Of all the lies the Bush administration used to justify its attack on Iraq, the tale about Saddam Hussein’s regime trying to import uranium from Niger for a nonexistent nuclear weapons program — cited by Bush in his 2003 State of the Union speech — has been the one that has come back to haunt the president the most.

The tale formed the backstory behind the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s longtime chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, for lying and obstructing the investigation into the “outing” of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. It has surfaced again in former CIA Director George Tenet’s just-released book, “At the Center of the Storm,” in which he says he tried to have the reference removed from Bush’s speech.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and other congressional Democrats have long sought to reveal all that underlies the Niger-uranium allegation, including the role of other White House staffers in perpetrating the hoax.

Now Waxman, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has subpoenaed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who in 2003 was Bush’s national security adviser. “There was one person in the White House who had primary responsibility to get the intelligence about Iraq right — and that was Secretary Rice,” Waxman said. “The American public was misled about the threat posed by Iraq, and this committee is going to do its part to find out why.”

Rice, however, is refusing to comply with the subpoena, claiming she has sent several letters answering the House committee’s queries.

As the cost of the war in human lives continues to soar, with Iraqi civilian war-related fatalities exceeding 600,000, U.S. troop deaths numbering over 3,350, and monetary costs nearing $500 billion, Americans, Iraqis and others around the world are entitled to know the full story of the Bush administration’s crimes in the name of this completely unjust and unjustifiable war. Waxman and his committee are performing a much needed service. Their efforts should have the full support of all members of Congress who believe in transparency and justice, as well as the wholehearted backing of the American people.