More on Downing Street Documents’ Significance

Here are some more links, representing the most interesting stuff I’ve read since I last updated y’all on my Downing Street Memo reading. Some of it’s up to a week old; apologies for being only sporadically obsessed.

From Think Progress: Full text of British briefing papers revealed: More evidence intel was fixed. It includes PDFs for the six additional documents that have entered the discussion recently. So far I’ve only read excerpts in news accounts, but it sounds like it continues to fill in more pieces of the picture; the legal concerns the British had about the invasion, references to the deal Tony Blair had cut with Bush at the ranch in Crawford in March, 2002, and so on. I’m still a little fuzzy on the history of when the various documents were leaked to the publlic, though I’m trying to put a clearer picture together so I can update Wikipedia’s Downing Street memo page with the details.

The Raw Story also has copies of the six documents, with some additional information on how they came to be released, and the details on how they were handled by Michael Smith, the journalist who received them from his confidential source, apparently in September, 2004: Backstory: Confirming the Downing Strett documents.

Speaking of journalist Michael Smith, he did a really interesting online chat via the Washington Post this past Thursday, June 16, 2005: Transcript: The Downing Street memo.

Michael Kinsley wrote an op-ed column questioning the memo’s significance: No smoking gun. has a nice page refuting some of the arguments against the memo’s significance, including some of those advanced by Kinsley: Reality check.

On June 12 Juan Cole had an item on the July, 2002, briefing paper (the one that was prepared in advance of the meeting summarized in the Downing Street memo): Bush and Blair committed to war in April, 2002.

Blogger Digby of Hullabaloo had some good discussion of the original memo’s significance last Sunday, June 12: The elephant.

A really good summary of the significance of all the documents was provided on Wednesday, June 15 by Slate’s Fred Kaplan (and was apparently on NPR’s Day to Day, also): Let’s go to the memo. Kaplan manages to be objective about what the documents do and don’t say, which is a pretty good trick in the current overheated rhetorical environment.

Speaking of overheated, it’s worth getting the day pass from Salon to read the views of four constitutional scholars regarding Ralph Nader’s (and others’) calls for Bush and his senior staff to be impeached based on the memo: The I-word.


7 Responses to “More on Downing Street Documents’ Significance”

  1. Rise Against Says:

    “It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. 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.”

    Obviously, this whole mess was about revenge by young Bush on Saddam for plotting to kill his Daddy. Its just too bad that he couldn’t fight his own battles and hundreds of thousands are now dead, maimed or homeless. The memo pretty much confirms what I have beleived for a long time: This war was/is illegal.

  2. ethan-p Says:

    Rise, is your comment on personal revenge sarcastic, or for real?

    As much as I really dislike Bush and his administration, I don’t think that this is grounds for impeachment. First of all, everybody with a few brain cells left over should just know that Ralph Nader is one of the most full-of-shit individuals on the planet. Even if I supported his cause, I’d consider going the other way, because of the risk of agreeing with such an anti-freedom assface. Secondly, you can’t impeach a president for simply bullshitting the American people. Bullshit is a cornerstone of American (and dare I say, world) politics. There’s nothing illegal about lying to the American people to go to war. It is a despicable act, but not illegal, and not impeachable. Before people flail their arms and yell stuff like “Clinton”…”impeached”…”lying!”. He lied under oath to the Congress. There’s a difference. One is a felony (purjury) which was easy to prove in Clinton’s case. The other was (at best) a massive conspiracy where intelligence was cooked up to present a bullshit case to the world to support a still undisclosed cause for war. The latter is far more difficult to prove, and has already been vehemently denied by scores of potentially involved intelligence people who were repeatedly grilled by Congress to show that the prewar intelligence was fixed around the policy.

    The comparison between Bush and Clinton is getting old, because the ethical score doesn’t add up for me either…but I’ll go there, beacuse there are some interesting points. Lying about getting your dick sucked versus lying so that we can go to war is obviously not the same ethically. However, when I add up the evidence in both situations, Clinton’s was an easier ‘conviction’…even though (IMO) it was bullshit and shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

    While I’m off-track on the subject of Clinton’s impeachment, here’s a question for everyone, especially all of the leftish folks out there (and I’m especially interested in JBC’s opinion on this one). Do you feel that Clinton’s impeachment was unnecessary or unwarranted? If so, let’s imagine that Bush is in the same position…he got a little freaky with a White House intern, and lied about it under oath. Let’s also assume that otherwise, the situation is the same. He’s still the same social conservative and fiscal liberal who sent us to war under a false pretense, and then re-spun it as making the world safer and freeing the Iraqi people. I’m sure that many of us will agree that getting down with a White House intern is not such a big deal. If Clinton should not have been impeached over such an act, is it OK to impeach Bush over the same act because we don’t care for his politics?

    If so, does it make the right-wing a bit more justified in their impeachment of Clinton? By that, I mean — if they legitimately hated the guy (whether or not you agree with their reasons for hating him), and it’s OK to do it to Bush because you hate him, does it make the right a bit more ethically correct? IMO, they’d both be wrong.

    -Ethan P

  3. jbc Says:

    No, I don’t think what Clinton did justified impeachment. On a moral, if not a legal, level, I think it constituted entrapment: The only reason he was put in the position of feeling he needed to lie under oath was that he was the target of a combination witch hunt/fishing expedition orchestrated by the Republican leadership in Congress.

    If that situation were reversed, with the Bush target of a comparable effort and guilty only of a comparable offense, I’d say he also didn’t deserve to be impeached.

    On the question of impeaching Bush for his actions in taking the country to war with Iraq, I think it’s important to remember, as one of the legal scholars pointed out in that piece I linked to the other day, that impeachment isn’t a legal procedure with political overtones. It’s a political procedure with legal overtones. Given the demonstrated fact that Clinton _was_ impeached by a Republican Congress, I assert that it is a demonstrated fact that Bush’s actions rise to the level of being impeachable — because the Republicans’ impeachment of Clinton has set the threshhold for that really, really low.

    If you’re asking my opinion on whether he _should_ be impeached for what he did with the Iraq war, at least in a hypothetical universe where public outrage hits such a pitch that there’s a political bloodbath for the Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections and a Democratic majority in the House in 2007, I’d say yeah, he should. Proving that he acted with malice aforethought in slanting the intelligence to make the case for war might be difficult, but for myself, I have no doubt whatsoever that he actually did that, and I think that does justify removal from office via impeachment.

  4. ethan-p Says:

    I think it’s important to remember, as one of the legal scholars pointed out in that piece I linked to the other day, that impeachment isn’t a legal procedure with political overtones. It’s a political procedure with legal overtones.

    This is an excellent point, and I haven’t been following closely enough to have read that. I had always thought of impeachment as the former (legal with political overtones). In the case of the latter, however, I think that we’re in for the full 8 years of Bushie, because I really doubt that the midterm elections will change the balance of power (although I’d like to see Bush’s power balanced out).

    I think that we’re right dead in the middle of the (social) backswing of conservatism. It seems that throughout our history, we tend to swing into social conservatism after a major event — depressions, recessions, depressions, wars, etc. Leftism in prosperity, and rightism in slim times.

    We had a small recession (although it didn’t seem to small to me) and a September 11th. It’s my personal belief that this had much to do with Bush’s re-election.

    -Ethan P

  5. Rise Against Says:

    It was for real, ethan-p.

    I saw Bush sometime ago, on TV telling a reporter, “Let’s not forget, this is a man (Saddam) who tried to have my father killed”.

    Combining that statement with the downing st. memo, other evidence that I have seen and heard over that last two years, and my skeptism for Bushes motives in general leads my to believe nothing else. Just the other day Bush was laughing, literally, at a reporter who started to ask questions about Iraq. All he could say (after he stopped laughing) was, “I think about Iraq everyday”.

    Really? He thinks about a war he started everyday?! Wow.

    It’s all those things (and many others) that make me feel the way I do about Bush. That and the fact that a guy who probably can’t even pass a grade 9 aptitude test is in charge of the most powerful country, and military, in the world. It scares me, and for good reason too.

    And yes, comparing the Clinton dick sucking fiasco with someone who lied to go to war, resulting in thousands of deaths, lost respect, and a more dangerous world is ridiculous at the very least.

    I totally agree ethan, on your point about Bushes re-election. Makes sense.

  6. ethan-p Says:

    I’m with you — he’s an ass alright. However, I don’t have any reason to believe that his primary motivation for going into Iraq had anything to do with revenge for his daddy. I don’t think that it was a secondary reason, or even a distant sixth.

    What scares me about Bush is that I believe he means his rhetoric, and he beleives in the plan that his neoconservative staff sold him (and no, I don’t think that he’s a Neocon). I’ve got a few friends who work for various members of the administration, and these people actaully believe what they say (and sometimes, you need to dig into things like the Neoconservative ‘manifesto’ to see it). I had a long conversation with one friend who works for Paul Wolfowitz. He really believes in the ideal.

    1. Take out Saddam to bully the rest of the middle east into submission. (Insert ‘plant the seed of democracy’ rhetoric here)
    2. Create ‘stability’ in the region by taking out Saddam. This way, we can bail out of Saudi Arabia and make the fundamentalists a little less angry (the plan is slightly more complicated and far fetched than this)
    3. Profit!
    …4. Pay lip service to spreading ‘freedom’ and democracy.

    See, the Neocons see the countries in the middle east as a series of nations that are either authoritarian or totalatarian. We don’t particularly like the authoritan governments (like Egypt and Saudi Arabia), but can do business with them. The totalitarian governments were those like Iran, Syria, the former Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The idea was to create a democratic nation, whose citizens would eventually obtain a western lifestyle. As the other citizens in the region saw how the new western democratica folks were living, the authoritarian governments would be forced to change their ways or face a revolution. Once we have enough friends in the region, we can bully the totalitarian nations into submission.

    I believe that they’re doing what they said they wanted to do. It may even work — there has been some progress in the region. However, I do not believe that the ends justify the means.

    My first question for my Wolfowitz-employee friend was “Isn’t Iran on the edge of a cultural revoltion? Couldn’t that have happened naturally without American-induced bloodshed?” He tenatively agreed, and said that it was an interesting point.

    I think that this is more about stabilizing the region for trade (oil), and building governmental allies to shut down terrorist interests more than it is about any personal vendetta.

  7. Rise Against Says:

    Oh I don’t think that was the factor, but I still believe it was a factor .

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.