its May 2004 report, "The Path to War." Soon after Sept. 11, Meyer went to a dinner at the White House, "attended also by Colin Powell, [and] Condi Rice," where "Bush made clear that he was determined to topple Saddam. 'Rumors were already flying that Bush would use 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq,' Meyer remembers." When British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington on Sept. 20, 2001, he was alarmed. If Blair had consulted MI6 about the relative merits of the Afghanistan and Iraq options, we can only imagine what well-informed British intelligence officers in Pakistan were cabling London about the dangers of leaving bin Laden and al-Qaida in place while plunging into a potential quagmire in Iraq. Fears that London was a major al-Qaida target would have underlined the risks to the United Kingdom of an "Iraq first" policy in Washington.

Meyer told Vanity Fair, "Blair came with a very strong message -- don't get distracted; the priorities were al-Qaida, Afghanistan, the Taliban." He must have been terrified that the Bush administration would abandon London to al-Qaida while pursuing the great white whale of Iraq. But he managed to help persuade Bush. Meyer reports, "Bush said, 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.'" Meyer also said, in spring 2004, that it was clear "that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions." In short, Meyer strongly implies that Blair persuaded Bush to make war on al-Qaida in Afghanistan first by promising him British support for a later Iraq campaign.
This revelation is part and parcel of a larger series of possibly impeachable offenses committed by the Bush administration in making the case for the Iraq War, as indicated by (among other resources) the Downing Street Memo, a British memo recently made public in the London Times, which contained the minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials. This memo, reveals, in part, that as of July 2002, Bush seems to have decided to take military action against Iraq, even though a month later, he was claiming he was still willing to “look at all the options” and that there was “no timetable” for war. Additionally, the memo appears to confirm, contrary to the Bush administration’s claims of a “massive intelligence failure,” that the assertions regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction instead resulted from an intentional and deliberate manipulation of intelligence to justify the case for war. A war that has turned up no evidence of weapons of mass destruction and has caused the deaths of 1,600 American soldiers, tens of thousands of wounded soldiers, and countless dead and injured Iraqis.

This Memorial Day weekend, I celebrated by turned my anger and frustration at the mistreatment and betrayal of our troops into pulling together an alliance of liberal bloggers 169 strong and growing, dedicated to the pursuit of truth, the Big Brass Alliance. Our intention is to tenaciously pursue this story, even if the mainstream media will not, and vigorously support the efforts of Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and After Downing Street, a Coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005 a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. After Downing Street reports, in response to the release of the Downing Street Memo:
John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush. Bonifaz's memo, made available today at After Downing Street, begins: “The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution."
On this Memorial Day, I urge you: Support our troops by contributing to efforts to uncover the truth about why they were put in harm’s way. They deserve that much.

Visit After Downing Street to register your support. Sign Congressman Conyer’s letter here. Write to your Congresspeople here.

And if you run a blog of your own and want to join our alliance, which is currently blogswarming this story until the mainstream media hears our collective voice, email me.

This is our country. We believe in truth. And we will fight to get it.

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