A White House Bent On Misleading Public Over Iraq
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release July 26, 2005
The Downing Street Memos and Valerie Plame-Karl Rove Scandal Reveal a White House Bent on Misleading Public on Rationale for Iraq War
- Interview with John Bonifaz, constitutional attorney, conducted by Scott Harris
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The involvement of President Bush's closest adviser Karl Rove in leaking information about the identity of a covert CIA agent to at least two reporters, has set off a political firestorm in Washington with the White House alternately refusing to comment and employing surrogates to attack the president's critics.
Among the targets of these attacks is former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife Valerie Plame is the subject of a federal investigation looking into who in the White House revealed her identity as an undercover CIA officer working on weapons of mass destruction issues. Wilson was initially attacked by members of the Bush administration, after he wrote an opinion editorial in the New York Times recounting his investigation into an Iraq-nuclear connection while on a trip to Niger for the CIA in 2002. In Niger, Wilson found that, contrary to White House assertions, Saddam Hussein's regime was not seeking uranium there for a nuclear weapons program. Despite Wilson's conclusion, the president made the claim in his January 2003 State of the Union address.
At its core, the Wilson-Plame-Rove case revolves around the Bush administration's effort to construct a dubious rationale for the war in Iraq. That case is bolstered by the Downing Street memos, a series of minutes from meetings of high British government officials in 2002 that indicates that the Bush administration intended to invade Iraq, justified by intelligence and facts that were being fixed around the policy. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with John Bonifaz, constitutional attorney and co-founder of the group Afterdowningstreet.org, who connects the dots between revelations found in these two cases, and explains why he is advocating for a formal congressional investigation that could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
JOHN BONIFAZ: I think what comes from the Downing Street memos is a clear showing that the president may have been part of an overall deception campaign to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people.
And that evidence is demonstrated by Sir Richard Dearlove's briefing to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr. Dearlove was at the time at the Downing Street meeting on July 23, 2002 the head of MI6, which is the equivalent of our Central Intelligence Agency. And he was briefing Prime Minister Tony Blair and his other top national security officials on meetings, that he, Mr. Dearlove, had just had in Washington with senior U.S. government officials. And he reports back to the British government that President Bush had already decided by July 2002 to invade Iraq and that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
I can think of no higher crime for a president to commit under our constitution than the crime of sending the nation into war based on a potential lie. To send young men and women off to their deaths based on fraudulent claims.
So, what we have done with AfterDowningStreet.org is launch this national grassroots effort to demand the truth. "Did the president engage in this conspiracy? Did he lie to the nation and to the United States Congress? And if so, shall we not hold him accountable for that government misconduct?"
BETWEEN THE LINES: John Bonifaz, could you comment for us on the revelations on the Valerie Plame-Karl Rove case that provides evidence against the Bush administration for deliberately misleading the American people on the threat posed by Iraq -- and the intersection of that information with the Downing Street memos?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, the story here really begins, of course, with the deception campaign that began prior to the invasion of Iraq and Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to Niger to determine whether or not it was true that Niger had engaged in a purported sale, or attempted sale of uranium to Iraq. Ambassador Wilson was sent in 2002 to determine the validity of this claim. He came back, he reported back to the Bush administration that it was a highly doubtful claim, and yet, the words ended up in the president's State of the Union address in 2003 that this claim was somehow valid and that Iraq was seeking uranium. All of that obviously led to this invasion and the threat of a mushroom cloud coming over the United States from Iraq if, in fact, we did not invade Iraq.
So, that's the backdrop to why we have now an investigation into whether or not the Bush administration intentionally outed a covert CIA operative, Mr. Wilson's wife Valerie Plame Wilson, in such a way that clearly would have been illegal.
And, they did so -- if they in fact engaged in this because they were trying to exact retribution against Mr. Wilson for having blown their cover for having demonstrated that the president and his top advisers may have engaged in this deception campaign about the war.
So, all this is very much connected and I think what the special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald does in that case will have a rippling effect on the overall case for why we need a full investigation on the president's conduct leading up to this war.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Is the information contained in the Downing Street memos directly related in some respect to things that are uncovered in the Valerie Plame-Karl Rove case?
JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, I think the evidence of the Downing Street memos that shows that the intelligence is actually fixed around the policy connects very clearly with what Ambassador Wilson said on the op-ed page of the New York Times in July 2003 and for which he faced this retaliation effort by the Bush administration. So, I think that they are very much connected.
But, I do think that we have to expand beyond the sole question of whether or not one or more Bush administration officials were engaged in outing a covert CIA operative to the larger scandal that has involved the deaths of over 1,700 United States soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and that's the scandal of this illegal war and whether the president deceived the nation and the U.S. Congress in sending the nation into this war.
No one can fully predict where any of this will go, but what we can say is that we have a role to play as citizens around the country in standing up and being heard and pressuring our members of Congress to do the right thing, to have the courage to demand the truth and to protect and uphold the Constitution.
I really do believe that history will judge us to be right and whether the proceedings on impeachment, will take place during the time of this administration remains to be seen. But, I think the pressure is clearly building for there to be an accountability for all that has gone on with respect to this war and with respect to this administration's role in this war.
Click here to visit: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org
Related stories on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl072905.html#1hed:
*Complete set of Downing Street memos
*"Despite Earlier Denials, Presidential Adviser Karl Rove Played Key Role in Illegal Disclosure of CIA Agent's Identity" Between The Lines interview , conducted by Scott Harris, July 22, 2005
*"Critics Question Credibility of FBI Investigation into White House Leak Exposing CIA Operative," Between The Lines, Oct. 17, 2003 interview conducted by Scott Harris.
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending July 29, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.
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