Monday, June 27, 2005

Profile in passivity on the Downing Street Memos

While I appreciate the fact that he/his assistants have responded courteously to some of my not-so-courteous letters on the odious bankruptcy bill, Congressman Ben Chandler (D-Kentucky) had a dissappointing response, to say the least, to my most recent note urging him to support "aggressive inquiry" into the first Downing Street Memo.

Congressman Chandler wrote back to say that he too has "reservations about the manner in which the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war, and I believe that the information provided to Congress [note passive voice here] was incorrect, and Congress was presented [... and again] misleading evidence on which to base its decision."

As writing teacher (formerly by trade, forever by disposition) I will treasure this letter as a prime specimen of why bureaucrats are so fond of the passive voice. If the congressman had come out and made these mealy assertions in plain English, he would actually have had to do something about them.
  • "[T]he information provided was incorrect"—ahem, by whom? Let's recast the sentence with an active verb, class. All together now: the President lied to Congress.

  • "Congress was presented misleading evidence on which to base its decision." So ... someone, he won't say who—please, allow me: George flipping W. flipping Bush—did an end-around on the Constitution.
And now—$300 billion dollars later and 1700 American deaths and likely more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis dead—my Congressman intends to confront the president who's been bitch-slapping his entire branch of government and do....


"We must look forward [very can-do, nice! but again, a little vague] and devise a plan to stabilize Iraq, ease the strain on our troops and improve the capability of our intelligence agencies to fight the War on Terror," wrote Congressman Chandler.

That's it. "Look forward" and "devise a plan to stabilize Iraq."

Please, Congressman, do cc: me when you've come up with that plan.

Postscript: Having looked this over, it might be a little unfair, since it's at least possible that Chandler or his staffer was responding based only on the first DSM. I will write back to ask if the other memos have caused him to reconsider, or if he has taken into account the discovery by Larisa Alexandrovna of The Raw Story that:
"The American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.

"Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started."
I can only hope that this latest smoking gun, an admission of a covert war waged without Congressional authorization, would help my Congressman find his spine.

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