INVESTIGATION INTO THE DOWNING STREET MEMOS
Tony Blair and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
Heading for a Downfall?
compiled by Dee Finney
Rep. Lee Wants Inquiry on Downing Street Memo
By Political Desk
July 21, 2005
Lee Will Hold Town Hall Meeting Saturday on Bush Administration Case for War
Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced a Resolution of Inquiry calling on the Bush administration to produce information to answer questions raised by a series of classified British memos that suggest that pre-war intelligence was fixed in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.
“These documents offer strong evidence that the Bush administration ‘fixed’ intelligence in order to mislead our country into war, evidence the administration has failed to dispute or answer,” said Lee. “Americans deserve to know the truth about the circumstances under which our troops were sent to war.”
In June, Lee joined Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI) and 131 members of Congress in writing to the President, asking him to answer critical questions raised by the Downing Street memo, including whether anyone in the administration disputed the accuracy of the leaked document and if there was a coordinated effort with the US intelligence community and/or British officials to “fix” the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the leaked document state. Lee, Conyers and other members of Congress personally delivered the letter to the White House, along with petition signatures from more than 575,000 people calling for answers. The White House has not responded.
Lee’s bill, which has 26 co-sponsors, would require the President and Secretary of State to give Congress all information relating to communication with officials of the United Kingdom relating to U.S. policy in Iraq between January 1, 2002 and October 16, 2002, the date Congress authorized the President to use force in Iraq.
The Resolution of Inquiry is a privileged resolution, which means that if it is not acted on in 14 legislative days after it is introduced, the member of Congress who introduced it is entitled to request that it be brought to the House floor for a vote.
Lee and nine other members of Congress will be holding Town Hall meetings on Saturday to highlight the administration’s failure to address the questions raised by these documents. Saturday marks the third anniversary of the Downing Street meeting between U.S and British officials whose minutes have prompted questions that intelligence was “fixed” to justify invasion.
Lee’s Town Hall meeting will take place at the Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave, in Oakland, from 11:00am-12:30pm.
Friday, July 22, 2005 ::
Third Anniversary of the Downing Street Memo
On Saturday, July 23, over 300 events organized by the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition and Rep. John Conyers will mark the three-year anniversary of the meeting at No. 10 Downing Street in London that was recorded in the now infamous minutes known as the "Downing Street memo."
D.C. - Institute for Public Accuracy - infoZine - Members of Congress will be hosting some of the events, including ones in Detroit, Inglewood, Calif., Seattle, Oakland, Calif., and New York City.
Bob Fertik is co-founder of the group After Downing Street. He said yesterday: "The invasion of Iraq was a war crime based on lies. A recent Zogby poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe George Bush should be impeached if he lied about Iraq, and the Downing Street minutes prove that Bush lied." [This Saturday from 2-4 p.m. Bob Fertik will moderate an event at the New York Society for Ethical Culture that includes Rep. Maurice Hinchey and former Rep. Liz Holtzman.]
Tim Goodrich is co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, a member of the After Downing Street coalition. He will be speaking at an event on July 23 in Inglewood, Calif., hosted by Rep. Maxine Waters. From a family with a tradition of military service, Goodrich grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 18. He deployed overseas twice in support of Operation Southern Watch (patrolling the southern "no-fly zone" over Iraq) and once in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (operations against Afghanistan), where he earned combat veteran status. His last deployment was spent supporting the bombing of Iraq before the formal commencement of hostilities. Goodrich said yestreday: "Downing Street memos show without a doubt that Bush and Blair were intent on invading Iraq despite the diplomatic outcome. This is a betrayal of trust to the people of the world and there must now be accountability, combined with immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq." Last month, Goodrich testified in the World Tribunal on Iraq where he said: "I was there in Iraq in fall of 2002 when the war was already happening even though it was not officially announced. We were dropping bombs then, and I saw bombing intensify as a part of the 'softening up' of Iraq's defenses. All the documents coming out now, the Downing Street memo and others, confirm what I had witnessed in Iraq. The war had already begun while our leaders were telling us that they were going to try all diplomatic options first."
David Swanson is co-founder of the group After Downing Street. Swanson said yesterday: "Working together, using the Internet and other forms of new media, hundreds of thousands of regular citizens have come together to force the issue of Bush's pre-war deception onto the national agenda."
Bush Caught Red-Handed
The Case of the Downing Street Memos
Revolution #008, July 17, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Revolution received the following correspondence from San Francisco.
For over nine months before their March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government insisted they were giving negotiations, UN pressure and international inspections “a chance to succeed.”
Now the lies of their charade have been exposed—in a series of high-level British government memos and briefing papers that have leaked into the press. Behind the scenes, the Bush White House had already decided to launch the invasion, and was lining up Britain’s Tony Blair government as allies and was negotiating which lies to use as justification.
The so-called Downing Street memo in particular is a “smoking gun” that confirms that the U.S. and British governments were coldly lying to the world about their motives and intentions. This memo (first published in Britain’s Sunday Times May 1, 2005) contains the minutes of a July 23, 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Richard Dearlove, then head of British MI6 Intelligence.
Dearlove had just returned from high-level meetings in Washington. The memo documents what the U.S. officials were then saying to their main ally behind closed doors:
Clearly war to remove Iraq’s government had already been decided, but the British and U.S. governments were trying to get their stories straight—on which excuses to use as their pretext for the aggression. To repeat a key sentence: “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
This Downing Street meeting was in July 2002—eight months before the invasion was launched in March 2003. While secretly fine-tuning war plans with the British intelligence head, Bush publicly insisted he was seeking peaceful alternatives.
Neither Bush nor Blair deny the authenticity of this Downing Street memo. But the White House does deny that its decision for war had been made by that time.
In response to a question about the fixing of intelligence to justify the war, a White House spokesman stated, “The suggestion is just flat-out wrong.” Stung by the exposure of their lies, the Bush administration responds with a new lie.
As if this Downing Street memo was not damaging enough, a secret British Cabinet Office briefing paper (also dated July 23, 2002) has also been leaked to the Times. It states that “since regime change was illegal, it was ‘necessary to create the conditions’ which would make it legal.”
This secret briefing confirms that Blair “had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W. Bush three months earlier.”
It went on to say that the British regarded “the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defense, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe or if authorized by the U.N. Security Council.”
In other words, the British government too was set on war, but wanted to come up with a legal public rationale for the war.
In a third secret memo (dated March 14, 2002), David Manning, the foreign policy advisor to Blair briefed the Prime Minister on a dinner he had with Condoleezza Rice — over a full year before the invasion was launched.
Clearly overthrowing Hussein was the goal and the only discussion was how to manipulate public opinion.
Yet another secret memo (dated a week later, on March 22, 2002) confirms this. This memo was from Peter Ricketts, British Foreign Office Political Director, to Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary.
But Ricketts then writes that this too may be a problem:
A few days later on March 25, 2002 Straw wrote a memo to Blair stating:
These leaks make clear that it was not “poor intelligence” that caused the U.S., British and allied governments to attack Iraq. These war criminals knew from Day One that their justification for war was based on lies. And they were working together to fine-tune these lies, long before they admitted publicly that they were going to war.
They never believed that Iraq’s weapons posed a growing threat or that Saddam Hussein’s government had “links to terrorists.” These were only a cover story invented to cover their calculated aggression.
"It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam," Peter Rickets, political director of the British foreign office, told Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the March 22, 2002 Downing Street memo. Though many British and American anti-war groups have questioned the war against Iraq and the search for Osama bin Laden from the beginning, the now-famous Downing Street memos may be the catalyst that sparks their grumbling into a decisive roar. For the British, the first Downing Street memo -- a minute-by-minute record of a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Straw and other top officials -- reinforced the prevailing anti-war sentiment among the British populace. Over a million Britons took to the streets to protest British involvement in the war at its start, and they still want no part of it now. "The assumption is that Britons delivered their verdict on Iraq by cutting Labour's majority," writes Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian article. "Yes, they did lie to us."
Americans have been even more divided about the war in Iraq. Freedland writes that the United States "sleepwalked into battle." While I personally would argue against such an expression, many Americans did unquestioningly accept the U.S. government's assertion that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida were an evil partnership that carried out the September 11 attacks in unison. Accordingly, there currently are many Americans who continue to believe in the righteousness of American and British military actions in the Middle East, regardless of mounting evidence that the war was unjustified on legal (if not ethical) grounds. There are also many Americans who starkly oppose the events occurring in the Middle East. For such Americans, the Downing Street memos may prove to be the validation they've been hoping for.
The Downing Street Memos: The Basic Facts
The Downing Street memos have become the subject of immense controversy. Not everyone is convinced of their relevance or even of their validity. So before we dive any deeper into the dark waters of this controversy, let's review the facts concerning the Downing Street memos.
In the May 1, 2005 online edition of London's Sunday Times, reporter Michael Smith published a memo sent from Matthew Rycroft, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy aide, to a group of British officials. In that memo, Rycroft summarized the Prime Minister's July 23, 2002 meeting on Iraq. You can read the full text of the memo, now known as the Downing Street Memo (DSM), for yourself in the Times Online. We'll go over some of the thought-provoking details later on in this article.
Then, on June 12, 2005, the Sunday Times published a second memo, now commonly referred to as "DSM II." On July 21, 2002, the memo was originally sent to Prime Minister Blair and his top advisers to brief them for the July 23 meeting that was detailed in the first Downing Street memo. Again, DSM II contains information that we'll explore later onThe two Downing Street memos have also recently created interest in two Daily Telegraph articles ("Failure isn't an option, but it doesn't mean they will avoid it" and "Secret papers show that Blair was warned of Iraq chaos"). These articles were published by Smith on September 18, 2004 and were also based on six other Downing Street memos. Immediately upon publication, Smith's articles were widely quoted throughout the British press.
On October 5, 2004, University of Cambridge professor Michael Lewis made facsimiles of Smith's typed transcripts available online; however, the majority of the American public was unaware of these articles. In fact, on June 15, 2005, following the Sunday Times publication of DSM II in London, the Los Angeles Times published an article, referring to the six memos as "new" -- only to Americans, of course. The Los Angeles Times article states, "Michael Smith, the defense writer for the Times of London who revealed the Downing Street minutes in a story May 1, provided a full text of the six new documents to the Los Angeles Times." With the American populace largely unaware of these documents during the recent presidential election, one may question how the results of the November 2, 2004 election might have been effected.
Are They Authentic Government Memos?
A key fact that you should be aware of before reading the memos' contents is that the published memos were transcribed from photocopies of the original documents. This means that Smith is unable to provide original source material as proof of the memos' validity. In response to questions about the accuracy of his sources, Smith explained his actions to an online news site, Raw Story: “I was given [the memos] last September while still on the [Daily Telegraph]. I was given very strict orders from the lawyers as to how to handle them. I first photocopied them to ensure they were on our paper and returned the originals, which were on government paper and therefore government property, to the source. It was these photocopies that I worked on, destroying them shortly before we went to press on Sept. 17, 2004. Before we destroyed them, the legal desk secretary typed the text up on an old-fashioned typewriter.” Smith also told Raw Story that he destroyed the photocopies because they might have marks on them that would identify the person who provided him the documents.
In addition to Smith's own explanations about the memos' validity, some British governmental organizations do not deny the authenticity of the documents in question. For example, in a June 7, 2005 press conference, Prime Minister Blair apparently confirmed the authenticity of the first Downing Street memo in stating, "That memorandum was written before we went to the United Nations." The British Foreign Office "acknowledged the documents were genuine but stressed they were only a snapshot of thinking at a particular time," according to a September 20, 2004 article in the GuardianThe U.S. government has given less of a response to the press concerning the Downing Street memos. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Downing Street Memo, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and White House spokesman Scott McClellan neither denied nor confirmed their legitimacy as genuine government documents. President Bush, the British Embassy in Washington and an unnamed White House official have also yet to comment specifically on the memos' authenticity as governmental documents. The single exception to this tight-lipped policy occurred when Vice President Dick Cheney called the first Downing Street memo a "supposed memo," in his June 23, 2005 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. By all assessments, the Downing Street memos are authentic documents issued from within the British government.
U.S. Congressional Response
Many citizen groups, such as the Progressive Democrats of America, Veterans for Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, Velvet Revolution, Democratic Underground, Global Exchange, Code Pink, Democracy Rising and 911Citizens Watch, also believe in the authenticity of the Downing Street memos and perceive them as a call to action – and they're not the only ones. The U.S. Congress has the power to take this issue to the next level, and a small group of its members are pushing for that to happen.
In his widely published article, "Just hearsay, or the new Watergate tapes?", David Paul Kuhn explains Democratic Rep. John Conyers' fight to call a congressional inquiry of the Downing Street memos. Though they were prevented from holding an official hearing, on June 16, 2005, Conyers and about three dozen other Democrats held a forum about the Downing Street memos in the basement -- yes, the basement -- of the Capitol building. That's where they were consigned to hold their forum; moreover, they had to juggle the meeting with attending 11 votes on the House floor that were scheduled at the same time as the forum. Many believe that the timing of those 11 votes and the location to which the group of Congressmen were delegated to hold their forum were no accident.
Despite these obstructions, Kuhn reports that Rep. Conyers still had an attentive audience when he declared that the first Downing Street memo was the first "'primary source" document to report that prewar intelligence was intentionally manipulated in order to make a case for invading Iraq. Kuhn further writes, "The Democratic representatives attending the forum said they believed that if such information had gone out prior to the war, neither the House nor the Senate would have supported the Oct. 11, 2002 congressional vote giving the president the power to order the invasion."Many of the attending Democrats likened the first Downing Street memo to Watergate, although no one specifically raised the possibility of impeachment. On the other hand, New York representative Charles B. Rangel asked a question that was on the minds of many Democrats: "Has the president misled, or deliberately misled, the Congress?" As Kuhn points out, deliberately misleading the Congress is indeed grounds for impeachment. The forum did get some mainstream media coverage and on May 5, 2005, 89 members of Congress sent President Bush a letter containing questions about the Downing Street memos. They have yet to receive a response, so Rep. Conyers is now running an internet petition to collect private citizens' signatures. You can take part on Rep. Conyers' web site.
The Downing Street Memos Speak for Themselves
You might be wondering why so many people are so concerned about the Downing Street memos. The cause of their concern is evident in the text of the memos. According to downingstreetmemo.com, the contents of the memos contradict the Bush and Blair administrations' public statements about the war.
The first Downing Street memo has received the most media coverage; it contains the greatest number of potentially inflammatory details. For example, the memo reads, "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." "C" refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, who was chief of the MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service.
The statement that "military action was now seen as inevitable" seems harmless enough -- until you consider that the memo was dated July 2002. In his Mar. 8, 2003 radio address, President Bush had stated, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq." Another statement found in DSM contradicts the president's message: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided." The most potentially inflammatory statement of all reads, "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Such a statement does not at all reflect how a proper government should be run, by any means. It's also quite clearly not the message that the American public was given. Blitzer presented this issue to Vice President Cheney in their interview, stating, "The criticism though that's been leveled at you, in effect, pressured the intelligence community to come up with this assessment…" The vice president then interrupted Blitzer at that moment, but he eventually responded, "It's (the assessment) not true. And anybody who's looked at it, and several people have, has found it's not true … There's nothing to support it. There never was because it never happened."In Vice President Cheney's assessment, either the Downing Street memo is a fake or many people's interpretations of it are wrong. But Prime Minister Blair apparently has validated the memo as a genuine document originating from his government. With that in consideration, can the Vice President truly be right and thus negate our interpretations of the text as wrong? Is there really another way to interpret Sir Richard's comment that "the intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy?" Those are the questions we must ask ourselves regarding the first Downing Street memo.
The second Downing Street memo focuses on the Blair administration's need to justify entering war with Iraq. DSM II states: "Ministers are invited to … engage the U.S. on the need to set military plans within a realistic military strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action." The key phrase is, "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action." Again, as far as any informed citizen is concerned, a proper government doesn't create the requisite conditions necessary to justify a war; rather, a proper government responds to such conditions, should they arise of their own accord.
Let's review the six other Downing Street memos; the documents that Smith based his September 2004 articles on. In UK Foreign Office Political Director Peter Ricketts' memo to UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dated March 22, 2002, Ricketts wrote, "Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: The programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."
Much like the statements contained in DSM, this statement seems innocuous enough on its own. However, let's place it into its proper context and examine it in light of President Bush's and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's statements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In his September 12, 2002 speech to the UN General Assembly, President Bush stated: "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." On March 20, 2003, Rumsfeld told American troops that Hussein is advancing his weapons of mass destruction daily: "With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."
One could argue that from March 22 to September 12, 2002 Hussein may indeed have stepped up his production of weapons of mass destruction. If such an argument could be validated, it would support both the memo from Ricketts and the statements from President Bush and Rumsfeld. But the question remains: Where are the WMDs? If Hussein was advancing his weapons of mass destruction "with each passing day" as Rumsfeld suggests, by now these weapons would have become so numerous as to render their full concealment impossible. So just where are these weapons?Ricketts' memo expresses doubt on another valuable point relating to the so-called "evil alliance" between Iraq and Al Qaida. The memo says, "[The] U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending out troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are close to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)." Ricketts boils down the whole situation to a rather striking conclusion: "It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."
According to a memo dated March 25, 2002, Straw, the recipient of Ricketts' March 22 memo, believed in Ricketts' assessment enough to relay the information to Prime Minister Blair. Straw stated: "If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the U.S. would not be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed (sic) on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate."
Based on these two memos, it is clearly evident that top-ranking British officials seriously doubted the justifications presented by the United States in preparation for a war against Iraq. Despite the doubts that existed at the highest levels of the British government, it is engaged along with the United States in a war that has no timetable and no end in sight.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Initial Response to the Memos
After reading the Downing Street memos, one cannot help but to wonder what precisely Prime Minister Blair thought about them initially. After all, the controversial memos were written by his officials. In a June 7, 2005 interview with Blair -- almost a week before the American press at large commented on the issue -- Online News Hour reporter Gwen Ifill confronted Blair about the first Downing Street memo. Blair responded, "Basically, the case that people are making, that somehow we'd taken the decision to invade, you know, irrespective of what Iraq did, it's simply not correct … And so when people -- you know, they take bits out here of this memo or that memo, or something someone's supposed to have said at the time, and what people ignore is we went through a very open, obvious process through the United Nations and the issue was how did you -- because the view I took, as the president did, was we had to enforce United Nations resolutions against countries that were developing and proliferating WMD, that after September the 11 the world had changed, we had to take a definitive stance."
In this initial confrontation, Prime Minister Blair took a stance resembling that of Vice President Cheney's: that the Downing Street memos were being interpreted wrongly. That indeed would be a fair rebuttal if, as Blair suggests, people were just reading "bits" of the memo taken out of context. That, however, is not the case at all; the full text of the memos is readily available online. Every person with internet access is able to read the memos in their entirety and interpret the text in its proper context. Many people have already done just that. So the question is: "Can so many people be wrong?" Apparently Prime Minister Blair does not think so, because he later validated the authenticity of the memos in a June 7, 2005 press conference, as noted earlier in this article.U.S. Press Coverage (or Lack Thereof) of the Memos
The British press certainly did not ignore the Downing Street memos. The U.S. mainstream press, by many standards, did. As Terry Neal of the Washington Post writes, "While the European media have covered the memo extensively, it has received scant attention by the mainstream media in America." It took nearly two weeks for the American mainstream media to catch on, and it may have never covered the story if it hadn't been for internet bloggers. According to BBC News, "Bloggers, keen to keep the pressure on the Bush and Blair governments, have tried to keep the memos in the limelight and put pressure on the mainstream media." That doesn't mean that the Downing Street memos have been well received by the American mainstream media; there seems to be an overwhelming desire to discredit them.
In their essay, "Smoking Signposts to Nowhere," Tom Engelhardt and Mark Danner compare the radically different treatment of the memos displayed by the British and American mainstream press. In Britain, the memos were front-page material; in the United States, they're mostly confined to the editorial pages -- if written about at all.
Of course, the American mainstream press does have its reasons. In the Washington Post June 15, 2005 editorial, "Iraq, Then and Now,", the editors argue that the mainstream press hasn't been covering the memos because they simply offer no "news": "War opponents have been trumpeting several British government memos from July 2002, which describe the Bush administration's preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President Bush's deceptions about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why 'the mainstream media' have not paid more attention to them. Though we can't speak for The Post's news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002."
Do the memos truly tell us nothing new? Was it, then, common knowledge to the public that the British government had felt that a war with Iraq was more than anything owing to "a grudge between Bush and Saddam?" By all accounts, the public knew of no such thing until the Downing Street memos finally enlightened us.
Can We Really Afford to Ignore the Downing Street Memos?
The American mainstream press has its own interests for not crediting the Downing Street memos as "newsworthy." American citizens, however, must seriously think about the relevant implications. For example, what if the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had not been considered newsworthy? In their essay, Engelhard and Danner explore this issue: "Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press -- no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post but in newspapers in Australia or Canada -- and that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn. This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos."When the American press first covered the Pentagon papers, it didn't know for certain that it would impact our nation's government and history in such a lasting way. Similarly, the Downing Street memos could be something just too big to ignore -- that is already what many Britons and Americans believe. As Freedland writes in the Guardian, "The trouble is, it is not behind us. The occupation continues and people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers."
In a New York Review of Books essay entitled "Why the Memo Matters", Mark Danner expresses a similar sentiment: "We might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become more important, not less … As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: For most citizens, 1,700 Americans dead later -- tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later -- the war's beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending." Danner followed with the question "How much longer?" When relayed this question, Prime Minister Blair's response was: "I don't know."
The World Speaks on the Downing Street memos (in order of appearance in this article):
The second problem is the END STATE. Military operations need
clear and compelling military objectives. For Kosovo, it was: Serbs out,
Kosovars back, peace-keepers in. For Afghanistan, destroying the Taleban
and Al Qaida military capability. For Iraq, "regime change"
does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.
Now try to work this one out. Before the war on Iraq, Britain witnessed a ferocious debate over whether the case for conflict was legal and honest. It culminated in the largest demonstration in the country's history, as a million or more took to the streets to stop the war. At the same time, the US sleepwalked into battle. Its press subjected George Bush to a fraction of the scrutiny endured by Tony Blair: the president's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida were barely challenged. While Blair had to cajole and persuade his MPs to back him, Bush counted on the easy loyalty of his fellow Republicans - and of most leading Democrats.
The election itself has played a role too. The assumption is that Britons delivered their verdict on Iraq by cutting Labour's majority and therefore the reckoning has, at least partially, happened. That is certainly how the government likes to play it: privately, ministers will hint that the whole Iraq business was a bit of a nightmare but it's behind us now and we can all move on." "Yes, they did lie to us" by Jonathan Freedland"The Downing Street memos: The Basic Facts"
The secret Downing Street memo
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents. heading of the first Downing Street memo (DSM)
Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action
The paper, produced by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002, is incomplete because the last page is missing. The following is a transcript rather than the original document in order to protect the source.
PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY
IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials) heading of the second Downing Street memo (DSM II) with explanation from the Sunday Times
The Prime Minister knew the US President was determined to complete what one senior British official had already described as the unfinished business from his father's war against Saddam Hussein.
There was no way of stopping the Americans invading Iraq and they would expect Britain, their most loyal ally, to join them. If they didn't, the transatlantic relationship would be in tatters. But there were serious problems.
A Secret UK Eyes Only briefing paper was warning that there was no
legal justification for war. So Mr Blair was advised that a strategy
would have to be put in place which would provide a legal basis for war.
It was also vital that the Prime Minister should be able to persuade the
public that war was justified and, just as importantly, convince those
among his backbench MPs who were becoming increasingly vocal in their
opposition to another US-led war.
Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for "many years", secret government papers reveal.
The documents, seen by The Telegraph, show more clearly than ever the grave reservations expressed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, over the consequences of a second Gulf war and how prescient his Foreign Office officials were in predicting the ensuing chaosMichael Smith, the defense writer for the Times of London who revealed the Downing Street minutes in a story May 1, provided a full text of the six new documents to the Los Angeles Times.
Portions of the new documents, all labeled "secret" or
"confidential," have appeared previously in two British
newspapers, the Times of London and the Telegraph. Blair's government
has not challenged their authenticity.
"Are They Authentic Government Memos?"
“I was given them last September while still on the [Daily] Telegraph,” Smith, who now works for the London Sunday Times, told RAW STORY. “I was given very strict orders from the lawyers as to how to handle them.”
“I first photocopied them to ensure they were on our paper and returned the originals, which were on government paper and therefore government property, to the source,” he added. The Butler Committee, a UK commission looking into WMD, has quoted the documents and accepted their authenticity, along with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Smith said all originals were destroyed in order to both protect the source and the journalist alike.
“It was these photocopies that I worked on, destroying them shortly before we went to press on Sept 17, 2004,” he added. “Before we destroyed them the legal desk secretary typed the text up on an old fashioned typewriter.” The copying and re-typing were necessary because markings on the originals might have identified his source, Smith said. The documents below were leaked last September, prior to the US election. The document known as DSM was published after the below documents.
“The situation in Britain is very difficult but with regard to
leaked documents the police Special Branch are obliged to investigate
such leaks and would have come to the newspaper's office and or my home
to confiscate them,” he explained. “We did destroy them because the
Police Special Branch were ordered to investigate.”
BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were
not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that
that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations.
The Foreign Office yesterday acknowledged the documents were genuine but stressed they were only a snapshot of thinking at a particular time. Nor did they reflect the changes that took place over the following 12 months, in particular referring the issue to the UN, which the White House did at Mr Blair's behest, though it failed to get a second security council resolution authorising war.White House spokesman Scott McClellan, when questioned about the document's accuracy, did not confirm or deny its accuracy. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, when questioned about the document's accuracy, did not confirm or deny its accuracy. George W. Bush has not responded to questions from Congress regarding the memo's accuracy. The British Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents. The reporter, Michael Smith, who first reported this story has admitted the memo is a copy, typed by one of his secretaries on a manual typewriter. He returned the originals to his confidential source.
Wikipedia entry: "Downing Street memo
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, and remember -- remember what happened
after that supposed memo was written. We went to the United Nations. We
got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution
calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean and comply with the U.N.
Security Council resolution. We did everything we could to resolve this
without having to use military force. We gave him one last chance even
in asking him to step down before we launched military operations. The
memo is just wrong. In fact the President of the United States took
advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to
use military force. It wasn't possible in this case. But I'm convinced
we did absolutely the right thing. I'm convinced that history will bear
that out and that the -- any notion or controversy or poll connected
with that in no way should be taken as justification for challenging the
"U.S. Congressional Response"
Among the citizen groups are:
Veterans for Peace
Forced to the basement of the US Capitol and prevented from holding an official hearing, Michigan representative John Conyers defied Republicans and held a forum on Thursday calling for a congressional inquiry into the infamous British document known as the "Downing Street memo".
Three dozen Democratic representatives shuffled in and out of a small room to join Mr Conyers in declaring that the Downing Street memo was the first "primary source" document to report that prewar intelligence was intentionally manipulated in order make a case for invading Iraq.
Not only did Republican leaders consign the Democrats to the basement, but Democrats also claimed that the House scheduled 11 votes concurrent with the forum to maximise the difficulty of attending it. Because the forum wasn't an official hearing, it won't become a part of the Congressional record - but members worked to make sure that the attending media and activists captured their words for posterity.The Downing Street memo, so far disputed by Washington and London in some of its details, but not its authenticity, reports on minutes of a meeting between the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and his national security team on July 23 2002.
First reported by the London Sunday Times on May 1 this year, the internal memo states that, in the opinion of "C" (Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British secret intelligence service), "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush administration's] policy". The author of the memo added that it "seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action".
Since then, several other British government memos have become public that also make the case that the White House was planning the war long before it admitted to doing so. The Democratic representatives attending the forum said they believed that if such information had got out prior to the war, neither the House nor the Senate would have supported the October 11 2002 congressional vote giving the president the power to order the invasion.
To the Democrats taking turns to speak at the forum on Thursday, the memo was tantamount to the first word of tapes in the Nixon White House during the Watergate scandal. Impeachment was on these representatives' minds as four long-time critics of the war in Iraq, including the former ambassador Joe Wilson, repeatedly urged Congress to hold an official inquiry into the validity and origins of the Downing Street memo.
Speaking on the question of impeachment, representative Charles B Rangel, D-NY, asked, point blank: "Has the president misled, or deliberately misled, the Congress?"
The answer is at the heart of Mr Conyers' push for further
investigation. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offence, and Mr
Conyers' petition for an inquiry into the memo seemed a first step in
that direction - though no one made that call outright.
As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:
1)Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of
the leaked document?
Letter to the President by John Conyers, Jr.
"The Downing Street Memos Speak for Themselves"
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.
"C" refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of
Britain's intelligence service.
“We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if
Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's not true. And anybody who's looked at it,
and several people have, has found it's not true. The WMD commission
looked at that very carefully and found not a shred of evidence to
support it. The Senate Intelligence Committee which did a complete and
thorough study before the WMD commission and questioned hundreds of
intelligence analysts found there was absolutely no truth. They couldn't
find one single individual who would validate that comment you just
made. There's nothing to support it. There never was because it never
Ministers are invited to:
(1) Note the latest position on US military planning and timescales for possible action.
(2) Agree that the objective of any military action should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD.
(3) Agree to engage the US on the need to set military plans
within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the
succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to
justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for
the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. This should include a call
from the Prime Minister to President Bush ahead of the briefing of US
military plans to the President on 4 August.
a memo dated March 22, 2002 from Peter Ricketts, British foreign office political director, to Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on advice given on Iraq to Blair
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
George W. Bush, President
"With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."
US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so
far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for
military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so
serious/imminent that it is worth sending out troops to die for; it is
qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who
are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).
If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnesses sic on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate."British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Response to the Memos"
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Basically, the case that people are making, that somehow we'd taken the decision to invade, you know, irrespective of what Iraq did, it's simply not correct. The whole reason we went to the United Nations back in, originally in September 2002, then with the resolution in November 2002, was precisely in order to see if there was a way of giving Iraq a last chance to come into compliance with the United Nations resolutions and avoid conflict. But they didn't.
And so when people -- you know, they take bits out here of this
memo or that memo, or something someone's supposed to have said at the
time, and what people ignore is we went through a very open, obvious
process through the United Nations and the issue was how did you --
because the view I took, as the president did, was we had to enforce
United Nations resolutions against countries that were developing and
proliferating WMD, that after September the 11 the world had changed, we
had to take a definitive stance.
"The American Press's Coverage (or Lack Thereof) of the Memos"
Bloggers, keen to keep the pressure on the Bush and Blair governments, have tried to keep the memos in the limelight and put pressure on the mainstream media.
"While the European media have covered the memo extensively,
it has received scant attention by the mainstream media in
America," wrote Terry Neal of the Washington Post this week.
This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos. As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece ("Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made") that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's "inner circle," and began: "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made 'no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."
Compare that to the front-page lead written a day earlier by Michael Smith of the British Sunday Times, who revealed the existence of the document and has been the Woodstein of England on this issue ("Ministers Were Told of Need for Gulf War 'Excuse'"):AFTER LAGGING for months, debate on Iraq in Washington is picking up again. That's a needed and welcome development, but much of the discussion is being diverted to the wrong subject.
War opponents have been trumpeting several British government
memos from July 2002, which describe the Bush administration's
preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President Bush's deceptions
about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why "the mainstream
media" have not paid more attention to them. Though we can't speak
for The Post's news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos
add not a single fact to what was previously known about the
administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing
to what was publicly known in July 2002.
"Can We Really Afford to Ignore the Downing Street memos?"
Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had
broken out all over the press – no, not in the New York Times
or the Washington Post, but in newspapers in Australia or
Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of
years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers
had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine
that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information
that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost
willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for
escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its
opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they
found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more
formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in
news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to
much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves.
The trouble is, it is not behind us. The occupation continues and
people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers. In the US the
realisation seems to be dawning that this episode represents, at the
very least, a case of maladministration, of desperately poor governance.
That failure should be investigated, by Commons committees as much as by
congressional ones, not because some of us cannot let go of the past -
but because there is no other way to ensure such folly never happens
We might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become more important, not less. Consider the strong warning put forward in a recently released British Cabinet document dated two days before the Downing Street memo (and eight months before the war), that "the military occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." On this point, as the British document prophetically observes, "U.S. military plans are virtually silent." So too were America's leaders, and we live with the consequences of that silence. As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: for most citizens, 1,700 American dead later – tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later – the war's beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending.PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Yes. I think it's been more difficult than we expected because I think what has happened in Iraq is -- the will of the Iraqi people is clear. Millions of them went and voted. They want a democratic government. They want a decent future for their country.
But what's happened is that those who are opposed to us, the terrorist groups that want to start this sort of jihad between the Muslim world and the Christian world, between Arabs and the Western world, those people have gone into Iraq, linked up with some of the people who are insurgents there, and what they're trying to do is to destabilize that democracy in order to defeat not just the Iraqi people and their will but also our ability to show the world that what we actually want is democratic freedom for people, not occupation, not making satellite states of these countries.
And so that what's at stake is very, very big indeed, if we stabilize Iraq and deliver democracy, as I believe we will, the benefits will be felt, you know, not just in the region but right round the world. And so what is at stake here is huge for us.
GWEN IFILL: But how much longer?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I don't know.A
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