Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"The American people should be made aware of the trend toward monopolization of the great public information vehicles and the concentration of more and more power over public opinion in fewer and fewer hands."

- Spiro T. Agnew

Sometimes even Spiro Our Hero can be right. Yet, in this information age it is at times possible to separate the signal from the noise of eight figure salaried bloviating gas bags of talk radio, partisan spin doctors, and The Fighting 101st Keyboarders on the op-ed pages of major dailies.

I came across an article written by an undergraduate communications major, for the Oregon State University's Daily Barometer. Ryan Greene frames the case for official inquiry into the President's violation of public trust and misrepresentation before congress with the conciseness and elegant simplicity of Occam's razor. It succeeds where our so-called liberal media has failed.

"Smoking gun" or no gun at all?

So now the cat is out of the bag. The Downing Street Memo (known among us cynics as the "smoking gun memo") has been released to the public, and it points its finger directly at Bush and his administration's attempts to justify a war we never should have fought. The fight over why we went to war and, perhaps more importantly, whether the American people and Congress were lied to has flared up once again.

Let's back up. What exactly is the Downing Street Memo? What does it say? Why is everyone so fired up? The memo itself is from a meeting held by the British Prime Minister, eight months before the invasion of Iraq. The main point everyone seems to be focusing on -- and rightly so -- is the memo's commentary on Bush's agenda in the Iraqi conflict. At one point, the memo states, "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."

This is why more than 120 Democrats from both the House and the Senate are banging down Bush's door, demanding answers. It is also why more than 560,000 American citizens led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., have signed a petition asking that Bush address the memo in detail. And why shouldn't he?

Let's get one thing straight here -- this memo doesn't exactly mean we've caught anyone red-handed. At best, it means that sources inside Great Britain understood the gist of the White House's intent on Iraq and its methods in reaching its goal. It is insider information, yes, but it is British insider information, not American. So it won't have quite the same effect as the Watergate tapes. Perhaps calling the document the "smoking gun memo" is reaching a little bit. It's not enough to condemn anyone.

It is, however, enough evidence for America as a whole to want to start looking for more. And this is why Bush needs to stand up and speak out now.

Every advance made by Democratic congressmen has been stymied by Republicans, both within Congress and from the White House. When the Democrats in Congress tried to hold a meeting discussing the memo and its implications, the Republicans managed to relegate them to the basement, and hold 11 votes at the same time as the meeting. No matter what your stance on the issue, there is one thing you have to admit: that's a little underhanded.

When 122 Democrats sent Bush a letter, no reply. When Conyers brought the petition with more than half a million American signatures on it, they weren't even admitted in to deliver it. Why? Why such resistance?

If the Bush administration hasn't misled Congress or the country, if they are innocent of this accusation, then what is there to fear? Why not address the public? Tell them what they want to know. Confront the memo, publicly, with your chest bared; knowing full well that, once a full and proper impartial investigation is complete, the country will know once and for all that George W. Bush is no liar.

But that's not happening. Big surprise. Instead, the White House sends back retorts insisting that Conyers and his allies are "simply trying to rehash history." The Republican majority in Congress has clamped their figurative hands around their ears, declaring that they do not wish to seek, hear, or otherwise know whether they were deceived by the Bush administration.

I'm not even sure why there is a debate over this. The demand from the side of the Democrats is one of further investigation. No one is demanding impeachment yet, but misleading Congress is defined by the Constitution as an impeachable offense. Now we have evidence that the Bush administration may have (repeat: MAY HAVE) misled Congress, and there is a huge fight over whether or not we should even investigate!

The bottom line is that there are people in the administration that are afraid to confront this situation. They are trying to avoid it, and they are trying to outlast the American people's attention span. Thus far, the White House has been unwilling to even defend itself to the public, choosing instead to ignore those who demand answers and trying to hush up debate.

We, as a nation, have found ourselves in a situation where someone high up may have done some dishonest things. Half the country has become suspicious, and started asking some uncomfortable questions. The shame of it all is that the other half thinks we shouldn't even be asking these questions at all.

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