Monday, May 23, 2005

The Downing Street Memo

The infamous memo, which can be read here(.HTML) or here(.PDF) contains the minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and some of his military and intelligence chiefs. The really juicy paragraph's this one:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

So, by mid-July 2002, the administration had already decided to invade and occupy Iraq, and it was openly acknowledged both that "the conjunction of terrorism and WMD" would be used to "justify" the war. "(T)he intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
None of this is news to people who were paying attention - Robert Dreyfuss dissects the stunning media silence on this matter here - but it does make for a nice cardio-vascular stress test, to hold it all in mind while reading Condi's public statements on the matter, from the time in question:
"We're going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think that one is possible"
"We all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way"
"we are still in a diplomatic phase here" while troops were being shifted, plans were being laid while the Towers still smouldered, and deals were being cut that would end in bloodshed, death and terror like the US had never known before.


Blogger Management said...

More Proof Iraq War Was Pre-Determined

The newly-released Downing Street Memo showing President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to go to war with Iraq in 2002 has once again raised the question of why the Bush administration lied to America in the lead up to the conflict. And amazingly, it is not the only piece of hard evidence proving that - well before the war (and during the supposed "diplomatic" phase) - the Bush administration had already decided to go to war in Iraq - no matter whether Iraq was really an "imminent threat" or not.

The background: Throughout 2002 and early 2003, the administration repeatedly insisted that they sought a peaceful solution to the Iraq question and that war was only a last resort. In October of 2002, for instance, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said said, "We're going to seek a peaceful solution to this. We think that one is possible" [Source: CBS, 10/20/02]. Then in November of 2002, she said, "We all want very much to see this resolved in a peaceful way" [Source: White House Briefing, 11/21/02]. In March of 2003, she claimed "we are still in a diplomatic phase here" [Source: ABC News, 3/9/03].

We know now, however, that was a complete lie, and that U.S. plans for war were being pushed before 2003, and even before 2002. It was a pre-determined strategy. Not only do we have the newly-released Downing Street memo, but we have other evidence as well:

TOP BUSH OFFICIAL SAYS IRAQ WAR PLAN BEGAN IN EARLY 2001: According to CBS 60 Minutes, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill admits that "From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go. He said that "going after Saddam was topic '10' days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11." [Source: CBS 60 Minutes, 1/11/04]

CBS REPORTS IRAQ WAR PLANS ACCELERATED IMMEDIATELY AFTER 9/11: According to CBS News, "barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks." [Source: CBS News, 9/4/02]

TOP AMBASSADOR SAYS BUSH-BLAIR DEAL WORKED OUT IMMEDIATELY AFTER 9/11: According to the UK Observer, British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Christopher Meyer admitted that "President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001." [London Observer, 4/4/04]

RICE INDICATED TO STATE DEPARTMENT IN 2002 THAT IRAQ DECISION HAD ALREADY BEEN MADE: The New Yorker reported that Bush State Department official Richard Haass said he met with then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in July of 2002. At the meeting, he said, "I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision's been made, don't waste your breath." [Source: New Yorker, 3/31/03]

BUSH SHIFTED KEY TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN TO IRAQ IN 2002: According to USA Today, "in 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq." [Source: USA Today, 3/28/04]

2:14 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq?
Jan. 11, 2004

A year ago, Paul O'Neill was fired from his job as George Bush's Treasury Secretary for disagreeing too many times with the president's policy on tax cuts.

Now, O'Neill - who is known for speaking his mind - talks for the first time about his two years inside the Bush administration. His story is the centerpiece of a new book being published this week about the way the Bush White House is run.

Entitled "The Price of Loyalty," the book by a former Wall Street Journal reporter draws on interviews with high-level officials who gave the author their personal accounts of meetings with the president, their notes and documents. [Simon and Schuster, the book's publisher, and, are both units of Viacom.]

But the main source of the book was Paul O'Neill. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports. Paul O'Neill says he is going public because he thinks the Bush Administration has been too secretive about how decisions have been made.

Will this be seen as a “kiss-and-tell" book?

“I've come to believe that people will say damn near anything, so I'm sure somebody will say all of that and more,” says O’Neill, who was George Bush's top economic policy official.

In the book, O’Neill says that the president did not make decisions in a methodical way: there was no free-flow of ideas or open debate.

At cabinet meetings, he says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection," forcing top officials to act "on little more than hunches about what the president might think."

This is what O'Neill says happened at his first hour-long, one-on-one meeting with Mr. Bush: “I went in with a long list of things to talk about, and I thought to engage on and as the book says, I was surprised that it turned out me talking, and the president just listening … As I recall, it was mostly a monologue.”

He also says that President Bush was disengaged, at least on domestic issues, and that disturbed him. And he says that wasn't his experience when he worked as a top official under Presidents Nixon and Ford, or the way he ran things when he was chairman of Alcoa.

O'Neill readily agreed to tell his story to the book's author Ron Suskind – and he adds that he's taking no money for his part in the book.

Suskind says he interviewed hundreds of people for the book – including several cabinet members.

O'Neill is the only one who spoke on the record, but Suskind says that someone high up in the administration – Donald Rumsfeld - warned O’Neill not to do this book.

Was it a warning, or a threat?

“I don't think so. I think it was the White House concerned,” says Suskind. “Understandably, because O'Neill has spent extraordinary amounts of time with the president. They said, ‘This could really be the one moment where things are revealed.’"Not only did O'Neill give Suskind his time, he gave him 19,000 internal documents.

“Everything's there: Memoranda to the President, handwritten "thank you" notes, 100-page documents. Stuff that's sensitive,” says Suskind, adding that in some cases, it included transcripts of private, high-level National Security Council meetings. “You don’t get higher than that.”

And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

“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.

“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.

"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.”

And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.

He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001. Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.

He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.

“It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”

During the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

“The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

The president had promised to cut taxes, and he did. Within six months of taking office, he pushed a trillion dollars worth of tax cuts through Congress.
But O'Neill thought it should have been the end. After 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, the budget deficit was growing. So at a meeting with the vice president after the mid-term elections in 2002, Suskind writes that O'Neill argued against a second round of tax cuts.

“Cheney, at this moment, shows his hand,” says Suskind. “He says, ‘You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.’ … O'Neill is speechless.”

”It was not just about not wanting the tax cut. It was about how to use the nation's resources to improve the condition of our society,” says O’Neill. “And I thought the weight of working on Social Security and fundamental tax reform was a lot more important than a tax reduction.”

Did he think it was irresponsible? “Well, it's for sure not what I would have done,” says O’Neill.

The former treasury secretary accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an honest broker, but, with a handful of others, part of "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views. "This is the way Dick likes it," says O’Neill. Meanwhile, the White House was losing patience with O'Neill. He was becoming known for a series of off-the-cuff remarks his critics called gaffes. One of them sent the dollar into a nosedive and required major damage control.

Twice during stock market meltdowns, O'Neill was not available to the president: He was out of the country - one time on a trip to Africa with the Irish rock star Bono.

“Africa made an enormous splash. It was like a road show,” says Suskind. “He comes back and the president says to him at a meeting, ‘You know, you're getting quite a cult following.’ And it clearly was not a joke. And it was not said in jest.”

Suskind writes that the relationship grew tenser and that the president even took a jab at O'Neill in public, at an economic forum in Texas.

The two men were never close. And O'Neill was not amused when Mr. Bush began calling him "The Big O." He thought the president's habit of giving people nicknames was a form of bullying. Everything came to a head for O'Neill at a November 2002 meeting at the White House of the economic team.

“It's a huge meeting. You got Dick Cheney from the, you know, secure location on the video. The President is there,” says Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the meeting.

He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.

“He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.

“He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"

But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.

“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”

In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.

With the deficit now climbing towards $400 billion, O'Neill maintains he was in the right.

But look at the economy today.

“Yes, well, in the last quarter the growth rate was 8.2 percent. It was terrific,” says O’Neill. “I think the tax cut made a difference. But without the tax cut, we would have had 6 percent real growth, and the prospect of dealing with transformation of Social Security and fundamentally fixing the tax system. And to me, those were compelling competitors for, against more tax cuts.” While in the book O'Neill comes off as constantly appalled at Mr. Bush, he was surprised when Stahl told him she found his portrait of the president unflattering.

“Hmmm, you really think so,” asks O’Neill, who says he isn’t joking. “Well, I’ll be darned.”

“You're giving me the impression that you're just going to be stunned if they attack you for this book,” says Stahl to O’Neill. “And they're going to say, I predict, you know, it's sour grapes. He's getting back because he was fired.”
“I will be really disappointed if they react that way because I think they'll be hard put to,” says O’Neill.

Is he prepared for it?

“Well, I don't think I need to be because I can't imagine that I'm going to be attacked for telling the truth,” says O’Neill. “Why would I be attacked for telling the truth?”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about the book on Friday and said "The president is someone that leads and acts decisively on our biggest priorities and that is exactly what he'll continue to do."

2:15 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Plans For Iraq Attack Began On 9/11
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2002

CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.

That's according to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on Sept. 11 – notes that show exactly where the road toward war with Iraq began, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

At 9:53 a.m., just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, and while Rumsfeld was still outside helping with the injured, the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden's operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

The caller said he had "heard good news" and that another target was still to come; an indication he knew another airliner, the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania, was at that very moment zeroing in on Washington.

It was 12:05 p.m. when the director of Central Intelligence told Rumsfeld about the intercepted conversation.

Rumsfeld felt it was "vague," that it "might not mean something," and that there was "no good basis for hanging hat." In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.

But later that afternoon, the CIA reported the passenger manifests for the hijacked airliners showed three of the hijackers were suspected al Qaeda operatives.

"One guy is associate of Cole bomber," the notes say, a reference to the October 2000 suicide boat attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which had also been the work of bin Laden.

With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.

Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld.

"Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

2:15 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Special report: politics and Iraq

Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war

· Decision came nine days after 9/11
· Ex-ambassador reveals discussion

David Rose
Sunday April 4, 2004
The Observer

President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001.

According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.

It was clear, Meyer says, 'that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions'. Elsewhere in his interview, Meyer says Blair always believed it was unlikely that Saddam would be removed from power or give up his weapons of mass destruction without a war.

Faced with this prospect of a further war, he adds, Blair 'said nothing to demur'.

Details of this extraordinary conversation will be published this week in a 25,000-word article on the path to war with Iraq in the May issue of the American magazine Vanity Fair. It provides new corroboration of the claims made last month in a book by Bush's former counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, that Bush was 'obsessed' with Iraq as his principal target after 9/11.

But the implications for Blair may be still more explosive. The discussion implies that, even before the bombing of Afghanistan, Blair already knew that the US intended to attack Saddam next, although he continued to insist in public that 'no decisions had been taken' until almost the moment that the invasion began in March 2003. His critics are likely to seize on the report of the two leaders' exchange and demand to know when Blair resolved to provide the backing that Bush sought.

The Vanity Fair article will provide further ammunition in the shape of extracts from the private, contemporaneous diary kept by the former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, throughout the months leading up to the war. This reveals how, during the summer of 2002, when Blair and his closest advisers were mounting an intense diplomatic campaign to persuade Bush to agree to seek United Nations support over Iraq, and promising British support for military action in return, Blair apparently concealed his actions from his Cabinet.

For example, on 26 July Short wrote that she had raised her 'simmering worry about Iraq' in a meeting with Blair, asking him for a debate on Iraq in the next Cabinet meeting - the last before the summer recess. However, the diary went on, Blair replied that this was unnecessary because 'it would get hyped ... He said nothing [was] decided, and wouldn't be over summer.'

In fact, that week Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, was in Washington, meeting both Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in order to press Blair's terms for military support, and Blair himself had written a personal memorandum to the President in which he set them out. Vanity Fair quotes a senior American official from Vice-President Dick Cheney's office who says he read the transcript of a telephone call between Blair and Bush a few days later.

'The way it read was that, come what may, Saddam was going to go; they said they were going forward, they were going to take out the regime, and they were doing the right thing. Blair did not need any convincing. There was no, "Come on, Tony, we've got to get you on board". I remember reading it and then thinking, "OK, now I know what we're going to be doing for the next year".'

Before the call, this official says, he had the impression that the probability of invasion was high, but still below 100 per cent. Afterwards, he says, 'it was a done deal'.

As late as 9 September, Short's diary records, when Blair went to a summit with Bush and Cheney at Camp David in order to discuss final details, 'T[ony] B[lair] gave me assurances when I asked for Iraq to be discussed at Cabinet that no decision [had been] made and [was] not imminent.' Later that day she learnt from the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, that Blair had asked to make 20,000 British troops available in the Gulf. She still believed her Prime Minister's assurances, but wrote that, if had she not done so, she would 'almost certainly' have resigned from the Government. At that juncture her resignation would have dealt Blair a very damaging blow.

But if Blair was misleading his own Government and party, he appears to have done the same thing to Bush and Cheney. At the Camp David meeting, Cheney was still resisting taking the case against Saddam and his alleged weapons of mass destruction to the UN.

According to both Meyer and the senior Cheney official, Blair helped win his argument by saying that he could be toppled from power at the Labour Party conference later that month if Bush did not take his advice. The party constitution makes clear that this would have been impossible and senior party figures agree that, at that juncture, it was not a politically realistic statement.

Short's diary shows in the final run-up to war Blair persuaded her not to resign and repeatedly stated that Bush had promised it would be the UN, not the American-led occupying coalition, which would supervise the reconstruction of Iraq. This, she writes, was the clinching factor in her decision to stay in the Government - with devastating consequences for her own political reputation.

Vanity Fair also discloses that on 13 January, at a lunch around the mahogany table in Rice's White House office, President Chirac's top adviser, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, and his Washington ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, made the US an offer it should have accepted. In the hope of avoiding an open breach between the two countries, they said that, if America was determined to go to war, it should not seek a second resolution, that the previous autumn's Resolution 1441 arguably provided sufficient legal cover, and that France would keep quiet if the administration went ahead.

But Bush had already promised Blair he would seek a second resolution and Blair feared he might lose Parliament's support without it. Meanwhile, the Foreign Office legal department was telling him that without a second resolution war would be illegal, a view that Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, seemed to share at that stage. When the White House sought Blair's opinion on the French overture, he balked.

A Downing Street spokesman said last night: 'Iraq had been a foreign policy priority for a long time and was discussed at most meetings between the two leaders. Our position was always clear: that we would try to work through the UN, and a decision on military action was not taken until other options were exhausted in March last year.'

2:15 AM  
Blogger Management said...

When did Bush decide that he had to fight Saddam?
Issue of 2003-03-31
Posted 2003-03-24

Washington had a vertiginous feeling last week as the endlessly debated war against Iraq finally began. For the previous six months, the capital had surely been the most pro-Iraq-war city in the world: George W. Bush had given a textbook demonstration of Presidential power in bringing Washington into a position of support—or, in the case of many of the Democrats, cowed silence—for a course of action that almost nobody had advocated when Saddam Hussein forced the United Nations weapons inspectors to leave, in 1998. There had been, from the Washington point of view, a satisfying rhythm to the run-up to war, beginning with Bush’s speech to the United Nations in September, continuing through Saddam’s forced readmission of the weapons inspectors in the fall, and culminating in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation of evidence against Saddam at the U.N. in early February, which, in Washington, at least, caused a wave of liberal capitulations to the cause of war.

Then, to the queasy surprise of the small community of people in Washington who follow American diplomacy with a sense of proprietary interest, things fell apart. There was much more opposition to the war than anybody had expected; seemingly reliable allies jumped ship; the coöperation of the Security Council became unattainable; even the impeccably loyal Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, needed last-minute resuscitation, in the form of a Presidential reiteration of support for Palestinian statehood. Recrimination between hawks and doves, over who was to blame for the failure of diplomacy, and gloom about the death of the international order were in the air—along with martial expectancy. Late Monday morning, after it was announced that President Bush would make a television address that evening, helicopters suddenly began patrolling the skies and streets were shut off. It turned out that a North Carolina tobacco farmer had driven his tractor into a pond on the Mall, but, before people knew that, the city had been alive with alarmed rumors: a peace protester was threatening to blow up the Washington Monument; a terrorist had driven a truck packed with explosives into the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol Building.

With the war only hours away from beginning, I had a long talk with a senior Administration official about how it had come about and what it seemed to portend.

“Before September 11th,” the official said, “there wasn’t a consensus Administration view about Iraq. This issue hadn’t come to the fore, and you had Administration views. There were those who preferred regime change, and they were largely residing in the Pentagon, and probably in the Vice-President’s office. At the State Department, the focus was on tightening up the containment regime—so-called ‘smart sanctions.’ The National Security Council didn’t seem to have much of an opinion at that point. But the issue hadn’t really been joined.

“Then, in the immediate aftermath of the eleventh, not that much changed. The focus was on Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda. Some initial attempts by Wolfowitz”—Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense —“and others to draw Iraq in never went anywhere, because the link between Iraq and September 11th was, as far as we know, nebulous at most—nonexistent, for all intents and purposes. It’s somewhere in the first half of 2002 that all this changed. The President internalized the idea of making regime change in Iraq a priority. What I can’t explain to you is exactly the process that took us from the initial post-September 11th position, which was, Let’s keep the focus on Al Qaeda and Afghanistan, to, say, nine months later, when Iraq had moved to the top of the priority list for us. That’s a mystery that nobody has yet uncovered. It clearly has something to do with September 11th, and it’s clearly consistent with the President’s speech about weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogues, people with a history of some terror—but, again, how it exactly happened, and what was the particular role of Cheney, among others, I wish you well in uncovering.”

I wondered how the war looked to the American diplomatic community. “I think it’s hard to generalize,” the official said. “It’s my sense that the arguments for going to war are strong enough that people feel comfortable. There’s a good case for going to war. There’s also a respectable case for not. But the case for going to war is strong enough that I don’t think a lot of people at senior levels are going home unable to face themselves in the mirror. A lot of this comes down to how imminent a threat you feel Iraq poses. Everyone agrees that Saddam Hussein is truly evil. Everyone agrees he has these weapons of mass destruction. Everyone is concerned about what he might do with them. And so the real question is, Did we have to do something right away, with military force? Reasonable men and women can disagree, but I think the bottom line is, the arguments that have led the President to this point are strong enough that even those who tilt the other way can still acknowledge the validity of the arguments, and, indeed, even conclude that those who favor going to war now may well be right.”

In terms of the future of American diplomacy, much depends on how the war effort goes. If things don’t go well, the official said, “the price we pay is, first of all, the aftermath inside Iraq is likely to be more costly, in terms of how long, how many forces have to stay. It could be harder to put Iraq right, if what we inherit is a much more destroyed place. Second of all, we could find the world economy in much rougher straits. If things are messy and prolonged, we could find some friendly governments possibly overthrown, or at least in much worse shape. The U.S.’s reputation would be taking a battering. It’s one thing if you challenge the conventional wisdom and are proved right. It’s quite another”—he chuckled mordantly—“if you challenge the conventional wisdom and the conventional wisdom proves to have been right. I just think America’s reputation would have taken a real battering. We’d probably also find increased terrorist attacks, because we’d be seen not as invincible, and bogged down, and all that. This is all—this is a big throw of the dice.”

An odd aspect of the Washington foreign-policy community during the last few months has been that there was less general enthusiasm for the war inside the government than you’d think, and more enthusiasm outside the government, which is where the Democratic foreign-policy specialists are now. Foreign-policy Democrats are a bit to the right of their party, because they feel that it tends to be too hesitant about the use of American power, and foreign-policy Republicans (excepting the hawks) are a bit to the left of theirs, because they feel that it undervalues diplomacy. The result is that the foreign-policy arms of the two parties form a continuum of opinion (excepting, again, the hawks), despite the custom that forbids those who have served in Administrations of one party from serving in Administrations of the other. The consensus after the expulsion of the weapons inspectors in 1998 was that Saddam Hussein was a bad actor, but that his misbehavior had not achieved the status of a grave international crisis. On the other hand, quite a few people in the Clinton Administration wanted to respond to him more forcefully than the United States actually did, with a four-day bombing campaign called Operation Desert Fox.

James Steinberg, who during the last years of the Clinton Administration was the No. 2 man at the National Security Council and is now the head of the foreign-policy division of the Brookings Institution, told me that he would have preferred to try to muster an international disarmament effort against Saddam. Then as now, the chief problem would have been persuading the French and the Russians. “We would have tried to go to the United Nations, but back it up with a more aggressive posture, including moving troops to the region,” Steinberg said. “But a variety of factors made it impossible.” He listed the war in Kosovo and Al Qaeda’s bombing of the American embassies in East Africa as matters that took the focus away from Iraq—and, of course, Clinton had an especially weak hand during this period, because he was being impeached.

By the time of the 2000 Presidential campaign, the flurry of activity that followed the end of inspections had subsided, and on Iraq there was not much apparent difference between Clinton’s position, Al Gore’s position, and Bush’s position. All three men were nominally for “regime change,” without suggesting an immediate way to achieve it. “In any Administration, the question is, How do you raise an issue from one that people with a narrow portfolio worry about to one that people with a broad portfolio worry about,” Stephen Sestanovich, another high diplomatic official in the Clinton Administration, whom I saw in Washington last week, told me. (Sestanovich now works at the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations.) “Iraq was a problem the regional specialists saw as very serious, but they could never get their argument accepted above the level of regional specialists.” That was as true in the early Bush days as in the late Clinton ones.

Then, when Iraq did become an issue of Presidential importance, Washington followed George Bush’s lead. The foreign-policy consensus shifted, from the view that Saddam represented a second-order-of-magnitude problem to the view that it was worth a war to get rid of him, but only if it was an international effort like the first Gulf War. And most people believed that’s what would happen, once Bush had acceded to Colin Powell’s request to go to the United Nations to line up support. Surely, people felt, the rest of the world would come around to the new American position—even the balky Russians and French. As Sestanovich put it, “The anti-American stance is a familiar French thing, not entirely cynical, not entirely principled. They’d know when to call it off. After they’d been French for a while, they’d stop being French. People thought they understood the limits of the game and it would be over at a certain point. And then it wasn’t. And it turned out that the Russians were prepared to be French, as long as the French were being French.”

So this was the dizzying progression in the Washington diplomatic world: from believing that Saddam should be taken somewhat more seriously as a threat, to believing that an international coalition was going to oust him from power, to watching the coalition fall apart and the United States go to war anyway—and wondering whether it made a difference anymore what professional diplomats think.

Last week, I went to see Richard Haass, the director of the policy-planning staff at the State Department. Haass is probably the Administration’s most prominent moderate theoretician and is a leading member of the foreign-policy establishment. Before joining the Bush Administration, he had held the job at the Brookings Institution which James Steinberg now holds. (And Steinberg formerly held Haass’s job in the State Department.) Haass will soon be leaving government to take one of the foreign-policy world’s plummiest jobs, as president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in New York. With his departure, it’s hard to think of whom one could call a prominent moderate theoretician in the Bush Administration.

I arrived at the State Department on the day that President Bush made his televised address giving Saddam Hussein forty-eight hours to surrender power. The enormous, usually crowded lobby of the building was deserted, as if to manifest the succession of diplomacy by war. Haass seemed tired but not harried, as you would when a long period of intense preparation had ended and there was nothing left to do.

I asked him whether there had been a particular moment when he realized that war was definitely coming. “There was a moment,” he said. “The moment was the first week of July, when I had a meeting with Condi”—Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national-security adviser. “Condi and I have regular meetings, once every month or so—she and I get together for thirty or forty-five minutes, just to review the bidding. And I raised this issue about were we really sure that we wanted to put Iraq front and center at this point, given the war on terrorism and other issues. And she said, essentially, that that decision’s been made, don’t waste your breath. And that was early July. But before that, in the months leading up to that, there had been various hints, just in what people were saying, how they were acting at various meetings. We were meeting about these issues in the spring of 2002, and my staff would come back to me and report that there’s something in the air here. So there was a sense that it was gathering momentum, but it was hard to pin down. For me, it was that meeting with Condi that made me realize it was farther along than I had realized. So then when Powell had his famous dinner with the President, in early August, 2002”—in which Powell persuaded Bush to take the question to the U.N.—“the agenda was not whether Iraq, but how.”

The long, gruelling effort at the U.N. now looked like a waste of time—or did Haass disagree? “That’s too negative,” he said. “Resolution 1441”—which the Security Council passed unanimously, and which reopened the weapons inspections in Iraq—“was an extraordinary achievement. It got inspectors back in under far more demanding terms. And it didn’t tie our hands. We never committed ourselves to another resolution. So it was an extraordinary accomplishment. It gave tremendous legal and political and moral authority to anything that we would subsequently do. I don’t see how anyone could fault that. Indeed, any problems that we have today pale in comparison to the problems we would have had if we had not done 1441. Where we had problems was obviously in the aftermath, and the question is why. Well, to some extent, as we got closer to the reality of war, all the visceral antiwar feeling came out. The French and others who voted for 1441 are being disingenuous. When they voted for it, they knew damn well what serious consequences it would have. What they’re doing is listening to their public opinion, rather than leading it.”

There were other reasons besides French opposition that the American effort in the United Nations had failed, Haass said. “A lot of the resentment of American foreign policy over the last couple of years has coalesced. This has become a kind of magnet for resentment. I think we may have been hurt by having a policy toward the Israel-Palestine dispute that was perceived in much of Europe and the Middle East to be biased toward Israel. In any event, we ended up going for the second resolution, quite honestly, not because we needed it. It was seen as nice to have, from our point of view. It was seen as desirable. But it was something that Tony Blair and others felt very strongly that they needed in order to manage their domestic polities.”

After months of official talk about removing Saddam from power, would the United States really have been willing to accept his remaining as the Iraqi head of state if he complied with the weapons inspectors? “That’s a hypothetical,” Haass said. “We said that we would have lived with it. My hunch is that, if you had had complete Iraqi coöperation and compliance, so we had eliminated to our satisfaction the W.M.D.”—weapons of mass destruction—“threat, the question would be, Could Saddam Hussein have survived that? My hunch is, Saddam concluded he couldn’t survive it, which is one of the reasons why we are where we are. It would have been such a loss of face. But, assuming it did not lead to regime change from within, I do not think we could or would have launched a war in those circumstances. Instead, if Saddam survived W.M.D. disarmament, we could have pursued regime change through other tools. That’s why you have diplomacy, that’s why you have propaganda, that’s why you have covert operations, that’s why you have sanctions. You have the rest of the tools. So my recommendations would have been, we pursue regime change and war-crimes prosecution—he still should have been responsible for war crimes—using other tools. But I think you had to reserve the military either for the W.M.D. issue or for incontrovertible evidence of support for terrorism.”

Now people were saying that the United States, by deciding to abandon the Security Council negotiations, had done irreparable harm to the institutional stature of the United Nations. “We’ve not done irreparable harm to anything,” Haass said. “In the case of the U.N., we’ve just once again learned the lesson that the U.N. can only function as an institution when there’s consensus among the major powers. The U.N. was never meant to act with the independence of a nation-state. It was never meant to be the instrument of one great power against another. So, when the great powers can’t agree, that’s when they have to go outside the U.N. Otherwise they’ll destroy the institution to make it relevant. You want to preserve it for those times when the differences between the powers are modest, or they actually agree.”

Therefore, with the United States determined to go to war, it was imperative to avoid a vote on a second resolution, which might have failed and would have been vetoed even if it had passed. “This would have been a much more confrontational situation,” Haass said. “We would have been acting against the U.N. Now we can argue that we are acting pursuant to the U.N., in 1441. This is a way, I believe, quite honestly, of preserving the U.N.’s potential viability in the future. We’ve not destroyed it. We’ve just admitted, though, that it can’t do everything, when the great powers of the day disagree.”

Now that the war is under way, the Washington foreign-policy consensus has shifted again, to the point that Haass’s position on the future of the U.N.—indeed, the future of the United States as a member of lasting alliances—would seem overoptimistic to many people. Washington has stopped debating the merits of the real war in Iraq (that’s one for demonstrators in the streets, not policymakers in offices) and has begun to focus on a possible one in North Korea.

2:15 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Shifts from bin Laden hunt evoke questions
By Dave Moniz and Steven Komarow, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — In 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures.

The CIA, meanwhile, was stretched badly in its capacity to collect, translate and analyze information coming from Afghanistan. When the White House raised a new priority, it took specialists away from the Afghanistan effort to ensure Iraq was covered.

Those were just two of the tradeoffs required because of what the Pentagon and CIA acknowledge is a shortage of key personnel to fight the war on terrorism. The question of how much those shifts prevented progress against al-Qaeda and other terrorists is putting the Bush administration on the defensive.

Even before the invasion, the wisdom of shifting resources from the bin Laden hunt to the war in Iraq was raised privately by top military officials and publicly by Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and others. Now it's being hotly debated again following an election-year critique of the Bush administration by its former counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke.

"If we catch him (bin Laden) this summer, which I expect, it's two years too late," Clarke said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. "Because during those two years when forces were diverted to Iraq ... al-Qaeda has metamorphosized into a hydra-headed organization with cells that are operating autonomously, like the cells that operated in Madrid recently."

The Bush administration says the hunt for bin Laden continued throughout the war in Iraq. Officials say it's wrong to speculate that he would have been captured, or other terrorist attacks prevented, if the Iraq war hadn't happened. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking on ABC's This Week, called the example of the Special Forces switch "simplistic."

But the Pentagon tacitly acknowledged a problem last year, after the Iraq invasion. It created a new organization, Task Force 121, to better oversee commando operations in the region and ensure a faster response when terrorists can be struck.

Now gaps in capability are being closed as the administration puts record amounts of money into military and spy agencies. More spy aircraft such as the Predator drone are arriving. More troops are getting Arabic training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. CIA Director George Tenet said this month that the agency is filling shortfalls, especially among translators.

Still, the question lingers: Did opening a second front hurt the main effort to defeat terrorism?

Bob Andrews, former head of a Pentagon office that oversaw special operations, says that removing Saddam Hussein was a good idea but "a distraction." The war in Iraq, Andrews notes, entailed the largest deployment of special operations forces — about 10,000 —since the Vietnam War. That's about 25% of all U.S. commandos.

It also siphoned spy aircraft and light infantry soldiers. Iraq proved such a drain, one former Pentagon official notes, that there were no AWACS radar jets to track drug-trafficking aircraft in South America.

Saddam was not an immediate threat. "This has been a real diversion from the longer struggle against jihadists," especially in the intelligence field, he says.

Stan Florer, a retired Army colonel and former Green Beret, agrees that Iraq diverted enormous military and intelligence assets. But he argues that long-standing disputes with Saddam needed to be addressed: "This was tearing at us all the time. It was a bleeding wound with Saddam calling the shots in the Middle East."

2:16 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Memo: Bush Made Intel Fit Iraq Policy
By Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott
Knight Ridder

Washington - A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that US intelligence data supported his policy.

The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," weapons of mass destruction.

The memo said "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2003.

The White House has repeatedly denied accusations made by several top foreign officials that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq.

It has instead pointed to the conclusions of two studies, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and one by a presidentially appointed panel, that cite serious failures by the CIA and other agencies in judging Saddam's weapons programs.

The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Saddam's regime.

The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington referred queries to another official, who didn't return calls for comment on Thursday.

A former senior US official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents.

In July 2002, and well afterward, top Bush administration foreign policy advisers were insisting that "there are no plans to attack Iraq on the president's desk."

But the memo quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a close colleague of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as saying that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action."

Straw is quoted as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat.

"But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran," the memo reported he said.

Straw reportedly proposed that Saddam be given an ultimatum to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors, which could help justify the eventual use of force.

Powell in August 2002 persuaded Bush to make the case against Saddam at the United Nations and to push for renewed weapons inspections.

But there were deep divisions within the White House over that course of action. The British document says that the National Security Council, then led by Condoleezza Rice, "had no patience with the UN route."

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is circulating a letter among fellow Democrats asking Bush for an explanation of the document's charges, an aide said.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Management said...

How long can Bush spin big lies into truth on Iraq war?

May 6, 2005


As the criminal, sinful war in Iraq enters its third year, the president is in Europe to heal the wounds between the United States and its former allies, on his own terms, of course. The White House propaganda mill hails it as another victory for the president and ignores the fact that most Europeans still consider the war dangerous folly and the president a dangerous fool.

One hears new rationalizations for the war on this side of the Atlantic. After the hearings on Secretary Rice, a Republican senator, with all the self-righteous anger that characterizes many such, proclaimed, "The Democrats just have to understand that the president really believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

This justification is not unlike the one heard frequently at the White House, "The president believed the intelligence agencies of the world."

Would it not be much better to have a president who deliberately lied to the people because he thought a war was essential than to have one who was so dumb as to be taken in by intelligence agencies, especially those who told him what he wanted to hear?

It is also asserted that the election settled the matters of the war and the torture of prisoners. These are dead issues that no longer need be addressed.

But the president received only 51 percent of the vote and carried only one more state than the last time (picking up New Mexico and Iowa and losing New Hampshire). This is a validation of the war and of prisoner abuse? This is a mandate to do whatever he wants to do and whatever the leadership of the evangelical denominations want? A percentage point and a single state are a mandate for more war? Never before in American political history!

Finally, we are told that the Iraqi election confirms the Bush administration policy in Iraq. The president's supporters must be in deep trouble to reach so far for that one. All the election proves is that the Iraqis want to run their own country. It also raises the possibility that Shia clerics will deliver Iraq into the hands of the Iranians. Some kind of victory!

How do these kinds of arguments play in the precincts? The survey data suggest that war has become more unpopular. The majority of the American people now think it was a mistake, in a shift away from the 51 percent that endorsed it on Election Day. Admittedly this is only a small change in the population, from a majority to a minority. Nor do the changers earn grace for their new opinions. They still endorsed the war on Election Day and are still responsible for it.

How long can the administration get along with its policies of spinning big lies into truth -- as it has more recently done on Social Security?

Note the three most important Cabinet positions. Rice said that it was better to find the weapons of mass destruction than to see a mushroom cloud.

"Judge" Gonzales said the Geneva Convention was "quaint" and in effect legitimated the de facto policy of torture.

Rumsfeld repealed the "Powell Doctrine" -- only go to war when you have the massive force necessary to win decisively and quickly. Brilliant businessman that he is (like Robert McNamara of the Vietnam era), he thought he could win with 130,000 troops (unlike the at least 200,000 that the Army chief of staff insisted) and hence made the current "insurgency" inevitable.

The presence of these three towering giants in the administration certainly confirms that the president is confident that he is "right" on Iraq and that he has mandates from the American people and from God which confirm that he is "right."

Nothing, in other words, has changed in the last two years. The war is still the "right thing to do," it is still part of the "war against terrorism," it is still essential to keep Arabs from blowing up our skyscrapers.

You can still get away with the "big lie" as long as Karl Rove and his team of spinners keep providing persuasive rationalizations. The American public is still supine, uneasy about the war, but not willing yet to turn decisively against it. Will that still be the case next year when we "celebrate" the third anniversary of the war? Is the patience of the American people that long-suffering? Is there no outrage left in the country? How many people have to die before the public realizes that American foreign policy is a tissue of lies?

2:18 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Impeachment Time: "Facts Were Fixed."

by Greg Palast

Here it is. The smoking gun. The memo that has "IMPEACH HIM" written all over it.

The top-level government memo marked "SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL," dated eight months before Bush sent us into Iraq, following a closed meeting with the President, reads, "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Read that again: "The intelligence and facts were being fixed...."

For years, after each damning report on BBC TV, viewers inevitably ask me, "Isn't this grounds for impeachment?" -- vote rigging, a blind eye to terror and the bin Ladens before 9-11, and so on. Evil, stupidity and self-dealing are shameful but not impeachable. What's needed is a " high crime or misdemeanor."

And if this ain't it, nothing is.

The memo, uncovered this week by the Times, goes on to describe an elaborate plan by George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to hoodwink the planet into supporting an attack on Iraq knowing full well the evidence for war was a phony.

A conspiracy to commit serial fraud is, under federal law, racketeering. However, the Mob's schemes never cost so many lives.

Here's more. "Bush had made up his mind to take military action. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Really? But Mr. Bush told us, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

A month ago, the Silberman-Robb Commission issued its report on WMD intelligence before the war, dismissing claims that Bush fixed the facts with this snooty, condescending conclusion written directly to the President, "After a thorough review, the Commission found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons."

We now know the report was a bogus 618 pages of thick whitewash aimed to let Bush off the hook for his murderous mendacity.

Read on: The invasion build-up was then set, says the memo, "beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections." Mission accomplished.

You should parse the entire memo and see if you can make it through its three pages without losing your lunch.

Now sharp readers may note they didn't see this memo, in fact, printed in the New York Times. It wasn't. Rather, it was splashed across the front pages of the Times of LONDON on Monday.

It has effectively finished the last, sorry remnants of Tony Blair's political career. (While his Labor Party will most assuredly win the elections Thursday, Prime Minister Blair is expected, possibly within months, to be shoved overboard in favor of his Chancellor of the Exchequer, a political execution which requires only a vote of the Labour party's members in Parliament.)

But in the US, barely a word. The New York Times covers this hard evidence of Bush's fabrication of a casus belli as some "British" elections story. Apparently, our President's fraud isn't "news fit to print."

My colleagues in the UK press have skewered Blair, digging out more incriminating memos, challenging the official government factoids and fibs. But in the US press …nada, bubkes, zilch. Bush fixed the facts and somehow that's a story for "over there."

The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over his cigar and Monica's affections. And the US media could print nothing else.

Now, we have the stone, cold evidence of bending intelligence to sell us on death by the thousands, and neither a Republican Congress nor what is laughably called US journalism thought it worth a second look.

My friend Daniel Ellsberg once said that what's good about the American people is that you have to lie to them. What's bad about Americans is that it's so easy to do.


Greg Palast, former columnist for Britain's Guardian papers, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his columns at

2:19 AM  
Blogger Management said...,,1-523-1592904-523,00.html

May 01, 2005

Blair hit by new leak of secret war plan
Michael Smith

A SECRET document from the heart of government reveals today that Tony Blair privately committed Britain to war with Iraq and then set out to lure Saddam Hussein into providing the legal justification.

The Downing Street minutes, headed “Secret and strictly personal — UK eyes only”, detail one of the most important meetings ahead of the invasion.

It was chaired by the prime minister and attended by his inner circle. The document reveals Blair backed “regime change” by force from the outset, despite warnings from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, that such action could be illegal.

The minutes, published by The Sunday Times today, begins with the warning: “This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. The paper should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know.” It records a meeting in July 2002, attended by military and intelligence chiefs, at which Blair discussed military options having already committed himself to supporting President George Bush’s plans for ousting Saddam.

“If the political context were right, people would support regime change,” said Blair. He added that the key issues were “whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan space to work”.

The political strategy proved to be arguing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed such a threat that military action had to be taken. However, at the July meeting Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said the case for war was “thin” as “Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran”.

Straw suggested they should “work up” an ultimatum about weapons inspectors that would “help with the legal justification”. Blair is recorded as saying that “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors”.

A separate secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had to “create” conditions to justify a war.

The papers, the second sensitive leak close to the election, appear to be an attempt by disaffected Whitehall insiders to attack Blair’s integrity. They are likely to fuel claims he misled the country on Iraq.

One reason for the secrecy is that the minutes record discussion of US plans for invasion; another is that at the time Blair had given no indication that plans were so advanced.

He had not revealed to MPs or the public that in April 2002 he had told Bush “the UK would support US military action to bring about regime change”, as recorded in the Foreign Office briefing paper. Both before and after the July meeting Blair insisted in public no decision had been made.

The July meeting was later mentioned by Lord Butler in his report on the use of intelligence on WMD as a “key stage” in the road to war; but its details have never been revealed until now.

The minutes show Goldsmith warned Blair eight months before war started on March 19, 2003 that finding legal justification would be “difficult”. The attorney-general only ruled unambiguously war was lawful a few days before the war started after Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staff, demanded unequivocal written confirmation.

Boyce was never shown Goldsmith’s more equivocal advice to Blair of March 7, 2003, and says today ministers failed to give him protection from prosecution at the International Criminal Court. “I have always been troubled by the ICC,” he says, adding that if British servicemen are put on trial, ministers should be “brought into the frame as well”. Asked if that should include Blair and Goldsmith, he tells The Observer: “Too bloody right.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the leaked minute showed Blair had “agreed to an illegal regime change with the Bush administration. It set out to create the justification for going to war. It was to be war by any means.”

Downing Street claimed the document contained “nothing new”.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Management said...

A Memo And Two Catechisms
Robert Dreyfuss
May 23, 2005

Robert Dreyfuss is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va., who specializes in politics and national security issues. He is a contributing editor at The Nation, a contributing writer at Mother Jones, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect, and a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone. His book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, will be published by Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books in the fall.

We’ve all seen enough CSI to know that you can’t ignore a smoking gun. But the media has so far pretty much ignored the so-called Downing Street memo, which implicated the Bush administration in falsifying intelligence in connection with the plan for war in Iraq. Let’s try to understand why.

On the left, it’s part of the catechism now that President Bush and his administration lied about the reasons for going to war against Iraq in 2003, and that they “cooked” the intelligence used to inflate the Iraqi threat. The over-baked intelligence was then used, wittingly, to justify claims that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program, vast stockpiles of chemical and biological arms, SCUD missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver them, and, of course, ties to Al Qaeda that implicated Saddam Hussein in the events of 9/11.

On the right, the catechism says the opposite: that the Bush administration went to war in good faith, that U.S. intelligence functioned without political pressure to come up with its way-off-the-mark conclusions, and that not only did the weapons exist but that we might still find them if we keep looking—in Syria, perhaps?

Only one of these catechisms has the imprimatur of truth—which is why, 26 months after the war with Iraq began, it seems more important than ever to get to the bottom of it. Unfortunately, just as the United States has given up looking for Iraqi WMD, official Washington and the media have given up trying to see which one of these catechisms is phony. The proof is the utterly blasé reaction to what seems to be a true “smoking gun”: the so-called Downing Street memo, based on verbatim U.S.-British talks in 2002, in which the British calmly reported that the United States had already decided to make war on Iraq and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

You’d think that such an important piece of evidence—which emerged in the context of the recent British elections—would explode like a thunderclap here. Yet it took 17 days, from the publication on May 1 in the London Sunday Times , before the existence of the memo was mentioned on the front page of an American newspaper—the Chicago Tribune. A few other papers, including The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, have buried stories on the inside about it—and the Post’s ombudsman provided a too-little, too-late criticism of his paper’s less-than-excited (and less-than-timely) coverage of the memo. And the paper of record, The New York Times , has mostly ignored it, giving it short shrift on May 20. That story, by Douglas Jehl, focused on the memo’s implication that Bush had decided to go to war by early in 2002, but it nearly skipped over the most explosive part of the story—namely, that the intelligence on Iraq was being rigged.

What accounts for the media’s refusal to hammer away at this story, to demand that Bush administration officials explain it, to dig deep into much more detailed British accounts surrounding it and to get British officials to comment, to ask Pentagon and CIA officials to explain it, and to put it in context? (In this case, the context is that in early 2002, the Bush administration was well on the way toward assembling a secretive team inside the Pentagon, supervised by outgoing Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, to cherry-pick facts and rumors that were used to promote war.)

First, most distressingly, the media is following the lead of the Democrats. True, John Conyers and 88 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter asking the White House about the memo, but by and large the Democrats took a pass. That’s in keeping with the party’s decision in 2004, during the election campaign, not to raise the issue of the Pentagon’s Feith-based Office of Special Plans and the widespread reports that the intelligence on Iraq was falsified. During the campaign, John Kerry barely touched on the issue, and in the Senate, West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller—the ranking Dem on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence—decided not to make a fuss over it. Rockefeller agreed to postpone an investigation into the political use of Iraq intelligence—a code word for an inquiry into whether it was faked—until after the election in November 2004. Then, inexplicably, Rocky let Sen. Pat Roberts get away with a decision to renege on the promised investigation . So the Senate plans to do nothing.

Second, my impression is that the media have collectively gotten fatigued with the whole issue. Always sensitive to conventional wisdom, the media seems to have concluded the story of fake intelligence on Iraq is “old news.” It’s as if they’ve concluded they they’ve done their job, and that those Americans who choose to believe the first catechism have all the ammunition they really need, and that those who choose to believe the second don’t want to hear anything more. It’s a slam-dunk story: We went to war, there weren’t any WMD to be found, and so let the public draw its own conclusions, the media seems to think. Not only that, but it’s exhausting to dig into an old story like that, they must believe. The fact that no WMD were found in Iraq is widely known, and Americans pretty much know that the WMD rationale for war was a cover story, so why bother with the details? Why bother with trying to sort all that out? Who has the time or the energy to rehash all that now?

Third, the media have pretty much allowed their investigative skills to atrophy. The Bush administration has stone-walled inquires on the WMD fakery, the seemingly endless parade of Iraq- and 9/11-linked commissions have all avoided the topic, and the Senate Republicans have blocked any inquiry. So the media doesn’t know where to go: it’s as if they’ve forgotten how to investigate something—as if they’ve forgotten how to find second- and third-level folks to help assemble the story, how to background key players in the OSP and the U.S. intelligence community. And doing that gets the administration mad at you. You get snubbed by “sources.” Access dries up. The administration closes ranks against you. Do we really want all that grief?

The clearest proof that this is all true is the stunning lack of editorial comment on the Downing Street memo. Where are the thundering editorials demanding that the White House explain itself? That Congress investigate? That a team of senators flies to London to look into this?

It isn’t like this scandal involves something small, as if it were one more peccadillo to be added to the list of Tom DeLay’s complicated transgressions. This is a basic issue of life and death, of war and peace. Upwards of 100,000 people have died because George W. Bush decided to go to war in Iraq, and $200 billion has been funneled down that black hole. Yet with each passing day, the story of how the Bush administration manipulated, falsified and lied its way to war is getting harder and harder to tell. Pretty soon, it won’t be a story for CSI at all. It will be something for the “Cold Case” squad.

12:48 AM  

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