Rep. J. Conyers Talks Bush Lying America Into War
Congressman John Conyers Talks About Bush Lying America Into War and His Campaign to Hold Bush Accountable: The Downing Street Memo and More
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
June 9, 2005
Congressman John Conyers is the first recipient of the BuzzFlash.com "Wings of Justice Award". "This guy's a Rocky for Constitutional Rights," we note in our citation. "When it comes to champions of democracy, Congressman John Conyers, ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, flies like a butterfly and stings like a bee.... If Representative Conyers had subpoena powers, by now he would have had Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and DeLay slinging mash potatoes in a federal prison."
Currently, he is leading a campaign to hold the Bush Administration accountable for lying America into a War with Iraq. He is conducting a campaign to make Americans aware of the infamous "Downing Street Memo," which is the smoking gun that is the final dot confirming a constellation of Bush administration calculated lies leading Americans deceitfully into the jaws of death, debt and destruction wrought by war.
BuzzFlash: Congressman, first of all, thank you for the time. And I wanted to tell you we’ve begun a new award here at BuzzFlash.com, and you are our first recipient of our Wings of Justice award, which we are going to give out weekly.
John Conyers, Jr.: Oh, no!
BuzzFlash: And you are our first recipient.
John Conyers, Jr.: I’m honored. I’m flattered. Thanks so much
BuzzFlash: You are such a hero for democracy. But right now, you’re working very specifically on the implications of the Downing Street Memo. Among the many things you’re trying to do to restore democracy to the United States, one person-one vote, and the Constitutional guarantees that we were given in 1776, one thing that you’re doing is to try and hold this Administration accountable. And you are focusing on what has become known as the Downing Street Memo, which was written in July of 2002, but only came forth in the Times of London a few weeks ago. And you were asking for people to join you and 88 other members of Congress in writing President Bush to hold him accountable for what it says in the Downing Street Memo. So can you tell us a little bit more about why the memo is important, and also how many Americans have joined you thus far in signing on to the letter?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, this has been one of those projects that comes to your attention, and you begin to express some surprise that nobody has inquired into it before. This Downing Street declassified British intelligence memorandum wasn’t the result of weeks of hard investigation and deep research on the part of our staff. It appeared in a newspaper and was being widely circulated in the media around Europe. A number of countries in Europe, their newspapers, their television and radio, were all full of it.
And so we were surprised that there had been almost a wall of silence here in the United States that we couldn’t get through, that was blocking us out. And to some extent, we’ve been able to get through this porous wall of silence so that we’ve finally gotten down to the fact that we know that according to the meetings that were going on, that President Bush had enlisted Mr. Blair into a plan to start a war with a country with which we had very little reason to go to war with. And the notion was to find out why they did this and why was the President of the United States denying that it was his intention to go to war when it was very clear among the Bush Cabinet and Mr. Blair and his organization that that was exactly what they were going to do.
And so we have a couple of pretty important questions that leap up at one immediately. And the first was: why did the President deny to the Congress that he was planning to go to war, when at the same time he was implementing plans to go to war? And that is a very disturbing feature. The second thing that comes to mind right away is that if the Congress had known that the President was already laying plans for war, would they have given him additional military authority? The debate would have been quite different, I would presume. I would not give him that authority. I would use his intentions and desire to start a war with another country as an additional reason not to give him the power. And I think a number of other people would have rethought their positions. It would have been a much, much different debate.
BuzzFlash: Now you call this memo a smoking gun. It has a phrase in it that is quite pivotal. The phrase that, in essence, Tony Blair had no choice but to go to war because the U.S. – the Bush Administration – was going to "fix intelligence" to ensure that a war with Iraq occurred. The exact phrase is: "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." And so Britain really didn’t have much option either to go along or not go along. But the memo states that the U.S. was intent on going to war. This was in July of 2002 – as you said, at a time when Bush was saying he has made no decision, and he was going to allow the U.N. to follow its course and so forth.
John Conyers, Jr.: What you’re raising deals with the fact that the United States, starting with the President, had to engineer a justification for war by provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. And further, that they had to arrange the scenario, fix the books to make the case for war, as it was stated, to remove Saddam through military actions justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policies.
BuzzFlash: We, BuzzFlash, had an editorial yesterday about this issue. And we stopped our listing at fifteen the things that reconfirm this memo. In other words, it’s not an isolated incident. It’s just a piece of the puzzle, a dot to be connected. We know that no weapons of mass destruction were found. We know that two analysts who incorrectly claimed that Saddam Hussein had purchased aluminum tubes for the enrichment of uranium, which turned out not to be the case, were promoted and given bonuses by the Bush Administration. One would consider that assessment perhaps part of fixing intelligence.
John Conyers, Jr.: Yes.
BuzzFlash: We know that Dick Cheney hung out at the CIA, kind of –
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, visit them without any notice.
BuzzFlash: And kind of –
John Conyers, Jr.: Ask them for cups of coffee.
BuzzFlash: And kind of indicating that he wanted intelligence that indicated Iraq was indeed the threat that the Bush Administration made it out to be. We know that Richard Clark said that the President, Mr. Bush, pushed him into a closet or cornered him in a closet, basically – or the Oval Office pantry – I can’t recall – and said, I want data that shows Iraq is a threat. We know that –
John Conyers, Jr.: and Paul O’Neill...
BuzzFlash: Paul O’Neill said that from the day Bush was inaugurated, he was talking about attacking Iraq. We know that the people in the Bush Administration who were responsible for the war in Iraq were primarily composed of the signers of the PNAC letter to President Clinton in ’98 asking him to attack Iraq. The Downing Street Memo is called a smoking gun, but it’s hardly as though this is the only piece of information. It’s kind of the culmination of all this voluminous corroboration that we were lied into war.
John Conyers, Jr.: Exactly, what you’re saying indicates that the more we look around, the more we investigate and research, and the more information that comes forward, it all supports the declassified British intelligence document that was the subject of at least two articles in the Times of London. And now more and more begins to come out as we think about it, as we review, as we think about what happened to weapons inspectors and the jeopardy that one of the wives – a CIA operative was put in – that as O’Neill said himself, everybody in the top circles of the Bush Administration knew that we were going to go to war with Iraq. It was just a matter of time.
BuzzFlash: And meanwhile the President continued to adamantly insist that he had made no decision, and that he was open-minded. But we learned also another piece of the puzzle this weekend – that the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, had someone fired in the U.N. who was trying to ensure Iraqi compliance with the chemical weapons accord. And Bolton had him fired because he was trying to avoid, in essence, a war.
John Conyers, Jr.: Yes, the Bolton aspect of this is another new piece of evidence that is coming out. So what are we going to do about it?
BuzzFlash: Can I ask you one more question before we get to that? You have called another article in the Times of London "the smoking bullet in the smoking gun." And that was an article which indicated that in 2002, British and United States flew planes over the no-fly zone and in other areas in an attempt not just to enforce the no-fly zone, but to actually degrade the radar of Saddam Hussein and to intentionally provoke him into a response to precipitate a war.
John Conyers, Jr.: Yes, it was clear that these bombings were intensified after May, way before the United States resolution gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August of 2002, these raids had become a full-fledged air offensive. And they doubled the rate of bombings that were dropped on Iraq in the beginning, hoping that Saddam Hussein would be provoked into giving the United States and its allies an excuse for war.
BuzzFlash: Now this was in 2002.
John Conyers, Jr.: In 2002. And this was discussed in terms of how to make a regime change in Iraq legal is to – and it also figures into this incredibly revealing phrase adopted – I think it was Rumsfeld – the “shock and awe.” We want to drop so many bombs on them. We want to kill so many people. We want to dislocate so many homes and communities, and buildings and businesses that they will be just overwhelmed with the incredible force and power that we can muster when we decide to turn it on.
BuzzFlash: Now before we go on, you wanted to say what can we do, let me ask you this question. We at BuzzFlash yesterday in this editorial said not only do all the dots connected that Bush lied, they glow in the dark. And we spent – the United States – people paid – taxpayers paid to have a special counsel investigate President and Mrs. Clinton for close to seven years. And nothing –
John Conyers, Jr.: Millions and millions of dollars.
BuzzFlash: Millions and millions of dollars and time better spent on improving our nation were wasted. Time that could have been spent discussing public policy was wasted. And President Clinton had to spend wasted time defending himself until he was finally entrapped in a perjury charge about a sexual act. So what would have happened if this were President Clinton and there were so much proof that he had lied us into a war?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, I think, given the style of the conservatives in government, the Republicans, this would have been a mass outcry of anger and accusations and charges that would be quite different from the very slow way, but continuing pace, that this subject matter – this incident and all of the ramifications of it – is being picked up now.
BuzzFlash: Well, I don’t want to put you in a spot, but the measurement for impeachment is " high crimes and misdemeanors." Are the Bush lies high crimes and misdemeanors?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, that’s why we’re trying to first finish our investigation before we get to the 64-dollar question. The fact of the matter is that not telling the truth is a very serious abuse of power when it deals with whether a country should go to war or not, and especially when the President is asking the Congress for additional powers which he does not have without their giving them to him. Buried beneath that, of course, is the consideration that – whether or not we can hand off our power of Article 1, Section 8, to declare war, and give it to somebody else, is another question entirely. You cannot delegate a Constitutional duty to someone else that wants it.
BuzzFlash: Now you said that you were going to lead us to the point of where do we go from here.
John Conyers, Jr.: Yes, there are a couple of big things. One is this incredible number of American citizens that are joining us.
BuzzFlash: And how many is that?
John Conyers, Jr.: Demanding that the President at least give us an answer to some very simple and obvious questions.
BuzzFlash: How many people have signed on to your letter?
John Conyers, Jr.: We have got 160,000 signatures, and it’s probably larger than that now. It’s gone up from the last week when it was 130,000. And now it’s 160,000 and more.
BuzzFlash: And you were going to say there’s a second point to what needs to be done.
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, the next thing that needs to be done is that we need to talk with some of the people in London in the Prime Minister’s top echelons of government and others around there in London about this whole subject matter. We need to not be pulling this off the Internet, reading it from newspaper reports. We need to do some face time with the people that are connected with it or know about it, or can add to our understanding of it. And then also inevitably we’re going to have to have hearings. There will need to be hearings in which this matter is talked about before the Judiciary Committee, and that we have witnesses of all persuasions to help shed some light on this. This is a critical part of the democratic process in a constitutional democracy. Remember, in Watergate we had hearings, and Sam Irvin conducted those hearings that began the process to focus. And remember as well that it started off as a little article in the Washington Post of about three or four sentences – a Watergate burglary. And then we went into hearings.
And then the hearings erupted into a – in the Judiciary Committee – into a discussion of Articles of Impeachment. Now I’m not saying that’s where we’re going. I’m just relating the course of action that these kind of matters take when they begin a life of their own. And this one has begun to do that. As hard as the White House tried to evade the questions, the more roaring and noisy was their silence. You can’t be silent about something that’s from the British intelligence notes. You can’t say we refuse to talk about it, or it has no credibility, when everybody that was involved in it, from what we can tell, are all perfectly silent and are acquiescing by their silence in the accuracy of what’s being reported.
BuzzFlash: Let me ask you two more questions. I know how busy your schedule is.
John Conyers, Jr.: Now remember that the Prime Minister and the President are meeting a little later on today – maybe right now – 4:45 (on June 7th).
BuzzFlash: Do you think they might be discussing a common response to this memo?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, I think I would be more naïve after having been here for as many decades to think that this subject is not going to come up at all.
BuzzFlash: Two more questions: one, we know last week, the identity of Deep Throat was revealed. Many of the television stations of course trotted out old Nixon aides, discredited Nixon aides, to have their say. And among them, Pat Buchanan and others said – basically said that Felt should have kept quiet. And he was responsible for the United States losing the war in Vietnam. A more absurd charge is hard to recall, but basically the implication there was that committing a felony is okay, in view of the fact that Nixon had larger responsibilities with the Vietnam War. And so they were basically justifying overlooking the felony of the burglary of the Watergate offices of the Democratic Party and the cover-up that followed.
And then we had the Wall Street Journal the other day basically saying that those who want to continue to dwell on the desecration of the Koran, and the torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and so forth run the risk of being responsible for another terrorist attack. And then they warned that that after that, we’re going to end up with a police state. So in other words, the Wall Street Journal, which is often, as you know – the editorial page, anyway – a spokesperson for the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, is threatening people who believe that torture is illegal by saying exposing it will cause a terrorist attack, and the blood will be on the hands of those people who denounce torture. Now given that, what are the odds that Republicans in Congress are going to hold Bush accountable for lying?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, I think that things change, and what goes around comes around. And I’m impressed by some of the family and parents and spouses of people who are in the service who’ve been in Iraq, who paid the price, who’ve made sacrifices far beyond what most of us here in Washington are making, who are just furious about the fact that an Abu Ghraib is an open license for the enemy to treat our troops in the same way or worse. And so what we have is a situation which not only violates international law, but it’s bad military policy as well. It just seems to me to make no sense that we sanction this. And the amazing thing about it is that the Koran desecration issue – we’re discovering more and more issues that had been involving the Koran all the time that is still going on, that are still coming forth.
BuzzFlash: Now one final question. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune last week, to our knowledge, became the first major paper in the country in its editorial to say that Bush lied America into war. This was in their Memorial Day editorial. It said we hope this will never happen again. Lives have been lost needlessly – military lives, Iraqi lives. And this was based on an Administration that lied to the American people in order to precipitate the war. To our knowledge, they’re still the only major paper to directly admit that Bush lied the nation into war. There have been some other smaller papers to use the “L” word – the “lie” word. Why do you think when to many of us this is a documented case of lying on multiple grounds and numbers of incidents that have been proven, that are not just conjecture, why is the American press so hesitant, except, apparently, for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, to say that Bush lied America into war?
John Conyers, Jr.: Well, the media has always taken this position. They’ve been coerced before. They were under the Nixon Administration. There are, as a matter of fact, too few examples of the kind of courageous and forthright journalism that we should be expecting from the media that we actually get.
And so I wish I could say I was surprised. I’m disappointed. But you know, the more you try to conceal something that’s obvious, the more it’s clear that you’re hiding something and that the something that you’re hiding is to defend a partisan political position that one has taken. And so this is the way it always goes.
It always goes like this, then it finally begins to trickle out. Now we’ve got BuzzFlash. Now we’ve got the Internet. Now we’ve got satellite. Now we’ve got individual activists and organizations. Now we have a courageous part of the media that won’t let this go. Now we’re collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures that in a different era, we would be stymied. So even technology is helping us, and it’s giving voice – the blogging that’s going on, the discussions – public – with citizens among citizens, and challenges that are being raised. And so I am very optimistic that this truth is going to come out, that the American people cannot have this kept from them.
So things are going to turn, and we think that it’s a matter of such seriousness. This is not just picking on the President or playing petty partisan politics. This is a matter of profound truth. We’ve lost thousands of lives, and we stand to lose many more yet in a war that the President refuses to tell the Congress what his plans are for getting out of Iraq. He wouldn’t tell us he was going into Iraq, and now he won’t tell us how he plans to get out of Iraq. Something’s wrong here, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it no matter how much of our time and energy it takes.
BuzzFlash: Well, Congressman Conyers, you truly are a Renaissance man in standing up for democracy. We are offering as a premium your hearings on the Ohio misselection, and follow everything else you do to try to restore us to a constitutional democracy. And you really deserve our Wings of Justice award, and we will be supporting you as you pursue the Downing Street Memo smoking gun. Thank you very much.
John Conyers, Jr.: I can’t tell you how many people keep coming up to me, saying that they heard something on BuzzFlash. And I just ran into a young fellow visiting the Capitol last weekend, and he said, “Congressman, I’m from your district in a small city in your city. And we’re right now, we’ve got your book, Ohio – The Ohio Election; What Went Wrong – and it is really great reading.”
And I was really so pleased because many of the people that have heard about that book, have heard about it through the great work that you’re doing in speaking truth to the reality of our times. We’ve got some big problems and they won’t be solved by pretending they don’t exist or pretending that the war was started for some very high and noble reason. We have a lot of people that still believe that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had somehow been working together, when everything that we now know shows that that was not the case at all.
So I thank you and BuzzFlash, and all the people that are listening and reading with us, and commenting with us, as we go through this really great American experiment of democracy. Can it work? Can we hold our elected officials and the decision-makers that operate for 290 million people – can we hold them accountable for the acts that they do, and make sure that they own up to what they’re doing, and that we know what it is they’re doing?
BuzzFlash: Thank you again, Congressman.
John Conyers, Jr.: It’s a pleasure.