Note: A version of this item also appears in today’s issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log.
As mentioned last Tuesday in Media Notes and again in this weekend’s Just Above Sunset, seven days ago Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London broke a story concerning Tony Blair and George Bush that was curious – but the Times story broke almost exactly when the first lady was addressing the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner, so her comedy routine got the airtime on the news and key real estate in the papers over here. There was no room left for the Times story – given the reluctant bride and the naughty First Lady and Michael Jackson and whatnot.
Too bad. That London paper got their hot little hands on an odd document - what appears to be a memo from the Blair and Bush discussions in the summer of 2002, and that would be some months before Colin Powell made his presentation to the UN laying out the clear evidence of the reasons the UN should join us in a war. You remember – all those facts about all those weapons of mass destruction. The memo - dated 23 July 2002 by Matthew Rycroft, a former Downing Street foreign policy aide? The Brits understood that the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq and toss out the government there – but Bush just hadn’t yet decided why. The war came nine months later. So the Brits decided they’d jump on board. Why not?
But there has been precious little coverage of the whole matter.
The Knight-Ridder wire service finally picked up on it Thursday -
Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly puts it in perspective -
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 U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.
One of Drum?s readers ? one Libby Sosume - is not pleased.
Look, I know this isn't going to change anything at this point. We've already spent months on the issue of intelligence manipulation and nobody really seems to care all that much. But it would still be nice for the American media to report this stuff just for the record.
According to the memo, the bottom line is this: By the summer of 2002 George Bush had already decided on war regardless of Saddam Hussein's actions; democracy promotion was not even mentioned in passing as a reason for the war; postwar reconstruction was an issue of no concern; and the "marketing campaign" for the war was deliberately timed to coincide with midterm elections.
Just for the record.
No. It?s history.
If he was a Democrat, he would be impeached (and tried for treason if it were possible).
We need this story out there, with lots of exposure. It doesn't change anything, much less bother the hard core base who believe that lying is necessary for the greater good. But it will be highly unsettling for the moderates who have kept him and the party in power. Those Americans will remember this - AND the social security lies, AND the Shiavo case, and other things. Reasonable Americans can put up with incompetence, but they don't like being lied to.
The story is well worth hyping.
The University of Michigan professor of Middle-Eastern Studies, Juan Cole, does have an issue or two.
He sees a smoking gun in the memo ?
C [Dearlove] 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.
Well, in the memo British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw does say this: "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 neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
It is not surprising on the face of it that Bush had decided on the Iraq war by summer of 2002. It it is notable that Dearlove noticed a change in views on the subject from earlier visits. By summer of 2002, the Afghanistan war had wound down and al-Qaeda was on the run, so Bush no longer felt vulnerable and was ready to go forward with his long-cherished project of an Iraq War. What is notable is that all this was not what Bush was telling us.
Bush was lying to the American people at the time and saying that no final decision had been made on the war.
Godfrey Sperling of the Christian Science Monitor could write on August 27, 2002, "Indeed, Bush has said he welcomes a 'debate' on Iraq from those in Congress and from the public. But he has made it clear that he will make his decision based on what his intelligence people are telling him."
But Dearlove's report makes it clear that Bush had already decided absolutely on a war already the previous month, and that he had managed to give British intelligence the firm impression that he intended to shape the intelligence to support such a war. So poor Sperling was lied to twice. Any "debate" was meaningless if the president had already decided. And he wasn't waiting to make his decision in the light of the intelligence. He was going to tell the intelligence professionals to what conclusion they had to come. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Why would it even be necessary to turn the intelligence analysts into "weasels" who would have to tell Bush what he wanted to hear?
It was necessary because the "justification" of the "conjunction" of Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorism was virtually non-existent.
Cole?s conclusion? Bush was just going to make things up, since the realities did not actually justify his planned war ?
And Cole adds ?
? and the British cabinet sat around and admitted to themselves that a) there was no justification for the war into which they were allowing themselves to be dragged and b) that the war would be gotten up through Goebbels-like techniques!
Ah, we were all stuck. Oh well. You have to admire George Bush for his brass balls ? or not.
It is even worse. British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith was at the meeting. He had to think up a justification for the war in international law. Britain is in Europe, and Europe takes international law seriously. You could have war crimes trials. (Remember that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet almost got tried in Spain for killing 5000 people in the 1970s).
Goldsmith was as nervous as a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs: "The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change."
The driness of the wit is unbearable. "The desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action"! Naked aggression is illegal, he could have said. Then he reviews the three possible grounds for a war. You could have a war if Iraq attacked you. Iraq had not attacked the US. Or you could have a war if it was a humanitarian intervention (e.g. under the genocide convention). But Saddam's major campaigns of death had been a decade before. Or you could get a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the war, in accordance with the UN charter. But Goldsmith makes it clear he thought you would need a new resolution, that the old ones wouldn't work for this purpose.
The Attorney General of the United Kingdom thought the reports Dearlove and Straw were bringing back from Washington reeked of an illegal war. People who plan out illegal wars are war criminals. He knew this. He was stuck, however. They were all stuck.
And who is going to admit anything? Note this from late in the week, in the Seattle Times -
What does it matter now?
The memo, first disclosed in full 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.
A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on the leaked document.
However, a former senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during Dearlove's visit to Washington.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is circulating a letter among fellow Democrats asking Bush for an explanation of the charges, an aide said.
In July 2002, and well afterward, top Bush administration 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 "Bush had made up his mind to take military action."
Straw is quoted as having doubts about the Iraqi threat.
? The document said Straw proposed that Saddam be given an ultimatum to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors, which could help justify use of force. Powell in August 2002 persuaded Bush to push for such inspections.
But there were deep divisions in the White House over that course of action.
The memo says the National Security Council, then led by Condoleezza Rice, "had no patience with the U.N. route."
But eighty-eight members of Congress have now signed this letter authored by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) calling on President Bush to answer questions about all this.
But the major media have not picked this story up ? and the Conyers letter shows some disappointment -
"Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the United States was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of a "runaway bride" to cover a bombshell report out of the British newspapers."
"This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride. To prevent that from occuring, I am circulating the following letter among my House colleagues and asking them to sign on to it."
You don?t mess with the guy from Texas.
And people don?t want to hear this.
And, as above, those who support Bush will think this just shows how clever he is. In your face, godless liberals!