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Downing Street Memos - What Are They ? What Do They Mean?

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What Are the Downing Street Memos? :

On May 1, 2005, a highly confidential memo of minutes of a July 23,2002 meeting was leaked to the Times of London. The memo recorded a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Richard Dearlove, head of the British intelligence service; and other British intelligence and military chiefs. On June 12, 2005, additional, related British memos were leaked.

The memos are named after 10 Downing Street, official home of the British Prime Minister, where the July 23, 2002 meeting was held.

What Was In the Downing Street Memos? :

In the July 23 memo, Dearlove reported that Bush had decided to wage war on Iraq, and that US policymakers were using "thin" intelligence to make Hussein appear to be a bigger threat that was supported by the facts. His data came from meetings with Bush officials.

"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, justified by...terrorism and WMD" and "...the intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy." It also observed that there was "little discussion...of the aftermath after military action."

Are the Downing Street Memos Authentic?:

Neither George Bush nor Tony Blair, nor any of their representatives, have denied the authenticity of the minutes and memos known as the Downing Street Memos.

The US press hesitated to report the May 1, 2005 leaking of these documents due to authenticity concerns. Of course, Dan Rather, former CBS anchor, suffered great embarrassment in 2004 when he reported on documents later found to be fraudulent. In mid June 2005, the Downing Street Memo disclosures became US headlines.

How and When Did the War in Iraq Start? :

In October 2002, Congress relied on Bush warnings of WMDs in Iraq when passing legislation granting him the authority to wage war on Iraq. Congress urged, but did not require, UN approval for war. Iraqi leader Hussein was portrayed as an imminent threat to US security.

In November 2002, the UN passed a resolution on the matter, but did not specifically authorize a US strike on Iraq. Instead, the UN continued to inspect for WMDs.

The US and Britain first attacked Iraq in March 2003.

Why Are the Downing Street Memos Important?:

The Downing Street Memos state that intelligence and facts were "fixed" to provide a basis for Bush to wage war on Iraq. The memos also say that Bush decided to go to war with Iraq before 2003, and before Congressional approval. Under the US Constitution, only Congress can declare war.

As the world now knows, there were no WMDs in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the US or Great Britain. Thus, the reasons presented to Congress and UN for war were untrue.

What Have George Bush and Tony Blair Said About the Memos? :

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said at an early June 2005 press conference "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all."

President George Bush said at the same conference, "There's nothing further from the truth. Look, both of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."

Will Congress Investigate These Disclosures? :

In May, Rep John Conyers (D-MI)submitted a letter to President Bush signed by 94 House members requesting answers to 5 questions about Downing Street Memo disclosures. (See questions below.)

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that there is "no need" to respond to the letter.

On June 16, Conyers will hold an unofficial hearing into this matter. Unofficial because no Republicans will attend, and House Republicans refuse to schedule a formal hearing.

What's Next?:

Wisconsin Democrats passed a resolution at their June conference calling for impeachment of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld on grounds that they "lied to and misled" Congress, UN and the American people.

In late May, a coalition of veterans and activists launched AfterDowningStreet.org to urge Congress to investigate impeachable offenses related to the Iraq War. The group plans a protest rally on June 16 in front of the White House.

Can Bush Officials Be Impeached Over These Disclosures?:

Famed constitutional attorney John Bonifaz, a supporter of AfterDowningStreet.org wrote to Rep Conyers, "If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution: 'The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdeameanors."

The Five Questions Posed to President Bush in Congressional Letter:

In addition to 94 US House members, 500,000 American citizens have signed Rep John Conyers, Jr's letter to President Bush. The 5 questions asked in the letter were.....

1. Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked documents?

2. Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies. before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your administration obtain Britian's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3. Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war, as the minutes indicate?

4. At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5. Was there a coordinated effort with the US intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

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