A group of some 36 backbenchers in the House of Representatives is getting set to force the Republican leadership to take a stand on the continuing controversy over whether weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq.
The House members, led by Democratic presidential long shot Dennis Kucinich, will submit “a resolution of inquiry” to the International Relations Committee, requesting that Bush turn over within 14 days “documents or other materials in the President’s possession that provide specific evidence” in 10 instances where Bush, VP Cheney, or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. These include Cheney’s August 2002 assertion that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction”—a claim that was reiterated by Bush in September at the UN and in October at a speech in Cincinnati, along with further claims by Cheney and Rumsfeld. The latter said on March 24, with much assurance, “We have seen intelligence over many months that they have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them and that they’re weaponized and that, in one case at least, the command and control arrangements have been established.”
The resolution amounts to a subpoena to the president by Congress. An arcane feature of the House rules, it has been used infrequently, once in 1980 in an attempt to elicit facts relating to President Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy and his dealings with the Bolivian government, and once under Clinton in connection with the White House travel-office scandal. It seeks facts and nothing else.
A majority vote by the committee would put the resolution on the House floor. Either in the panel or on the floor, the GOP leadership will without doubt move to quash it. In doing so, the Democrats reason, the Republican leadership will not only be carrying forward the White House cover-up, but will be putting itself on record in backing the cover-up, a step that conceivably could have repercussions in next year’s elections.
There are 36 co-sponsors, including seven New York members, led by Charlie Rangel and including Maurice Hinchey, Major Owens, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, and Edolphus Towns.
Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine