Pressure builds for probe of Bush WMD distortions

One year after it authorized use of the Armed Forces to defend the nation against the alleged “threat posed by Iraq and to enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions,” Congress is considering an additional $87 billion for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. As it prepares for the vote, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) has authored a “sense of the House of Representatives resolution” for the House not to adjourn this year’s first session of the 108th Congress until either an independent commission or a select House committee is created to investigate questions about U.S. intelligence relating to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rep. Lee’s draft resolution, which is expected to be officially introduced this week, already has 25 cosponsors. It states that Congress and the American people “have a right to understand the process by which this Nation went to war against Iraq.”

With over 300 dead and 1,200 wounded U.S. forces in Iraq since March 2003, and over a billion dollars spent each week on the war, the resolution says that both an independent commission and a House select committee are needed to investigate “the interpretation and presentation both within the executive branch and in communications from that branch to members of Congress and the American public regarding the potential level of threat posed by Iraq’s alleged attempts to revive its nuclear weapons program, to develop and deploy chemical and biological weapons, and to provide support for terrorist organizations including al Qaeda.”

The resolution asserts that failure of the House to establish an independent commission or select committee now while troops are at risk and money being spent “could seriously undermine the effectiveness of future intelligence interpretation and threat assessment and could adversely affect this Nation’s foreign policy.”

Rep. Lee, in a letter to her congressional colleagues, said, “These questions are critical to today’s debates about the ongoing war … as the American people are asked to pay another installment on this war and as Congress is asked to approve it, we have the right to know how was intelligence used or misused in the process which led to this war.”

Significantly, the first three cosponsors, Democrat Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Elizabeth Tauscher (Calif.), and Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), have all authored major legislation on the Iraq intelligence probe issue. Waxman’s HR 2625 calls for an independent commission. Tauscher’s H. Res. 307 calls for a select House committee. Both bills have been stalled in committee by the House Republican leadership for four months. Kucinich’s H. Res. 260, which called for a detailed report from the administration to Congress on the issue, was killed in committee on a straight party line vote in a hastily called hearing last June.

Shannon Smith, a staff member for Lee, said that House supporters will begin reading statements into the Congressional Record of citizens calling for a serious investigation. Major peace groups will also begin focusing on the issue as well, she said.

Waxman’s bill for an independent commission has 130 cosponsors to date without the support of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor the influential ranking Democrat House Intelligence Committee member Jane Harman (Calif.). Should they join in Lee’s resolution, a public showdown on the Republican leadership’s stonewalling of the issue could be damaging for the GOP presidential and congressional campaigns next year.

The author can be reached at rosalio_munoz@sbcglobal.net.