In regards to what John Conyers over the weekend reportedly described as "the smoking bullet in the smoking gun", a letter has just been sent to Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, asking questions about the recent reports that the U.S. and U.K. stepped up their air attacks in the Iraqi "No-Fly-Zone" prior to the war in "an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war." A draft version of Conyers' letter was published over the holiday weekend by RAW STORY.
This latest information on the covert way in which the Bush Administration may have pushed the world towards war is based on a new report from Rupert Murdoch's London Times which reported over the weekend that "despite the lack of an Iraqi reaction, the air war began anyway in September [of 2002] with a 100-plane raid."
In fact, the original Downing Street Memo/Minutes mention that "The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime."
Concerning the latest report, Conyers writes in his letter to Rumsfeld today:
Thus, while there is considerable doubt as to whether the U.S. had authority to invade Iraq, given, among other things, the failure of the U.N. to issue a follow-up resolution to the November 8, 2002, Resolution 1441, it would seem that the act of engaging in military action via stepped up bombing raids that were not in response to an actual or imminent threat before our government asked for military authority would be even more problematic from a legal as well as a moral perspective.
...He then goes on to ask Rumsfeld for a response to the following questions, along with a request for "any memorandum, notes, minutes, documents, phone and other records, e-mails, computer files (including back-up records) or other material of any kind or nature concerning or relating thereto which are in the possession of or accessible by the Department of Defense."
What was the justification for any such increase in the rate of bombing in Iraq at this time? Was this justification reviewed by legal authorities in the U.S.?
To the best of your knowledge, was there any agreement with any representative of the British government to engage in military action in Iraq before authority was sought from the Congress or the U.N.? If so, what was the nature of the agreement?
Conyers, along with 88 members of Congress recently sent a letter to George W. Bush asking for information concerning the now-infamous Downing Street Memo (actually Minutes, not a Memo) which was also first reported by Murdoch's paper. That document --- written a full eight months prior to the war --- revealed, amongst other things, that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
It also goes on to say that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
The members of Congress have yet to receive a response from the White House, though neither the Bush nor Blair Administrations have disputed the authenticity of the information contained within the minutes.
An alliance of citizens groups has recently been formed at AfterDowningStreet.org to petition congress to launch a "Resolution of Inquiry" into the matter. A congressional "Resolution of Inquiry" is considered the first step towards Presidential Impeachment. (Both The BRAD BLOG and Velvet Revolution, which we helped to co-found, are members of that alliance.)
Conyers also has asked citizens to sign the same letter they sent to Bush, and has promised to hand-deliver it to the White House once he receives at least 100,000 signature.
The complete text of Conyers' finalized letter to Rumsfeld is below...