New Civilization News: The Downing Street Memo    
 The Downing Street Memo18 comments
picture10 Jun 2005 @ 09:25, by Richard Carlson

In the presence of eternity the mountains are as transient as the clouds.

---Robert Green Ingersoll

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

---Thomas Merton

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know nothing else but miracles---
To me every hour of night and day is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.

---Walt Whitman

Bush in Ohio again yesterday.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

My right wing friends may be surprised to learn that since "they dropped (the Downing Street Minutes) out in the middle of (Tony Blair's) race," as Bush angrily put it the other day, I have been replying to emails and message boards about them by urging great caution. I say "surprise" because we on the left always are characterized in panic and hysteria by the right. What I've been writing in reply is that the incriminating evidence in the memo seems to be fixed upon the single word "fix." I just have used the word in that very sentence in a way that gives rather a different meaning than "let's fix the horserace"---or let's do something that will assure we will win and the others lose. Or let's fix the election. Essentially in the UK I think writers of minutes and memos are more likely to use the word "fix" in the sense of "affix" than we are over here in the States. Therefore, I've felt the sense of the memo can be construed to urge its readers to concentrate on finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, rather than just make stuff up.

However, now that I've seen both Bush and Blair respond to the issue---and a couple more days have passed---I've decided to get a bit suspicious. Blair and his team did not go into what "fix" might mean in the UK, and Bush just got customarily pissed that anyone would question his tactics. It seems to me this president does not possess the character to entertain either criticism or objection. I think it is the main trait the left finds so dangerous about this guy. He sits there dumb and confused until he gets a message in his ear, and then starts talking, usually derogatorily about a person rather than an issue, eventually gets angry, and then lashes out. There are diagnoses for people like this...and I find it an unnerving kind of personality to be revealed in the most powerful person on earth.

Most of you reading this now subscribe online to Truthout. I hope you send them some money from time to time. (It's easy and you feel so much better.) Truthout sends so much stuff each day that I want to underline the article written yesterday by William Rivers Pitt about the Memo. You might have missed it or, like us, been very busy with daughter graduations and such. His essay is the best summary of the Downing Street Memo that I've seen...and even if you too are cautious about calling the memo the smoking gun or some kind of evidence of chicanery, I think it will do you good to read it...and save it to read again. Have a great weekend!

After Downing Street
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 09 June 2005

As to US assertions that Iraq possessed bombs, rockets and shells for poison agents, unmanned aerial vehicles for delivering biological and chemical weapons, nuclear weapon materials, sarin, tabun, mustard agent, precursor chemicals, VX nerve agent, anthrax, aflotoxins, ricin and surface-to-surface Al Hussein missiles, not one has so far been found. One vial of Strain B Botulinum toxin is found in the domestic refrigerator of an Iraqi scientist. It is ten years old. Hans Blix comments, "They wanted to come to the conclusion that there were weapons. Like the former days of the witch hunt, they are convinced that they exist. And if you see a black cat, well, that's evidence of the witch."
-- From David Hare's new play, Stuff Happens

Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Bush had already made the decision to invade. That's what the leaked secret British intelligence document now known as the Downing Street Minutes tells us from back in time to July of 2002, before discussion of an Iraq invasion had made its way anywhere near public discussion. The decision to invade Iraq had already been made in the summer of 2002, and in order to make that decision a reality, intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of invasion.

It is interesting. The occupation of Iraq has lasted more than 800 days, and debate over the invasion has been going on for more than a thousand days. In that time, revelation after revelation has been put forth exposing the lies and manipulation used by the Bush administration to make this war happen. The first accusations of Bush administration mendacity on this issue were revealed six months before the invasion took place, in an October 8, 2002, article by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay titled "Some Administration Officials Expressing Misgivings on Iraq."

"While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq," reads the article, "a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war. These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses - including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network - have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East."

"They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views," continues the article, "and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary. 'Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews. No one who was interviewed disagreed. None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. But many of them have long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and all spoke in similar terms about their unease with the way US political leaders are dealing with Iraq."

Since the publication of that article, we have learned about the Project for the New American Century, about its powerful advocates in Washington - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bolton among them - and about their plans from 2000 that centered around an invasion and occupation of Iraq, based upon whatever pretext was available, to establish a permanent military presence in the Mideast and to gain ultimate control of petroleum management in the region.

We have learned about the secretive Office of Special Plans and its deliberate manipulation of Iraq weapons intelligence, about deliberate pressure put on analysts in the CIA by powerful men like Dick Cheney to manufacture reports of an Iraqi threat that did not match the facts, we have heard the details of this deliberate manipulation from government insiders like Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Tom Maertens, Roger Cressey, Donald Kerrick, Greg Thielmann, Karen Kwiatkowski, Rand Beers and Joseph Wilson, whose wife's CIA career was shattered by the White House through the very breed of retribution those anonymous sources from the October 2002 article were worried about.

We have watched our government use the attacks of September 11 to terrorize the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq, we wrapped ourselves in plastic sheeting and duct tape while handling our mail with oven mitts so as not to be infected with the anthrax we were told was in the hands of Saddam Hussein, we were told that they knew the weapons were there, that they knew where the weapons were, we were told by Bush himself his January 2003 State of the Union address that the 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, one million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 munitions to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program were waiting in Iraq to be given to terrorists for use against us, and that this was the main reason, the central reason, the absolute fact which required immediate action.

We have seen all this and more, we have seen torture, we have seen murder, we have seen the grinding of a civilian population in Iraq that was no threat to us or anyone else, we have seen hundreds of billions of dollars funneled into the bank accounts of administration cronies under the camouflage of this "War on Terror," we have seen one thousand six hundred and eighty-four American soldiers die and be returned home in transfer tubes, we have seen ten times that number wounded grievously, and we have seen more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in their homes and on their streets, the uncounted dead whose innocent blood stains us all.

And now, after all that, it comes down to these Downing Street Minutes, to this small document released at the beginning of May by a British official looking to throw sand in Tony Blair's election hopes. After a roomful of Deep Throats and a dozen different kinds of Pentagon Papers were exposed before withering on the media vine, the Minutes now stand as irrefutable proof that the road to war in Iraq was paved, with absolute intent, with lies and deceit and misdirection and fraud.

For a time, it seemed as though these Minutes would join the rest of the Iraq revelations, discarded in the media gutter, run off the road by earth-shattering stories about Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton and Robert Blake and Martha Stewart and American Idol. Lately, and with a concerted push by activists and a number of members of the House of Representatives, the Downing Street Minutes are beginning to garner deserved and focused attention.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post wrote on June 8th that "After six weeks in the political wilderness, the Downing Street Memo yesterday finally burst into the White House - and into the headlines." USA Today reported on the same day that, "A simmering controversy over whether American media have ignored a secret British memo about how President Bush built his case for war with Iraq bubbled over into the White House on Tuesday."

Descriptions and condemnations of the Minutes have begun appearing in most of the major newspapers, and the document has become contentious fodder for debate on the cable and network news stations. White House apologists are out in force, and the spinners are spinning, but the simple facts of the matter dwarf the flaccid excuses and explanations petering out of the administration.

The Minutes were thrown into the faces of Bush and Blair during a joint press conference on June 7th. The two leaders were asked, "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?"

Bush replied, "Well, I - you know, I read kind of the characterizations 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. 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." The rest of his answer was a lame rehash of the old lies, that the decision wasn't made before the facts were in, that the facts weren't manipulated, that war was the last option. Bush was visibly angered by the question, and not long after, brought the press conference to an abrupt end.

The record is clear, the evidence piled before us, treachery after stacked treachery. Plenty of powerful people would like this document to go away, not excepting the folks in the news media, because the document provides a capstone exposure of just how flawed, biased, shabby and ultimately deadly their coverage of this issue has been. Don't doubt for a second that the scions of our journalistic realm would like the Minutes to fade, because as long as the document stands in the light, their complicity in this catastrophe is all too clear.

It isn't going away. A massive coalition of activist groups have come together to form the After Downing Street Coalition [link] , which seeks coverage of this issue in the media and accountability on this issue from Congress and the administration. Rep. John Conyers and 88 other House members have delivered a letter to Bush demanding answers, and nearly 200,000 Americans have signed their support for this letter. The number of signatures grows by the day.

This moment is described as the tipping point. Large majorities of Americans, in every poll, believe the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and the casualties thus far inflicted to be unacceptable. For the first time, the poll numbers show that a clear majority of the American people no longer believe that George W. Bush is keeping them safe. Bi-partisan coalitions are forming in Congress to demand that the US withdraw from Iraq and give that nation back to the people who live there, and those coalitions are edging towards majority-sized numbers. Legislation has been presented demanding withdrawal, and more is in the offing.

And now, the Minutes. Tomorrow, the Minutes. Every day, the Minutes, until there is a reckoning.


[< Back] [New Civilization News]



10 Jun 2005 @ 10:26 by jmarc : Hearsay

n. 1) Evidence told by a witness about which they do not know personally, but what others told him/her. 2) Opposing lawyer's objection to testimony when it appears that the witness violated the hearsay rule. 3) Gossip or scuttlebutt.  

10 Jun 2005 @ 13:58 by jerryvest : I fully agree that Truthout is an
outstanding news organization. I have sent in my contribution as well so that we can continue to get these great articles that report the news around the world. Seems that our conventional media are very intimidated by the Whitehouse, the "R's" and Rumsfeld and very reluctant to oppose them and to report the Truth.  

10 Jun 2005 @ 19:40 by Quinty @ : Hearsay?

Follow jmarc's logic and an incrimating letter becomes hearsay because the person reading it didn't write it. The Downing Street Memo was the minutes of a conversation taking place between Blair and his top advisors, including the head of MI 6 (the British equivalent of CIA) who had spoken earlier to top American officials. At the (to me) infamous press conference recently in which Blair and Bush brushed off the meeting minutes (in a manner which appeared patently rehearsed) neither denied its contents but rather obfuscated, and weasled, and twisted around its blatant incriminations by arguing that both Britain and the US went to the UN. Yes, in search of evidence to "fix" to the justification for attacking and invading Iraq. As Pitt argues, how can anyone still deny Bush didn't want to invade Iraq? I remember toward the end of the lead up when it became common among those of us who were appalled by the tragedy which was approaching to say that "Bush wouldn't take 'yes' for an answer." Since Saddam was constantly foiling Bush's propaganda campaign by complying with his demands. And, what's more, the UN wanted the inspections to continue.

True, the British sense of the word "fix" is merely to "attach." To "add." But that many Americans immediately responded with an American interpretation of the word reflects, mostly, our prior knowledge that the war was actually "fixed," as in the 1919 World Series. But the distinction remains irrelevant. Evidence was invented and attached to justify the war: however you define "fix." And the chicanery of the Bush and Blair administrations appear in other sentences as well in the minutes.

Why be so dogmatically partisan? Many, many years ago I understood the futility of linking my wagon to any political star. Especially a radical, right or left. (And Bush is most certainly quite radical.) For politicians will inevitably break your heart. Look at Nixon. Deep Throat was recently identified and the true believers are still squirming. "Governments cannot function if the chief executive," Chuck Colson recently told us, "cannot trust people who hold sensitive positions..." With that display of his fine moral sense one can see how Colson spent seven months in prison. Since he can't distinguish between national security issues and covering up a variety of crimes and felonies. Even more than thirty years later. But I'm sure Christ consoles him when he thinks of all the world's turmoils and sorrows. Why not submit to the truth, and let it go? Why be so dogmatically partisan, especially when so many at the top of your party are patently corrupt?

By the way, I think Conyers petition drive - last I heard - is around 500,000. And thanks for reminding me to contribute to Truthout.  

11 Jun 2005 @ 10:46 by jazzolog : Conyers Goes One Step Further
Thank you, gentlemen all, for the probing comments on all sides. This news has begun to manifest shortly after Quinty wrote his reply just above. There is scarcely any stop-the-presses response yet, but next week may get more interesting~~~

500,000 petition answers from George W. Bush on pre-war intelligence and the lead-up to Iraq War
by OfficialWire NewsDesk

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (OfficialWire) -- 06/10/05 -- On Thursday June 16, 2005, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of House Judiciary Committee, and other Democratic Members will hold a Democratic hearing to hear testimony concerning the 'Downing Street Minutes' and the efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

On May 1, 2005 a Sunday London Times article disclosed the details of a classified memo, also known as the Downing Street Minutes, recounting the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair that describes an American President already committed to going to war in the summer of 2002, despite contrary assertions to the public and the Congress. The minutes also describe apparent efforts by the Administration to manipulate intelligence data to justify the war. The June 16th hearing will attempt to answer the serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations and will further investigate the Administration's actions in the lead up to war with new documents that further corroborate the Downing Street memo.

Directly following the hearing, Rep. Conyers, Members of Congress, and concerned citizens plan to hand deliver to the White House the petition and signatures of over a half million Americans that have joined Rep. Conyers in demanding that President Bush answer questions about his secret plan for the Iraq war.

Joe Wilson, Former Ambassador and WMD Expert Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen American soldier and John Bonifaz, renowned constitutional lawyer are expected to provide testimony.


I also recommend this rather lengthy blog item from David Corn that covers some of the same ground I was attempting. He's Washington editor of The Nation, and author of the book The Lies Of George W. Bush. {link:}  

11 Jun 2005 @ 11:45 by jstarrs : (I'm) peach meant odors?
...of course not.


If one president can be impeached for fellatio, why not another for screwing the country? Smells good to me.


12 Jun 2005 @ 02:43 by Quinty @ : The scandal broadens
Now the briefing paper accompanying the July 23 meeting has been published by the {link:,,2087-1650822,00.html|London Times}. Over there it is front page news, even though the Times belongs to Rupert Murdock.

It appears Blair may have a "deep throat" on his hands. Thank god.


Since so many articles become archived quickly, for the sake of history (which we do honor here at NCN) I'll reprint the whole link.


The Sunday Times
June 12, 2005

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
Michael Smith

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.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003.

The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure, particularly on the American president, because of the damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way to justify it.

There has been a growing storm of protest in America, created by last month’s publication of the minutes in The Sunday Times. A host of citizens, including many internet bloggers, have demanded to know why the Downing Street memo (often shortened to “the DSM” on websites) has been largely ignored by the US mainstream media.

The White House has declined to respond to a letter from 89 Democratic congressmen asking if it was true — as Dearlove told the July meeting — that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” in Washington.

The Downing Street memo burst into the mainstream American media only last week after it was raised at a joint Bush-Blair press conference, forcing the prime minister to insist that “the facts were not fixed in any shape or form at all”.

John Conyers, the Democratic congressman who drafted the letter to Bush, has now written to Dearlove asking him to say whether or not it was accurate that he believed the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. He also asked the former MI6 chief precisely when Bush and Blair had agreed to invade Iraq and whether it is true they agreed to “manufacture” the UN ultimatum in order to justify the war.

He and other Democratic congressmen plan to hold their own inquiry this Thursday with witnesses including Joe Wilson, the American former ambassador who went to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium ore for its nuclear weapons programme.

Frustrated at the refusal by the White House to respond to their letter, the congressmen have set up a website — — to collect signatures on a petition demanding the same answers.

Conyers promised to deliver it to Bush once it reached 250,000 signatures. By Friday morning it already had more than 500,000 with as many as 1m expected to have been obtained when he delivers it to the White House on Thursday., another website set up as a result of the memo, is calling for a congressional committee to consider whether Bush’s actions as depicted in the memo constitute grounds for impeachment.

It has been flooded with visits from people angry at what they see as media self-censorship in ignoring the memo. It claims to have attracted more than 1m hits a day., another website, even offered $1,000 (about £550) to any journalist who quizzed Bush about the memo’s contents, although the Reuters reporter who asked the question last Tuesday was not aware of the reward and has no intention of claiming it.

The complaints of media self-censorship have been backed up by the ombudsmen of The Washington Post, The New York Times and National Public Radio, who have questioned the lack of attention the minutes have received from their organisations.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.  

12 Jun 2005 @ 09:15 by jazzolog : "Follow The Money"---Or NOT
Speaking of Deep Throat, don't miss Frank Rich's "review" this morning of mainsteam media's coverage of his unveiling~~~

The New York Times
June 12, 2005

Don't Follow the Money

The morning the Deep Throat story broke, the voice on my answering machine was as raspy as Hal Holbrook's. "I just want you to remember that I wrote 'Follow the money,' " said my caller. "I want to know if anybody will give me credit. Watch for the accuracy of the media!"

The voice belonged to my friend William Goldman, who wrote the movie "All the President's Men." His words proved more than a little prescient. As if on cue, journalists everywhere - from The New York Times to The Economist to The Washington Post itself - would soon start attributing this classic line of dialogue to the newly unmasked Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt. But the line was not in Woodward and Bernstein's book or in The Post's Watergate reportage or in Bob Woodward's contemporaneous notes. It was the invention of the author of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man" and "The Princess Bride."

This confusion of Hollywood's version of history with the genuine article would quickly prove symptomatic of the overall unreality of the Deep Throat coverage. Was Mr. Felt a hero or a villain? Should he "follow the money" into a book deal, and if so, how would a 91-year-old showing signs of dementia either write a book or schmooze about it with Larry King? How did Vanity Fair scoop The Post? How does Robert Redford feel about it all? Such were the questions that killed time for a nation awaiting the much-heralded feature mediathon, the Michael Jackson verdict.

Richard Nixon and Watergate itself, meanwhile, were often reduced to footnotes. Three years ago, on Watergate's 30th anniversary, an ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans couldn't explain what the scandal was, and no one was racing to enlighten them this time around. Vanity Fair may have taken the trouble to remind us that Watergate was a web of crime yielding the convictions and guilty pleas of more than 30 White House and Nixon campaign officials, but few others did. Watergate has gone back to being the "third-rate burglary" of Nixon administration spin. It is once again being covered up.

Not without reason. Had the scandal been vividly resuscitated as the long national nightmare it actually was, it would dampen all the Felt fun by casting harsh light on our own present nightmare. "The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before" was how the former Nixon speech writer William Safire put it on this page almost nine months ago. The current administration, a second-term imperial presidency that outstrips Nixon's in hubris by the day, leads the attack, trying to intimidate and snuff out any Woodwards or Bernsteins that might challenge it, any media proprietor like Katharine Graham or editor like Ben Bradlee who might support them and any anonymous source like Deep Throat who might enable them to find what Carl Bernstein calls "the best obtainable version of the truth."

The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1 {link:,,2087-1593607,00.html} . Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon .

This is the kind of lapdog news media the Nixon White House cherished. To foster it, Nixon's special counsel, Charles W. Colson, embarked on a ruthless program of intimidation that included threatening antitrust action against the networks if they didn't run pro-Nixon stories. Watergate tapes and memos make Mr. Colson, who boasted of "destroying the old establishment," sound like the founding father of today's blogging lynch mobs. He exulted in bullying CBS to cut back its Watergate reports before the '72 election. He enlisted NBC in pro-administration propaganda by browbeating it to repackage 10-day-old coverage of Tricia Nixon's wedding as a prime-time special. It was the Colson office as well that compiled a White House enemies list that included journalists who had the audacity to question administration policies.

Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes. "I want kids to look up to heroes," Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC's "Today" show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring "the confidence of the president of the United States." Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times's Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The "Today" host, Matt Lauer, didn't mention any of this - or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson - and he was ubiquitous - ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a "former White House counsel."

Had anyone been so rude (or professional) as to recount Mr. Colson's sordid past, or to raise the question of whether he was a hero or a traitor, the genealogical line between his Watergate-era machinations and those of his present-day successors would have been all too painfully clear. The main difference is that in the Nixon White House, the president's men plotted behind closed doors. The current administration is now so brazen it does its dirty work in plain sight.

In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book. These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek. Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.

At other times the new Colsons top the old one. Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind). President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

The journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story. Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company  

12 Jun 2005 @ 12:40 by jmarc : ok there were no WMD's
never were, never will be. Those kurds all just got a bad case of the flu, as did all of those Iranians. And it wasn't the germans and french who sold those non existent weapons to Saddam, it was Rumsfeld. Yeah, that's it. Nothing to do with freeing an enslaved mass of people either. We just wanted the oil that they have so that we'd have, err, cheap oil. Yeah. Meanwhile, next door in Iran...(via Chenkoff)

A recent public opinion survey of Iranians, conducted by The Tarrance Group, surprisingly found that a vast majority (74%) of Iranians feel America's presence in the Middle East will increase the probability of democracy in their own country. The survey, which was the first of its kind, found, two-thirds of Iranians believe that regime change in Iraq has been a positive for both neighboring countries: with 66% believing that it served Iran's national interests, while 65% believed the Iraqi people will, in the long-run, be better off.

Commissioned by the Iran Institute for Democracy, the survey discovered that a solid majority (65%) of Iranian adults consider fundamental change in Iran's system of government, especially its Constitution, a must to bring freedom and more opportunities to their homeland.

There's one country whose citizens are desperate to burst out of the Axis of Evil shell. Let's hope that this year will be the year. Imagine that, an almost unbroken chain of democracy from the Mediterranean to Central Asia.

Well, we won't helping them any time soon. No, we've got to keep trying to stack the courts so that we can get a judge to impeach Bush. Oh, that's not how impeachment works? You saying we need a 2/3 majority of opposition first in the house? Is that a fact? Sorry, us republicans can't hear facts. Linda Lovelace, where are you when the democratic party needs you!  

12 Jun 2005 @ 12:53 by jazzolog : Our "Presence"
Isn't that nice jmarc? Almost like God descending from the clouds to smite the heathen horde. I am so shocked and awed.

And just think what America now pushes as---what did you call it?---democracy. Oh yes, the probability is strong for our democracy to increase with our presence. I love this spin! The probability is very strong for the presence of McDonald's almost immediately. Care for a Coke?

Yes, they want it. I won't deny that. And have it they should...along with the obesity. Here's the rub ol' pal: Americans struggle with the ancient dilemma about the End justifying the Means. We used to have checks and balances for that problem, and all sides rejoiced in the fact. How honest we were in those days! What means were used to get our presence to Bagdad?  

12 Jun 2005 @ 14:33 by Quinty @ : Tarrance Group

Well, I smelled something a little off and decided to snoop around. If you do a simple Google search you will find much on the Tarrance Group. They are private Republican campaign consultants who helped out Bush/Cheney in '04. They wouldn't be biased, now, would they? Naw. Honesty is a hallmark of everyone associated with the Bush White House. And, of course, there's the president himself.

This is from "The Hill" - a newspaper which covers Congressional affairs.

The Tarrance Group
201 N. Union St., Suite 410
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 684-6688

"The Tarrance Group uses opinion-based research to formulate strategic advice for Republican political candidates, special-interest groups and major corporations. The firm has represented Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)"

The Tarrance Group also discovered that a vast majority of Americans believe public radio has a leftwing bias. Maybe. Maybe not. But it does seem odd to me that their results always seem to support Republican objectives. Such as "cleaning out" NPR. Or justifying our presence in Iraq and the Middle East. Fish around in Google and you'll find the same amazing fidelity.

Now, I can understand why Bush, Cheney, et al lie. (Sort of.) But why should the rest of us buy into their lies? What good does it do us except perhaps bolster a way of life we many have chosen? One which puts number one first? "If you going to be a square you ain't going to get nowhere," as a guy I once knew used to say, half cynically and half ironically. (I think he eventually leaned more toward the former.)

Truth? Honesty? Fairness? How "square!"

Now, would someone like to deal with the confussion relating to the uses of WMD above? Like remind our Republican friend that what happened in the early eighties is quite different from what was happening in the early 2000s? And that while Saddam was well stocked with WMD way back then his supply had petered out by 2000. And if there was any doubt the UN would have been happy to clarify if only we had allowed them in 2003? And that when it comes to moral outrage - let's forget the motleys who have comprised our "coalition of the willing," some of whom are worse even than Saddam - Rumsfeld himself reassured Saddam way back then that his gassing of the Kurds was an internal matter and of no interest to the United States. Those are facts. And the fact is that Bush lied and lied and lied. As well as everyone else in his administration. Now Blair appears to have a Deep Throat. Wouldn't it be nice if one emerged out of the Bush administration?  

14 Jun 2005 @ 11:37 by jazzolog : Downing Street I & II, Let's Review
Most of the major world newspapers and sites now have caught up with the Downing Street Memo(s) situation. Front page stories by the Washington Post and London Times over the weekend made sure of it. Today and yesterday the other papers are running summaries of the history. The San Francisco Gate has come on board finally today with a good one~~~

while The New York Times has a fine example of the what's-new-about-all-this approach~~~

The Washington Post gave the best summary yesterday, I thought, and also introduced us to Karl Rove's pick of the point man for this play~~~

He's a guy named David Almacy, and all the papers are calling him "a White House spokesman." I hate it when someone called a "spokesman" is paraded out in front of the press to answer for the big wig, who's inside having lunch. Almost always these guys are complete unknowns whose spiel we're all supposed to swallow as gospel. Last month the Post identified Almacy as the webmaster of the White House internet site. " the new 'Internet and E-Communications Director' at the White House... Almacy, 34, grew up in Bethesda, and most recently was senior adviser to the deputy secretary of education. Before that, he worked for GovTech solutions, a company that specializes in building government Web sites." Great! A real foreign policy/defense expert! Rove sends him out to defend the Administration's position on the Second Memo, which charges because Bush had no post-war plan the Brits were hesitating to get on board the plot to rub out Saddam.

So what does Almacy say? Karl's approach on this one: We did too have a post-war plan!

OK now, let's back up a minute. I thought Bush said, in response to the First Memo, that "nothing could be further from the truth" that he had wanted to wage war on Iraq from the moment he had enough power to do so. Never mind talk about meetings with Blair months in advance to get some agreement and fix the intelligence. Is the spin Bush didn't want to attack Saddam, but in case he had to they'd better plan it all out...including post-war nationbuilding? Is that how it goes?

What about the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the phrase especially invented to make us all war fevered? What about the mushroom clouds...nuclear bombs could be dispatched from Bagdad and destroy us in minutes? What about the Niger connection? Bush says now it was bad intelligence, just one of those things. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of people have to die because of these little screwups.

So do we understand that because of an urgency to FIX the intelligence, the CIA went out and made mistakes? I suppose that could happen. Do I hear that John Bolton was central to getting that intelligence about Niger, and that he fought with and fired people who refused to give him what he wanted? Is he the man who provided the bad intelligence? How will Bush punish him then?

Truthout is sending us to a site that's new to me. It's called and it has pdf files of all the British documents. An excellent source~~~

Finally, let me refer you to this searing essay on the Memos by Eric Margolis. He's a foreign correspondent, defense analyst and columnist. He is author of War at The Top of The World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet. He is also the Toronto Sun’s contributing foreign editor.  

14 Jun 2005 @ 15:21 by martha : Well all I know for a fact is
my nephew was pulled out of college 6 weeks before his first term ended to train for Iraq. He is in the National guard, 18 and is now in Kuwait for more training before being deployed for Iraq in 3 weeks. So while we might point fingers at all the lies told getting us into this war, the fact remains that we are still in Iraq and young men and women are being killed every day over there. Personally I think the president should be impeached or start up the draft so both his daughters can go over to Iraq to perpetuate the idea of Iraq Freedom. Then he might suddenly change his tune.  

14 Jun 2005 @ 22:53 by Quinty @ : Some exploratory thoughts
on the subject.

Jenna and Barbara over there? That's a laugh. And it could possibly even give their parents some concern. But for a man like George, for whom even Yale was a gift, taking care of his own comes naturally. Right?

About this sane and lovely war:

1. There is violence in Iraq because we are there.

2. There will be violence in Iraq if we leave. Probably a civil war.

3. Whether we are there or not there will be violence. Enormous violence.

4. Has it become merely a matter now of the US saving face? For no politician (Democrat or Republican) would ever want to take the heat for "losing Iraq." The pious flagwavers would say: “Look at the lives that were lost, for nothing! Because those who pulled out didn’t have the heart to stay the course! I call that treason!”

But Iraq is lost!

5. What do most Americans want in Iraq?

A peaceful democratic pro American Iraq which supinely loves us and quietly abides by our naturally superior ways. Yes, an acquiescent Iraq which doesn’t object to a US military presence, our corporate habits or life skills and which will forever be grateful to the United States. Supporting us in all our endeavors.

6. Why are we there?

Hegemony. For permanent US military bases. For energy resources. Because the Mideast is an important plumb. I understand that our embassy in Baghdad will cost about a billion bucks. Did I hear that correctly? A "billion?"

Okay. Nobody wants to "lose" Iraq. We would all very much prefer it if the Iraqis began to practice a parliamentary liberal democracy and the only violence occurred when the back benchers shouted at the PM.

It won't be that way. They don’t want us there. And what’s more they know we can not stay and that their children and great great grandchildren will be there. Because it is their home. Sound familiar?

The violence will be there a good long time with no end in sight. Nor does anyone (none that I know of, which doesn't mean much) see how it will all end. But they don’t want us there. We have punched our fist into a hornet’s nest.

But we can at least stop the killing of American soldiers if we pull out. We can cease provoking the Arabic world with our unwelcome presence.

Many Americans - assuming our superiority - forget that it is we who are there and that they are not here. That it is the West that has drawn borders, installed dictators, manipulated and robbed and betrayed the Arabic world for more than a century. I know of no Arab nation which has ever drawn a border on the North American continent or which has promoted a coup installing a leadership agreeable to it. Nor do tens of thousands of troops, with an overwhelming military force, stalk through New York or Chicago or Washington DC.

Most of all, if we get out, we can save American lives.

So what can we do? Maybe this will work:

In a major propaganda campaign - yes, propaganda: the idea has to be sold to the American people so there won't be a fierce blame game after the US pulls out - we let the Iraqis know that having conferred the blessings of freedom and democracy on them it is now up to them. That there is only so much we can do. For we can not stay there forever. That it is only reasonable that they manage their own affairs and world in a peaceful manner. And that if they feel they need help we will be glad to persuade the international community to assist them.

We place the entire responsibility for order, self government, and social stability in Iraq upon the Iraqis and whoever *they* desire to help them: other nearby Arabic countries, for example. And we explain to them that the US can no longer sustain such a high cost in our own blood and treasure and that we fully intend to leave. And soon. That they better make haste for the mothers and fathers of our young soldiers can no longer endure seeing them come home in body bags. That they must establish their own security. And this could include a timeline.

We could also begin to show some competency in how we help the Iraqis establish their new state. By pumping resources for reconstruction into the hands of the Iraqis themselves, giving them numerous jobs, instead of relying on foreign "mercenaries." Surely there must be an Arabic Bechtel or Halliburton in the region which can do the basic work? And why do truck drivers have to come from abroad? If more Iraqis had jobs they may no longer have the free time to kill Americans. And each other.

7. We might not like the form of government the Iraqis finally decide upon. It may be Islamic fundamentalist. It may not be pro-American. But do we have any real choice in the matter unless we plan to keep our troops in the midst of the iraqi general population forever? Do we have a right to dictate such fundamentally ultra-national choices?

8. As many of us warned many years ago we should not have gone there in the first place. Has the issue become one of merely saving face? Do the Neocons still dream of a compliant peaceful hegemony in the region? Of an Iraq which happily follows our lead? Which will tolerate our military adventures in Arabic lands? Which will support the US if it decides to go into Iran?

This is fantastic dreaming. Unless, of course, a puppet government is established.

If the Bush administration, or the one following it, forces the issue and keeps the troops there with an ongoing daily loss of life we should all know where this will domestically lead. it smells of Vietnam, doesn’t it? But the odor in this case is even worse, far more cynical, isn’t it? And totally without excuse.  

14 Jun 2005 @ 23:00 by Quinty @ : Propaganda?

Maybe too cynical a word. Education, preparation, acclimation. Strong support based upon a clear understanding of why the US must pull out. Unless the casualties keep climbing and climbing for nothing but pride. (Or imperial hubris.) Because to be politically palatable the American people have to support a pullout. And they have to understand why. Or else it will be the defeat of those who arranged for the pullout, giving power to the hawks, the Neocons, all those old conservatives who hate to see the US lose a war.

Makes sense?  

15 Jun 2005 @ 15:18 by jazzolog : Meet Aspiemom
Quinty's comments yesterday are a brilliant analysis in my opinion. I feel so grateful he chooses to ruminate in here!

But now, allow me to present one of the most endearing personalities I've encountered out in the wilds of the political message boards. She also appears online where Asperger's and autism might be discussed. She has granted me permission to copy her comment from Monday~~~

"Thursday , June 16th, 2005 is when progress for democracy will finally begin. The Internet has given us a VIABLE tool to pursue truth and justice without fear, and frankly, without marching! I have a bad back , I don't think I could march anymore. My mouse is doing all my marching for me.... I truly believe it is a day WE THE PEOPLE will never forget. I have learned the hard way that our American journalists do not know or do not care. This has snapped be back , NOT into reality, but into a surreality that I have never experienced before. When I was 13 in the 1970's, I wrote an editorial comment about Nixon and the Vietnam War. It got published in a major newspaper! Even during Nixon's Administration , I , as a teenager got published ! I had fear of the Nixonians, but not of my free American press. Today I fear the "traditional" American press, it certainly is not free. Yesterday, June 12, 2005, when I called newsrooms of my three local TV news affiliates ABC, CBS, & NBC. none, I repeat, NOBODY who answered knew what the Downing Street Memo is... one hung up on me. I realized my only recourse was the Internet, besides copying reams of papers to stuff in envelopes and spending lots of postage to mail them to the TV local news affiliates for ABC, NBC, & CBS. So I got on all three's websites and I emailed them the pertinent information about Downing Street Memo with all the relevant links. I was reporting to the American Press yesterday!

"What has our beloved United States of AMERICA come to?! We MUST remain always vigilant during the late hours of the night and into the wee hours of the morning to keep the INTERNET always a free publicly accessible tool for truth and justice to prevail.
"Let love rule my heart, common sense rule my brain, peace-loving leaders rule my physical being, and God rule my soul... aspiemom"  

17 Jun 2005 @ 09:36 by jazzolog : While The Senate Brought Up The Memo
U.S. Democrats cite British memo in Bolton fight
Vicki Allen for Reuters

Jun. 16, 2005 - U.S. Senate Democrats rejected a Republican compromise over John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador on Thursday and cited a British report backing their view that the Bush administration hyped intelligence on Iraq before the 2003 invasion.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, scheduled a procedural vote on Monday to try to break the deadlock. Democrats said they had enough votes to stall the nomination until the White House turns over information they demanded on Bolton, but Republicans hoped they would be viewed as obstructionists.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries' weapons programs, a key issue in the long-stalled nomination.

"All over the news the last few days has been concerns about weapons of mass destruction by virtue of the memo that was discovered," the Nevada Democrat said, referring to the so-called "Downing Street memo."

The July 2002 memo, prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said President Bush had already decided to invade Iraq and intelligence was being made to fit that policy.

"Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly," Reid said, adding that it "is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence."

Bush and his aides, including Bolton, justified the invasion by saying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the United States, but no such weapons have been found.

Bolton met at the Capitol with top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who told him he "needs to convince Vice President (Dick) Cheney to provide the information" they sought on preparations for testimony Bolton gave Congress on Syria's weapons and on classified National Security Agency intercepts, according to a statement from Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.

Bolton, the top U.S. diplomat for arms control and a fierce critic of the United Nations, is a favorite of conservatives and failure to get him confirmed would be a setback for Bush.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "some of the Democratic leaders who have already voted against John Bolton are not interested in a reasonable compromise. They are simply interested in continuing with stall tactics."

Republicans would need to pick up two more Democrats in the 100-seat chamber to get the 60 votes required to end debate on Bolton and go to a confirmation vote, if they kept all of the senators they had in a previous vote.

If they can get beyond the procedural hurdle, Republicans, who hold a 55-45 Senate majority, are confident they will have the simple majority needed to confirm Bolton.

Bush could appoint Bolton during Congress' July 4th holiday recess if the Senate remains deadlocked. That appointment would last through the end of this Senate session in 2006.

But a recess appointment would be viewed as a political retreat. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key Bolton backer, said he had not heard that suggested by administration officials.

In a bid to get more support, Senate Republicans tried to act as intermediaries to get some of the information on Bolton that Democrats are demanding, but the administration has refused to turn over.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said on Wednesday he confirmed with U.S. Intelligence Director John Negroponte that key officials known to have had confrontations with Bolton over intelligence assessments were not mentioned in National Security Agency intercepts Bolton had sought.

Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said that should answer Democrats' questions on whether Bolton sought the intercepts to spy on or punish bureaucratic rivals. Critics have accused Bolton of bullying subordinates.

But Democrats said they still did not have internal e-mails and memos leading up to testimony Bolton gave on Syria's weapons, and the information on the intercepts was inadequate.

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved.  

17 Jun 2005 @ 09:43 by jazzolog : House Members Banged On Bush's Door
Democrat Urges Inquiry on Bush, Iraq
- By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, June 16, 2005

(06-16) 19:08 PDT WASHINGTON, (AP) --
Amid new questions about President Bush's drive to topple Saddam Hussein, several House Democrats urged lawmakers on Thursday to conduct an official inquiry to determine whether the president intentionally misled Congress.

At a public forum where the word "impeachment" loomed large, Exhibit A was the so-called Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government to The Sunday Times of London a month and a half ago. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the event.

Recounting a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's national security team, the memo says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam.

"The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," one of the participants was quoted as saying at the meeting, which took place just after British officials returned from Washington.

The president "may have deliberately deceived the United States to get us into a war," Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "Was the president of the United States a fool or a knave?"

The Democratic congressmen were relegated to a tiny room in the bottom of the Capitol and the Republicans who run the House scheduled 11 major votes to coincide with the afternoon event.

"We have not been told the truth," Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son was killed in Baghdad a year ago, told the Democrats. "If this administration doesn't have anything to hide, they should be down here testifying."

The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates."

Conyers and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate later Thursday when they hand-delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the Downing Street memo. When Conyers couldn't get in, an anti-war demonstrator shouted, "Send Bush out!" Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions at the gate and took them into the West Wing.

"Quite frankly, evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the president has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a president has to make, going to war," Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said earlier at the event on Capitol Hill.

Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, a point that Rangel underscored by saying he's already been through two impeachments. He referred to the impeachment of President Clinton for an affair with a White House intern and of President Nixon for Watergate, even though Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment.

Conyers pointed to statements by Bush in the run-up to invasion that war would be a last resort. "The veracity of those statements has — to put it mildly — come into question," he said.

Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson said, "We are having this discussion today because we failed to have it three years ago when we went to war."

"It used to be said that democracies were difficult to mobilize for war precisely because of the debate required," Wilson said, going on to say the lack of debate in this case allowed the war to happen.

Wilson wrote a 2003 newspaper opinion piece criticizing the Bush administration's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. After the piece appeared someone in the Bush administration leaked the identity of Wilson's wife as a CIA operative, exposing her cover.

Wilson has said he believes the leak was retaliation for his critical comments. The Justice Department is investigating.

John Bonifaz, a lawyer and co-founder of a new group called, said the lack of interest by congressional Republicans in the Downing Street memo is like Congress during Nixon's presidency saying "we don't want" the Watergate tapes.

©2005 Associated Press  

24 Jun 2005 @ 22:15 by Quinty @ : Bush wouldn't take "yes" for an answer -

Many of us can recall that as Bush pressed the issue Saddam always complied: a desperate man's attempts to avoid disaster. But Bush wouldn't take "yes" for an answer. There had to be a war and an occupation of Iraq. They would greet us with kisses and flowers. Democracy would bloom in the desert and because Americans are so naturally superior we would be loved.... It would be a "cakewalk." And, of course, there was the oil, Israel, the fat ripe plum of the Middle East....

The Real News in the Downing Street Memos
by Michael Smith

{link:,0,6044694,print.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions|LA Times}
It is now nine months since I obtained the first of the "Downing Street memos," thrust into my hand by someone who asked me to meet him in a quiet watering hole in London for what I imagined would just be a friendly drink.

At the time, I was defense correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, and a staunch supporter of the decision to oust Saddam Hussein. The source was a friend. He'd given me a few stories before but nothing nearly as interesting as this.

The six leaked documents I took away with me that night were to change completely my opinion of the decision to go to war and the honesty of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush.

They focused on the period leading up to the Crawford, Texas, summit between Blair and Bush in early April 2002, and were most striking for the way in which British officials warned the prime minister, with remarkable prescience, what a mess post-war Iraq would become. Even by the cynical standards of realpolitik, the decision to overrule this expert advice seemed to be criminal.

The second batch of leaks arrived in the middle of this year's British general election, by which time I was writing for a different newspaper, the Sunday Times. These documents, which came from a different source, related to a crucial meeting of Blair's war Cabinet on July 23, 2002. The timing of the leak was significant, with Blair clearly in electoral difficulties because of an unpopular war.

I did not then regard the now-infamous memo — the one that includes the minutes of the July 23 meeting — as the most important. My main article focused on the separate briefing paper for those taking part, prepared beforehand by Cabinet Office experts.

It said that Blair agreed at Crawford that "the UK would support military action to bring about regime change." Because this was illegal, the officials noted, it was "necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action."

But Downing Street had a "clever" plan that it hoped would trap Hussein into giving the allies the excuse they needed to go to war. It would persuade the U.N. Security Council to give the Iraqi leader an ultimatum to let in the weapons inspectors.

Although Blair and Bush still insist the decision to go to the U.N. was about averting war, one memo states that it was, in fact, about "wrong-footing" Hussein into giving them a legal justification for war.

British officials hoped the ultimatum could be framed in words that would be so unacceptable to Hussein that he would reject it outright. But they were far from certain this would work, so there was also a Plan B.

American media coverage of the Downing Street memo has largely focused on the assertion by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British foreign intelligence, that war was seen as inevitable in Washington, where "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

But another part of the memo is arguably more important. It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the U.S. had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B.

Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.

British government figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that although virtually none were used in March and April, an average of 10 tons a month were dropped between May and August.

But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate. They didn't provide the excuse Bush and Blair needed. So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war.

The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.

In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.

The way in which the intelligence was "fixed" to justify war is old news.

The real news is the shady April 2002 deal to go to war, the cynical use of the U.N. to provide an excuse, and the secret, illegal air war without the backing of Congress.

Michael Smith writes on defense issues for the Sunday Times of London.

© 2005 LA Times  

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