• Doing the President's Dirty Work
New York Times, February 17, 2006
Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?
For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. [...]
Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse.
Mr. Roberts had promised to hold a committee vote yesterday on whether to investigate. But he canceled the vote, and then made two astonishing announcements. He said he was working with the White House on amending the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to permit warrantless spying. And then he suggested that such a change would eliminate the need for an inquiry.
Stifling his own committee without even bothering to get the facts is outrageous. [...]
• A true tally of war's costs
Knight Ridder, February 15, 2006
There are always costs in a war, human costs and hardware costs, and as we draw close to beginning the fourth year of our operations in Iraq it's time to tally those costs one more time.
As of this week a total of 2,270 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, the great majority of those losses suffered in combat. The number of wounded has reached 16,653, just over half of those marked wounded but returned to duty. A little known cost is in vehicles lost in combat. Just for the U.S. Army alone that number has reached nearly 1,000. The cost for replacing those totally destroyed vehicles and overhauling thousands more worn out by heavy use totals $9 billion in this year's proposed defense budget and in the off-budget emergency wartime supplemental budget Congress passes twice each fiscal year. [...]
The bulk of these losses in tracked and wheeled vehicles were to the ubiquitous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that the insurgents employ to such deadly purpose. [...]
One senior official of the Army Materiel Command estimates that if the war ended tomorrow there would still be two years' worth of work to fix all the vehicles and gear. That includes 30,000 Humvees, the modern replacement for the old Army Jeep. When they eventually come home some 6,000 of them will be declared surplus or beyond repair. The rest will be repaired and upgraded and parceled out to the Army units. Equipment can be repaired or replaced. But nothing can replace a father or mother who has been killed in this war, or any war. Nothing can compensate for all the lives shattered when a soldier dies in combat. In Iraq it is estimated that the human toll includes nearly 1,000 spouses who have been left behind, alone, and more than 2,000 children who have lost a parent to the war.
Nor can you repair or replace what has been lost by hundreds of soldiers severely injured by powerful IED blasts and left double or triple amputees, blind or brain damaged, riddled by shrapnel. For them, and those who love them, life suddenly has become an unending struggle.
• Remember That Mushroom Cloud?
New York Times, November 2, 2005
The indictment of Lewis Libby on charges of lying to a grand jury about the outing of Valerie Wilson has focused attention on the lengths to which the Bush administration went in 2003 to try to distract the public from this central fact: American soldiers found a lot of things in Iraq, including a well-armed insurgency their bosses never anticipated, but they did not find weapons of mass destruction. [...]
President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet, to name a few leading figures, built support for the war by telling the world that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical weapons, feverishly developing germ warfare devices and racing to build a nuclear bomb. Some of them, notably Mr. Cheney, the administration's doomsayer in chief, said Iraq had conspired with Al Qaeda and implied that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11.
Last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee did a good bipartisan job of explaining that the intelligence in general was dubious, old and even faked by foreign sources. The panel said the analysts had suffered from groupthink. At the time, the highest-ranking officials in Washington were demanding evidence against Iraq.
But that left this question: If the intelligence was so bad and so moldy, why was it presented to the world as what Mr. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, famously called "a slam-dunk" case?
Were officials fooled by bad intelligence, or knowingly hyping it? Certainly, the administration erased caveats, dissents and doubts from the intelligence reports before showing them to the public. And there was never credible intelligence about a working relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Under a political deal that Democrats should not have approved, the Intelligence Committee promised to address these questions after the 2004 election. But a year later, there is no sign that this promise is being kept, other than unconvincing assurances from Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican who is chairman of the intelligence panel, that people are working on it. [...]
Mr. Reid wrested a commitment from the Senate to have a bipartisan committee report by Nov. 14 on when the investigation will be done. [...] Americans are long overdue for an answer to why they were told there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
• Lame Duck Bush Has Swagger, Not Waddle
WCVB Boston, August 3, 2005
In another sign that he thinks he can call his own shots, Bush has defaulted on his promise to reporters that he would hold a news conference once a month. He held none in June and July, despite the fact that there are many questions out there, including a draining war which is rarely mentioned at the White House.
Ignoring the White House press corps is one thing, but it seems that he showed an enormous disrespect for 123 members of Congress who signed two letters to the White House May 5 and June 15 asking for certain documents on the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
The last letter -- personally delivered to the White House gate by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif. -- also sought an explanation of the Downing Street Memo, a British document which indicated that the U.S. and Britain agreed by the summer of 2002 to attack Iraq. That was months before Bush sought congressional authority to take military action.
The memo, written by a high-ranking British official after returning from a visit to Washington, also said that U.S. officials were deliberately manipulating intelligence to justify the war.
The lawmakers did not receive even the courtesy of a reply from the president.
• Deflecting Responsibility
The Washington Post, July 27, 2005
No official body has thus far investigated the White House's use of intelligence in the run-up to war, or whether it was fair for the White House to blame the CIA and other agencies, instead of taking the blame itself.
...special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa. [...]
• War stories
The Balitimore Sun, July 24, 2005
Here is the motivation for the outing of Ms. Plame, a CIA agent. It appears that the White House was not intent so much on punishing Mr. Wilson as on discrediting him, by suggesting that his trip had been some sort of junket arranged by his wife. Mr. Wilson's revelation, if true, exposed the dishonesty at the core of the administration's maneuverings over Iraq. And of course it was true.
This is the context in which the continuing investigation by the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, must be viewed. This is not simply about the Karl Rove brand of politics taken too far, but about the fabrication that launched a war.
• You can't not care about lies and war
The Sun Herald, July 20, 2005
The trouble with piling lies on top of lies is that we can't even agree on facts anymore. I read the right-wing commentators, and it's not that we're not on the same page - we're not even in the same library. They read the Downing Street memos and convince themselves they don't mean what they say. I really don't understand: Is it that hard to admit you're wrong when you're wrong? Is it that hard to admit that the invasion of Iraq has been a disaster? Isn't it self-evident?
If you support someone politically, you are not required to believe they are perfect.
• It Appears That Karl Rove Is In Serious Trouble
FindLaw, July 15, 2005
There is no solid information that Rove, or anyone else, violated this law [the complex Intelligence Identities And Protection Act] designed to protect covert CIA agents. There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated.
Karl Rove may be able to claim that he did not know he was leaking "classified information" about a "covert agent," but there can be no question he understood that what he was leaking was "sensitive information."
Karl Rove's leak to Matt Cooper is now an established fact... If Rove's leak fails to fall under the statute that was used to prosecute Randel, I do not understand why.
• Rove leak is just part of larger scandal
The Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 2005
[T]here are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern...
I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.
• Karl Rove's America
The New York Times, July 15, 2005
Let me remind you that the underlying issue in the Karl Rove controversy is not a leak, but a war and how America was misled into that war.
Enough is known to surmise that the leaks of Rove, or others deputized by him, amounted to retaliation against someone who had the temerity to challenge the president of the United States when he was striving to find some plausible reason for invading Iraq.
The role of Rove and associates added up to a small incident in a very large scandal - the effort to delude America into thinking it faced a threat dire enough to justify a war.
• Karl Rove/Real issue is the case for war
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 15, 2005
“In the scheme of things, whether Rove revealed Plame's identity, deliberately or not, matters less than actions by Rove, Bolton, Cheney and others to phony up a case for war that has gone badly, has cost thousands of lives plus hundreds of billions of dollars, and has, a majority of Americans now believe, left the United States less safe from terrorism rather than more."
• Root of the Rove controversy is the war in Iraq
MSNBC, July 13, 2005
Is this a case of the curse of the second-term scandal?
No, it would be the curse of the first term. This happened in the first term. This is perhaps the curse of a controversial basis for going to war. Really what this is about is the case for going into Iraq. The issue is really the debates about the war, the evidence that was used to go to war, and the claims that were made by this administration that proved to be false.
• Feeling any safer now? I didn't think so
The Centre Daily Times, July 10, 2005
Just last month, in a speech designed to counter growing doubts about the misadventure in Iraq, Bush was at it again, implying a link between his invasion of that nation and the Sept. 11 attacks.
As if repeating an untruth loudly and forcefully will make it any less untrue. Or grind down the growing mountain of evidence that Bush was planning to invade Iraq even as he took the oath of office, eight months before that awful day in September...
Hopping mad and led by a president spoiling for a fight, we attacked the wrong guy. And many of us didn't care because it gave us the sense that we were doing something. It gave us false comfort.
It is past time we faced that fact.
• Deceits enervate an Iraq exit
The Japan Times, July 8, 2005
President George W. Bush's latest attempt to justify his Iraq policy with a televised address to America comes as more evidence emerges that the invasion of Iraq was a war of choice. In arguing that the United States must persevere because Iraq has become "a central front in the war on terror," he sounds like the man who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court for being an orphan.
[I]n his speech before invading, the president said, 'We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq,' which was a blatant falsehood.
• Fourth of five parts: Haunted, postwar Iraq
The Seattle Times, July 6, 2005
The combined consequences of an ignorance of history and culture and failure to look ahead are reflected in lives lost to a virulent insurgency, the ballooning cost of the war, growing debates in Congress on the adequacy of troop levels, and a dangerous loss of trust and credibility.
From the start, the Bush administration refused to accept any dissent from the idea the entire campaign could be done, essentially, on the cheap.
Americans who doubt they were told the full truth about the Iraq war can know for certain their government failed to plan for, and be candid about, the full cost in blood and treasure.
• Pliant American press behaving like Pravda in coverage of the U.S. president
Toronto Star, July 3, 2005
The Senate committee promised last summer to probe what role the White House may have played in concocting the faulty intelligence but only after the presidential election. Once the president was re-elected last fall, the Senate committee chairman, Republican Pat Roberts, simply cancelled the promised investigation of the White House's role, insisting it would be "a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further."
Replow it further? How about plowing it once?
Roberts's decision to let the administration off the hook on Iraq was barely covered in the media.
I saw no mention in the TV coverage of what the British memos reveal: that those with inside knowledge knew Saddam's arsenal posed no danger, that the intelligence was being "fixed" and that the U.S. dropped bombs to try to provoke a warwhile insisting it was doing everything it could to avoid one.
• 'Last throes' or latest quagmire?
Vallejo Times-Herald, July 3, 2005
We stand with resolve, as President George W. Bush likes to say, and we do not falter. But we also think independently and are not intimidated by rhetoric that indicates otherwise if we disagree with the country's direction.
Conflicting information coming from the White House and our British allies has a majority of Americans shaking their heads in disapproval, unable to give full support to the stated cause in light of a failure to articulate an exit plan and stale rhetoric from the president.
Said one critic [after Bush's speech]: 'The president's numerous references to Sept. 11 did not provide a way forward in Iraq.
"They only served to remind the American people that our most dangerous enemy, namely Osama bin Laden, is still on the loose and al-Qaida remains capable of doing this nation great harm nearly four years after it attacked America."
• Paul Krugman: And it's time to think about getting out
International Herald Tribune, July 2, 2005
Before the war, opponents warned that it would strengthen, not weaken, terrorism. And so it has. A recent Central Intelligence Agency report warns that since the U.S. invasion, Iraq has become what Afghanistan was under Soviet occupation, only more so: a magnet and training ground for Islamic extremists, who will eventually threaten other countries...
Helping Iraqis rebuild their country could help win hearts and minds. But for all the talk of newly painted schools, the fact is that reconstruction, originally stalled by incompetence and corruption, is now stalled by the lack of security.
When Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington, he was accompanied by Iraqi journalists. One of them asked Bush, "When will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq?"
• They have no idea how to win their war ,
The Guardian, July 1, 2005
At least Tony Blair used to be able to claim that his friend George Bush may not be much respected in Britain but was popular in the US and could deliver America. Not anymore. Tony Blair now finds himself chained to a US president who is more unpopular than any other second-term president since Nixon, and, worst of all, the major cause of the collapse in his ratings is their joint adventure in Iraq.
There were no international terrorists in Iraq until Bush and Blair insisted on invading it, creating the perfect conditions for terrorism - weak central authority, porous borders and an alienated population. The CIA has concluded that Iraq has been turning into the breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists, which is precisely what the British intelligence agencies warned the prime minister in advance of the invasion.
[Bush and Blair's] present approach is fatally flawed by two delusions... The first is the belief that they will win if only they can kill, capture or bury under rubble every insurgent. [...] The second delusion is the insistence that military occupation of Iraq is the solution to the violence and not a large part of its cause.
• The architect of the war is its weakest defender,
New Jersey Star Ledger, July 1, 2005
[Vincent] Cannistraro, citing current CIA analysts, maintains that the Bush White House pressed the agency to produce evidence linking Saddam to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden -- a clear misuse of the 9/11 tragedy. Cheney and Libby visited midlevel analysts at CIA headquarters, seeking support for a war in Iraq, according to Cannistraro. Cheney, in particular, he has written, "insisted that desk officers were not looking hard enough for the evidence."
Cheney, for all his shrewdness, has become a liability as a spokesman on Iraq, not only because of suspicions about his relations with the CIA and its analysts but because of his long list of lousy judgments.
• Last throes of credibility
San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2005
From the start, the Bush White House has had a credibility problem on Iraq. It began with the rotating rationale as two of the original premises that might justify a war -- that Saddam Hussein was armed with weapons of mass destruction or that he was somehow assisting al Qaeda -- proved unfounded.
Last night, Bush repeatedly and disingenuously portrayed the combat in Iraq as part of the 'global war on terrorism' he declared after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. There is little doubt that terrorists from other nations have been drawn to Iraq in the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion -- but that is reason to question the wisdom of this pre-emptive war.
• 'Washington Post' Visits Downing Street, Probes War Plans,
Editor & Publisher, June 28, 2005
Eight secret documents first disclosed by Sunday Times reporter Michael Smith, new interviews conducted by Post reporters, and additional written accounts together reveal that behind the scenes, British government officials at the highest levels believed in 2002 that the Bush Administration was already committed to a war that they thought was ill-conceived and illegal and could lead to disaster.
Officials foresaw a host of problems that later would surface following the 2003 invasion and occupation. But they could dissuade neither their American counterparts nor their own leader from moving toward war...
When will 'The Iraq War Papers' of the Bush cabinet seep out, one wonders?
• Memo to editors: Cover memos,
Palm Beach post, June 26, 2005
Again this time, the media have seemed to be in cahoots with the administration by appearing to help stem debate on what the White House has dismissed as old news fully explored during past U.S. and British election campaigns... Newspapers, which should have run stories and let readers make up their minds, have instead become part of the story.
Even if the memos are saying only what everyone already knows, the administration needs to answer for them more than it has. In failing to seek those answers, news organizations also have a lot for which to answer.
• Focus: Secret memos fuel US doubt on Iraq,
The London Times, June 26, 2005
The CIA’s recent report on the insurgency argued that, just as American forces have learnt a great deal from fighting the terrorists and insurgents in a difficult urban terrain, so have the jihadists.
There has been a major influx of Islamo-fascists into Iraq, especially from Saudi Arabia, through the porous Syrian border. Their training in urban warfare, the CIA worries, could soon spill over into other Arab states. The under-manned occupation of Iraq, in other words, might have created another version of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, a training ground for terror...
The Bush administration always doubted that it could carry the public into a war as long and as difficult as Iraq was bound to be, so it fatally understated the risks and minimised the troop commitment. It never believed in nation-building, so it walked backwards into the task with insufficient resources...
The signals from the White House suggest that Bush will not attempt to level with the public and try to unite the country around persevering. He will instead insist that everything is on track and more time and resources are all that are necessary.
He will rightly argue that American security depends on winning the war in Iraq and that democracy can prevail. He will say that we have no choice but to carry on. He will attack much criticism as unpatriotic and disloyal to the troops. He will press ahead because it is all he knows...
Criticising this administration’s arrogance and intermittent incompetence does not mean hoping that it fails. For the security of all of us, it has to succeed.
• The War President,
New York Times, June 24, 2005
Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy. It would have been an unprecedented abuse of power even if the war hadn't turned into a military and moral quagmire. And we won't be able to get out of that quagmire until we face up to the reality of how we got in.
We need to deprive these people of their ability to mislead and intimidate. And the best way to do that is to make it clear that the people who led us to war on false pretenses have no credibility, and no right to lecture the rest of us about patriotism.
• Yes, they did lie to us,
The Guardian, June 22, 2005
Before the war on Iraq, Britain witnessed a ferocious debate over whether the case for conflict was legal and honest. It culminated in the largest demonstration in the country's history, as a million or more took to the streets to stop the war. At the same time, the US sleepwalked into battle. Its press subjected George Bush to a fraction of the scrutiny endured by Tony Blair: the president's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida were barely challenged.
Taken together, [the leaked UK documents] amount to an indictment of the way the British and American peoples were led to war. In Britain they have scarcely made a dent, but in America they have developed an unexpected momentum. Initially circulated on left-leaning websites, they have now broken out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream.
The occupation continues and people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers. In the US the realisation seems to be dawning that this episode represents, at the very least, a case of maladministration, of desperately poor governance.
• Americans inching closer to a reckoning,
Miami Herald, June 22, 2005
Do you want to know?
That's the only popular division that matters in the United States today: Those who want to determine once and for all if President Bush knowingly ''fixed the facts'' regarding Iraq, thereby misleading Congress and the American people into supporting an unnecessary war, and those who will cover their ears and hum loudly in order to maintain their belief that Bush and his advisors remain above reproach.
You're in one camp or the other. Either you want to know if you've been lied to, or you don't.
The American public is inching tentatively toward a reckoning unlike any this nation has ever experienced.
• The Downing Street Memos:
Not just old news, the British documents raise
important questions on the White House's credibility,
Detroit Free Press, June 22, 2005
Based on meetings with administration officials, they support the premise that, despite public claims to the contrary, the Bush administration saw war against Iraq as a first, not last, option after the 9/11 attacks and manipulated bad intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
The United States, of course, found no deadly weapons in Iraq after toppling Hussein from power; and Al Qaeda had no presence in the country until the insurgency erupted.
...the evidence reflects an administration that makes a major decision and then finds or fits the evidence to back it up and sell it. That's not thoughtful policy. It's marketing.
• Deception's damning documents,
Boston Globe, June 21, 2005
Earlier this month, Jeremy Scahill [described] a huge air assault in September 2002. ''Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace," Scahill writes... 'The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist.'
Supposedly part of enforcing "no fly zones," the bombings were actually systematic assaults on Iraq's capacity to defend itself. The United States had never declared war. Bush had no authorization, not even a fig leaf. He was simply attacking another nation because he'd decided to do so. This preemptive war preempted our own Congress, as well as international law.
• WAR, RIGHTS AND SECURITY: Answers needed on Downing Street memo,
Detroit Free Press, June 17, 2005
The White House is surely hoping that U.S. Rep. John Conyers will just go away. But he shouldn't, not while Americans are dying in Iraq. The country deserves better answers than President George W. Bush has provided to date about his justification for the Iraq war, and Conyers is at least trying to get them.
While the Iraq war cannot be undone, it also is being held up as a manifestation of Bush administration policy that calls for preemptive action against imminent threats. Before that policy is invoked again, it's not unreasonable for members of Congress and the families of America's armed forces to ask for a more thorough accounting of the assessment of Iraq as a threat.
The war has proven that assessment wrong. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Conyers is asking how the United States could have been so wrong about something so important. The Downing Street memo offers an answer. Does the White House have a better one?
• Fig leaf for war/Paper indicates U.N. was misled,
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 15, 2005
It's safe to say that most Americans viewed the American-British approach to the United Nations as an alternative to war -- perhaps forced on a reluctant American administration by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Secretary of State Colin Powell, but still a legitimate alternative. Bush's bellicosity even seemed to serve a "bad cop" function in pushing Iraq to cooperate with the United Nations.
Now comes, however, a classified briefing paper prepared for a July 23, 2002, British cabinet meeting, the minutes of which have come to be known as the Downing Street memo. The briefing paper makes clear that both the British and American administrations viewed action by the Security Council not as an alternative to war, but as a means of justifying a war already decided on.
In the end, the Security Council refused to play its role, arguing that the weapons inspectors needed more time (actually ample time) to complete their mission. Then the United States threw up its hands, branded Security Council members a bunch of hand-wringing pansies, and went to war.
• JFK knew how a myth could be worse than a lie,
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 13, 2005
We, as citizens, must also take to heart the second part of Kennedy's prescient advice and challenge the many myths that still shroud our policy in Iraq because they are just as insidious -- if not more so -- than the president's deliberate lies.
Two myths are especially troubling. The first is that we sought to overthrow Saddam Hussein to establish a democracy in Iraq. The second is that this war is making the world and America a safer place.
• The American people have been had,
St. Petersburg Times, June 12, 2005
Johnson used a North Vietnamese attack on U.S. vessels in the Tonkin Gulf to ask Congress for a blank check he used to dramatically escalate the war in Vietnam. Bush used the post-9/11 fear of terrorism and slanted intelligence to claim Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that threatened our security.
In both cases, the American people were had.
Some will ask: What's the point of bringing up the Downing Street memo now, two years after the invasion and at a time when terrorist suicide bombers are making life hell not only for U.S. troops but the Iraqi people? The point is this: President Bush didn't level with the American people before going to war. And he still hasn't.
• Bush and 'the memo',
San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 2005
PRESIDENT BUSH apparently thinks he can dismiss the damning "Downing Street memo" with a few glib words.
If he is right, it is a sad commentary on the state of American democracy and values. [...]
Bush was finally asked about the memo directly this week, during a media availability with Blair. Bush tried to discredit the memo because of the timing of its disclosure -- just days before Blair's re-election. But it is important to note that no one has challenged the authenticity of the memo nor the accuracy of its account of the meeting.
Bush also scoffed at the suggestion that the decision to go to war had been made by July 2002, nearly a year before U.S. bombs began raining on Baghdad. "There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush told reporters. "My conversation with the prime minister was, how can we do this peacefully?"
Americans deserve to have a more intensive investigation and expansive explanation to the extremely serious allegation that their government "fixed" intelligence to justify a pre-emptive war. [...]
There should be no statute of limitations -- or shortness of public attention span -- on an issue that cuts to the core of this government's integrity and credibility. Congress must fully investigate the actions in Washington that led the highest officials in Great Britain to be convinced that the Bush administration was hell-bent on war and working to concoct a rationalization for it.
• Bush & Blair/Iraq denials raise questions,
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 9, 2005
[...] As the Bush administration's stated reasons for war shifted, ebbed and flowed, many simply went with the flow, finding each succeeding reason -- well, reason enough. Some became more and more skeptical, even cynical; others just didn't know what to believe. [...]
Tuesday provided a moment when top leaders could have helped them sort it all out, yet little was clarified -- which can only lead to increased skepticism on the part of anyone paying close attention.
When the so-called Downing Street memo came up in a question directed to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush at their joint news conference in Washington, the two leaders answered in such a way as to spur headlines like the one on Page 1 of Wednesday's Star Tribune: "A joint denial of Iraq memo." [...] A careful reading of the two men's words, however, shows that they denied much less than one might think; it also brings up pertinent questions that the president should be pressed to answer.
The memo is actually the minutes of a meeting of Blair and his highest officials on July 23, 2002, eight months before the invasion of Iraq. [...] "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam [Hussein], through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Bush and Blair were asked of this part, "Is this an accurate reflection of what happened?" Blair, saying he could respond very easily said, "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all," and went on to say that military action had to be taken because Saddam didn't comply with international law. Bush said, among other comments, "There's nothing farther from the truth," implying that C was wrong, without going into detail.
Neither addressed the intelligence and whether it was being concocted to provide a justification for removing Saddam. Blair, who was more specific than Bush, didn't address other key parts of the minutes, such as when Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is summarized as saying, "The case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith explained in the meeting that, as the memo relates, "the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation.
How could one of those occur? Blair did not address his own response to Straw and Goldsmith as described in the memo: "The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.
This is stunning. As Mark Danner wrote in Sunday's New York Review of Books, "Thus the idea of UN inspectors was introduced not as a means to avoid war, as President Bush repeatedly assured Americans, but as a means to make war possible." [...]
• Memorial Day/Praise bravery, seek forgiveness,
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 30, 2005
In the case of Iraq, the American public has failed them; we did not prevent the Bush administration from spending their blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. President Bush and those around him lied, and the rest of us let them. Harsh? Yes. True? Also yes. Perhaps it happened because Americans, understandably, don't expect untruths from those in power. But that works better as an explanation than as an excuse. [...]
It turns out that former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill were right. Both have been pilloried for writing that by summer 2002 Bush had already decided to invade. [...]
Just four days before Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, Pincus writes, the National Security Council staff "put out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims" about Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The call went out because the NSC staff believed the case was weak. Moreover, Pincus says, "as the war approached, many U.S. intelligence analysts were internally questioning almost every major piece of prewar intelligence about Hussein's alleged weapons programs." But no one at high ranks in the administration would listen to them. [...]
In the 1960s it was Vietnam. Today it is Iraq. Let us resolve to never, ever make this mistake again.
• British memo casts a harsh light,
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 20, 2005
In the summer and fall of 2002, President Bush repeatedly and solemnly pledged to the American people that he hoped war against Iraq would never be necessary. [...]
It was all a charade. Saddam allowed the inspectors to return; they found no sign of WMD or WMD programs yet war came anyway.
Early this month, a top-secret British memo was published in a London newspaper. The document's legitimacy has not been questioned. It recounts a top-secret discussion in July 2002 among British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest aides.
Early this month, a top-secret British memo was published in a London newspaper. The document's legitimacy has not been questioned. It recounts a top-secret discussion in July 2002 among British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest aides. [...]
The American people were being told that war would be avoided at all costs, that it would come only if Saddam gave us no choice. British leaders were being told that the decision had already been made, that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action."[...]
Americans were being told... the Iraqis would welcome us... Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction. But British leaders noted among themselves that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."[...]
Yet the British memo, written three months earlier, notes that "the most likely timing in U.S. minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the U.S. congressional elections."
The memo might have said that the timeline would begin in early fall, or in October. But it did not. The frame of reference clearly coming from the Bush administration was elections.
And indeed, on Oct. 7, 2002 29 days before congressional elections Bush gave the famous primetime speech in Cincinnati in which he laid out the case against Saddam, complete with talk of mushroom clouds. [...]
But if the future is still murky, the recent past is becoming more and more clear: The American people were deceived.
• Iraq-war inquiry still needed,
The Des Moines Register, May 20, 2005
Is it the "smoking gun" that proves President Bush misled the nation into war?
Not quite. But it should be enough for Congress finally to see its duty and launch a formal, independent inquiry.
What's come to be called the Downing Street Memo seems to confirm what opponents of the Iraq invasion suspected all along: that the president decided early on to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, then tailored the intelligence to fit the preconceived course of action. [...]
The memo, published by the Times of London on May 1, consists of secret minutes of a British cabinet meeting in July 2002, eight months before the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq. The minutes include a report on talks in Washington: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
The memo said that "the case was thin" for military action in Iraq.
Two investigations in the United States concluded that the Bush administration did not pressure intelligence agents to change their assessments about Iraq to fit the administration’s point of view. But both reports - one by the Senate Intelligence Committee, one by a presidential commission - ducked the next question: whether the administration exaggerated or made selective use of the available intelligence to justify an invasion decision that had already been made.
Perhaps it doesn't matter. The lack of uproar in this country over the Downing Street Memo suggests that the public is more interested in completing the mission successfully than in rehashing how it began. Indeed, that's where the focus should be.
Still, it's important to establish the truth of how the United States came to invade a country that posed no threat to us. It's important for the historical record and for better decision-making in the future. Congress, which authorized the invasion at the president's request, has an oversight responsibility to inquire and to report to the nation.
• Ominously, Army Recruiting Tumbles,
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 9, 2005
Last month, Army recruiters fell 42 percent short of their goal [...]
... if the public is growing increasingly disenchanted with this war, top-secret British documents recently leaked to the British press help explain why.
The primary document is an internal summary of a meeting held on July 23, 2002, by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a handful of his top foreign policy, intelligence and military advisers. At that point, most Americans had no idea that a war with Iraq was even being considered, but apparently, Blair and President Bush had agreed to invade Iraq as far back as an April 2002 meeting in Crawford, Texas.
[...] The idea was to set the stage for war by demanding that Saddam Hussein re-admit U.N. weapons inspectors; when Saddam refused, that would be the excuse to invade.
However, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Blair in that July meeting, "The case is thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." [...]
That description is damning, indicating that the Bush administration cynically manipulated its war plans to create maximum political advantage for Republican congressional candidates.
The document's most devastating paragraph, however, summarizes a report by the head of British intelligence, known as "C." "C" has just returned from meetings in Washington, and he's telling Blair what he learned there:
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," "C" tells Blair. "But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy. . . . There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
The intelligence was being fixed . . . Little discussion of the aftermath. Amazing.
So yes, a nation can be fooled into war by its own leaders. [...]
[...] But now, when our leaders tell us that, fewer Americans believe them, and fewer still are willing to die for it.
• Far graver than Vietnam,
Most senior US military officers now believe
the war on Iraq has turned into
a disaster on an unprecedented scale
The Guardian, September 16, 2004
'Bring them on!" President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is "winning" in Iraq. "Our strategy is succeeding," he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.
But, according to the US military's leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush's war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: "Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost." He adds: "Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."
Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command, told me: "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."
Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College, said: "I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the second world war in Germany and Japan."
W Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's strategic studies institute - and the top expert on Iraq there - said: "I don't think that you can kill the insurgency". According to Terrill, the anti-US insurgency, centred in the Sunni triangle, and holding several cities and towns - including Fallujah - is expanding and becoming more capable as a consequence of US policy. [...]
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