June 5, 2005
-- by Gary Boatwright
Part 1 of the N.Y. Review of Books article covers the basics of the Downing Street Memo. Part 2 provides some fascinating background and analysis.
Saddam Hussein threw a monkey wrench in Bush's plans to invade and occupy Iraq when he admitted the inspectors:
Vice President Cheney could have expected no worse. Having decided to travel down "the UN route," the Americans and British would now need a second resolution to gain the necessary approval to attack Iraq. Worse, Saddam frustrated British and American hopes, as articulated by Blair in the July 23 meeting, that he would simply refuse to admit the inspectors and thereby offer the allies an immediate casus belli. Instead, hundreds of inspectors entered Iraq, began to search, and found...nothing. January, which Defence Secretary Hoon had suggested was the "most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin," came and went, and the inspectors went on searching.
The whole sorry build up to war was a marketing and propaganda campaign:
Indeed, the inspectors' failure to find any evidence of weapons came in the wake of a very large effort launched by the administration to put before the world evidence of Saddam's arsenal, an effort spearheaded by George W. Bush's speech in Cincinnati on October 7, and followed by a series of increasingly lurid disclosures to the press that reached a crescendo with Colin Powell's multimedia presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. Throughout the fall and winter, the administration had "rolled out the product," in Card's phrase, with great skill, making use of television, radio, and all the print press to get its message out about the imminent threat of Saddam's arsenal. ("Think of the press," advised Josef Goebbels, "as a great keyboard on which the government can play.")
Ray McGovern has bluntly stated that the intelligence was not misinterpreted, it was misrepresented.
In the United States, on the other hand, the Downing Street memorandum has attracted little attention. As I write, no American newspaper has published it and few writers have bothered to comment on it. The war continues, and Americans have grown weary of it; few seem much interested now in discussing how it began, an why their country came to fight a war in the cause of destroying weapons that turne out not to exist. For those who want answers, the Bush administration has followed simple and heretofore largely successful policy: blame the intelligence agencies. Since "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" as early as July 200 (as "C," the head of British intelligence, reported upon his return from Washington), it seems a matter of remarkable hubris, even for this administration, that its officials not explain their misjudgments in going to war by blaming them on "intelligence failures"—that is, on the intelligence that they themselves politicized.
Fortunately for Bush, Congress has not been any more inquisitive about the path to war than the media:
Still, for the most part Congress has cooperated. Though the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated the failures of the CIA and other agencies before the war, a promised second report tha was to take up the administration's political use of intelligence—which is, after all, the critical issue—was postponed until after the 2004 elections, then quietly abandoned
An old and familiar observation by a White House "senior advisor" resurfaces:
In the end, the Downing Street memo, and Americans' lack of interest in what it shows, has to do with a certain attitude about facts, or rather about where the line should be drawn between facts and political opinion. It calls to mind an interesting observation that an unnamed "senior advisor" to President Bush made to a New York Times Magazine reporter last fall:The aide said that guys like me [i.e., reporters and commentators] were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
I just skimmed the surface. There are more gems and more analysis in the originial story.
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Tracked on June 6, 2005 7:51 AM
» Downing St Minutes from Oliver Willis
Tracked on June 6, 2005 10:45 AM
M$M, nice acronym.
Posted by: kelley b. at June 6, 2005 6:42 PM
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