Here’s some interesting followup on the leaked ‘smoking gun’ Tony Blair memo (previously discussed here in Evidence of Bush’s early decision to invade Iraq):
From FAIR, Smoking Gun Memo?
Journalists typically condemn attempts to force their colleagues to disclose anonymous sources, saying that subpoenaing reporters will discourage efforts to expose government wrongdoing. But such warnings seem like mere self-congratulation when clear evidence of wrongdoing emerges, with no anonymous sources required– and major news outlets virtually ignore it.
A leaked document that appeared in a British newspaper offered clear new evidence that U.S. intelligence was shaped to support the drive for war. Though the information rocked British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s re-election campaign when it was revealed, it has received little attention in the U.S. press.
Joe Conason in Slate provides valuable context for the recent-history-impaired in Afraid to tell the truth (one-day pass required):
When Bush signed the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq on Oct. 16, 2002 — three months after the Downing Street memorandum — he didn’t say that military action was “inevitable.” Instead, the president assured Americans and the world that he still hoped war could be avoided.
“I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary,” he said at a press conference. “Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action.” He promised that he had “carefully weighed the human cost of every option before us” and that if the United States went into battle, it would be “as a last resort.”
In the months that followed, as we now know, the president and his aides grossly exaggerated, and in some instances falsified, the intelligence concerning the Iraqi regime’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Defenders of his policy have since insisted that he too was misled with bad information, provided by U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.
But “C” heard something very different from Blair’s allies in Washington.
According to him, Bush, determined to oust Saddam, planned to “justify” a preventive war by tying the terrorist threat to Iraq’s WMD arsenal — and manipulating the intelligence to fit his policy instead of determining the policy based on the facts.
Meanwhile, 88 congresscritters, led by dangerously non-Republican John Conyers (D-MI), have sent a letter to Bush asking him to come clean about the information contained in the British memo. The letter includes the following questions:
1) Do you or anyone in your Administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain’s commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to “fix” the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?
As near as I can tell, the Bush administration’s response to all this has been a steadfast “no comment.” And they’ll continue with that response, obviously, as long as they can get away with it. They don’t want to talk about the memo, because it constitutes proof that their public statements in the run-up to the Iraq war were lies.
It really bugs me that the mainstream media are letting them get away with this. If a president is allowed to lie his way into a war, then avoid any political consequences when the proof of his having done so comes to light afterward, it’s game over for democracy. If you feel it was appropriate that Bill Clinton paid a political price for having lied about getting blowjobs from Monica, I can’t see how you can defend giving Bush a free pass on this one.
The FAIR item linked to above mentions, but doesn’t link to, the following NY Times article by Douglas Jehl, in which Jehl analyzes the resistance to the Bolton nomination: Tug of war: Intelligence vs. politics.
For more than two years, critics who accused the Bush administration of improperly using political influence to shape intelligence assessments have, for the most part, failed to make the charge stick. On Iraq, the main focus of scrutiny, two official inquiries have blamed intelligence agencies for inflating the threat posed by Baghdad’s illicit weapons, but have stopped short of blaming political pressures for the problem.
Those findings have never fully satisfied many intelligence officials and some administration critics. At minimum, they have said, some senior Bush administration officials have played an unhelpful role, by urging intelligence agencies to revise conclusions in a direction more consistent with administration policy, as in pursuing links between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Now John R. Bolton, nominated as United Nations ambassador, has emerged as a new lightning rod for those who saw a pattern of political pressure on intelligence analysts. And this time, current and former officials are complaining more publicly than before.
Some of them are prompted by antipathy to Mr. Bolton, some by lingering guilt about Iraq. Some, perhaps, are nervous about the quality of current intelligence assessments at a time of new uncertainties about North Korea’s nuclear program, and ambiguous evidence about whether it is moving toward a nuclear test.
One of those critics, Robert L. Hutchings, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, made the point in an e-mail message, even as he declined to discuss Mr. Bolton in specific detail. “This is not just about the behavior of a few individuals but about a culture that permitted them to continue trying to skew the intelligence to suit their policy agenda – even after it became clear that we as a government had so badly missed the call on Iraqi W.M.D.,” Mr. Hutchings said.
The culture that is permitting that sort of “skewing” includes the mainstream media, apparently.