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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, 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.


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