It all started when Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and his staff decided to hold a “congressional hearing” on Capitol Hill last Thursday in attempt to draw media attention to the so-called “Downing Street Memo.”
Depending on how one reads the document, which was leaked by individuals inside the British government, it is purportedly a contemporaneous recounting of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s national security team, in which it is asserted that the Bush Administration believed that an invasion of Iraq was inevitable, and that intelligence about weapons of mass destruction would be critical to gaining support for the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Most levelheaded analysts have stated that there is nothing in the memo that hasn’t been stated before by President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, or their administrations. But to the kooky fringe of the left, of which Conyers is a charter member, the memo presents all kinds of possibilities to allege sinister plots and lies.
Frustrated that the media in the United States — and even in the UK — weren’t in a frenzy over the memo, Conyers and a group of like-thinking Democrats decided to hold their hearing. Given the small size of the room in which it would be held, Democratic Judiciary staff wanted to ensure that as many supporters and press as possible could view it in real time. So they reached out to DNC chair Dean, who had also been carping about the memo on the road.
Dean readily cooperated, opening up the headquarters’ Wasserman Conference Room for a live video feed of the meeting. A number of groups were invited to the DNC for the viewing, including Democrats.com, MoveOn.org, the Center for American Progress, People for the American Way, the Media Fund, and America Coming Together. During the conference, some of those present in the room were handing out material, some of it anti-war and highly anti-Semitic in tone.
“No one knows who was passing it out,” says a DNC staffer. “Chairman Dean believes that it was Republican operatives who did it to embarrass us, and was going to go public with that thinking, but he was persuaded to just apologize and move on.”
Dean, however, did not apologize; he only denounced the fact that the material was distributed. Nor did he or Conyers unequivocally condemn the remarks of one the individuals who testified at the Conyers hearing, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. McGovern told Conyers, as well as Reps. Maxine Waters, (CA), Barney Frank, (MA), and Jim McDermott (WA), among others, that the war was part of an effort to allow the United States and Israel to “dominate that part of the world.”
Dean, in his statement on the DNC website, cited the “dominate” language, but did not disclose that it had been uttered in what passed for a formal, Democratic Party congressional hearing, nor did he identify the source.
Other than McGovern, the hearing featured such anti-Bush administration and anti-Iraqi liberation regulars as Cindy Sheehan, a mother who lost her son in Iraq combat, and John Bonifaz, a lawyer, who in 2003 was lead counsel for a federal lawsuit filed by Conyers and then-presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich challenging the authority of President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld to launch a war against Iraq.
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