My Turn: Scrutiny is the highest call of duty

Posted: Monday, November 14, 2005

In Sen. Stevens' prestigious career he has delivered much to Alaska in the way of federal dollars and legislation that recognizes the uniqueness of the size and remote nature of our state. Yet money and expensive bridges are not really what governing is about.

His role and responsibility in national office is much more than serving his Alaska constituency. There is a duty to stand up for America's highest principles in the larger issues of a complex society and to honor his oath to act in accordance with the principals of our Constitution. He has an obligation to answer our questions with honor and integrity.

With a son serving his second tour in Iraq, I felt more than justified in questioning the senator's position regarding the intelligence that led to the decision to wage this war. I have a right as a United States citizen to expect an honest answer. Instead, what I got from Sen. Stevens was a carefully worded filtering of facts in which the truth no longer recognizes itself. The Empire was copied this correspondence. His answers are a cheap attempt to appease an individual obviously not enamored with the President's war philosophies.

Sen. Stevens stated that he "personally received the same briefings given to the president" and that "all the evidence [he] reviewed clearly pointed to Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction." The implication that he was privy to all the intelligence seen by the president is blatantly deceitful. Sen. Stevens was not present at the daily presidential briefings, most cabinet-level meetings or in the informal conversations between the president and his closest advisers. There is a great deal of intelligence reporting the senator has never seen.

He also wrongfully implied that the UN weapons inspectors determined "that Iraq did possess terrible weapons that posed a credible threat to the peace and security of the international community." The facts are that the weapons inspectors disagreed with this claim made by the United States and Britain, as evidenced in their conclusions presented to the UN in the days before we invaded Iraq. Their position is now supported by the ultimate truth that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

If the intelligence in briefings Sen. Stevens attended misled him, then he has an obligation to his own sense of duty to find out who erred and why. But by offering cheaply disguised explanations that end in a conclusion absent of a clear resemblance to the truth, it seems obvious that he must either be hiding from his own embarrassment or is protecting the president and Republican party image.

Now, in light of the grand jury indictment of the vice president's chief of staff, and of reports that Mr. Cheney withheld information from the Senate intelligence hearings regarding the prewar intelligence, Sen. Stevens has one more opportunity to look past party loyalty and fulfill his duty consistent with the checks and balance intent of our Constitution, which defines no role or responsibility to any other political entity beside the people of the United States of America. Anything less is political cowardice.

Sure, Sen. Stevens can attempt to stand tall and threaten to resign over issues related to money. Whether it is a childish fit or an intelligent right to defend feeding his constituency with federal dollars is up to the voters of the state to ponder. But the issue of bridges proposed to be built with federal funds pales beside the tragedy in New Orleans, and even more so, they are petty politics when compared to the deliberations regarding a war that has cost 2,000 American soldiers their lives.

This is where every American has a right to question our senator's work. Every Alaskan has a duty to measure the senator's apparent loyalties against our deepest convictions about war. It will be a moral disgrace to this nation if public support for the war turns only because of the outrageous financial cost after so much needless death and destruction.

To allow Sen. Stevens the freedom from scrutiny on these issues is a failure to engage in the highest call of our democracy, to be independently responsible citizens of a nation we claim to love.

• Juneau resident Rich Moniak is a civil engineer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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