Emboldened by the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, Democrats forced the majority-Republican Senate into a closed-door session Nov. 1 to hear their charges that the Bush administration used false intelligence to whip up support for the war on Iraq.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked Rule 21, a rarely used Senate procedure, to force the session. It wrecked President Bush’s hopes that his nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court would remove Libby’s indictment from the headlines.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Reid said Libby’s indictment, the first against a White House staffer in 135 years, “raises very serious questions. It asserts that this administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant,” exposing “how the administration manipulated and manufactured intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions.”

The cloud hanging over the White House, Reid added, is further darkened by the prisoner abuse scandals, failure to respond to the human suffering after Hurricane Katrina, and “the cronyism and corruption in numerous agencies.” The war in Iraq has cost the lives of 2,025 American soldiers and over $2 billion each week, he said.

Senate Republicans, Reid charged, “have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why.”

Fuming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) accused the Democrats of a “stunt.”

But Frist was forced to agree to push ahead with a “Phase II” investigation of the administration’s use of phony intelligence to justify the war. The GOP leadership had agreed to the probe nearly two years ago but “stalled” and “stymied” the investigation, Reid charged. He hailed Frist’s agreement to report on the probe within 14 days as a “victory for the people.”

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who served on the House committee that prepared the impeachment of President Richard Nixon 30 years ago, called the Oct. 28 indictment of Libby “Treasongate.”

A grand jury handed down a 22-page indictment accusing Libby of five counts of perjury, misleading and obstruction of justice for lying about his role in “outing” CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. Conyers said Libby’s indictment “represents the beginning but not the end of the process of holding the Bush administration accountable for its conduct in foisting a pre-emptive war on this country.”

Conyers said, “The charges beg the larger question: what did the president know and when did he know it? I believe it is imperative that Congress pursue these questions and determine how these charges fit into the entire web of deception, manipulation and obfuscation laid bare by the Downing Street Minutes and Treasongate.”

In announcing the indictment, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald refused to discuss any other Bush administration officials. But the investigation will continue, he said. Bush’s chief political adviser Karl Rove remains under investigation for his role in the crime, a felony punishable by as much as 30 years in jail. And looming in the background is Cheney, who is widely seen as the orchestrator of the drive to war and the vendetta against anyone who stood in his way.

“This indictment is representative of this administration that consistently lied, deceived, distorted and distracted to get us into the war in Iraq,” said Greg Coleridge, director of economic justice and empowerment for the American Friends Service Committee in Ohio. “We are focusing our energies on a petition for an end to the war now. We need to pressure Congress to stop funding the war, close the military bases and bring the troops home,” he told the World.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced a Resolution of Inquiry Oct. 26 demanding that the Bush administration “turn over all white papers, minutes, notes, e-mails or other communications kept by the White House Iraq Group [WHIG] to Congress” within 14 days. Libby and Rove were key figures in WHIG, which orchestrated the media buildup for the war.

“The president must “come clean with the American public,” Kucinich said. “Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, it was not involved in the attack on our country on 9/11 and before the war it was not aligned with al-Qaida.”

We still do not know who produced the forged document indicating Iraq was attempting to buy enriched uranium from Niger, Kucinich noted. Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had gone to Niger and warned the White House that the document was a forgery. Yet Bush used it in his State of the Union address as proof that Saddam Hussein was attempting to produce nuclear weapons, key to winning congressional authorization of pre-emptive war on Iraq.

Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed piece after the invasion exposing Bush’s lie. The Libby indictment points to Cheney as the orchestrator of the “outing” of Wilson’s wife — leaking her name to ultra-right columnist Robert Novak, Times reporter Judith Miller and others — as an act of revenge and to silence other dissent.

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