Forcing watchdogs to reveal donors would curb freedoms

Gary Kalman, the advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group quoted in the article “Groups balk at disclosure” (June 20) is completely right in opposing efforts to require private groups filing complaints with Congress to disclose their donors. Such a requirement would have a chilling effect on citizens’ First Amendment rights of speech, assembly and petition.

Because private groups do not hold public office, there is no potential for even an “appearance of corruption,” which is the rationale for requiring elected officials to disclose their donors. Forcing groups who criticize or disagree with Congress to disclose their donors would serve no purpose other than to allow the intimidation and harassment of individual citizens, similar to the state of Alabama’s attempt to get membership and donor information from the NAACP during the Jim Crow era.

~From Sean Parnell, president, Center for Competitive Politics, Arlington, Va.

Bush erred, but didn’t lie, about Iraq

In the article, “Rebuffed by Rice, Hadley, House panel tracks down witnesses for Iraq probe” (June 19), Helen Fessenden writes, “As Rice’s deputy at the National Security Council during President Bush’s first term, [Stephen] Hadley was central in the controversy over the flawed claim in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa.”

I hope that the probe goes forward and this issue is cleared up. But the facts have been misreported or misconstrued or ignored by most media, including you.

Bush said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” and this statement is literally true, albeit later disowned by the CIA. The British government, in its Butler Report, confirms that a meeting took place between Iraq’s top nuclear program administrator and the Niger’s top export administrator. While the details of that meeting were not disclosed, I don’t think that they were talking about importing bananas.

There is nothing remarkable at all about Bush’s statement. Did we think that Saddam Hussein was a nice guy who would not seek nuclear capability? There is nothing at all remarkable about Iraq doing the routine thing for a power-hungry and proud authoritarian regime. None of this says that Hussein was successful or would ever be successful.

Bush certainly made a poor decision in deciding to invade Iraq on a preemptive basis, and I have been against this bit of American imperialism since the idea was first floated. But there is an enormous difference between making a poor (and immoral) judgment and being a liar. One can talk with people who misunderstand the facts and principles; it is useless and foolish to talk to liars.

I hope that this probe gets at the facts and publishes them broadly. Without full disclosure, people will likely blame “Bush’s lies” for getting into this war rather than understand the truth. Only by getting at the truth (for example, having an antagonistic foreign country possess WMD is simply not a satisfactory excuse for a war), can we avoid mistakes like the Iraq invasion in the future.

~From Lee Nason , New Bedford, Mass.