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GOP Chairman At A Loss Over Downing Street Minutes

Chair of Republican Party Put at a Loss by Downing Street Minutes

By David Swanson

On June 5, 2005, Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican Party, was asked about the Downing Street Minutes on "NBC News' Meet the Press."

To my knowledge, this was the first serious treatment of the matter on any U.S. network news show. It still remains for a news program to report on the matter on its own behalf, as opposed to asking a Republican guest to comment on it.

The transcript is here: and below with commentary:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the now-famous Downing Street memo. This was a memo, July 23, 2002, from the head of British intelligence to Prime Minister Blair; in effect, notes taken from a briefing that was given to Prime Minister Blair after the head of British intelligence came back from a trip to Washington. It says this: "[The head of British Intelligence] 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, though military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

This is July of 2002. We didn't invade until March of 2003. And the prime minister of Great Britain is being told by the head of his intelligence that he went to Washington and believes that a decision had already been made and that the administration was fixing or manipulating the intelligence to support the policy.

MR. MEHLMAN: Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then. Whether it's the 911 Commission, whether it's the Senate, whoever's looked at this has said there was no effort to change the intelligence at all.

[Mehlman is pretending to claim that these bodies have investigated the Downing Street Minutes and discredited them, while really claiming that these bodies discredited the idea that the Bush administration cooked the intelligence to fit its desired policy. This amounts to claiming that a new piece of evidence can be dismissed on the grounds of what authorities allegedly concluded PRIOR TO discovering the new evidence. This is absurd.]

The fact is that the intelligence of this country, the intelligence of Britain, the intelligence of the United Nations, the intelligence all over the world said that there were weapons of mass destruction present in Iraq.

[With regard to the United States and Britain, the whole point is to determine whether their "intelligence" was dishonest. The United Nations certainly never agreed with it; nor did "the world." The United Nations rejected the evidence presented by the United States, and worldwide opposition to the war was more powerful than ever before in history - much of it focused on the belief that the Bush Administration was lying.]

We knew that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction before.

[Because we sold them to him.]

We still know that there was a weapons of mass destruction program.

[When? Just before the war? Or a program in some past year that had long since been dismantled? The former claim would be a lie, the latter an irrelevance.]

He was evading the sanctions, and he had plans to reconstitute the program.

[Actually, of course, he had complied with the sanctions and informed the world of that fact, and complied with investigations.]

We also knew that Saddam Hussein had uniquely invaded his neighbors, had uniquely supported terrorists and we all know today that we are safer because he's been removed from power.

[Actually, there is nothing unique about invading one's neighbors. Just ask Haiti. Hussein did not support Al Quaeda in any way. That lie has been endlessly debunked. And terrorist incidents have increased since the war started - which more of us would know if the Bush Administration had not ceased releasing annual statistics on the matter. In any event, the over 1600 US soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis who have been killed are not safer - they're not anything.]

So I believe that that individual report not only has been discredited

[by whom? when? where? on what grounds?]

but that the overall reasons for removing Saddam Hussein were broader than that, they were correct, and we're now safer and certainly the people of Iraq are safer now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power.

[For the points of view of some actual Iraqis on this, see ]

MR. RUSSERT: I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited.

MR. MEHLMAN: I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it.

[Again, he means PRIOR TO emergence of this piece of evidence - a dubious assertion in itself.]

MR. RUSSERT: There--let me go back to another sentence from that report. "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, now head of the World Bank, said the other day, "The war never ended," and the concern many Americans have, Mr. Mehlman, is that we now have 1,669 Americans who've died bravely in Iraq, 1,532 of those after the president said major combat operations were over. We have 12,762 Americans wounded or injured, 12,000 of those after the president said major combat was over. This memo seems to suggest that the head of British Intelligence told Prime Minister Blair that there was little discussion in Washington to plan for the aftermath of military action.

MR. MEHLMAN: I would respectfully disagree with that finding. I think that there was clearly planning that occurred, planning that occurred to deal with the results of the war. If you remember after the first Gulf War, whether it was the breaching of the dams that we saw all over Iraq, that didn't happen. Whether it was the fires that we saw, that didn't happen this past time. Plans were made for after the war. There's no question that there has been an insurgency. The insurgents understand the stakes of the situation in Iraq. They understand that if we're successful, their efforts to promote terrorism around the world, their efforts to defeat democracy and freedom will be hurt. And there's no question-- therefore, we need to deal with these insurgents.

[Plans were clearly made to safeguard the oil, but that hardly addresses Russert's citation of figures of deaths. Nor does Mehlman give any explanation of what in the heck he means by suggesting that Iraqis resisting the occupation are trying to "promote terrorism around the world."]

But the president has mentioned repeatedly that he thinks every day about it and meets with the families of the men and women who have given their lives in Iraq.

[Meets with them every day? How many families has he met with? More than one? Clearly he has not met with members of Gold Star Families for Peace or Iraqi Veterans Against the War or Military Families Speak Out or Military Families Against the War or Veterans for Peace. These organizations are working to end the war and are almost certainly not comforted to hear that Bush thinks about "it."]

They've given their lives for an incredibly noble cause.


We did plan for the future. There are some things you can plan for. There are some things that are harder to plan for, but I believe we're doing a very important mission in Iraq, which is defeating the terrorists, promoting democracy and you've seen throughout this spring what the effects of that democracy have been in other Arab nations.

[Again, the reference to "terrorists" appears to be an attempt to dishonestly connect Iraq to 9-11. Saudi Arabia, the home of most of the 9-11 terrorists, is a US ally and the furthest thing from a democracy.]

MR. RUSSERT: The primary rationale given for the war, however, was the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. And again I refer you to the memo of the prime minister's meeting. "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 half that of Libya, North Korea and Iran."

MR. MEHLMAN: Well, the president, I think, was responsible in saying we need to simultaneously prepare for war and also try to avoid that war.

[But we now have official government minutes showing that he was not doing that. He was only telling us that he was doing that. He was lying to the American people and to Congress.]

There were simultaneous efforts at the diplomatic stages that were made and yet at the same time it would have been irresponsible for us to say we're going to wait and then plan for war later because we wouldn't have had as effective an effort as we did to remove Saddam Hussein from power, so we needed to do both at the same time.

[The point is not that the Pentagon was planning how it would fight a war if it had to do so, but that Bush had already determined to go to war and to lie about why it was necessary.]

I would also, though, disagree, as I said a moment ago, with the notion that Iraq was somehow less of a threat. Iran and North Korea hadn't invaded their neighbors. Iran and North Korea hadn't used weapons of mass destruction. Iran and North Korea hadn't, in the same way that Saddam Hussein had, been paying off suicide bombers in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Iran and North Korea are serious challenges. So was Saddam Hussein, and removing him makes the world safer, makes America safer.

[So, the chairman of the Republican Party is better qualified than top intelligence officials to rank the members of the "axis of evil"? Why, then was the bogus justification for attacking Iraq its fictional pursuit of nuclear weapons? Meanwhile North Korea's actual possession of such weapons was not considered a danger? Please. And the comments about Iraq invading neighbors are out of place. Iraq was not threatening to invade anyone. The United States invaded Iraq while pretending that Iraq was threatening the United States. In the past, if the past is relevant, the United States has invaded far more countries than Iraq has.]


This article is from After Downing Street Dot Org. David Swanson is a co-founder of the website.

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