To every conservative who dismisses the Downing Street Memo with the claim that "it's old news", I demand that they now and forever refrain from referring to any real or alleged misdeed by the Clintons, given that those claims too are "old news".
In his article on the informal hearings Rep. Conyers held on the Downing Street Memo, Dana Milbank wrote:
The glitches and the antiwar theatrics proved something of a
distraction from the message the organizers aimed to deliver: that for
the Bush White House, as lawyer John C. Bonifaz put it, the British
memo is "the equivalent to the revelation that there was a taping
system in the Nixon White House."
Unfortunately, Milbank was sucked in completely by those theatrics and by the sub-standard setting for the hearing. Instead of providing balanced reporting - which would include a critique of the testimony that was subjective along with a review of the testimony that was not, he took an entirely dismissive approach to the whole thing.
Sure, the hearing was in a basement. But he neglected to mention that Republicans denied Rep. Conyers the use of a hearing room in the Capitol. And yes, some of the testimony was opinion outside the mainstream. But the most compelling testimony was that of John Bonifaz, who repeatedly highlighted the inconsistency between the information contained in the British documents and the information that President Bush provided Congress when he requested authorization to use force against Iraq.
The point made by Bonifaz, which is a legitimate and important one, is that if President Bush willfully misinformed Congress then it's an impeachable offense. He's calling for an inquiry - not an impeachment - and made it clear that if an inquiry showed that inaccuracies in the information provided by Bush were truly and solely due to poor intelligence of a fundamental breakdown in the communication channels between the intelligence community and the administration, that we'd close the chapter on this issue. He's not a crackpot and he's not making wild claims. Milbank conveniently ignored him.
Instead, he picked the low hanging fruit and highlighted one witnesses opinionated testimony on why Bush went to war. He dismissed the woman whose son died in Iraq as lacking objectivity - which she made clear she did. He described the Conyers group as "playing house" and highlighted the more extreme positions of activists and supporters, minimizing the real issues that exist. He neglected to mention the 560,000 US citizens that signed a petition asking for answers to questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. Are we all crackpots, extremists, folks playing house instead of dealing in reality?
Dana Milbank did his readers a disservice and his editors let it pass, publishing an opinion piece that was mascarading as news.
So much for the vaunted liberal media.
UPDATE: I'm not the only one upset by the amateur and incomplete coverage provided by Dana Milbank. Rep. Conyers wrote a letter to the editors of the Washington Post and copied the Raw Story on it. The letter is an excellent rebuttal to the incomplete and selective reporting provided by Milbank. Go read it.
In honor of full disclosure, I guess I should tell readers that I've joined the Big Brass Alliance. This group of bloggers, nearing a total of 300 and counting, was formed in recent weeks to focus attention on the Downing Street Memo(pdf), the lack of media attention on the memo, the refusal of President Bush to respond to Congressional inquiries about the memo, and to support a demand for a formal investigation into whether or not the President has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the war in Iraq. This demand for a formal investigation was initiated by After Downing Street,
a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist
groups formed specifically to urge Congress to launch such an investigation
Note here that we're a not calling for Bush to be impeached. We are asking only for a formal inquiry, based on the information contained in the Downing Street Memo. This memo, really an official state record of a meeting of top British officials including the Prime Minister and the head of their intelligence office, reports that Bush decided to go to war while still telling Congress and the public otherwise and that intelligence was being manipulated to fit that war policy.
There is Congressional activity, led by Rep. Conyers. He and 88 other Representatives sent a letter to President Bush asking him to respond to specific questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. Bush hasn't responded and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, has said that Bush sees no need to respond. In light of that high-handed dismissal, Rep. Conyers launched a petition to show that the public too wants these questions answered. (Go sign the petition now.) The questions asked in the original letter and the follow up petition are these (my comments follow in italics).
Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document? In a press conference, McClellan was asked directly if the statements reported in the memo were "flat-out wrong" as CNN reported he said the previous week. Instead of challenging the accuracy of the information in the memo, McClellan said his earlier comment was in reference to things said about the memo, not the contents of the memo. He then went on to say that anyone could see how the administration had used its flawed intelligence - putting the blame on US intelligence and avoiding the issue of whether that flawed intelligence was fixed to meet the administration's needs.
Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies,
before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or
anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade
prior to this time? Certainly, the discussion at the highest levels of the British government seem to indicate that the Bush administration was recruiting allies for a military response to Iraq. Additionally, Bob Woodward previously reported that only a few months after the 9/11 attacks, $700m in funds allocated for the war in Afghanistan were illegally diverted to fund plans for an invasion of Iraq.
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? Certainly the current justification for war - the spread of democracy - wasn't put on the table. The argument made by President Bush for going to war can be found in October 2002 speech to the nation, made in support of a Congressional authorization to use force, and this March 2003 speech to the nation announcing that war had begun.
At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq? In October 2002, months after the meeting documented in the Downing Street memo, Bush said, "Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to
war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man." As late as December 2002, the administration was still claiming that no decision had been made.
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? For an excellent overview of the issue of intelligence - both the flaws in it and the pressure to conform intelligence findings to fit policy - check out this Washington Post article. It includes coverage on the delay and then cancellation of a Congressional investigation into whether the administration unduly influenced intelligence professionals to produce findings that supported their views.
There are two issues here: one is the lack of media attention on what should be a blockbuster story. The other is the question of whether or not the administration lied to the American people and manipulated intelligence to support their war aims. The latter question won't ever be addressed if the media doesn't pay attention.
There's real irony in the our response to the disclosure of Deep Throat's identity, as we acknowledge the power and value of a free press and marvel at how a story about a "third rate burglary" ultimately ended a presidency. We marvel at that and ignore how today's press ignores a story much bigger than a break-in at the DNC headquarters. It won't change if we don't demand change. So start demanding. The questions on the table are too important to ignore.
A great deal of ink, both real and virtual, is being spent today on the revelation that Mark Felt is Deep Throat. It's interesting, historically and in it's relevance to current discussions on the use of anonymous sources. It's also interesting to see parallels between then and now, although I'm not suggesting that the Bush administration is morally bankrupt like the Nixon administration was. I don't think the Bush team lacks morals - I disagree with how they prioritize them. They seem to put loyalty ahead of truth, to put ideological purity ahead of competence. That leads them in directions that I find immoral - like the invasion of Iraq.
Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post had an interesting quote:
It's very hard to stand up to the government which is saying
that publication will threaten national security. People don't seem to
realize that reporters and editors know something about national
security and care deeply about it. I spent almost four years on a
destroyer in the Pacific ocean during World War II and it makes my
blood boil when some guy who maybe ran an insurance company in the
Midwest becomes an assistant secretary of this or that and tells me
about national security.
It is my experience that
most claims of national security are part of a campaign to avoid
telling the truth. Remember that Nixon's first comment about Watergate
claimed that he was going to be unable to answer questions about
Watergate because Watergate involved "matters of national security."
That was baloney and Nixon knew it, but the charge convinced some
people otherwise. Too bad.
There's been a long-held suspicion by many on the left that the constant Republican references to national security are "part of a campaign to avoid telling the truth" or a distraction from things that warrant our attention. That's why the timing of terror alerts garnered so much attention during the last election cycle. And why the remarkable increase in secrecy - or rather a decrease in transparency - in the Bush administration is the focus of so much discussion.
I know that I earnestly wanted to trust my government after 9/11, to trust that of course they couldn't share everything they knew but that they would do the right thing. That trust eroded over time as the Bush team used 9/11 as an excuse for every ideological policy they promoted. I lost my trust that the government would do the right thing. And I lost my trust that when they talked about national security the topic at hand really was relevant to our safety as a nation.
I believe that our government cynically uses the 9/11 attacks to pursue their own conservative ideological agenda. I think that's clear in the Downing Street Memo, which documents the British government's understanding that while Bush was still calling for Saddam to let inspectors do their jobs, while he was still telling us that war was a last resort and he hadn't decided on military action, before Congress authorized any military action, Bush was already committed to going to war with Iraq. The memo doesn't tell us why Bush was so committed to war in Iraq, but it does tell us how he planned to justify it:
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD."
Mix a little post-9/11 fear of terrorism with the specter of WMD and, voila, you have an argument for war. And that's exactly the argument Bush made while claiming that war wasn't inevitable. It was a false argument given that Iraq had a much weaker connection to terrorism than other countries like Iran and Syria. It was a false argument given that Iraq had no stockpiles of WMD, while other countries like Iran and N. Korea were developing nuclear weapons. But he made that false argument, under the banner of national security. I suspect that Bush believed that going into Iraq was the right thing to do and he's clearly been successful in rationalizing the decision to mislead the nation in order to garner the support he needed to invade Iraq. But I'm not an "end justifies the means" kind of girl, and the bottom line is that Bush and his team lied to us and took us to war based on falsehoods and manipulated intelligence.
The lessons of Watergate and Deep Throat are manifold - but one lesson is that government functions best when it's transparent. When the government shrouds it actions in secrecy and hides it's intentions in lies, then we need the Deep Throats of today to speak up. And we need a press that is willing to listen to them and tell the truth. I'm not sure we have the courage we need in our government workers or the press to tell the truth. Certainly, the lack of attention to the Downing Street Memo doesn't bode well. But I'm not giving up hope. I still believe in the goodness of Americans and trust that goodness to win out in the end.
There have been plenty of rants about the lack of real news coverage by the MSM. Scott Peterson, the Runaway Bride, and Michael Jackson all get exhaustive coverage, while stories that actually matter get short shrift. Some folks have dismissed that complaint as a liberal rant, but here's a little data to back that up, complements of the True Blue Liberal (TBL). TBL did Google News searches on a few topics and reported the results:
Downing Street Memo-- 288 hits, only one from a "Major" source, and that source is FOX News ! A quick scan shows that most of the hits are from blogs and activist sites. Runaway Bride
--5,260 hits, "168 related" in the top major news story category, and a
quick flip through the pages and pages of hits shows that most are from mainstream media outlets. Michael Jackson
-- 21,400 hits, "967 related" in the top major news story category, and
a quick flip through the pages and pages and pages and pages of hits
shows that most are from mainstream media outlets.
Since TLB did their search this morning, the total hit counts have increased as follows:
Michael Jackson - increased by 500 hits. Runaway Bride - increasedby 550 hits. Downing STreet Memo - increasedby 6 hits.
In my last post, I wondered why there wasn't more attention being paid to the Downing Street Memo (pdf), why "some folks are so comfortable dismissing this evidence that the war in
Iraq isn't a last resort but was instead an early and secret decision
by the President and his confidantes."
I should be clear here. I've been reading tons on this memo and it's not a smoking gun - it's not evidence per se. It's documentation of a secret meeting between Tony Blair and his top national security and intelligence officials.The meeting included the head of MI6 (the British version of the CIA), who had just returned from meetings in the US.
The documented meeting was held in July2002. That's eight months before we went into Iraq.
The memo has been dismissed by many as "second-hand" information. But it's the official record of the British government - a briefing memo that serves as minutes of a meeting of high-level officials. The information about the US is second hand only in that it's being reported back to the British government by the head of their intelligence service. Calling it "second-hand" is the equivalent of saying that the reports by Condi Rice on her meetings in Russia are second-hand. Dismissing this memo outright suggests that the reports of senior officials on their meetings with officials from other countries constitute unreliable sources of information. That's not a reasonable position for anyone to take.
Certainly, British officials haven't denied the veracity of the memo. It's an accurate record of their understanding of the American position on war in Iraq. So the question is this - did they get it wrong? Did they have a serious and fundamental misunderstanding of the US position on war? I don't think so.
Eighty-nine members of Congress, under the leadership of Rep. John
Conyers (ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee), sent a
letter to Bush asking whether the memo accurately portrayed the
administration's thinking at the time.
It also asks whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix"
intelligence to justify an invasion. The administration has said that
there is "no need" to respond to the request from Congress.
The bottom line here is that the Downing Street Memo alone isn't enough for us to determine with no reservation that the Bush team decided to go to war without Congressional approval and then proceeded to lie to the American people, Congress, and the world. Neither does it prove that intelligence was manipulated to support the intentions of the administration. But it's extremely suggestive - it tells us that the British government believed that to be the case. And when taken with the increased bombing of Iraq in the late spring and summer of 2002, and the reports from Richard Clarke (NSC) and Paul O'Neill (former Secretary of the Treasury) that Bush was focused on attacking Iraq, it's enough to warrant further investigation.
The Republican controlled Congress has no stomach for this kind of investigation, but it's their Constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch. They don't want to to fill that responsibility here. It's our job to poke and prod them into doing their job. The only way we can do that is by making our voices heard and bringing the public's attention to this memo, a memo that the MSM is just starting to pay attention to.
You can add your voice to the clamor by signing Rep. Conyer's citizen's letter to the President here. And if you want a solid overview of the Downing Street Memo, I strongly recommend this Seattle Times article and this much longer and detailed coverage in the New York Review of Books.
The lack of attention in the MSM and the public at large to the Downing Street Memo continues unabated. Remember the Downing Street Memo? The memo that revealed the Bush administration's intent to invade Iraq while he was still proclaiming that there was no timetable for war, that there had been no decision made to go to war, that he was still open to all the options?
That memo certified that we were gamed. That all the talk about diplomacy and Saddam cooperating with the inspectors and WMD and national security and terrorists in Iraq was one giant PR campaign to get our support for a decision that Bush wouldn't admit he'd already made. Bush played us by lying to us. And no-one seems to care.
If you don't know about the Downing Street Memo, go here to get the highlights. Then head over to Rep. John Conyers site - he's not letting this issue go and part of his response is a public petition that you should sign.
Whatever your position on the war, whether you're a rabid Bush supporter or opponent, at least get informed here. And if you don't think the Downing Street Memo is a big deal then tell me why. I really don't understand why some folks are so comfortable dismissing this evidence that the war in Iraq isn't a last resort but was instead an early and secret decision by the President and his confidantes.
The mainstream media has paid little to no attention to the Downing Street Memo (pdf), which highlights the fact that Bush was committed to invading Iraq well before diplomatic efforts were explored and that intelligence was being shaped to fit that policy. Here's the money quote from the memo:
"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." ...... "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. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force."
The lack of coverage in the MSM and the related lack of attention on the part of the public is disturbing. Why is it that the nation can be consumed over sexual misbehavior in the oval office but an intentional misuse of intelligence to justify what may be an illegal war that has cost the lives of over 1500 Americans and untold Iraqis doesn't get more than a yawn? Would this have anything to do with the fact that Congress is controlled by the Republicans? I think so.
If you're feeling out of the loop because coverage has been so thin, I offer you these sources of information, compliments of the never-sleeping blogosphere. Links all go to the referred source, but "Downing Street Memo" or "Rycroft Memo" is linked to support this googlebomb effort.
Downing Street Memo offers the text of the memo and an analysis of the contents - a good place to start.
Joe Conason of Slate gives us take on why the US media isn't paying attention to the Downing Street Memo.
Greg Palast rants about the lack of coverage by the US media of the Downing Street Memo, seeing the contents as justification for the impeachment of Bush.
A taste of the minimal coverage by the MSM can be found in this WaPo story on the Downing Street Memo.
undefined.com offers the text of a letter from 88 members of Congress asking Bush to explain himself in regard to the Downing Street Memo. The same letter regarding the Downing Street Memo is available in PDF format on the .gov site.
Here, TomPaine.com offers the Downing Street Memo commentary by Ray McGovern, who served for 27 years as a CIA analyst and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
More from TomPaine.com with this analysis of the Downing Street Memo by John Prados, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive.
The same content can be found after the jump in the links to the Rycrosft memo. I've duplicated the links above in support of Scoobie's googlebomb project- an effort to ensure that those searching for information on the memo see more than UK news sites when they search. If you want to participate, copy this post for your own blog or head over to this post on DailyKos and click away.