While White House officials assert that President George W. Bush “is not a fact checker,” hundreds of thousands of Americans are demanding that the facts be checked on why the Bush administration went to war in Iraq.

In the last three weeks, MoveOn.org, an internet pro-democracy group, gathered 400,000 signatures on a petition to Congress calling for an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war in Iraq. On July 23, the group helped organize events in 12 cities, launching a grassroots campaign to hold the administration accountable for misleading public opinion.

As more U.S. troops die each day, calls for public, bipartisan, and independent hearings are growing.

Kathleen McQuillen, Iowa program director for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), told the World, “People are more and more confused and uncertain.”

Leading up to the war and once the war started, people wanted to believe Bush, McQuillen said. But confidence in the administration “has been shaken along the way and is all the more shaken right now.”

This week 27 additional members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors of HR-2625, legislation introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) calling for an independent investigation into Bush administration claims about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. The bill now has 52 co-sponsors.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, conceded that broader hearings may be called for after listening to closed-door testimony from CIA Director George Tenet. “We’ll take this where it leads us,” said Roberts. “We’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

Meanwhile, the White House continued to shift blame to the CIA and the National Security Council for alleged intelligence lapses. But growing questions about the administration’s rationale for war and the $4 billion a month price tag for the occupation forced the White House to hold a special briefing July 18, where it revealed newly-declassified materials in an effort to bolster its case. But these have only given rise to more questions.

Hany Khalil, an organizer for United for Peace and Justice, a national coalition of 600-plus groups, told the World, “The CIA, National Security Council, and State Department officials are slowly documenting that Bush lied to get us into war. We need open, public, televised and broad in scope hearings on the lies that were told to deceive the U.S. public to get support for the war.”

While the Bush administration argues that its use of faulty evidence is not important, AFSC’s McQuillen counters, “We can’t talk about what’s next until we understand … how we went down a path of war without clarity.” She said members of Congress “who had questions but went ahead and voted authority for this war” have a particular responsibility to pursue these questions.

The White House, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Pentagon have tried to silence any opposition. An ABC News reporter who quoted U.S. troops in Iraq questioning the Bush administration’s policies has become the target of an ultra-right attack using the fact that he is gay and a Canadian citizen to cast doubt on his credibility. ABC spokeswoman Cathie Levine responded, “It’s unfortunate that when people feel wounded by a truthful report they attempt to shoot the messenger.”

The RNC’s legal counsel, Caroline Hunter, sent a threatening letter this week to a Madison, Wis., television station airing a Democratic National Committee (DNC) ad calling for public support for an independent investigation. The letter suggested that the station’s FCC broadcasting license might be revoked. Vowing to fight the intimidation, the DNC announced that it would expand the airing of the ads.

Rep. Waxman and others emphasize the importance of grassroots action, including talking to friends and family, writing letters to the editor, and calling elected officials. “A big part of the problem that Democrats face is that the public is tuning out,” Waxman said. “Outrageous policies are being adopted, but people don’t notice because they aren’t paying attention. Basically, the Bush administration is banking on widespread apathy as a major part of its reelection strategy. Grassroots efforts can make a difference here.”

Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has 2,300 letters from constituents about the Bush administration’s manipulated case for war. UFPJ’s Khalil told the World, “People are becoming energized again. Every day people are calling, e-mailing and coming into our office calling for us to take action against the war and to call out the lies that Bush used to manufacture popular support for the invasion of Iraq and to begin to bring an end to the occupation.”

The author can be reached at jleblanc@pww.org