Monday, June 06, 2005

The Downing Street Memo (again!)

My earlier post on this subject generated an interesting exchange of comments on the Blogger News Network, (my piece was co-posted on BNN) and I have reprinted them below for clarity.

Futher support of my position can be found in today's National Review Online article by James S. Robbins. He does an excellent job of showing how the DSM contains no new information, and certainly is not grounds for impeachment.

Here is the comment string from BNN:

I don't think that you understand what the real key passage of the memo is. It isn't the passage that you highlighted; rather, it's the part that says, "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." After all, it's no secret that Bush wanted to oust Saddam. That's not an impeachable offense, as you pointed out. However, fixing intelligence to make the case for war sound better is treason. That's the reason that many conservative pundits have turned against the president (upon reading the memo).

Comment by Gary Manchot, 6/4/2005 8:51:15 AM

Author Replies: I fully understand the passage you note. However, I disagree with your inference that "fixed around the policy" means that inteligence was fabricated to suit the policy. The DSM does not say or imply that, and there is absolutely no evidence to support that contention. My view of that passage is that the Bush administration sought evidence to support their desire to remove Saddam, nothing more.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/4/2005 9:00:41 AM

You certainly seem in a big hurry to sweep this under the rug (move along, no memo here). At the very very least it needs to be investigated. These are official minutes of a top secret government meeting. Have you read the memo?

“We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force”
- George W. Bush,
Radio Address Mar. 8, 2003

This was after the memo - The US was already bombing Iraq.

Comment by Jospeh, 6/4/2005 9:06:35 AM

Not only have you disregarded the real highlights of the memo but you leave out the part that confirms the US admit iran and north korea were bigger threats.

which is why we on the left believe those on the right are willing to forgive anything right up and beyond treason as long as its republican.

And further I am disgusted by the rights ability to forgive lying to the american public on Tv and publically for monthhs because 'it wasnt under oath' I have seen people say that Clinton lying under oath about sex is a greater tyrranny then lying publically over and over and over to lead our soldiers to an illegal war. Then they take pride in how 51 percent of americans agree with them that being lied to on TV is A-ok. It goes beyond hypocrisy to the level of simply not caring whats just and right as loon as it results in republican power.


Comment by Alexande, 6/4/2005 10:44:39 AM

Alex, prove that Bush has ever lied about Iraq, or anything else. To simply make accusations without proof is not helpful to anyone or any cause. In fact, your hurt your cause by making these same tired arguments without providing any proof.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/4/2005 11:27:22 AM

I agree with you when you say that the memo makes no contention that intelligence was fabricated. The Bush adminsistration did not do that. What they did do, however, was just as sinister. Now, you must acknowledge that the CIA gets information from all types of sources. For any given event, they'll receive conflicting reports as to what is happening. It's the government's job to sort through and pick out what is credible and what is not. Now, when it came to the issue of WMDs in Iraq, they had many reports denying that Iraq had WMDs, and one confirming them. The one confirming them relied on the hearsay of the infamous "Curveball," who, as I'm sure you know, was dismissed by German intelligence as "unreliable and alcoholic," a fact which the CIA knew very well. Bush had all of this intelligence in front of him, a fact which he has never denied.

You see, the point that you're missing is that "fixed around the policy" doesn't imply fabrication. Here, it means that they ignored the strong evidence contradicting WMDs in favor of the sparse evidence supporting them. To make an analogy, consider a prosecuting attorney with two pieces of evidence for a particular crime. On the one hand, there is DNA evidence proving that the defendant wasn't present at the crime scene. On the other, there is a drunk man who says that he saw the defendant commit the crime. There is a reason that it would be illegal for the prosecutor to hide the DNA evidence from the defense and to only enter into evidence the man's testimony: to do so would be a great injustice, as not telling the whole truth is indistinguishable from lying. Likewise, not considering the whole truth is unacceptable when making a decision to go to war.

Up until now, the Bush Administration has enjoyed plausible deniability: they didn't lie, they just screwed up. However, assuming that this memo proves to be authentic, it proves that they were intentionally not telling us a large part of the truth. But is that lying? According to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, there are two definitons of "lie:" either to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive, or to create a false or misleading impression. Clearly, what Bush did satisfies the latter definition.

Comment by Gary Manchot, 6/4/2005 2:08:56 PM

Gary, first, I very much appreciate the high-level dialog on this matter. So much of the Blogosphere is gutter-level name calling.

I agree that not telling the whole truth is akin to lying. If you or anyone else can prove to reasonable people that the Bush administration deliberately lied, or deliberately didn't tell the whole truth, then I will quickly come over the side of impeachment. However, nothing in the DSM proves anything of the sort.

The build up to the war included many complex reasons. Not to be discounted is the very deeply held belief of GWB and TB that the real threat from Iraq was the potential for Iraq to supply WMD's to terrorists. That fact of that fear is indisputible and I reference the many statements by both men in that regard in my post. They felt that if Saddam remained in power after sanctions were removed, something Saddam was working hard to acheive, that he could secretly supply lots of very nasty weapons to terrorists. I share that view, and the Duelfer Report (also referenced in my post), while clearly admitting that the intelligence on WMD's was wrong, confirms that this was a clear aim of the Saddam regime.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/4/2005 7:34:45 PM

"What is wrong with having an opinion or desire, and then seeking evidence to support that opinion?"

Because you don't make policy for a democracy around opinion. You make policy around FACTS. There is a clear differance between opinion and facts. Opinion may not by it's very nature be independently proven. You may have the opinion that the jews are evil and must exterminated. You are entitled to this opinion. You are not entitled to exterminate a population based on this opinion. What evidence do you suppose hitler used? This may not be a good example. What may be a better example is redefining words like clinton did. Reguardless words are not to be redefined to fit your "agenda." You may be content with your leaders making policy based their ideology (opinion). I perfer policy to be make based upon facts that I myself or other parties can verify. While not being a constitutional lawyer it is my OPINION that they would also find facts to be more important than an opinion as well.

Comment by Andyc, 6/4/2005 8:27:07 PM

Many Republicans seem to think that the movement to investigate the issues surrounding U.S. pre-war intelligence is just to try to get Bush out of office. This is false. I would like to give them every assurance of that. We want an inquiry, not an impeachment. We want to know what the truth is.

Granted, a "Resolution of Inquiry" is a neccessary precursor to impeachment, however, it does not neccessarily lead to impeachment. A Resolution of Inquiry is an attempt to discover facts. Such an Inquiry, when complete, may produce some answers, at which point, each member of Congress will have a duty to seriously consider those facts, and to determine, based on those facts, in their relation to the public (this means you) trust, the proper and just course of action, whatever that may be.

It has certainly been a long time, and some people may feel that this issue is old; that it has already been gone over. The truth is, it hasn't:

"The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has dropped its previous plan to review how U.S. policymakers used Iraq intelligence, and the president's commission on intelligence did not look into the subject because it was not authorized to do so by its charter, Laurence H. Silberman, the co-chairman, told reporters last month." ( From The Washington Post: British Intelligence Warned of Iraq War)

This issue has not been investigated, and therefore, we do not yet know what really happened. We want to know. Don't you? Aren't you the least bit curious? You have every right to know.

Comment by Kevin Baas, 6/5/2005 7:23:28 AM

Kevin, yes, I am curious, but I will need to see more evidence of suspected wrong-doing before I will support a long, expensive "fishing expedition" for facts. So far I have seen nothing—not a shred of evidence—that would warrant such an investigation. If detectives asked a judge for a search warrant based on the available information, it would not be granted. Right now, there is no evidence that a "crime" has even been committed.

If you can provide such evidence, I will stand with you for a thorough investigation.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/5/2005 11:37:56 AM

Hi James,

How about reading some of these links, to give you a feel of where Bush & Co were coming from:

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil on CBS' 60 Minutes (Interview on 1/11/2004):

"“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’" says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.

Colin Powell (2/23 2/24/01) in Egypt:

"I think we ought to declare [the containment policy] a success. We have kept him contained, kept him in his box." He added Saddam "is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors" and that "he threatens not the United States." (2/23/01)

“…He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”

CIA Director George Tenet on his Review of Global Weapons-Technology Proliferation

“...he [Tenet] did not even mention a nuclear threat from Iraq, though he did warn of one from North Korea. The review said only, "We believe that Iraq has probably continued at least low-level theoretical R&D [research and development] associated with its nuclear program."
[Source: Global Policy Forum-John B. Judis and Spencer Ackerman, June 30, 2003]

Wolfowitz Had CIA Probe UN Diplomat in Charge [Washington Post 4/15/2002]

After receiving a CIA report that concluded that Hans Blix had conducted inspections of Iraq's declared nuclear power plants "fully within the parameters he could operate" when Blix was head of the international agency responsible for these inspections prior to the Gulf War, a report indicated that "Wolfowitz ‘hit the ceiling’ because the CIA failed to provide sufficient ammunition to undermine Blix and, by association, the new U.N. weapons inspection program."

The above is only a spattering of information available on the internet, which began BEFORE the invasion. Statements such as these simply can't be dismissed out of hand. The more you research, the more you'll be convinced. It's simply a matter of obtaining official documents and commencing an independent inquiry.

One last thing, crimes are not proven BEFORE an inquiry. Evidence is gathered first, and then presented. Evidence is everywhere. Just look for it. Downing Street Memo/Minutes is one, and the RAF Bombing Raids even before UN Resolution 1441 is another:,,2087-1632566,00.html

If you'd like to read some great timelines, may I suggest the following website references:

Center for American Progress
Neglecting Intelligence, Ignoring Warnings (Downloadable Files available)

Global Security.Org
Attacking Iraq – Countdown Timeline

The Guardian
Iraq timeline: July 16 1979 to January 31 2004,12438,793802,00.html

The Left Coaster
Timeline Leading to Iraq War

Comment by Terre, 6/5/2005 6:22:03 PM

And a couple more websites for your review, as if I haven't given you enough. I hope you'll also visit a UK site that explains the PNAC - The Project for the New American Century. This group was involved with a pre-occupation to remove Saddam from power back in the Clinton years. Do have a look. There are plenty of links:

And finally, if anyone (yourself included) would like to visit a simple site regarding the Downing Street Memo/Minutes, I'd like to invite you to come on by:

Thanks for the opportunity to share with you.

Comment by Terre, 6/5/2005 6:43:07 PM

Hello Terre, and thank you for your well-researched and intelligent comment. Since I do actually have a life, I haven't had time, I will admit, to review all the links you have provided. However, I have reviewed a few, and will comment accordingly.

First, I looked at the timeline provided in the link to, a fine site I visit often. While this may seem unbelievable to you, Terre, I still see nothing new, and certainly nothing that suggests illegal activities or actions on anyone's part. Moreover, I googled the joint resolution passed by the Congress in Oct 02 ( passed overwhelingly by the Republican House and Democratic Senate, by the way, which essentially aligns completely with the argument put forth by the Bush and Blair administrations earlier. Both the government's of the US and UK had access to essentially the same intel—including in the US the Senate and House Intelligence committee's— and everyone had the same conclusion. In fact, there is really no one anywhere in any government who disputed the perceived threat Iraq posed; the only difference was how to deal with that threat. To suggest otherwise now is disingenous.

Regarding your thinking on evidence ("crimes are not proven BEFORE an inquiry. Evidence is gathered first, and then presented."). I don't know where you reside, but here in the States, no official investigation if ever conducted without first showing clear evidence that a "crime" has been committed. Just because you 'think' a crime has been committed is not sufficient. You must show compelling evidence that clearly indicates a crime has been committed, otherwise, such an investigation is what is called in legal circles a "fishing expedition". (Don't you ever watch Law and Order?) :)

One last thing. It seems to me that you and everyone who wants this investigation is basing it on 1), your desire to see Bush impeached; and 2), the suggestion by the DSM that the Bush administration held a view possibly from Jan 20, 2001 that the ouster of Saddam was a good thing. Further, that their efforts to justify his ouster by showing that he was a threat (WMD's links to terrorists, etc.) was somehow immoral or unethical. Isn't however, your desire to see Bush impeached YOUR prior view, and isn't your desire for an investigation exactly the same moral question? If it was wrong to the Bush administration to do it, then isn't it also wrong now?

The evidence, by the way, for such an inquiry/intel search by the Bush administration against Iraq clearly meets the evidentiary standard I discussed earlier.

I will, as time allows, get through each of your links, and if you have provided enough evidence to satisfy the standard, I promise I will post in this very space a retraction of my original post, and further, I will call for a thorough investigation.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/5/2005 7:37:05 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful reply James. It's late here, and I'm about ready to hit the hay. I'll be back tomorrow (hopefully) and try to address your points. The crime/evidence thing was difficult for me to put into words. I'll try again tomorrow. And no, I don't ever watch Law & Order. Didn't you guess? :o)

Comment by Terre, 6/5/2005 10:46:14 PM

Hello again, Terre,

I had a chance to review your links (above), and I remain strongly UNCONVINCED of any illegal activities on the part of the Bush and Blair adminitrations. The information certainly shows an evolving policy, gaining a more aggressive posture, vìs-a-vìs Iraq, but nothing at all therein suggests anything more sinister than policy differences between those who believed that Iraq was a threat, and those who did not. Nothing, by the way, that we didn't already know, either.

That Bush/Blair sought justifications for their desire to remove Saddam from power is neither criminal, treasonous, nor immoral. In this case, only the fabrication of evidence would rise to that standard. If you or anyone can produce such evidence, I will, as I promised before, call for a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities.

Comment by James Z. Smith, 6/6/2005 9:35:10 AM

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