William Rivers Pitt | The Other Memo Scandal
The Other Memo Scandal
By William Rivers 0aPitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Saturday 15 November 2003
The wires were buzzing last week over a memo leaked to Sean 0aHannity at the Fox News Network. The memo came from the offices of Democratic 0aSenator Jay Rockefeller, who is serving as the ranking minority member on the 0aSenate Select Committee on Intelligence. This is the committee, chaired by 0aSenator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, that has been tasked to investigate 0athe dazzling lack of mass destruction weapons in Iraq.
The Rockefeller memo outlined a variety of strategies he believed 0awere needed to counteract the partisan defensiveness of Roberts and the majority 0aon the Committee. Roberts has declared that all investigations surrounding the 0aclaims made about Iraq's weapons capabilities will be focused only on the CIA 0aand other intelligence agencies. Rockefeller is adamant that the investigation 0ashould also include questions aimed at the White House, as well as Defense 0aSecretary Rumsfeld's special Defense Department organization called the Office 0aof Special Plans.
Roberts is not allowing this aspect of the investigation to take 0aplace, stating that the probe is already "90 to 95" finished. No questions about 0athe dozens of public statements made by the Bush administration about Iraq's 0aweapons capabilities have been allowed. No questions about the Office of Special 0aPlans, which was created out of whole cloth by Rumsfeld for the specific purpose 0aof re-interpreting CIA and State Department intelligence reports, have been 0aallowed. No questions about repeated visits to CIA headquarters by Dick Cheney, 0awho went there to browbeat intelligence analysts for more aggressive 0ainterpretations of the threat posed by Iraq, have been allowed. Roberts has 0aalready made it clear that the CIA is to blame for the fact that there are no 0aweapons in Iraq, and is blocking Rockefeller and the Democrats from questioning 0athis dubious premise.
The memo prepared by Rockefeller stated that the Democrats need 0ato try to steer the inquiry towards these matters. Failing that, the memo said, 0aDemocrats should try to launch a separate, independent investigation into these 0amatters because the Intelligence Committee chaired by Roberts was being used to 0adefend the White House from taint. "We have an important role to play," read the 0amemo, "in revealing the misleading, if not flagrantly dishonest, methods and 0amotives of senior administration officials who made the case for unilateral 0apre-emptive war."
When this memo fell into the hands of Sean Hannity and Fox, a 0aconcerted attempt was made to turn the existence of the memo into a major 0ascandal. Hannity railed that this memo would cause several Senators to resign, 0athat it was proof the Democrats want to turn the investigation into nothing more 0athan a political witch hunt. Various members of the mainstream press jumped on 0athis rhetorical bandwagon. The Los Angeles Times, in one example, described the 0arevelation of the memo in terms to warm Hannity's heart: "The tone of the memo 0acould be embarrassing to Democrats and provides new ammunition for Republican 0acomplaints that Democrats are seeking to use the inquiry for political 0again."
Roberts demanded that Rockefeller denounce the memo, but 0aRockefeller refused to do so. Roberts used this as an excuse to cancel further 0aIntelligence Committee hearings on the matter, and froze completely the 0ainvestigation. For all practical purposes, the Congressional investigation into 0athe rhetoric surrounding our rush to war in Iraq is over.
Little attention was given to the fact that Rockefeller is 0acorrect, that the White House and Rumsfeld deserve intense scrutiny for their 0acentral role in pushing fictional reports of Iraqi weapons capabilities, and 0athat avoiding such questions amounts to nothing more than a purely partisan 0awhitewash. Instead, Rockefeller's memo and legitimate questions from the 0aDemocrats were described as "just politics."
Another memo surfaced recently. The Wednesday 12 November edition 0aof the Boston Globe carried a story titled, "GOP Will Trumpet Preemption 0aDoctrine." The story centered around a memo recently prepared by Republican 0aNational Committee chairman Ed Gillespie which was disbursed widely throughout 0athe party apparatus. In the memo, the newest GOP strategy was outlined, and 0atalking points were provided. The Globe article states:
The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech," Ed Gillespie, Republican 0aNational Committee chairman, wrote in a recent memo to party officials -- a move 0adesigned to shift attention toward Bush's broader foreign policy objectives 0arather than the accounts of bloodshed. Republicans hope to convince voters that 0aDemocrats are too indecisive and faint-hearted -- and perhaps unpatriotic -- to 0aprotect US interests, arguing that inaction during the Clinton years led to the 0aattacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
This memo received very little media attention. A Google News 0asearch using the words "Gillespie memo" yielded nine articles, many from 0aonline-only publications. A search using the words "Rockefeller memo" yielded 0a207 articles, most of which are highly critical of the "political nature" of the 0adocument.
The Rockefeller memo described a strategy to get to the bottom of 0awhat happened in the run-up to the war, a strategy that is required because 0aSenator Roberts and his fellow Republicans are using their majority position to 0aprotect the White House from embarrassing questions. The Gillespie memo accused 0athe Democrats of using "hate speech," blamed them for the attacks of September 0a11, and further outlined a political attack strategy that laments the 0aunpatriotic behavior of the Democrats while painting a joyous picture of what 0ais, in reality, a spectacularly failed Bush Administration policy in Iraq.
For the record, no mass destruction weapons of any kind have been 0afound in Iraq, despite months and months of dire promises from the Bush White 0aHouse and Don Rumsfeld that the stuff was there, and that it would be given to 0aOsama bin Laden for use on the American homeland. The CIA, scapegoated for 0atelling the truth about this for months, has reported that tens of thousands of 0aIraqis are swarming into the ranks of those who attack and kill American 0asoldiers every day. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in Iraq, presides over 0aan utterly failed occupation plan that will soon include harsh crackdowns 0aagainst the Iraqi people, something that will surely fuel the already-seething 0aanger within that populace. A few days ago, American warplanes began bombing 0aBaghdad again.
The nature of these dueling memos exposes several deadly problems 0athat face this nation today. One problem is a White House that lied its populace 0ainto an unnecessary war, and used September 11 deliberately to make the American 0apeople afraid. Another problem is a partisan Congress, exemplified by Senator 0aRoberts, which shields the Bush administration from being called to account for 0aany of this. Another problem is a mainstream news media whose coverage of these 0aissues is wildly skewed in favor of the GOP.
The worst problem is the Democratic Party, that loyal opposition 0awhich is all too quick to be embarrassed by revelations that they actually 0aoppose the Bush administration. Senator Evan Bayh, Democratic Senator from 0aIndiana and member of the now-defunct Intelligence Committee investigations, 0astated publicly that Rockefeller should admit drafting the memo was a mistake. "I think the tone of the memo was unfortunate," said Bayh.
How about this, Senator Bayh? "What is unfortunate is the fact 0athat members of this committee who are committed to finding the truth about the 0adevelopment of the Bush administration's argument for war have to go outside the 0anormal process, because the normal process has been corrupted by partisan 0aRepublicans who abuse their positions by blocking legitimate areas of inquiry. 0aWe have pages and pages of statements by administration officials that have 0aturned out to be wildly false. There is plenty of evidence that the American 0apeople have been lied to in a process that has gotten a lot of good people 0akilled. Why is the White House hiding? Why is Senator Roberts whitewashing this 0ainvestigation? We apologize for nothing, and demand that this inquiry be widened 0ato any and all areas that can bring us answers to these important 0aquestions."
That would be nice to hear. Instead, we hear hangdog apologies 0afrom shamefaced Democrats. We have partisan Republicans shutting down vital 0ainquiries for purely political reasons. We have a memo from the chairman of the 0aRepublican party calling Democrats unpatriotic and blaming them for September 0a11, with no notice being given to this vicious political attack whatsoever. We 0ahave a fraudulent war that grinds on and on, killing and maiming our soldiers 0aevery day. Where is the real scandal here?
William Rivers 0aPitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and 0ainternational best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, 0aand "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August 0afrom Context Books.
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