More on Downing Street

Here are some more interesting (usual disclaimer) items on the Downing Street memo. Some are new; others are older items I’d previously overlooked.

First up, from today’s LA Times: New memos detail early plans for invading Iraq (login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works for now). The article gives details from six additional documents obtained by the Sunday Times; they describe internal British government discussions of U.S. plans for war dating to March, 2002.

More dots filled in; I’d recommend Craig read it to see if he can still connect them in a way that looks like anything other than an early decision for war. But I suspect he may have reached the point where it’s easier not to pay attention; evidence that disconfirms deeply held beliefs can be a real pain in the ass, what with the need to keep erasing the picture you’ve previously formed so you can redraw the lines in a more convoluted fashion.

Eric Boehlert in Slate, who’s been doing a better job than most at keeping up on this story, had a piece yesterday that provides more details on the slow pace of media coverage: AP dropped the ball on the Downing memo (one-day pass required). Among the things he links to are this article from the ombudsman at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Downing Street memo’s route to paper, which discusses, among other things, how that newspaper came to publish a strikingly backboned editorial back on Memorial Day that talked about the memo, and tied it in with a larger point about the Iraq war being — like Vietnam — a “mistake” in which young people were being sent to die in “a war that should never have happened.”

Finally, I can’t believe I missed this back when it first appeared, but on May 19 (!) Juan Cole had an article in Salon that put the Downing Street memo in context, citing the events that took place in the run-up to war and showing how they fit in perfectly with the memo’s revelations: The lies that led to war.

A key observation:

The Bush administration, and some credulous or loyal members of the press, have long tried to blame U.S. intelligence services for exaggerating the Iraq threat and thus misleading the president into going to war. That position was always weak, and it is now revealed as laughable. President Bush was not misled by shoddy intelligence. Rather, he insisted on getting the intelligence that would support the war on which he had already decided.

I think that’s the heart of my disagreement with Craig these days: he persists in giving Bush the benefit of the doubt on this question, pointing to things like the reports of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Bush’s WMD commission as proving it was bad intelligence, not Bush’s bad judgment, that put us in the position we’re in today in Iraq. Bush was forced to go to war by Saddam’s failure to comply with resolution 1441, the argument goes, and by the UN’s failure to hold Saddam accountable.

As Cole says, that position was weak at the time the war began. It was obvious (at least to me) what was going on from the way Bush disengaged from the UN process just when it seemed most clearly to be working (where “working” is defined as “reducing the threat represented by Saddam’s WMD to a negligible level, at a minute fraction of the cost of going to war”).

Weak then, but indeed, laughable now. With each new piece of documentation that comes out, the picture gets clearer. The British government’s private communications from that time provide detailed, repeated confirmation of Bush’s early decision for war.

Crystal ball time. As this evidence grows stronger, the Bush team’s defenders will retreat to their ultimate fallback position: Sure Saddam didn’t actually have WMD. Sure the UN effort wasn’t made in a good faith search for an alternative to war. But Bush knew Saddam was a threat, and that one day, sooner or later, he was going to do something very bad to the United States. So he decided to stop him. Whether Bush actually reached that decision in 1998 or 2000 or 2001 or 2002 (or when he actually says he reached it, in 2003) is unimportant. What is important is that it was his decision, he made it, and we’re better off because of it.

Which is something like a belief in Creationism: It’s unfalsifiable. It’s based on a hypothetical prediction of what would have happened if we hadn’t removed Saddam by force, and no matter how bad the actual debacle of the Iraq war becomes, Bush and his supporters will always be able to imagine something worse.

Imaginary thinking is what they’re good at. It’s reality that they — and their supporters — have a hard time getting their heads around.

3 Responses to “More on Downing Street”

  1. Craig Says:

    As I said before, it is pointless for me to wade back into the details of this memo discussion again. I’ve said plenty about my view on the planning and political process at work in the time leading to the war. I’m just as uninterested in reiterating it, as others would be of reading it.

    I will submit however, that the reason for the general lack of passion on these memos is that it doesn’t really plow any new ground on either side of the spectrum. Those opposed to Bush and the war just see more of what they already have expected or believed, or what has already been showed to be true through official investigations. Those in support of Bush and/or the war see no great revelation with the anticipation of a war not lining up with the public statements on deciding on war. If people care to recall, even back then it was generally understood that the US was going back to the UN with justifications and final demands on Saddam for the benefit of Blair. No one expected Saddam to suddenly concede to fully transparent disclosure and no one expected the majority of permanent members of the UN security council to change their view.

    So feel free to scratch your head over an apparent missed bombshell by the US press. But the weakening of support by the public in the war, is much less the result of these overripe mini-dramas on who said what when, and much more on what people living in “today” are seeing in the frustrations of stabilizing Iraq. Just don’t tell the Haters and the rest of those of a Liberal bent that the way to make traction with the broadest group of Americans is by focusing on the present events, not on trying to win debate points regarding timelines and some “gotchas” of some prewar inconsistancies.

    But let’s just keep that little nugget of information between us, okay?

  2. adam_blust Says:

    Funny thing is, when people on the left focus on “today” – Gitmo, casualties, billions misplaced, and on and on – they are just accused of being traitors and ignored. Question the war? Question the President? Traitor! Terrorist Sympathizer!

    The only “traction” to be had at this point is when enough people have had people they know die, and they begin to wonder if there was a point to lowering their loved one into the ground. Too bad that’s going to take so much longer, and involve lots more death. Too bad they didn’t care when all they could think of was revenge for 9/11, and they didn’t much care which Muslims got the smackdown.

  3. Rise Against Says:

    Whats really scary is the right’s unwillingness to question anything about this administration. No matter how many facts are thrown at them, they simply follow lalong ike a bunch of sheep and will continue to follow along until the very end.

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