Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Blair Lies Again on Pre-War Bombing
From the Prime Minister's press conference earlier today:Q: ...There has been confirmation that in the run-up to the war, in the autumn of 2002, there was an increase in bombing activities in Iraq by both the USAF and the RAF, either to provoke or to prepare for the coming war, did you authorise that and if so why?
Prime Minister: ...No as far as I am aware the No Fly Zone, which of course had been operating over Iraq for ages, continued as it was. Of course as the tension rises, inevitably there may be more missions flown, but this wasn't part of a sort of policy decision to go and ramp it up or provoke or anything else.
OK, just to refresh everyone's memory, in the July 23, 2002 meeting summarized by the DSM, UK Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the US had begun "spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime." We also know that in May of that year, Donald Rumsfeld greatly expanded
the parameters of the No-Fly Zone patrols to include offensive strikes against communications facilities. The evidence of these raids is made plain by the RAF's own bombing statistics
Maybe Mr. Blair was out of the loop in 2002, but it's clear that his military was taking part in the same covert air war that the Americans were waging.
Let's keep in mind that the purpose of the No-Fly Zones was to prevent Saddam's military from attacking Shiites in the south and Kurds in the north. And that's all they were for. Pilots had specific orders to engage only when engaged, to attack only those radar or antiaircraft installations that targeted or shot at them.
But in May 2002, this defensive mission was turned on its head when Rumsfeld issued orders to allow the UNPROVOKED attack of "command and control" facilities. Of paticular interest was Saddam's newly installed fiber optic communications network. Since the lines themselves were underground and impossible to locate, the bombing was directed at the repeater stations. Small problem with that, though--some of these probably shared space with civilian phone networks. That might explain
why every so often a telephone exchange would suddenly explode.
The truth is, the US and UK started fighting their war against Saddam in 2002. The "official" start of the war in March of 2003 was just the beginning of major troop movements into the country. By that time, the air campaign--like the one that began the Gulf War--had softened up Iraqi air defenses and allowed special forces units to move into Iraq undetected.
The difference between this and Gulf War I is that Bush and Blair had no authorization for what they were doing--not from Congress, not from the UN, and certainly not from the people, who were kept in the dark about the change in character of the no-fly zone missions.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
The Tipping Point Has Arrived
According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll
, a majority of Americans now believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the public into war. The 52/48 break on the question represents a nine-point shift in just the last three months.
Now, I'm not so sanguine about these numbers as to suggest the change in public opinion was the result of the publication of the Downing Street Memo and other leaked UK documents. Clearly there is a relationship between sentiment about the current state of affairs in Iraq and about how we came to be there in the first place.
But that is precisely the point. With every car bomb, every casualty, it becomes more important--not less--that we know the truth about why this war of choice was undertaken. It's unfortunate that so many must die before people begin to ask these questions, but at least they're being asked. We owe it to those who have fallen, and those who continue to serve, to demand the truth.
Put simply, Bush's Iraq policy is on borrowed time. The American people will not tolerate the current level of losses indefinitely, particularly in light of the fact that by any meaningful measure the conditions on the ground in Iraq are as bad or worse today than they were two years ago.
The administration can congratulate itself for turning over sovereignty, for the January election, and for the drafting of a new Iraqi constitution, but to most Iraqis these things are abstractions, utterly irrelevant to their day to day reality. When the citizens of Baghdad have access to clean drinking water, a functioning power grid and the ability to walk the streets of their own neighborhoods without fear of being shot, then we might actually have something to justify Bush's optimism. Until then, my advice is to keep the cork in the champagne bottle.
New Sunday Times Summary
Michael Smith has written a handy summary of the whole DSM story to date, and The Sunday Times has collected articles by him and others on the subject together. You can see the article here
, and the link is also on our Media page.
It's worth a bookmark.
Monday, June 27, 2005
Interview with Michael Smith
Michael Smith is the UK reporter many are likening to Woodward and Bernstein for his work in uncovering the Downing Street Memo and other leaked UK government documents. DowningStreetMemo.com recently interviewed Smith via email to ask him about how he came into those documents, what they mean, and what he would ask George W. Bush if he had the chance.
Q: There is some confusion as to what exactly was destroyed. RawStory reports that you burned YOUR copies of the original government documents. Other sites, such as Newsmax, are reporting that you burned the ORIGINAL government documents. See story here. Can you clarify? If you destroyed the copies, do you know if the originals you returned to the source are still in existence?A:
I was given the first six documents in September 2004. I have referred to these documents as the originals because they were the first documents that I was given. But these were of course not the "originals" of the actual documents. They were photocopies of the original documents.
Such documents have to be registered and the source could not have walked off with them without being found out. Quite apart from that there were a number of different copies of the documents in circulation within government. There was always more than one copy of each of the original documents held by the government. For instance, the Straw letter to Blair was marked strictly personal. But there would still have to have been at least two copies of it, one held by Blair's office and one by Straw's.
So the source made photocopies which he gave to me. I was told by the lawyers on the Daily Telegraph where I then worked that I had to copy them all and send the photocopies I had been given back to the source. This was because the photocopy paper used for the copies I was given by the source were made on a government photocopier. The paper they were printed on therefore in law belonged to the government and we could have been accused of theft and had the documents taken off us.
So having sent back those copies, we now have several photocopies of each document which are on paper that belongs to us. I worked from one of these. The editor has another, and the third goes to the lawyers, who have a secretary type the text up using a manual typewriter. This is not done in the same format as the original document. It is just a record of what the document actually says which we can keep without putting the source in danger. I did not at any time work from the typed up texts. I always worked from the photocopies.
There are any number of ways that the authorities could have tracked down the source using the photocopies of the documents. Photocopiers have their own signature, so the photocopier that was used could have been tracked down. A crease or mark of some sort on the original document the source copied could appear on the photocopy. Highly classified documents are often typed up again rather than photocopied, with deliberate mistypes inserted so that documents can be tracked down to a particular person. It was essential we destroyed any evidence.
At 6pm on the evening before the paper appeared, having finished off the two articles I was writing, I shredded the photocopies which I had made, leaving me with only the typed up versions. I then passed that typed up text version to two political parties, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Nationalists). Plaid Cymru gave them to an academic who put them on his own website. That website was taken down immediately by the British Police Special Branch, who also began investigating me for a potential breach of the official secrets act.
Under British law, anyone who passes on material which they know to be classified to someone else is guilty of breaching the official secrets act, whether or not they have signed it, and in fact I have signed it anyway while in the army. The typed up texts had also been passed by the academics Plaid Cymru were dealing with to the Cryptome website, which could not be taken down by the British police because it is not based in the UK. That is how they came to be passed into circulation a couple of weeks ago. I had nothing to do with the process whereby they have recently come into the public domain, although I am happy that happened.
When I received the latest batch of documents I followed a very similar procedure, typing up the text and shredding the copies I had. At no point was I ever in possession of an original document, only photocopies of those original documents. Everything I did was designed solely to protect the source. That is a responsibility that every journalist has.
Long answer but it is a complex issue and simplifying it only led to unscrupulous people deliberately, and rather desperately, misconstruing my motives for destroying leaked documents that could have led the authorities to my source.
One thing we did do was to scan in the front pages of three of the documents, clean any identification marks off them and then reproduce them in the paper. Two of these can still be seen on the Telegraph website alongside my original story. Although this does not authenticate the text, it does show that the documents actually existed. This is the url.Q: Given the intense scrutiny on the language in the documents, how can the public be sure that the transcription of the copies of the documents is word-for-word accurate?A:
The Washington Post, the LA Times and the Associated Press have all
authenticated the documents independently.Q: Without divulging any information that would jeopardize your source for the DSM, is this a person who supported the war or who was against it? In other words, what to you say to the possibility that the "original" documents you were given were initially forgeries themselves?A:
I am not going to go into the source's motives but it is self-evident that they were unhappy about the way Blair took Britain to war. It is also difficult to see why I would have been investigated by the Special Branch for passing on information if the documents were fakes. Finally, there were a number of people at the July 23 meeting all of whom received a copy of the document. Surely one of them would come forward to say it was a fake. Surely Blair would have said the document didn’t exist when he was asked about it at the White House press briefing rather than dismiss it as an old document. The documents are authentic and the text is accurate.Q: In your LA Times article, you cite two separate sources, each giving you a separate batch of documents. Did either source give you special instructions or state a reason as to why they were disclosing this information?A:
NoQ: As you have pointed out in your articles, the RAF and US bombing of Iraq started in the May 2002, with a large escalation of activity after the July meeting described in the DSM. Specifically, you wrote "By the end of August the raids had become “a full air offensive.” Do you believe that this intense bombing had anything to do with the fact that Saddam Hussein offered to hold internationally-monitored elections and full weapons inspections by the UN and US troops in the weeks before the "formal" launch of the war? See story here.A.
No. The missions were planned to destroy as much of Iraq's defences as possible beforehand. Nothing Saddam did had any effect on them. They were going to happen anyway. Lt-Gen T Michael Moseley's briefing to allied officers at Nellis air base, Nevada, on 17 July 2003 (as reported in today's Sunday Times) made it very clear that this was the air war.Q: Some are equating the Bush administration's bombing in 2002 with the air strikes launched against Iraq under the Clinton administration. Is there any real difference? If so, what makes one more legal (or illegal) than the other?A:
The Desert Fox operation was launched by Clinton and Blair in December 1998 to punish Iraq for forcing out the weapons inspectors. Thereafter Iraqi air defences were attacked whenever the allies came under attack. The legality of this is disputed but the Foreign Office legal advice makes clear that both Britain and the US believed it to be legal. The period between December 1998 and May 2002 saw more bombs dropped than had been dropped before Desert Fox but nowhere near as many bombs as were dropped from May 2002 to the start of the war, or should I say the official start of the war. While what was going on between December 1998 and May 2002 was borderline legal. Spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime is illegal plain and simple. They were there to protect the ethnic minorities by preventing Iraqi aircraft overflying the areas inhabited by those minorities under UNSCR 688. That was not an Article VII resolution, which is the only type of UN resolution that allows for the use of military force to enforce it and the no-fly zones were certainly not put there to put pressure on the regime, for which read provoking the regime into giving the allies an excuse for war.Q: At the bottom of the Options Paper (ods020808.pdf) on page 7, are the words "Eid festival." Do you know what the significance, if any, that has?A:
I don't. It is ten months since I looked at these documents last and that part of the document did not figure in my reporting at the time. It may be the title for that section of the document. It is likely to refer to the Eid al-Fitr festival that brings an end to Ramadan. There was a belief that we should not attack during Ramadan as this would offend other Arab nations. But I cannot find any other references to the festival.Q: The "Iraq: Options" paper was written by the Overseas and Defence Secretariat Cabinet Office. Would the head of that office be Geoff Hoon? If not, who?A:
No it would not have been Geoff Hoon, who was British Defence Secretary. The Defence and Overseas Secretariat is a department within the Cabinet Office staffed by officials from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence and its job is to provide options and briefing papers for cabinet ministers.. It is headed by the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Adviser who at that time was Sir David Manning, who of course appears in the Downing Street Memo as the recipient. He is also the recipient of the memo from the then ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer in which Meyer describes telling Paul Wolfowitz that they have to have "a clever plan" that will allow them to "wrongfoot" Saddam. It is also Manning who writes the secret memo telling Blair that the Americans seem to have no idea of what happens "on the morning after".Q: Regarding the RAF and US bombings/airstrikes in his article of May 29th, you wrote:"THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, *new evidence has shown*."What was that 'new evidence'? Is it publicly available? If so, where?A:
Yes it is available on Hansard in the form of written answers at the following urls. Although the questions were posed an answered some time ago, they have only recently emerged into the public light, hence the reference to new evidence. Journalistic licence I'm afraid but it was new to the reader.Link #1Link #2Link #3Q: And finally, if you were a member of the White House Press Corps, what would you ask President Bush with respect to the Downing Street Documents?A:
Mr President. Did you in any way whatsoever authorise Donald Rumsfeld to order US aircraft to step up bombing attacks on targets in southern Iraq during the summer of 2002 and if not why did you not point this out at the National Security Council meeting on August 5, 2002 at which Tommy Franks said he was using the increased flights over the southern no-fly zone to make the Iraqi defences "as weak as possible" in preparation for war?
I have a follow-up question Mr President. When did Congress authorise you to take military action against Iraq?
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Senator Kerry & Co. Demand DSM Investigation
Senator Kerry (D - MA) sent a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee demanding an investigation into the Downing Street Memo
and other Downing documents. The letter is also signed by Senators Johnson, Corzine, Reed, Lautenberg, Boxer, Kennedy, Harkin, Bingaman, and Durbin.
In the letter, Kerry points out the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee has never completed a full investigation of how pre-war intelligence was used in the run up to the war. Specifically, while "Phase I" was completed, "Phase II" has been put, in the word of the Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, "on the back burner."
Phase I examined the quality of the intelligence before the war. Phase II was supposed to answer that critical question: How did the administration and policy officials use that bad information?
On July 9, 2004, Chairman Roberts had stated that moving to Phase II was "a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done."
Yet in an unexplainable turnaround, Roberts soon backed off those comments, instead throwing up his hands and placing the most critical issue our nation has faced in decades on hold:
"It got to be a problem in regard to a subjective point of view. If you ask any member of the administration, 'Why did you make that declarative statement?' ... basically, the bottom line is, they believed the intelligence and the intelligence was wrong.
"In addition, we were in an even-numbered year and you know what that means.
"So," he concluded, "we sort of came to a crossroads and that is basically on the back burner."
So Chairman Roberts has delayed investigating whether our government misled us into war because it's too "subjective" and, well, the administration is going to just flat out deny it, apparently.
Senator Kerry and the co-signers of his letter rightly point out that too much time has passed, and that this issue is far too critical to remain "on the back burner" much longer:
For the sake of our democracy and our future national security, the public must know whether such warnings were driven by facts and responsible intelligence, or by political calculation. These issues need to be addressed with urgency. This remains a dangerous world, with American forces engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other challenges looming in Iran and North Korea. In this environment, the American public should have the highest confidence that policy makers are using intelligence objectively-never manipulating it to justify war, but always to protect the United States. The contents of the Downing Street Memo undermine this faith and only rigorous Congressional oversight can determine the truth. We urge the committee to complete the second phase of its investigation with the maximum speed and transparency possible, producing, as it did at the end of Phase I, a comprehensive, unclassified report from which the American people can benefit directly.
Go to the DSM.com contact page to email your senator and ask them to sign on to this request for investigation. It's time to take the truth off the back burner.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Rove spins 9/11 one more time
The administration is feeling the heat. Public sentiment is turning against the war, and agains the President. In an uncharacteristic public statement
, Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove invoked the ghost of 9/11 in a thoroughly revolting attack on "liberals". He said:
"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."
I'll go one better--conservatives (if he's referring to the Bush administration) already were prepared for war, and soon would be waging one (without a Congressional mandate), but it wouldn't be against al Qaida. Does anyone with a pulse still believe this ridiculous conflation of Saddam and Osama? If Bush is trotting out Rove to conk us over the head with the emotional bludgeon of 9/11, things must be getting pretty desperate in the marketing.. I mean communications department at the White House.
The really great quote, though, comes later:
"Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies."
Obviously Mr. Rove has not read his Sun Tzu. How do you propose to defeat an enemy you do not understand, grasshopper? If the enemy is terrorism, then we must understand what gives rise to terrorism at attack it at its source. Otherwise we will be condemned to swat at flies while standing in a manure pile. Oh, and the flies--they can kill us.
If you're a parent...
You should read this. Taken from letters to the editor of the Guardian, Thursday June 23, 2005:
"Jonathan Freedland (Yes, they did lie to us, June 22) is right to call for a full investigation into the lies we were told to take us to war. Our loved ones gave their lives in the service of this country. They all died in the Iraq war. When they went to that war they believed they were being sent to defend our country. They were told it was their duty to disarm the Saddam regime of its weapons of mass destruction.
When enlisting, servicemen and women sign an oath of allegiance to her majesty's government. All they ask in return is that their government acts in an honourable, truthful and responsible manner, and only deploys troops into the theatre of war to risk their lives when absolutely necessary. We now believe our prime minister, Tony Blair, misled the people of this country as to the true reasons for the war in Iraq. We believe there was no serious evidence for WMD. We also believe that the assurances given by the attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, as to the legality of the war are highly questionable.
This is why we are calling for an independent public inquiry into the decision to go to war. We must restore accountability to public life. Our loved ones deserve justice and the people of this country deserve the truth."
Reg and Sally Keys, Parents of L-Cpl Thomas Keys
Rose and George Gentle, Parents of Fusilier Gordon Gentle
John and Marilyn Miller, Parents of Cpl Simon Miller
Tony Hamilton-Jewell, Brother of Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell
Peter Brierley, Father of L-Cpl Shaun Brierley
Anna Aston, Wife of Cpl Russell Aston
George and Ann Lawrence, Parents of Lt Marc Lawrence
Tracey Pritchard, Wife of Cpl Dewi Pritchard
Patricia Long, Mother of Cpl Paul Long
Sharon Hehir, Wife of Sgt Les Hehir
Lianne Seymour, Wife of Operator Mechanic 2nd Class Ian Seymour
Debbie Allbutt, Wife of Cpl Stephen Allbutt
Theresa Evans, Mother of L-Bombardier Llywelyn Karl Evans
Roy and Eileen Shearer, Parents of L-Cpl Karl Shearer
Richard and Karen Green, Parents of Lt Philip Green
Beverley Clarke, Mother of Trooper David Clarke
James and Rae Craw, Parents of Cpl Andrew Craw
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
The war started in May, 2002
I take it all back. The Bush administration hadn't made up its mind to GO to war in the summer of 2002--they decided to START a war in 2002.
Statistics on US/UK bombing activity in the southern no-fly zone of Iraq during 2002 have recently been made available from the British Defense Department. The following is a record of ordnance dropped, in tons, by month:
March - 0.0
April - 0.3
May - 7.3
June - 10.4
July - 9.5
August - 14.1
September - 54.6
October - 17.7
November - 33.6
December - 53.2
Keep in mind that the missions on which these bombs were dropped were patrols of the no-fly zone created to protect the Shia in the south (and Kurds in the north) from attacks by the regime. Pilots had strict orders to engage only if they were targeted or fired upon, and they were permitted to retaliate only against the anti-aircraft guns, missiles, or radar that had engaged them.
The uptick in bombing in May corresponds to a shift in policy, announced by Donald Rumsfeld, that allowed these patrols to engage in offensive, unprovoked attacks on "command and control centers". Of particular interest to Rumsfeld was the regime's newly installed fiber optic communications network that made traditional monitoring techniques useless. Michael Smith also describes here
how the pre-war bombing facilitated the movement of special forces into Iraq.
But the air campaign served a dual purpose. It softened up Iraqi defenses in preparation for the ground assault the administration knew it would soon undertake, but it also represents the "spikes of activity" UK Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon describes in the DSM that the US had begun to "put pressure on the regime." The bombing was meant to provoke a response that would, in turn provide a ready excuse for invasion.
In a sick twist of irony, this unauthorized air war was going on even as Congress debated the use of force in Iraq, making that debate nothing more than a farce. If I was inclined toward conspiracy theories, I might even be tempted to view the (relative) drop in bombing activity during October as being timed to quiet things down for the mid-term elections. But I'm sure there is a perfectly valid reason for dropping only 17.7 TONS of bombs instead of the previous month's 54. I just don't think the administration is inclined to tell us what that reason was anytime soon.
Monday, June 20, 2005
British diplomat confirms that WMD intel was misreported to public
Once the leaks start in a scandal as large as this, they just keep coming. Those who remember Watergate will recall the drip drip drip.
The Guardian newspaper (UK) today named a name. It published a short article describing what the former First Secretary of the British UN delegation, Carne Ross, had to say about the question of whether WMD intel had been manipulated before the war. Carne Ross has been heard from before, in a BBC Panorama program from March 20, 2005. He was quoted twice on the program, which discussed in great detail the manipulation of evidence and public opinion in the year before war broke out (a transcript of the program is available on line here
. Here is how today's Guardian describes its interview with Ross:A key Foreign Office diplomat responsible for liaising with UN inspectors says today that claims the government made about Iraq's weapons programme were "totally implausible".
He tells the Guardian: "I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too".
Carne Ross, who was a member of the British mission to the UN in New York during the run-up to the invasion, resigned from the FO last year, after giving evidence to the Butler inquiry.
He thought about publishing his testimony because he felt so angry. But he was warned that if he did he might be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.
This is potentially quite a big break for the investigation of DSM. It is now possible to identify at least one member of Blair's government who is willing to go on record to say that Blair was mischaracterizing the evidence for political purposes. Others may follow Ross' lead, but even if we don't see further cracks in the British dam, we may start seeing them in the US now. So far, President Bush has simply stone-walled in the face of increasing public pressure to explain how DSM and related documents can possibly be reconciled with his administration's public statements in the run up to the war. There are plenty of people in and out of positions of power in the US who are fed up with the incompetence and brazen dishonesty this administration has shown in creating the Iraq quagmire. If any of them now steps forward with direct insight into the process by which we were dragged into this seemingly unnecessary war, well...stand out of the way as chunks of the wall come crashing down.
The link to the Guardian article is here:http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1510259,00.html
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Dissention in the (R)anks
Did you ever think you'd hear a Republican senator utter these words:
"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality.... It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
That is Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) responding to what US News.com
refers to as the "sunny assessments from the Bush administration" that the insurgency is in its "last throes."
Another seismic shift under the Republican bedrock comes from none other than Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who brought "Freedom Fries" to government cafeterias everywhere. He and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex) have joined House Democrats in supporting a bill that would set down metrics for determining just when the US military's mission in Iraq is complete and set a timetable for withdrawal.
Obviously, two reps (one of whom, Paul, has opposed the war from the start) do not constitute a revolution, but with public support for the war at an all-time low, you have to wonder. Even this Republican-controlled Congress would not be able to stave off calls for an investigation forever, given the right combination of public outcry and a few key defections.
Mailbag: a true Conservative speaks
I try to answer all the email we get at DSM.com, and that means reading the wingnut flame mail too. Occasionally, however we do get mail from people who, though they don't agree with our position, demonstrate a refreshing civility and humanity in expressing their views. Bob was one such individual.
He wrote in initially about the semantic argument that came up last week over the word "fixed" as used in the DSM, but the discussion expanded to much broader issues. Here is a recent email he sent to us:I wish it was possible on a wider scale to have calm, intelligent discussions about the important issues. The conflict in Iraq is very painful to all of us. My son is serving in Iraq at the present time and I trust he will come hope safely.
Although I do support Bush and believe I understand why he and his advisers made the decisions they made, I unfortunately believe that we that we seldom get our "best and brightest" citizens in the highest levels of government. With the level of real hate that seems to exist out there, it's no wonder the kind of people we need as leaders don't want to expose themselves and their families to that kind of life.
I think we need a third party - the "Common Sense Party". Because I am firmly pro-choice and support a ban on assult weapons, am not an evangelical Christian, etc., etc., I really don't fit the image of what a Republican is but on the other hand, I just can't handle the kind of vicious language that comes out of people like Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, etc.
Well, thanks for your response. I truly hope that the future in the Middle East will be positive and that the people of Iraq will soon be able to handle their own security and all our troops can come home.
Thank YOU, Bob, for your sober and candid thoughts. You are a true Republican, a conservative in the original sense of that now-perverted word. May your son return home soon.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Why did we go to war--the 2001 Anthrax attacks?
Why did we invade Iraq? The question has never been answered definitively, since the justifications given in public have mutated over time...a long time, in fact. At some stage in 2002 the administration decided to use allegations regarding WMDs as the lead justification in public; as Paul Wolfowitz
later said, they settled upon WMDs because that was the one reason for invading Iraq that everyone involved in preparing the war could agree upon.
But long before that George Bush was fixated upon invading Iraq, as many sources indicate. Time Magazine reported in March of 2002
that President Bush announced "[crude explitive] Saddam, we're taking him out!" We also hear that Bush asked Rumsfeld to draw up a plan of attack immediately after the September 11 attacks (though there was never any credible evidence that Hussein was involved). But the obsession goes even farther back, we're told. Treasury Secretary O'Neill
said that George Bush began discussing an Iraq invasion in the first Cabinet Meeting in January 2001. And we now learn that Bush told his ghostwriter in 1999
(in conversations for a biography that later was cancelled because the initial draft was not sufficiently flattering to the Presidential candidate) that he would grab the opportunity to invade Iraq if he could, since he believed that a successful war would allow him to push his domestic agenda.
All of these pieces of evidence reveal a duplicitous President who, in private, was looking for any opportunity to invade Iraq, but in public was trying out an evolving litany of reasons why Saddam's regime was an imminent danger to the world. None of that is new, of course, to those who have been following the news carefully (by which I mean, going beyond what the mainstream media in the US has been willing to talk about except in whispers).
But it may be news to some (I had forgotten this until blogger Plutonium Page reminded us) that the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001 were also grist to the mill for the Bush administration. In May she posted a very important piece at The Next Hurrah
on the anthrax investigation in 2001 and its relation to DSM. It has gotten far too little attention, so I'm bringing it forward again and urging people to read it.
Her main point is that the Bush administration wanted rather desperately to prove that the anthrax came from Saddam's Iraq, such that they kept government employees dogging that trail long after scientists had proven that the Anthrax was an American strain, and there was virtually no possiblity that Iraq was involved in the matter. Why this mania over proving a link to Iraw? Because as contemporary witnesses said in a Dec. 22 2001 article in the New York Times
, President Bush was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq and the (unfounded) allegation that Hussein was behind the anthrax was too good to let go of.
She also draws attention to this Time magazine piece of proganda
from Oct. 29, 2001, which shows how the Bush administration was spinning the anthrax investigation so as to prepare the public to accept a connection to Hussein.
Ultimately, the case for linking Saddam to the anthrax fell through completely. The investigation of the anthrax attacks has gone almost nowhere in the meantime, though it's hard to tell exactly why, given the prominence of the politicians whose offices were targeted (many of them prominent critics of the administration's abuses of civil liberties in that period).
The case for war, however, continued to mutate long after the anthrax fiasco had been dropped by the wayside. In March of 2002, we now know from one of the leaked British memos, Tony Blair's Political Director was giving him an unflattering assessment of George Bush's justification for the proposed invasion. On March 22, 2002 Peter Ricketts wrote a memo to Blair in which he analyzed two problems that they faced in going along with this war. I'll quote extensively (the emphasis is mine):
"First, the THREAT. ..I am relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there is more work to do to ensure that the figures are accurate and consistent with those of the US.
But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts...US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing....The second problem is the END STATE. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives...For Iraq, "regime change" does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam. Much better, as you have suggested, to make the objective ending the threat to the internationalcommunity from Iraqi WMD before Saddam uses it or gives it to terrorists.
Now that is about a good evidence as anybody could ask for, that the British at least were already going along with what we see the Bush administration doing in DSM (and related evidence): They were searching for the right justification for the war, and they were manipulating evidence to try to make that justification look more credible. Why try to "ensure that the figures are accurate AND consistent with those of the US"? Wouldn't accurate figures be good enough, whether or not they were the figures being promulgated by the Bush administration?
This statement is one measure of lengths to which these two governments were going to justify an invasion of Iraq. The brief obsession with linking Saddam to anthrax attacks is another.
Friday, June 17, 2005
From the DSM.com mailbag:
What nobody in the media has noted is that the trembling reporter who brought [the DSM] up actually (consciously or unconciously - I have no way to tell) substantively MANGLED the quote from the DSM, reducing it to a benign piece of nothing (in fact it almost bolsters Bush's decision to go to war). Listen:
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July, 2002, says, "Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military actions." Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
What the head of the MI6 actually said in the memo was:
"But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
It's really just a couple words' difference, but they are huge. "Remain fixed" makes it sound like the facts were all there, and they just happened to point toward taking Saddam out. He said nothing of the kind. He said that the facts were BEING FIXED. Active, past-progressive tense. Being fixed, as in cooked, I have to presume.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
A good feeling
Watching the Conyers hearings today, I couldn't help getting pumped up. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but it just seems like this thing has finally achieved critical mass. The panel was terrific:Joe Wilson
provided a detailed breakdown of the Niger uranium claim, probably the best single example of the administration's misuse of intelligence and utter disregard for the truth.Cindy Sheehan
put a human face on the issue with her incredibly moving testimony about her son who was killed in action in Iraq.Ray McGovern
delivered a scathing indictment of the Bush administration's corruption of our intelligence agencies, pointing in particular to Cheney's numerous "visits" to the CIA. Anyone who has ever worked under a domineering boss could relate.John Bonifaz
provided a legal framework for understanding what the DSM shows and that, even as things stand today, it represents more than adequate grounds for a Resolution of Inquiry so the House can begin hearings into whether the administration lied to Congress and the American people.
But what was most encouraging was the number of US Representatives who took the time to attend and participate in the hearing, even if only between votes taking place upstairs. The tiny room was packed (a much larger room was available, but the House leadership wouldn't let Conyers use it). There were half a dozen TV cameras and journalists craned their necks to get a view of people speaking.
Just for kicks I checked our site stats as the hearing progressed--we were getting almost one visit every second, and at 27,000 for the day we're already well above our average. But these numbers don't mean nearly as much as the 540,000 signature Conyers got on his letter, or the 122 reps who have now signed on as well.
As Congressman Conyers said in his closing, this is only the beginning of our work. Much more remains to be done. But right now, I feel better about our prospects for getting it done than I have, well, ever.
Watching the Hearing...
.. we here on the downingstreetmemo.com team are glued to our screens watching Rep. Conyers and company rock! A comprehensive report coming when the hearing is concluded.
What's wrong with the media: a microcosm
Today I was interviewed by our local CBS affiliate (KPIX, SF Bay Area) for a story about what are now collectively being called the "Downing Street Memos." Watching the report on the 11 o'clock news, I realized I was seeing the two greatest failings of the mainstream media being played out before my eyes.
The first is as old as the press itself: sensationalism. The report focused only on the splashiest quotes from the series of UK documents and failed to explain them in any detail. While I was inwardly pleased to see things like, "it seems like a grudge between Bush and Saddam" in big letters on my TV screen, I realized that this wasn't going to tell people what they needed to know. Phrases like that might sell ad space, but they don't necessarily inform people.
The larger problem, however, was how the report allowed inaccurate statements to go unchallenged in the interest of "balance". In my interview, I noted that no one in either the Bush or Blair administrations has denied the various documents' authenticity. This is a fact. But the "other perspective", provided on the broadcast by a local GOP operative, suggested that the provenance of the memos was dubious, saying that they should be regarded as in the same vein as Dan Rather's memos.
To anyone who follows the news this statement is, at best, hyperbolic. At worst, it's misleading, but don't count on your local evening news to tell you that. My comments didn't make the final cut, but Mr. Memogate's did--unchallenged.
This he said/she said type of journalism is, unfortunately, the only variety the major news outlets are willing to practice anymore. They don't seek truth--they just put up two opposing views and leave the viewer to decide whose story fits their preconceptions better. The reporter could easily have asked my foil to explain why, if the memos were faked, no one at the meetings they documented has said so. Would it reveal a "liberal bias" to ask for clarification in light of established facts?
If calling people on their bullshit makes me a liberal, then color me blue.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Model journalism on the ‘new’ UK documents
John Daniszewski, who wrote the outstanding article on DSM
for the LA Times on May 12, has today produced what is clearly the best report yet to appear on the six 'new' documents from Britain
. NBC authenticated these documents two days ago, though they are not really 'new.' They had been quoted extensively last year in two British newspapers, The Daily Telegraph and The Times of London. When he was given the originals , reporter Michael Smith (of The Times) typed up a copy of the six texts on a typewriter, and later returned the originals to the leaker(s). Sometime later a Cambridge University don (with whom I've corresponded) received faxed copies of the typed transcriptions. These made their way into the hands of a Cambridge doctoral student, Michael Lewis, who scanned them and in September 2004 posted them as PDF documents on cryptome.org. These PDFs are widely available on the internet now, and RawStory.com has posted (slightly inaccurate) html versions of the PDF texts.
Four of the documents date to March 2002, the other two are undated (but nearly contemporary to the others). They portray the Blair government trying to come to grips with the push for war against Iraq coming out of D.C.; and Blair himself preparing for a meeting with George Bush at Crawford in April 2002. These six documents are deep background to DSM, whereas the Military Action Memo (published last Sunday by The Times) is immediate background to DSM (it dates from July 21, 2002, two days before the DSM meeting).Much of the reporting in the US thus far on the Military Action Memo has been depressingly shallow.
Both the NYT article by David Sanger
and the WaPo article by Walter Pincus
focus perversely on what the Military Action Memo tells us about the poor state of planning in July 2002 for post-war Iraq. The subject arises in the six 'new' documents as well, and nowadays it will seem topical. But it scarcely deserves the kind of attention both articles give it. Surely the Bush government did further planning on post-war Iraq in the eight months before the outbreak of war, so how much can we actually infer from the absense of serious planning in July 2002? A certain amount, of course, but only because it is characteristic of what was to come. The real scandal about post-war planning is not where it stood eight months in advance of the war, but how bad it was in March 2003.That is why it is particularly gratifying to see this well-researched, thoughtful, and penetrating analysis of all six 'new' documents by John Daniszewski. It is a must read,
so I will not quote it extensively. The second half of the article, appropriately, quotes large chunks of the texts as it analyzes them. Daniszewski's choice of quotations is astute; you can get the gist of them from his summary here.
From the article’s first half, this is perhaps the most important paragraph: The documents contain little discussion about whether to mount a military campaign. The focus instead is on how the campaign should be presented to win the widest support and the importance for Britain of working through the United Nations so an invasion could be seen as legal under international law.Thus does Daniszewski flatly contradict the frankly preposterous claim that President Bush made at last Tuesday’s press conference with Tony Blair
: There the President stated that all his conversations with Blair before July 2002 had been about finding a peaceful resolution to the Iraq standoff. On the troubles this now creates for the President’s credibility, see my post far below on the Bush/Blair press conference.
On the use of "bad intelligence"
The Bush administration has repeatedly hidden behind what it terms "bad intelligence" for its ill-fated decision to invade Iraq. As those of us who didn't buy what the administration was pushing in the lead-up to war, this is just the latest in a long series of misrepresentations and finger pointing. Indeed, while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence arrived at the (shocking!) conclusion that pre-war predictions about Saddam's WMD capability were well off the mark, the fact remains that that committee has yet to complete its mission by addressing the issue of how the intel was used.
What we do know at this point, however, is how it was used to secure Congressional approval for the use of force against Saddam's Iraq.
Senator Bob Graham, in his book, recounts a Sept 5, 2002 meeting he and Senators Durbin and Levin had with then CIA director George Tenet and his staff. Though the administration had long before decided on invasion, to the senators' amazement no National Intelligence Estimate for Iraq had yet been produced. Graham, Durbin and Levin demanded to see one, and three weeks later Tenet produced a 90-page document rife with caveats and qualifications (though these were buried in footnotes) about what we knew--or didn't know--about WMD in Iraq.
That report was classified, and as such was available only to those on the House and Senate intelligence committees. Graham pressed for it to be declassified, and got what he asked for on Oct 4--one week before Congress was to vote on the use of force. However, this declassified version was more like a marketing brochure: 20 pages in length, slickly produced with splashy grahics and maps, and devoid of any of the caveats contained in the original. Graham described it later as "a vivid and terrifying case for war."
This piece of propaganda--let's call it what it is--was the only information on WMD our senators and representatives had on which to base their decision on the use of force. And they had one week to make up their mind.
Bush has since made the claim that Congress had access to the same intel that the administration did, but that clearly is a lie. What Congress had was what the administration was willing to give them, namely a promotional piece whose lies of omission outweighed what was included by a factor of four.
The Senate committee on intelligence needs to finish the job it started and determine just what was left out of that 20-page brochure.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Deep Doc just doesn't stop
Several more high-level British government memos, authored by such authoritative figures as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and dating from the period between 9/11/01 and the meeting in July 2002 which begot the DSM, have found their way into the public arena, perhaps (one guesses) exposed by the same party or parties who gave us the DSM 6 weeks ago. Although portions of these documents have been floating around for a couple days, we at DowningStreetMemo have been waiting for some reliable indication that they are authentic before commenting on them. Tonight, NBC
has declared them 'verified by NBC News'
and that, along with both their internal and their external consistency, persuades us to call them to your attention.
A 'teaser', cited by Andrea Mitchell in the MSNBC story:
In yet another 2002 memo, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw asked, “What will this action achieve? Can (there) be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better? Iraq has had no history of democracy.”
The complete collection of documents, 2 of which are presented in PDF format and the others in text (with PDF links available), has been published at RawStory.com
, to whom a big congratulations from all of us here.
Since our brief here is the Downing Street Memo - which is still the core document, summarizing officially the central planning meeting of Tony Blair with his closest foreign affairs advisers on 23 July 2002 - we will over the next 24 hours be studying these newly uncovered items from that perspective and reporting to you specifically on the light each may shine on and the support each may give - or not give - to that document.
From a quick scan, this looks like an exciting undertaking. For those who can't wait, please hie yourselves to The Raw Story and prepare to come back and participate in our discussions, that we may 'reason together'. For all others, keep checking back here as summaries and analyses of the individual items will be popping up unpredictably until we feel we have fulfilled our obligation to you for the trust you have given us these many (5? seems like many!) weeks.
Check back often!
The '8-month gap', and why it doesn't matter
Does the White House acknowledge that Tony Blair held a top-secret highest-level meeting on Jul 23, 2002, of which the DSM represents the minutes and the document released by the London Sunday Times over the weekend the agenda?
Sunday afternoon a WH spokesman David Almacy made public comments for which there is no transcript at the WH website but about which we have two reports, one from AP
, the other from David Sanger of the NY Times
. Sanger quotes Almacy as saying "he could not comment on [the latest document's] authenticity"
, but also as noting - somewhat peculiarly, doesn't it seem? - that it "was written eight months before the war began"
Now, it is easy to understand why the White House would prefer to contend that the documents are not authentic. If my wife, for instance, were to regale her closest friends with stories of what a clown I am and then explain to them how she was having to manipulate me to use a couple intermediaries in my (hypothetical, I assure you!) insider-trading plot so the illegality of my - our - acts would not be blatant, and then
one of those friends showed up on Oprah with a tape . . . well, my wisest response would be to deny that my wife was there that day at all (at the same time, punishing my wife severely, maybe by refusing to accompany her to serve at the homeless shelter, or by putting ridiculous conditions on our contribution to the AIDS center, or . . .)
So, what did Almacy have to say? Apparently: if
the meeting took place, and if
the Brits snickered at the US administration for not having planned for the aftermath of the invasion, then they were just silly because "there was significant post war planning in the time that elapsed [between July 2002 and March 2003]."
Huh? The 'rebuttal' is that we are not
stuck in the current endless quagmire
because we did not begin planning early enough (since 8 months could in principle be adequate time); it is for an entirely different reason!
Ain't that a classic 'gotcha'
! And even if the DSM
is real it is a silly
Although it is outside the portfolio of this site, I won't leave you without Almacy's characterization of that 'other' reason. Part 1 is that "Anytime you go to war you have to be flexible to adapt to the unexpected.
" That's straight Sun Tzu, and as unexceptionable as it is jejune. The zinger
is in Part 2: "That is why we gave our commanders the flexibility to do so.
" Let's try that again:That is why we gave our commanders the flexibility to do so.
So, the quagmire
is the fault of a few rotten-apple generals
! Is it time to search the Pentagon website for generals from West Virginia
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Mike Kinsley is just plain wrong
Sometimes your best friend can be your worst enemy.
For instance, this morning John Fund on CNN's Reliable Sources dismissed the DSM because it is (after all) three years old. Of course, 3 yr old = contemporaneous
with the secret events it describes, and were it 1 year or 2 years or 2 years 9 months old, Fund would dismiss it as anachronistic,
because to Fund nothing that challenges the purity of the administration can be tolerated. We live with that, and we laugh it off.
Michael Kinsley would seem to be a different problem. He is, or should be, a friend of the truth. But here is his take
C's focus on the dog that didn't bark -- the lack of discussion about the aftermath of war -- was smart and prescient. But even on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It says that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant actual administration decision makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C is saying only that these people believe that war is how events will play out.
That's pretty heavy, isn't it?
Now imagine the universe that is required to make MK's description valid. A top-secret meeting has been called for the British Government's highest-level policy-makers to hear the report of the head of their foreign intelligence service on his official trip to Washington. Solemnly C relates the gossip of 'the usual freelance chatterboxes' he has encountered in Washington restaurants; his listeners gravely nod their heads, accepting that British troops must die and there is nothing to be done. Nobody asks C if he could possibly be wrong, and nobody suggests American decision-makers be queried about this 'inevitability'. Is that the 'reality-based' universe you and I and MK inhabit? I don't think so.
This, it seems to me, suggests another dog that did not bark
. If, as it appears, nobody raised the obvious questions, it must be because everyone accepted that C resides in the same universe as they - and we - and that he was reporting what he had excellent
reason to believe to be true. If the participants wondered what were the possibilities
, they had only - as Kinsley somewhat laughably points out, cutting the legs from under his own argument - to read the American press, wherein speculation on WH intentions was rampant; there was no need to send C or anyone for consultations. And nobody suggested that Blair pick up the phone and inform the US President what his minions were saying because they accepted that those minions were indeed expressing what the American policy was. C had been sent to get the facts
and he was reporting fact.
But, says Kinsley, maybe everyone in the meeting just concluded that the state of affairs was such as to suggest to any rational actor 'that war is how events will play out'
. Again, let's imagine that universe. The group is anticipating the state of the world 6 to 12 months hence, during which time each side - of 4 or 5 sides - will be making multiple moves, and while certainly one or more of the thousands of potential paths must lead to a resolution short of war, none
of these intelligent and powerful and patriotic men raises a question about probability. There is no
discussion of how diplomacy might be used to reach a resolution short of war, to preserve the lives of the troops for whom they were responsible. Instead, the discussion moves on to consider how to prepare for the coming war.
That's not the world I live in. Is it yours? On my planet, the only
way the discussion could have proceeded as it did is if the actor they knew best - not the devious dictator in Baghdad, but the ally in Washington - was guaranteeing that no path that precluded war would be accessible. C had just told them so, and if they didn't trust him they wouldn't have sent him on the mission, would they?
Why has Michael Kinsley chosen to live in a cartoon universe this day? We've known him a long time, since he was Buckley's protege, and many times he has stunned us with the incisive question, the bold analysis, that has allowed us to see something in a completely different way. We have also known him as a contrarian. And we have all turned our heads aside in embarrassment on the not infrequent occasions when he has danced around a stage grinning and preening that 'I am the smartest man in the room! Nyah nyah!' I will assume this is another of those times. He has indeed been smarter than I many times in the past. This time
, that's not the case.
Maybe Mike has just made one trip too many to that well . . . .
DSM is "Hard Evidence"
Knight Ridder Newspapers has an article by Dick Pulman
which is being in carried in several newspapers today. It described how the President has not denied the most shocking revelation in the memo, and how it is "hard evidence" for the President's critics. Also of interest in the article is this excerpt about the document's accuracy and authenticity:
Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who is now a war analyst at Boston University, said: "The memo is significant because it was written by our closest ally, and when it comes to writing minutes on foreign policy and security matters, the British are professionals. We can conclude that the memo means precisely what it says. It says that Bush had already made the decision for war even while he was insisting publicly, and for many months thereafter, that war was the last resort.
"This is no longer a suspicion or accusation. The memo is an authoritative piece of information, at the highest level."
On a side note, FOX news is carrying the AP story....with the headline "U.S. Flubbed Postwar Plan."
Gailey: "The American People Have Been Had"
Philip Gailey, Editor of Editorials at the St.Petersburg Times, has a scathing editorial about the DSM entitled "The American People Have Been Had":
Bush may not realize it, but Amnesty International may have done him a big favor. The controversy the human rights group ignited over the treatment of Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has deflected the attention of journalists and war critics from an even more disturbing story - how all the president's talk about going to war as a last resort was just a ruse.
Seven months before the "shock and awe" bombing began in Baghdad, the Bush administration was bending intelligence to suit its purpose, which was to go to war come hell or high water.
Read the rest of the editorial here
Star Trib Tracks Coverage, Internet Influence
It's not often that we get a glimpse into the media mind to discover why they have--or haven't--ben covering a story. Today, the Star Tribune let's us in on why it decided to cover the DSM: (subscription required)
The back story reveals a lot about how news travels traditional routes and cyberspace at different velocities, about how the Internet is being used to influence media and about how those on the left and right have learned to puff up their feathers or grow small -- to foment coverage or strangle it.
Curiously, that silence extended to most of the U.S. media -- including the Star Tribune. For days, it appeared the story had no legs.
Unless you went online.
Cyberspace was roiling with it. Whole websites were being set up around the memo and liberal weblogs and websites were ablaze with outrage -- some of it at the U.S. media for not reporting on the memo. Some of the sites gave instructions for pressuring local media to run a story.
The article goes on to trace how reader emails helped influence the way the story was covered in that paper; first in the opinion section, then as a news article. It's a fascinating read. Especially important is this aspect of the story:
I love a good campaign in which informed, engaged citizens come together eagerly to debate issues. But there's something about these e-mail campaigns fomented by political websites (and Downing Street is just the most recent -- they erupt across the spectrum of politics and issues) that smacks more of Astroturf than grassroots. Ombudsmen around the country chat regularly about the latest campaigns; the technique isn't fooling anyone. It's also important to remember, however, that some of the Downing Street reaction, such as the e-mail from Bootz, was genuine and spontaneous -- although Bootz says he later went online to urge others to contact the media.
It should be noted that here at DSM.com, while we have targeted media campaigns, we have not provided form letters, deciding instead to let each concerned citizen have their own voice in the campaign.
While such campaigns may smack of "astroturf", the bigger question to be asked is not whether these campaigns are effective or what the Ombudsmen think about them; the critical question is why do these campaigns have to be launched at all? What does it say about the current state of the media that average citizens like us have to take to the internet and organize just to have the media do its job and have a blurb on the DSM on page b-22?
The article ended on a strong note, noting the disconnect between wire services and the breaking-news-thirsty internet community:
The effort it has taken locally to get a string of politically potent stories to Star Tribune readers before they're old news online reveals a rusty news industry infrastructure that still hasn't absorbed the Internet into its newsgathering habits. The wire services, and the national newspapers that feed them, need to log in and begin approaching the Internet with the passion of a foreign correspondent dispatched to his first assignment in an exotic locale.
Regional newspaper editors can have a big impact by demanding quicker response from wire services to stories erupting online and by following McGrath's lead in assigning local reporters to the story if that's what it takes to get it into the paper.
Our readers clearly will accept no less. Good for them.
Leaked Memo #2 corroborates DSM
The Times of London is reporting the existence of another leaked memo
whose contents corroborate those in the DSM. Read the newly leaked memo here
. The article itself states:
MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier. The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
Some may say, well, everyone knew it was American policy to have regime change in Iraq. However, as this newly leaked briefing paper pointsout, there was a coordianted plan to "create the conditions" that would convince Americans and the world that this war was justified--namely, by pressing the existence of non-existent WMD.
The Washington Post, while carrying its story on the front page (see below) chose not to focus on the continuing theme of "fixing the facts" but rather on the utter lack of planning in the war's aftermath:
A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.
The AP has even stepped into the story, running a piece about the newly leaked document in a story about inadequate post-war planning.
British sources have confirmed the authenticity of this most recent document. Couple with the DSM, these documents paint a frightening picture of two governments, on an inevitable course to war, whatever the cost and whatever the means.
It remains to be seen whether the President will choose address these documents in a proper manner.
WP Sneaks DSM Story on Front Page
Read The Washington Post's
article on a corroborating leaked memo here
Saturday, June 11, 2005
Corn: Even the bad intelligence was a "thin case"
David Corn of The Nation
writes that both sides of the aisle are focusing too much on the word "fixed" and not enough on the other disturbing revelations in the memo
Conservatives like Chavez and Graham now like to hide behind the CIA, blaming bad intelligence for the missing WMDs. Bush didn't screw up, they argue, he merely relied on inadequate intelligence. But the Straw section of the Downing Street memo kills that argument. Straw presumably had access to the best intelligence on the topic, and still he wasn't sold. The bottom-line: even the bad intelligence led to a "thin" case. The problem was not merely the crappy intelligence; it was how Bush used the bad intelligence and stretched it beyond its limits to ease the way to war.
Put aside the question of "fixed" intelligence. The DSM demonstrates that Bush was dishonest with the public about his intentions and that the intelligence he did have in hand--fixed or not, faulty or not--did not support the case for war. I can understand why conservative cheerleaders of the war don't want such matters being discussed. But to call the Downing Street memo an item of no importance is to descend into the land of total spin.
Distorting The Plain Language of the DSM
Those who have tried to discredit the DSM have done so on various grounds. GOP Chairman Ken Melhman falsely claimed the memo was discredited (even though its contents are accurate, according to U.S. and British officials). The President has tried to insinuate that the timing of the document's release in some way lessens its importance.
Yet perhaps the most desparate--and ill-founded--attempts to avoid the reality of the document is the language-parsing that has been taking place. In a separate world live those who insist the word "fixed" in "the facts were being fixed around the policy" means "bolted on". Today, courtesy of Tod Lindberg from the Weekly Standard, we get another failed attempt to twist the word "fixed" into something more benign--and less damning--for the President:
Read more...Those who have tried to discredit the DSM have done so on various grounds. GOP Chairman Ken Melhman falsely claimed the memo was discredited (even though its contents are accurate, according to U.S. and British officials). The President has tried to insinuate that the timing of the document's release in some way lessens its importance.
Yet perhaps the most desparate--and ill-founded--attempts to avoid the reality of the document is the language-parsing that has been taking place. In a separate world live those who insist the word "fixed" in "the facts were being fixed around the policy" means "bolted on". Today, courtesy of Tod Lindberg from the Weekly Standard, we get another failed attempt to twist the word "fixed" into something more benign--and less damning--for the President:
For smoking-gun enthusiasts, the key to the plot is that word "fixed," as in, the fix is in. As in, the intelligence and facts weren't what Bush needed, so he fixed them. The problem with this analysis, if you can call it that, is quite simple: If what is being described is chicanery and wrongdoing in the form of the Bush administration fabricating intelligence, how come nobody in the room with Blair when C drops this bombshell is sufficiently perturbed to do so much as ask a follow-up question? How come Blair's "sofa cabinet" just goes on earnestly discussing the military options?
Lindberg sets up a strawman which is easily knocked down. The DSM is not a word-for-word transcription of everything said at the meeting. It summarizes the main points made by the parties to the discussion. So an attempt to discredit the memo based on what it doesn't say is way off the mark. Linberg goes on to do a dance around the word "fixed":
The point is that the Bush administration seems bent on going to war based on the terrorism/WMD case without going to the U.N. (thus obtaining a legal justification in the Security Council--a point on which C turned out to be wrong) and without "publishing materialon the Iraqi regime's record" (thus making a humanitarian case--which Blair would subsequently emphasize). The "policy" decision was that the case was going to be made on the basis of terrorism/WMD, with the evidence "fixed"--made fast, set in order, arranged--to buttress that case, notwithstanding that, in the view of some present, other cases might be stronger (hence Straw's point about Libya, North Korea, and Iran).
So the word "fixed" here means to "arrange" or "buttress"? Just like others have claimed it means "bolted on"? I assume that refers to using the evidence that supports your position, while ignoring or not using the evidence which conflicts your policy.
But as ukiyo below has noted, "What makes this argument so preposterous is that it is based on acceptance of the idea of selectively choosing intelligence that supports the policy of invasion. Adulterating intel is bad, but cherry picking the good parts is OK? This distinction amounts to little more than a bald-faced lie versus a lie of omission. Either way, we've been misled."
It is important to note that while several commentators have tried to minimize the memo based on their interpretation of the word "fixed," the President has yet to properly address exactly what transpired at that meeting in July of 2002. At the very least, he should tell the American public what his interpretation of the word "fixed" really is.
President Bush stumbles badly at Tuesday press conference
I fancy that yesterday's press conference will come to be considered one of George Bush's greatest PR disasters. He bungled the DSM question in a way that I think will come back to haunt him.
The recently developed Republican talking-points were never great. By necessity, they tend to avoid what the Downing Street Memo (DSM) actually says and try instead to convince the public that it is inaccurate or not credible. But the talking-points are going to be much less use now in getting Bush clear of this scandal. For one thing, he failed to challenge the validity of DSM directly. Thus hereafter it will be very difficult for his apologists to argue that DSM is forged, or 4th hand, or incompetently drafted. The first, of course, is what his most ardent supporters have wanted to argue (in so far as they're willing to acknowledge the existence of DSM at all).
Worse yet, Bush made an unforced error that will help the truth brigade to wrap this scandal around his shoulders. He made a statement so egregiously at odds with the entire tenor of DSM, and with many of its specific statements, and so implausible on the face of it, that it focuses attention almost inevitably upon Bush's credibility. It should suck the air out of the remaining talking-points pretty effectively, and concentrate attention on how Bush can explain this exceedingly implausible statement.
Worse still for President Bush's reputation, in this statement he claimed to have worked for what many Americans now yearn for--a peaceful resolution of the Iraqi situation. Peacemaking is Bush's weakest suit, and it has been since the first mutterings about an Iraq war in the spring and summer of 2002. Yet Bush now has made his weakest suit the focus of what is likely to become a story about whether George Bush has any credibility left. At least, we need to ensure that the story turns in that direction.
The facts are striking. Bush, standing next to Tony Blair, claimed that their conversations, before the July 23, 2002 meeting recorded by DSM, had ALL been about how to find a peaceful solution (to what exactly is unclear--non-existent WMDs?). To borrow the President's own words, 'nothing could be farther from the truth.'
The discussions recorded on DSM have virtually nothing to say about any possible peaceful resolution to the standoff with Hussein. Instead, they are entirely about how to get the impending war started, how to wage it, and how to justify it to the public. There is no hint in any of the reports by British officials at this meeting to suggest that any of them had discussed a peaceful resolution with their American counterparts. Even the 'U.N. route' is seen by the British (who conceived it and want to push it on the Bush administration) as a way of backing Hussein into a corner so that he will presumably refuse to admit any new weapons inspectors--and voila, a pretext for war.
So the American public will have to wonder, once they've read DSM for themselves, where all the talk of peace is. The sad truth appears to be that President Bush continues to do what he has been doing since early 2002: He's deliberately deceiving the nation about his policies on Iraq.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Free Press Has A Duty To Ask Questions
The Asheville-Citizen Times calls out the media
for its lack of reporting on this important document:
In the wake of the memo, about 90 Democratic members of the House of Representatives are demanding to know if its contents are accurate. "No need'' to respond was the official line from White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
The question won't go away. Was a pre-emptive war really the last resort, or were we sold a bill of goods? The main claim for war, the threat of weapons of mass destruction, has now proven to have been an illusion. Nearly 1,700 U.S. servicemen and women now lie buried because of our involvement in Iraq, hundreds of billions of tax dollars have been expended and according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday, most Americans now believe the effort hasn't made us safer. That is almost certainly true in that National Guard and reserve units have been run ragged and the Army is lagging badly in recruiting - for May, it originally set a goal of 8,050 recruits. It later revised that goal to 6,700. It got about 5,000.
We are left with the elephant in the living room: Did this war have to happen?
Have we used lives and resources on an undertaking that wasn't necessary, when we find ourselves in a world where there are in fact enemies posing threats and battles that must be fought?
It's a question a free press should not be afraid to ask.
In fact it is its duty.
Petition to the President Approaching Half A Million Signatures
Congressman Conyers' petition asking that the Bush administration fully address the contents of the Downing Street Memo has received overwhelming support from the American public. Initially, the goal was 250,000. That goal was shattered in the first week of the petition' s release.
With the assistance of Moveon.org
, downingstreetmemo.com, and countless other sites, the petition has been widely circulated and currently, over 469,600 concerned citizens have signed it.
While it is unclear how many citizens will sign on to the petition before the hearing on the Downing Street Memo on the 16th, it is highly likely that the number will far exceed half a million signatures.
"Blame Clinton" and the Meaning of "Fixed" ...latest BushCo talking points smashed
There must have been a memo...
As if on cue, we at DSM.com started receiving numerous emails this week pointing out former president Clinton's support for regime change as somehow offering a pretext for the war his successor undertook. I was asked the very question on Monday on MSNBC's "Connected Coast to Coast" by host Monica Crowley. As I pointed out to Ms. Crowley, the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act that President Clinton signed did express a desire for regime change. It made $8 million available to democratic opposition groups within Iraq, and that even included military assistance. But the Act specifically restricted such assistance to equipment and training. The idea that Clinton's signing of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act means he supported regime change through invasion is simply not supported by anything in the Act.
The other counter-argument to surface this week was the non-issue of the meaning of the word "fixed" as it is used in the DSM. As I understand it, the argument goes something like this: that the word as it appears in the DSM does not mean "manipulated" but rather simply "placed", that the intel was not adulterated but rather simply arranged to support the policy of regime change through military action.
What makes this argument so preposterous is that it is based on acceptance of the idea of selectively choosing intelligence that supports the policy of invasion. Adulterating intel is bad, but cherry picking the good parts is OK? This distinction amounts to little more than a bald-faced lie versus a lie of omission. Either way, we've been misled.
Completely lost in the semantics discussion is the irrefutable fact that, as the DSM states, the facts were being fixed AROUND the policy. The policy of invasion was already set--the intel was being fixed (placed, whatever) AROUND something that already existed. You don't have to be a professor of English to grasp the meaning of that.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Bolton and the DSM
In an editorial today in the Palm Beach Post
, the DSM is called "Bolton's latest problem":
For Mr. Bolton, the problem is revealed in another story published last weekend by The Associated Press. To make the case for war, the Bush administration would claim that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But Jose Bustani, who in 2002 was running the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, wanted to get inspectors into Iraq. As we now realize, inspections would have undercut the case for war. Mr. Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, led a successful attempt by the U.S. and Britain to have Mr. Bustani fired, blaming his "mismanagement." Mr. Bolton's deputy at the time confirms his role.
It was already known that in 2002, Mr. Bolton tried to manufacture evidence that Cuba had a biological weapons program. Now, it seems that Mr. Bolton was happy to head off a mission that might have upset the White House's plans for war. The "Downing Street Memo" — named for the British prime minister's residence — reveals how duplicitously President Bush acted before invading Iraq. The smear of Mr. Bustani shows how unqualified John Bolton is for the U.N.
You can read more about the extraordinary measures Bolton took to fire the man who stood to expose the truth before the war
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Bush, Blair Claim DSM Wrong; Their Previous Actions Prove Otherwise
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair attempted to dismiss the contents of the DSM
in a press conference today: (full text of the press conference can be found here
, video of this excerpt can be found here
Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.
Blair seems to have tripped himself up with the facts a bit there. As previously noted on www.downingstreetmemo.com, the British government, including Blair himself, have never disputed the document's authenticity. Thus, the British government has said (1) the contents of the memo are undisputed and now (2) the document was written and reflects the reality before they went to the UN. This further solidifies the case that going to the UN was just a sham.
President Bush didn't fare much better when confronted with the truth:
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterisations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who "they dropped it out" is, but -- I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.
My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are -- are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who've lost a loved one in combat. It's the last option that the President must have -- and it's the last option I know my friend had, as well.
And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a -- put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
This response by President Bush is his common defense to accusations that he misled our nation into war. His response typically follows this format: (1) war was a last resort; (2) diplomatic measures were exhausted (even though they were not
); and (3) the world is better off without Saddam in power. This trifecta of excuses though does not comport with reality, and indeed, does not address the contents of the DSM itself.
About the DSM
The Downing Street "Memo"
is actually a document containing meeting minutes transcribed during the British Prime Minister's meeting on July 23, 2002—a full eight months PRIOR to the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003. The Times of London
printed the text of this document on Sunday, May 1, 2005, but to date US media coverage has been limited. This site is intended to act as a resource for anyone who wants to understand the facts revealed in this document.
The contents of the memo are shocking. The minutes detail how our government did not believe Iraq was a greater threat than other nations; how intelligence was "fixed" to sell the case for war to the American public; and how the Bush Administration’s public assurances of "war as a last resort" were at odds with their privately stated intentions.
When asked, British officials "did not dispute the document's authenticity." and a senior American official has described it as "absolutely accurate." Yet the Bush administration continues to simultaneously sidestep the issue while attempting to cast doubt on the memo’s authenticity.
Nobody wants to go to war. We trust our leaders to shed blood in our name only when absolutely necessary. But the facts revealed by the Downing Street Memo force us to ask ourselves: Was I misled? Did President Bush tell me the truth when he said he would not take us to war unless absolutely necessary?
More than two years after the start of the Iraq War, Americans are just learning that our government was dead set on invasion, even while it claimed to be pursuing diplomacy. Please join us in demanding that we get to the bottom of this issue.
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