June 08, 2005

The Downing Street Memo

MemoJust over a month ago, Britain’s Sunday Times published a secret memo. It revealed that George Bush had decided to wage war in Iraq in the first half of 2002, though he spent the second half of the year telling the American people he had not yet made a decision.

Written on 23 July 2002, the memo says in part:

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 NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The Downing Street Memo is important, though not because it says that Bush had decided to go to war without any evidence of a WMD threat and without a plan to manage Iraq after the invasion. That much has become obvious.

Rather, the memo is important because it is the first available documentary evidence of the deception. So Bush Administration defenders are rushing to dismiss it. TomPaine.com breaks it down:

In today's National Review Online, the conservatives reveal their concern and unease. In their opening salvo, James S. Robbins attempts to argue that the memo is "old news." He argues that the three major pieces of information contained in the memo were all previously known and where necessary, previously discredited.

Robbins treats the Downing Street memo as a series of new accusations. This is wrong. The Downing Street Memo is a new source document that is evidence, not accusation. It is evidence that the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq by April 2002. It is evidence that the Bush administration acted on that decision and was using Operations Northern and Southern Watch to hit Iraqi command and control targets to prepare the battlefield in advance of a declaration of war and Congressional authorzation. It is evidence that the Bush administration had decided to "fix the facts" around the policy they could not otherwise justify to the American people.

So, when Robbins says, for example, that the "The charge of intelligence fraud (if it is such a charge) has already been investigated and found baseless," his statement relies on an investigation (the Silberman-Robb Commission) that was not only unable to look at the political use of intelligence, it relies on an investigation that did not have in hand the evidence he is attempting to refute.

What Robbins does not do, however, is provide a refutation that deceiving the American people and Congress is not an impeachable offense. If the evidence in the Downing Street Memo can be further corroborated—which will most likely require more high-level leaks—the Downing Street Memo could be the equivalent of the Watergate break-in.

With Mark Felt leaving the headlines, it looks like the US news media is finally realizing there is a story here.

By Will Friedman in Politics | Permalink  | 



Posted by: SheaNC | Jun 8, 2005 7:16:38 PM

The American media is such a disgrace. It took over a month for even one of them to utter a peep about this. And even now they seem to be making it into a story about blogging, rather than the story it is.

They simply do not report what this administration does not want them to, fearing that they will be branded "liberal" by the far Right and barred from the White House press room. After towing the party line on this war for so long (the entire lead-up especially), I doubt they will have the courage to give this the attention it deserves.

Posted by: dks | Jun 9, 2005 7:33:34 AM

I've signed the letter. My next step is to begin emailing all the major news media as to why I am not seeing more coverage of this important issue. It can't hurt and only take a bit of time.

Power to the people!

Posted by: Frenchie | Jun 10, 2005 11:46:07 AM

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