Saturday, June 18, 2005

Why Care about the Downing Street Memo?

There are three major issues brought up in the DSM that I think are worthy of public hearing. These are:

1.The statement that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of military action. This really sounds as if Bush and the hawks were aware that the war wasn't very justifiable, so they publicized what they wanted to push their end. It even alludes to outright lying. The only way we'll ever know about that is a true investigation.

2."Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." The Bush adminin. knew the justification was weak, and that there were bigger threats to our national security, but they chose to go into Iraq. (Remember Richard Clarke and his assertion that Rumsfled wanted to strike Iraq back in 9/2001?) This should also be investigated.

3. "...but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.” This sickens me. They wanted to go to war based on a timeline of political gain? Tell that to the families of the approx. 1800 (as of today) soldiers who bravely gave their lives. (Not to mention the untold thousands of Iraqi civilians.) This HAS to be investigated.

There are a lot more issues the memo brings up, including questions of post-war planning, and the fact that the Bush admin. was privately saying one thing and telling another story publicly at the same time. (Some like to call that "lying to the American People.") Will these and the other statements hold up to strong legal and public scrutiny? I'm not sure. But the only way to find out is to get that strong scrutiny. A true Congressional investigation is in order.

The point has also been made that Conyers is leading the Democrats into oblivion, presumably since nothing will come of the DSM. I will admit, I don't truly think this will lead to an impeachment of Bush. But why is the White House so scared of it? This admin. has never been interested in justifying their claims, true, but they've ignored Conyers' letter signed by 122 congressmen, and the Republicans in the House scheduled 11 major votes to coincide with Conyers' forum. Bush's little pat dismissal of the whole thing when standing with Tony Blair the other day did him no favors. Especially in a news cycle dominated by reminders of Watergate.

So I'll keep arguing to get the issue heard. The national news medias basically blew it off in May when the story broke in the Sunday Times in London, and only recently have picked up steam in covering it. This memo and its allegations should be investigated thoroughly, not dropped because the news media is onto a new trial or missing person story.

Related reading:

The entire Downing Street Memo
The Sunday Times article, May 1
CNN article, June 16th
Why Care?
Conyers letter
Teflon Dubya, Did I Say That Out Loud?


Sluggo said...

I don't think you can get far on his use of the word 'fixed'. An American might use the word in the sense of 'made up' but not a Brit. Besides, the fact that it goes unremarked upon when they are contemplating getting in bed with us for an action they are very aware will be unpopular is telling.

Nothing in the memo, which is, after all, the subjective opinion of an ally who spent a few days here, is going to impress anyone who believes the war was justified and appropriate. For those who don't, nothing is going to satisfy them.

As far as the political timing is concerned, it may be ugly, but it's nothing new or, really, inappropriate as politics has always been a consideration for war planning. All the way back to Lincoln urging McClellan to provide him with a victory as cover for the Emancipation Proclamation.

The fact that this is a snapshot of the run-up to the war and not a 'fixed' portrait of the Administration's thinking is evident in the fact that despite what it says, Blair and Powell did convince W to go to the UN in the end. To me, this was a tragic mistake, but that's the way it turned out.

The criticism of the lack of post-war preparation, obviously, turned out to be justified, even though the writer of the memo was not in a very good position to know it would be.

I agree, Sharon, that the memo should be investigated. I think it's typical of a kind of tone-deafness of the administration that they don't say the same thing. The sooner it's dealt with openly and aggressively, in my opinion, the sooner it goes away.

Janet said...

Thanks for the funny story, and the birthday wishes!:)

Sharon GR said...

You may be right that nothing in the memo will impress anyone who believes the war was justified and appropriate. But I hate to think so little of people. I expect if more people were aware of the zeitgeist of the administration to rush the US to the war, they may realize that the decision to go to war wasn't made based on reliable facts but was decided well in advance.

By the same tolken, if our troops or inspectors had found the WMD Bush told us was pointed at the US, I would have shut up about my disagreement with this war that very day. But I'm still talking.

You're right, if the memo is a whole lotta hype about nothing, the administration should be ready and willing to see an investigation through. So why are they not?

Sluggo, can you explain why you say going to the UN was a tragic mistake? That's an interesting comment and I'd like to hear more.

Sluggo said...

Well, as far as an investigation is concerned, what is there to investigate? The memo pretty much speaks for itself. People with differing views will interpret it differently. Will they try to subpeona the British officials and ask them what they meant?

If, at the point when this memo was written, there wasn't serious planning underway for a war, the administration would have been derelict in it's duty. But don't forget, W did go to the U.N. And Saddam had the option, right up to the first bomb dropping, of complying with the U.N. Had he done so, there would have been no war, no matter what the desires or intentions of the administration. Unfortunately, he was convinced, by the French, Germans and Russians, that he didn't have to come clean.

I think the seeking U.N. sanction for the war was a mistake because I still believe the WMD were there. Clinton believed it. Albright believed it. Biden, Christopher, Carter. Ted farookin' Kennedy believed it. The CIA, the State Department, the NSA believed it. The Brits, the Germans and the French believed it. And they truely were in a position to know. The Egyptians believed it, as did the Jordanians. Needless to say the Isaelis believed it.

What the four or five months of playing diplomacy at the U.N. accomplished was this: the WMD, which are useless against a nuclear power, could be hidden or moved to Syria, the insurgency could be planned, political resistance organizes in the U.S. and paperwork disappears.

Remove WMD entirely from the equation and I still believe it was the right war at the right time. We can go into that, too, if you like.

As to why the administration isn't aggressively pursuing throwing light on the memos? What can I tell you? Rove is supposed to be an evil genius, running a flawless operation. The truth is, they can be idiotic as any other administration. I think it's a mistake. They, apparently, have their reasons. We'll have to wait for the memoirs. What I don't believe is that they are afraid of them.

Sharon, I appreciate your courtesy and interest in another point of view.

Sharon GR said...

On the use of "fixed"- I've heard that a couple of times, that the use is different to the British. However, it's not: According to Media Matters it's the same as in the US. On, Michael Smith (the reporter who first broke the story in the London Times) is quoted as telling the Washington Post:
" There are a number of people asking about 'fixed' and its meaning. This is a real joke. I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed, as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something, you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed...the head of MI-6 has just been to Washington. He has just talked with George Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. That translates in clearer terms as the intelligence was being cooked to match what the administration wanted it to say to justify invading Iraq."

"Fixed" is fixed, on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the intelligence upon which we based our involvement should be viewed in the light of them being somehow doctored to be- or at least sold as- proof that this invasion must take place. The whole African yellowcake uranim affair is a prime example.

I think there is no way they could not go to the UN in this situation. The claim was that Sadaam was defying the UN with his WMD plans was a big point here. The US had to ask for their support. During that period, Iraq did (briefly) let UN inspectors back into the country. Yes, there were four years there when no one was watching and evidence could have certainly been moved- Then we should have followed those trails instead of focusing solely on Iraq.

We may have to agree to disagree. But it is important to hear both sides of these issues. Thanks for your comments!