Getting Answers For Cindy

It should be noted that the search for answers regarding the Iraq war goes well beyond a grieving mother camping outside the President’s posh ranch. For example, during the press conference for last year’s Senate report on pre-war intelligence, committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts promised that the follow-up investigation on the use of Iraqi intelligence by senior policy-makers was “one of my top priorities”. Well, it’s been more than a year later and phase two isn’t on anyone’s radar, except for a few tenacious lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein :

I am increasingly dismayed by the delay in completing the Committee’s ‘Phase II’ investigation into intelligence prior to the Iraq War. As you know, the Committee voted unanimously on February 12, 2004 to investigate five questions on pre-war intelligence, including use of intelligence by policymakers. Nearly eighteen months later, much work remains before these questions will be satisfactorily answered.

In addition to the terms set out early last year, the Committee should address the significant issues raised by the so-called ‘Downing Street Memo’ — whether the ‘intelligence and facts were being fixed’ to support the policy of using military force against Iraq. This claim raises serious questions about the use of intelligence, and whether intelligence resources were unduly focused away from other priorities in order to provide additional — and as we have found, flawed — intelligence on Iraq.

It would also be my preference to include in Phase II any new revelations concerning the CURVEBALL case since the Committee’s first Iraq report.

It is important that the Committee complete its study of these questions, both to fulfill our oversight responsibilities and because there is no other body capable of doing this work. The Committee’s report assessing the intelligence on Iraq ‘s WMD capabilities was of outstanding quality and demonstrated both our ability to inform the American public and uncover needs for intelligence reform. I urge you to take whatever steps are needed to complete the Phase II investigation and produce a report as comprehensive and thoughtful as the first phase of the Committee’s investigation. I stand ready to participate in this investigation in any way possible.

And that just covers the lies that led us into this war. As far as how the hell we get out of it, I’ve written in the past about the Pentagon’s foot dragging in regards to giving the American public a clear set of benchmarks by which to judge the administration’s performance. As I mentioned, getting those answers was legally required by the most recent war appropriation bill. Well, it seems that Congress got some answers a couple weeks ago, but they fell short of the mark.

Congressional critics of Bush administration Iraq policy lashed out at the Pentagon Thursday for keeping classified parts of a report that gave a detailed assessment of the readiness of Iraqi fighting forces.

Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he fears “the American people are going to be left out” of discussions about when the United States can bring troops home and the wartorn country over to Iraqi security forces.
. . .
Joining Levin, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Thursday that if Rumsfeld submits merely “a progress report on the war without standards, goals and timetables specified” he will not have satisfied the intent of Congress.

“A meaningful strategy for success must include benchmarks by which the American people can better ask how the war in Iraq is going and when our troops can come home,” she said.

A few days after those remarks, the Democrats were rebuffed again, this time by the Republicans in the House :

Iraq benchmarks: Voting 203 for and 227 against, members on Wednesday rejected a Democratic request that President Bush set public benchmarks for measuring U.S. progress in Iraq in areas such as defeating the insurgency, establishing democratic institutions and bringing U.S. troops home. This occurred during debate on a bill authorizing State Department activities and other foreign operations in fiscal 2006.

Rep. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, urged benchmarks “so we know exactly what we need to do to achieve success in Iraq. Up to this point, Congress has abdicated its responsibility on Iraq. The Republican leadership has provided the administration with a blank check when it comes to Iraq.”

Cindy Sheehan is sitting in the dirt outside the President’s ranch hoping to find out what the “noble cause” is that took her son’s life. In seeking those answers, the American public deserves to know what the practical cause is for the Iraq war as well. Administration justifications about WMD’s, ties to 9/11, spreading democracy, and “rape rooms” have been proven to be either lies or hypocritical posturing. Rhetoric about troop levels, training of Iraqi security forces, and the strength of the insurgency has been shown to be equally hollow. Two and a half years into this nightmare, we still don’t know the real reason why we went there and how it’s all going to end.

In the past, I’ve suggested that readers help in the search for those answers by contacting their representatives, but I’ve lost all hope that this would do any good. Clearly one side of the aisle is concerned with getting answers and the other side it concerned with covering the President’s ass. At this point, if you want to get involved, contact the media and ask why they aren’t concerned with the same questions. Why hasn’t Wolf Blitzer shown as much interest in “phase two” as he has in patting himself on the back for interviewing Bill Clinton? Why aren’t local papers covering the anti-troop voting records of their Congressional representatives? I dunno, but I sure hope that Cindy Sheehan’s crusade will prompt the media to finally seek the answers we deserve.