WASHINGTON - February 4 - The directors of more than a dozen major national organizations and church denominations joined the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) today in expressing concern regarding the particulars of the Presidents decision to establish a commission to investigate the validity of prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Founded in 1998 and representing a growing membership of mainstream Americans, war veterans, and human rights activists, EPIC works to improve humanitarian conditions in Iraq, defend the human rights of the Iraqi people, and ensure governement accountability for the Iraq war and handling of postwar Iraq.
In addition to EPIC, signers include the directors of the Arms Control Association, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Veterans for Common Sense, and Council for a Livable World.
Addressing President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle, the letter states: the type of inquiry outlined by the White House may fail to address many critical issues in an open, independent, and timely fashion. Such a failure could further undermine the U.S. governments credibility at home and abroad, impacting our nations ability to work effectively with the international community and address current and future threats to our national security.
The groups agree with Republican Senator Chuck Hagels assessment that unless the President convinces the public that he did not exaggerate the case for war, people would start asking, Do we trust his word? Do we trust him to lead this country?
According to the undersigned organizations, the investigation must examine both the Administrations prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq and the representation of those assessments by senior Administration officials.
As noted by Cato Institute Director of Defense Policy Studies Charles V. Peña, we should focus not on the work of professional intelligence analysts, but rather on the judgment of our political leaders, and on their interpretation of all the data at their disposal."
The 18 undersigned organizations outline basic standards that the commission should meet in order for the investigation to have any credibility.
The following spokespersons are available for comment:
John David Isaacs, President and Executive Director, Council for a Livable World
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association Erik Gustafson, Executive Director, Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
To arrange an interview, call Ashianna Esmail at EPIC at (202) 543-6176
The following is the letter and full list of signers:
February 4, 2004
Dear President George W. Bush, Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle:
We commend the decision to establish a commission to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq. A panel of inquiry offers an important first step in addressing widespread concern about the intelligence assessments used to make the case for war against Iraq and the representation of those assessments by senior Administration officials.
We remain concerned, however, that the type of inquiry outlined by the White House may fail to address many critical issues in an open, independent, and timely fashion. Such a failure could further undermine the U.S. governments credibility at home and abroad, impacting our nations ability to work effectively with the international community and address current and future threats to our national security. We, the undersigned organizations, therefore urge you to ensure the commission meets the following basic standards:
Scope The independent commission should investigate not only the quality of U.S. intelligence on Iraqs proscribed weapons programs, but also the representation of the intelligence assessments to the American public, Congress, and the United Nations by senior administration officials. In particular, the commission should be charged with investigating whether the Administrations description of the potential threat posed by Iraq accurately reflected the views of professional intelligence analysts.
The investigation should be focused on the issues at hand. While investigating the role of intelligence in assessing other unconventional weapons threats may be useful, it is tangential to the specific problems concerning the assessment and representation of the Iraqi threat before the war.
Independent and Qualified Experts To be truly independent, members of the commission should be appointed by Congress and the White House, requiring the consent of the minority leadership. Given that officials and agencies within the Executive Branch may well come under investigation by the commission, the body must be able to act independently of the White House and the intelligence agencies. In appointing members to the commission, there should be a bi-partisan balance, as well as a diversity of political perspectives regarding the war. The commission should include widely respected individuals with recognized expertise on unconventional weapons and on the gathering and processing of intelligence.
Transparency - An independent commission must operate as openly and transparently as possible. Recent polls indicate that the U.S. public is concerned about the governments credibility on Iraq and unconventional weapons. To address such concerns, the commissions process of investigation should be clear and transparent to Congress and the public. Unclassified versions of the commissions findings and recommendations should be made publicly available in a timely manner.
Timing Every effort should be made to begin this inquiry quickly, to keep it focused, and to produce findings and recommendations so that the Administration, Congress and the American people can understand what went wrong and how such serious errors can be avoided in the future. We cannot afford to delay until 2005 given that the United States and the international community are at this time working to deal with major proliferation concerns in key regions. The independent commission should report to the Congress and the Office of the President on an interim basis no later than the middle of this year and conclude its work no later than the end of this year. The interim and final reports should describe findings and recommendations and, if consensus cannot be reached, present both minority and majority views.
The war in Iraq has now cost over $150 billion dollars, the lives of more than 500 U.S. service members, nearly 3,000 U.S. wounded, and an estimated 10,000 Iraqi lives. The U.S. decision to terminate UN weapons inspections in Iraq and launch an invasion of Iraq without UN approval undermined international law. As no stockpile of unconventional weapons has been found in Iraq, our nations reputation has been seriously damaged.
To restore public trust, rebuild U.S. credibility abroad, and ensure government accountability on decisions of war and peace, the investigation into the quality of U.S. intelligence and the use of that intelligence in making the case for war must be truly independent and as prompt, thorough and open as possible.
Erik K. Gustafson, Executive Director, Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
Seth Pollack, Board President, Veterans for Common Sense
Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
John David Isaacs, President, Council for a Livable World
Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association*
Tom Z. Collina, Executive Director, 20/20 Vision
Alistair Millar, Vice President, Fourth Freedom Forum
Maureen Fenlon, O.P., National Coordinator, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Susan Shaer, Executive Director, Womens Action for New Directions
Martin Butcher, Director of Security Program, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action & Peace Action Education Fund
David Robinson, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA: National Catholic Peace Movement
Emira Woods, Co-director, Foreign Policy In Focus Institute for Policy Studies
Phil Jones, Director, Washington Office, Church of the Brethren
Rania Masri, Director, Southern Peace Research and Education Center, Institute for Southern Studies
Rev. James Kofski, Asia/Pacific and Middle East Issues Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
William Hartung, Director, Arms Trade Resource Center, World Policy Institute
James E. Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
* for identification purposes only