Political Prisoners

A Congress That’s More Than A Rubber Stamp

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

As America limps toward the November elections, fatigued by the exertions of war, numb to the lofty promises of politicians, in dread of the economic dragons growling on the horizon, the role of Congress could not be more irrelevant.

That’s one of the reasons that GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.) has called for a change in congressional tradition, to one which allows the President to answer questions before the body.

It reminded me of the March 25, 2008 vote in the British House of Commons, where members of Parliament debated whether to open an official inquiry into the reasons for starting the war. Not surprisingly, the vote lost, largely along Party lines, as the ruling Labor members voted to protect their party, which sponsored and spearheaded the Iraq War, and avoided a formal inquiry.

Most, but not all

A dozen Labor backbenchers bolted party ranks to express their support for an inquiry, in terms rarely heard on this side of the Atlantic.

And even though the inquiry vote failed by some 50 votes, it marked a period of questioning of the sort that should actually precede wars, not follow them. Robert Marshall-Andrews, a Labor member of parliament (MP) from Medway, brought up the infamous Downing Street memo, which told uncomfortable truths about the then coming war. Marshall-Andrews announced:

“The first is what was revealed in the Downing Street memo of July 2002, reported by The Sunday Times (London) in an unusual contribution to the debate. It was recorded that at that meeting in Downing street in July 2002 Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of secret intelligence or ‘C,’ as he was known, had reported from America to the War Cabinet”...that:

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude—military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

According to the then Foreign Secretary, “Bush has made up his mind to take military action.... But the case was thin.”

Ultimately, of course, it didn’t matter. Who needs evidence, when you can make it up?

M. P. Marshall-Andrews then spoke words that will never be heard in the U.S. Congress:

“The real point of the debate, and of any inquiry that may be held, is not to learn lessons so that we do not make mistakes again. That is one reason, but I want an inquiry to be held into the Iraq war because I want those responsible to be brought to the book and to justice. If necessary, they should be brought to international justice, but I want us to be the ones who bring them to it.”

At this point, Conservative Party member, Humphrey Malins, of Woking, joined in:

“I support the honorable and learned gentleman’s argument with all the strength that I can muster, but may I remind him gently that some Opposition Members at the time took the view that he is expressing? I was one of those who resigned as a shadow Minister because of the illegal war. Does he agree that, when we look back at our parliamentary lives, we may well regard the decision to go to war with Iraq as the worst and most horrible decision that this Parliament has made?”

Laborite Marshall-Andrews would heartily agree, and he would add:

“Indeed, beside that decision, all our other achievements and deficiencies—and there have been many of both—pale into insignificance. The circumstances and repercussions of what we did then have swept well past Iraq. As Tacitus noted, one victory can create a thousand enemies, and that is precisely what happened.”

These are some of just a few voices in the Parliament of the junior partner in the Iraq debacle.

When should we expect such voices in the U.S. Congress? 2025?

(Source: Labor and Trade Union Review, No. 187: May 2008, pp.4-5., May 15, 2008