Torture, Lies and Treason: Who Is Accountable?

Torture, Lies and Treason: Who Is Accountable?
From Abu Ghraib to the Downing Street Minutes to Valerie Plame
New York City Town Hall Meeting
Saturday July 23, 2005 2-4 p.m.
New York Society for Ethical Culture 2 W. 64th St.

Sponsored by The Nation and Democrats.com
Speakers:
Rep. Maurice Hinchey
Hon. Liz Holtzman
Randi Rhodes
Moderator: Bob Fertik

On behalf of The Nation magazine and Democrats.com, thank you all for coming to this important Town Hall Meeting on this hot Saturday afternoon.

My name is Bob Fertik and I am the President of Democrats.com and a co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet Coalition.

I'd like to thank the New York Society for Ethical Culture for renting us their wonderful building. I hope each of you will make a donation to help the Society and also get involved in its important community work.

I'd also like to thank our wonderful co-sponsors: Air America Radio, Billionaires for Bush, The Blame Show, Dave Pollak, Democracy for NYC, INN World Report, The Iraq Project, MediaChannel.org, New Democratic Majority, NYC Downing Street Coalition, NYS Senators Liz Krueger and Eric Schneiderman, openDemocracy.net, PoliticalStrategy.us, Progressive Democrats of America, SmirkingChimp.com, United for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, and VoterMarch.org.

I want to thank the contributors to Democrats.com and AfterDowningStreet.org who made today's events possible.

And I'd like to thank the reporters and bloggers who came to hear what we have to say.

Today's forum in New York City is one of over 300 events around the country, organized by Rep. John Conyers and AfterDowningStreet.org. Eight of these events feature Members of Congress, including John Conyers in Detroit, Jim McDermott in Seattle, Barbara Lee in Oakland, Maxine Waters in Los Angeles, and Maurice Hinchey here today. Rep. Charlie Rangel of Harlem held an online town hall yesterday.

Today's events follow a hearing by John Conyers on June 16 that was attended by 36 House Democrats - including Maurice Hinchey - even though Republicans forced the hearings into a small basement room and scheduled 11 roll call votes to keep Members away. Right after the hearing, AfterDowningStreet.org led a spirited protest at the White House to force staff members to accept a letter from John Conyers to George Bush that was signed by over 100 House Members and over 500,000 citizens, including many of you.

This level of mobilization is remarkable, especially since AfterDowningStreet.org was started just two months ago. And this will be just the beginning of our efforts, if you will help us. We'll get to your role after our speakers.

So why are we here today?

First, we are here to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Downing Street Minutes, the smoking gun which proves the Bush administration deliberately lied to Congress, the American people, and the world, to justify their long-planned invasion of Iraq.

Here's what Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British intelligence, told Tony Blair's inner cabinet three years ago today - four months before Congress authorized military action in Iraq, six weeks before Bush's first speech on Iraq here at the United Nations.

"Military action was now seen as inevitable. 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."

The publication of this document on May 1 caused a firestorm in the British media, but the U.S. media refused to cover it. It was only because of bloggers and activists that most Americans ever learned of this document. And even today, the mainstream media continues its blackout of this historic story.

But more broadly, we are here to discuss the highest crimes imaginable in our democracy: Torture, Lies, and possibly even Treason.

In the past three years, these crimes were committed at the highest levels of our government - and in our names.

These crimes were committed by people who believe they are above the law.

And they will be right - if we, the American people, fail to hold them accountable.

Our speakers are experts on the crimes of the Bush administration.

But they also believe passionately in holding this administration accountable for its crimes.

We all know that Presidents are held accountable through impeachment.

But you probably don't know the word "impeachment" is strictly taboo in Washington today.

The mainstream media - which demanded Bill Clinton's impeachment for lying about sex - refuses to even ask whether George Bush should be impeached for lying about war.

For obvious reasons, conservatives vehemently oppose any discussion of impeachment.

But no progressives have been willing to talk about it either.

Until today.

Today, we are going to break that taboo.

Today, we are going to ask whether George Bush should be impeached for torture, lies, and possibly even treason.

According to a recent Zogby poll, an astonishing 42% of Americans believe George Bush should be impeached if he lied about Iraq.

By comparison, only 26% of Americans thought Bill Clinton should be impeached after the Lewinsky scandal broke.

This 42% figure is astounding. It represents nearly 100 million Americans.

Yet the mainstream media refuse to report it, because - as I said - the word impeachment is strictly taboo.

I know there are a few reporters - and lots of bloggers - here today. So let's give them some news to report.

How many of you believe George Bush should be impeached for lying about Iraq? Please raise your hands, and keep them raised.

Reporters and bloggers, please look around.

The American people are speaking.

They deserve to be heard. And whether or not the media listen today, ultimately we will be heard.

Because Democracy is on the march - right here at home.

Now it's time for our speakers to be heard.

Our first speaker is Liz Holtzman, who knows a thing or two about impeachment. Born in Brooklyn, Holtzman went from Abraham Lincoln High School to Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School. She was elected to Congress in 1972 at the age of 31, and is still the youngest woman ever elected. Holtzman was put on the House Judiciary Committee just in time to investigate the Watergate break-in. That investigation, led by the late Peter Rodino of Newark, uncovered widespread criminality in the Nixon administration, and led to the introduction of Articles of Impeachment, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon decided to resign rather than be impeached. Liz also knows a lot about prosecuting criminals, through her eight years as District Attorney in Brooklyn. And finally, Liz knows a lot about war crimes, through her current work on the Nazi and Japanese Imperial War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group. Liz recently applied her tremendous knowledge to the question of torture in Iraq, in a brilliant article in The Nation that everyone should read. I'm delighted to welcome a New York treasure, Liz Holtzman.

Maurice Hinchey was born on the Lower West Side and grew up in Saugerties. After serving two years in the Navy, he worked as a laborer in a cement plant and worked his way through college collecting tolls on the Thruway. He rebuilt the local Democratic Party and was elected to the State Assembly in 1974, becoming the first Democrat from Ulster County in 62 years. He served there for 18 years, gaining statewide fame as an environmental champion, preserving Sterling Forest, passing the first acid rain law, and investigating mafia control of the solid waste industry. He was elected to Congress in 1992 in a conservative upstate district running from Poughkeepsie west to the Finger Lakes. Hinchey has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq War - both before and after - and has brought audiences to their feet from New Paltz to St. Louis with his denunciations of the lies that took us to war.

Randi Rhodes was born in Brooklyn. Her father, who served in World War II, was a mechanical engineer; her mom worked in a dress shop. For financial reasons - like most soldiers today - Randi enlisted in the Air Force in 1977 and excelled as a mechanic, reaching the rank of sergeant. Her radio career began in Seminole, Texas where she was a waitress in a Mexican restaurant to support her radio habit. She made it to New York, Dallas, and Milwaukee before settling in South Florida. I first got to know her during the Florida recount in 2000, when Randi was about the only journalist in Florida protesting the theft of the Presidency. She gained national fame with the 2004 launch of Air America Radio, where she hosts the afternoon show from 3 to 7 each day. Randi has a huge and devoted audience here in New York City, where she is heard on 1190AM.

...

Let's give our wonderful speakers a warm round of applause for giving up their Saturday afternoons to discuss these historic topics with us.

Now let's talk about what you can do.

On your way in the door, you should have received a flyer about Representative Barbara Lee's Resolution of Inquiry, H. Res 375.

This resolution was introduced on Thursday and has 26 co-sponsors.

It is a simple request. It asks the White House and State Department for all "communication with officials with officials of the United Kingdom between January 1, 2002 and October 16, 2002, relating to the policy of the United States with respect to Iraq."

In other words, we want to know whether the information contained in the Downing Street Minutes is true.

A Resolution of Inquiry is a special kind of bill. Under House rules, the committee to which it is assigned - probably International Relations - must vote yes or no within 14 Congressional working days.

AfterDowningStreet.org is trying to get every Member of Congress to support this Resolution. Our handout lists every Member in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

We would like to form committees of activists in as many of these districts as we can. So that's where you can help.

If you have to leave now, please take this flyer home and email your Representative using the link on the flyer - democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/50

If you can stay for another 10 minutes, I have asked a few people to lead brief caucus meetings here in this auditorium.

If you look around, you'll see people holding up signs for various parts of the region. In Manhattan, the West Side is represented by Jerry Nadler. The East Side is Carolyn Maloney. Harlem is Charlie Rangel. The Bronx is Jose Serrano, Eliot Engel and Joe Crowley. Queens is Joe Crowley, Greg Meeks, Gary Ackerman, and Nydia Velazquez. Brooklyn is Velazquez, Major Owens, Ed Towns, Anthony Weiner, Jerry Nadler, and Vito Fossella. Staten Island is Fossella. New Jersey has 13 Representatives, Upstate New York has 12, Nassau/Suffolk has 4, Connecticut has 5.

When you find your area caucus, find the people who have the same Representative. Then exchange e-mail addresses so you can work together after this meeting. And choose one person as the coordinator. Our immediate goal is to schedule a meeting in each district in August, when Congress is in recess and Members are at home. The coordinator should schedule the meeting, with the goal of persuading your Representative to support Barbara Lee's Resolution of Inquiry. The coordinator should e-mail me, bob@democrats.com, so we can work together to make our efforts a success.

That's all we ask for now. It's an easy way to get started and to get to know your Representative. Remember, Congress works for us, and it is their Constitutional duty to hold the White House accountable for its crimes. So let's work together, and make our Democracy work!