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• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

June 12, 2005

Now Would Be A Good Time To Sign The Conyers Letter

If you're an American citizen and haven't already, now would be a good time to sign the letter from John Conyers asking George Bush to answer questions about the Downing Street Memo. As of this second, 88 additional congressmen and 497,000 other Americans have signed. (You can also sign up via Moveon.) This Thursday Conyers is holding hearings on the memo, after which he will deliver the letter and all the signatures personally to the White House.

Seriously, you should sign it. If you need more persuading, check out this story from the Times of London today:

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
by Michael Smith

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003.

The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure, particularly on the American president, because of the damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way to justify it.

There has been a growing storm of protest in America, created by last month’s publication of the minutes in The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the Downing Street memo (often shortened to “the DSM” on websites) has been largely ignored by the US mainstream media.

The White House has declined to respond to a letter from 89 Democratic congressmen asking if it was true — as Dearlove told the July meeting — that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” in Washington.

The Downing Street memo burst into the mainstream American media only last week after it was raised at a joint Bush-Blair press conference, forcing the prime minister to insist that “the facts were not fixed in any shape or form at all”.

John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted the letter to Bush, has now written to Dearlove asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. He also asked the former MI6 chief precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to “manufacture” the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.

He and other Democratic congressmen plan to hold their own inquiry this Thursday with witnesses including Joe Wilson, the American former ambassador who went to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore for its nuclear weapons programme.

Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to respond to their letter, the congressmen have set up a website — — to collect signatures on a petition demanding the same answers.

Conyers promised to deliver it to Bush once it reached 250,000 signatures. By Friday morning it already had more than 500,000 with as many as 1m expected to have been obtained when he delivers it to the White House on Thursday., another website set up as a result of the memo, is calling for a congressional committee to consider whether Bush’s actions as depicted in the memo constitute grounds for impeachment.

It has been flooded with visits from people angry at what they see as media self-censorship in ignoring the memo. It claims to have attracted more than 1m hits a day., another website, even offered $1,000 (about £550) to any journalist who quizzed Bush about the memo’s contents, although the Reuters reporter who asked the question last Tuesday was not aware of the reward and has no intention of claiming it.

The complaints of media self-censorship have been backed up by the ombudsmen of The Washington Post, The New York Times and National Public Radio, who have questioned the lack of attention the minutes have received from their organisations.

Posted at June 12, 2005 08:02 AM | TrackBack

I signed it, Jon. (Sorry about the first comment, I hit the wrong key while typing too fast.) However you still have not done that book meme and I am officially hurt! :)

Posted by: Anna in Cairo at June 13, 2005 08:05 AM

Well, Ms. So-called Anna, maybe I've been shot and as I bleed to death I've trying to spend my last moments with my loved ones. DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT?

I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm just wondering if you ever thought of that.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 13, 2005 09:05 AM

I signed it, too. Btw, Biden was on Meet The Press yesterday. He talked about the draft. Maybe I misunderstood (those senators use really big words) but I think he said he might consider volunteering for the draft himself. He saw the pic of Napoleon on his horse at the battle of whatever and that inspired him. The trouble is, the Pentagon is a little short on horses, so I wonder if we could begin a fund-raising campaign, to get ALL of our senators and congressmen their own horses for that photo-op in Ramadi. (We'll also need a pony for Bush.),10166,15596892-23109,00.html

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 13, 2005 11:28 AM

I'll sign it in a minute. Get off my back, in case you're on it.

Did you notice that the NYT spins the July memo quite differently today? I saw some blogger dissect their version of the story this morning, but my short-term memory being what it is, can't remember who it was.

And lately I'd been thinking the NYT has been quite good on some stories. Probably the strain of being consistently good was too much for them.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 13, 2005 06:04 PM

The other day I found out Napolean was really 5' 6", and the only reason we THINK he was a midget is that his height is usually accounted in French feet, which make him 5' 2". Nuts!

This Conyers guy is inspiring. I mean, he has a blog he writes himself and everything. I haven't liked a politician in a while, but I think I'm starting to... is that bad?

Posted by: saurabh at June 14, 2005 08:36 AM

I signed it "Sole Son of the One-True Blood-God."

I hope that's not a problem.

Posted by: Robert ToTeras at June 14, 2005 11:28 AM