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David Swanson: Downing Street Memo In FoxSpeak

A Close Reading of FoxSpeak

[Comments in brackets By] David Swanson

HUME: When we come back with our panel, the memo that the left says the U.S. media won't talk about it. Well, we'll talk about it, next.

[Thanks! Here's a memo about your refusal to talk about it in the past: ]

HUME: We're back with our panel.

It is regarded on the anti-war left as proof positive that President Bush intended from the start to go to war in Iraq and rigged American intelligence to support the case. It is called the Downing Street Memo, and it is such a focal point now that it even has its own Web site,

[The BBC and the Times of London seem to regard it the same way the US anti-war left does.]

Mort, what is the Downing Street Memo?

KONDRACKE: Well, the Downing Street Memo was an account of a secret...

HUME: Minutes, right?

[Thank you, that's important! These are official government minutes.]

KONDRACKE: ... minutes of a meeting of Tony Blair and his top national security team in July 2002. And the head of foreign intelligence had just been to the United States to go around the administration and see what the policy was likely to be. And when he reported, as the memo says - - and this is paraphrasing now, it's not quoting him -- that military action was now seen as inevitable -- that is in Washington -- Bush wanted to remove Saddam...

[Whom did he ask about what the policy would be, probably people you might characterize as policy makers, right? Hold that thought.]

HUME: In Washington about Iraq?

KONDRACKE: Right. Bush wanted to remove Saddam though military action -- through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And this is the key controversial sentence. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Now, does that mean that we are being jimmied, we are being -- that intelligence was being cooked?

HUME: But this guy that said this based this on his conclusion on discussing this with national security aides surrounding President Bush, right?

KONDRACKE: Right, right.

HUME: Not policymakers?

KONDRACKE: Right, and the adversaries of the policy are fastening on this sentence to say, "Aha!"

[Not policy makers? Now it's become aides. So the head of British intelligence has supposedly gone to Washington, gotten the wrong story by asking some underlings, and reported it to the British Prime Minister, and it is sheer coincidence that this story fits with the stories coming out of the White House through people like Richard Clarke and Paul O'Neil, Time Magazine, etc., etc. Many believe that the people met with were, in fact George Tenet and Condoleeza Rice.]

HUME: The smoking gun.

Ceci, is it a smoking gun?

CONNOLLY: Hard to say that it's a smoking gun. It certainly raises legitimate questions about timing, and motives, and again, going back to the discussion of how good our and everyone else's intelligence was about Iraq.

[In fact, beside Australia no other country's intelligence service made claims about Iraq similar to those of the US and UK. And of course, Australia had few if any sources beyond what they were told by America and Britain. In September, 2002, Russia said the British WMD dossier was part of a "propaganda furor." When the US released its CIA assessment of Iraq in October, 2002, Putin stated "Fears are one thing, hard facts are another... Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners yet." At the same time the French intelligence services contradicted the CIA analysis, saying claims of an Iraqi nuclear program were a "phony threat." In spring, 2003 before the war, Chirac told Hans Blix he did not believe Iraq possessed any WMD.]

There was a group that tried to make this a campaign issue against Tony Blair. And it potentially contributed some to his damage and loss of some support, but he did in the end win reelection. So I think that's another reason why this is not getting ongoing attention and scrutiny.

[The scrutiny is just beginning, and Blair's party lost many members, but under the British system citizens do not directly elect the prime minister.]

HUME: Well, is it -- does it really say, in effect, that the intelligence -- I mean, does it establish with any authority that U.S. intelligence was manipulated for the purpose of supporting this case?

[Good question. Fox has now asked this question more times than any other network.]

CONNOLLY: No. I mean, I think the most factual statement in there is that the intelligence was thin. And that's something that we have all come to realize over the past two-year period now.

[A baseless assertion as to what is most factual MIGHT be interesting if it were ITSELF factual. The minutes do not say that the intelligence was thin, rather than the case for attackign Iraq was thin. Here's the relevant section: "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." In other words, there was THICK evidence that Bush's plan made no sense, but plans were in the works to try to cook up an excuse to implement it.]

KONDRACKE: Well, that was the observation -- I'm sorry.

BARNES: That's true, that's...


BARNES: What I want to know is -- wait a minute.

HUME: Yes, but what about the burden -- what does he mean by intelligence was fixed around the policy?

[Now Fox has asked this more times than the rest of the networks combined. All that's left is to answer it.]


BARNES: He clearly meant it was fixed, it was manipulated. But if it were manipulated, if the U.S. manipulated it, how did they also manipulate French intelligence, and German intelligence, and British intelligence, and fool the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and that -- what was it -- Silberman-Robb Commission that looked into the whole thing. They fooled everybody, and manipulated the intelligence all over the world.

[As noted above, other countries' intelligence services did not agree with the Bush adminstration's pre-war claim. Furthermore, the Silberman-Robb Commission did not make any determination about whether the Bush administration misrepresented the intelligence they received; as the commission itself stated, it was "not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments." The Roberts-Robb commission, however, WAS tasked with making this determination. However, Sen. Roberts now has gone back on his promise to investigate the issue, claiming it would be pointless.]

Obviously, you could read that "fixed" thing that way, but that's obviously not what it means.

HUME: Well, it may have been what it meant, but, well, the question is...

BARNES: Well, it's just incorrect.

HUME: ... whether it's true, right.


KONDRACKE: That observation that the intelligence was thin was the observation of Jack Straw who was against the policy and resigned as foreign secretary...

HUME: Jack Straw?

BARNES: Robin Cook.

KONDRACKE: Robin Cook. Robin Cook. I'm sorry.

HUME: Not Jack Straw. Jack Straw is the guy that came in, in his place.

KONDRACKE: You're right, you're right. Robin Cook was the foreign secretary at the time.

HUME: That's why we don't need a picture of Jack Straw. Good.


[Neither Barnes, Kondracke nor Hume seem to know the most basic facts here. The Downing Street Memo indicates that Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary, said "the case [for war, not merely the intelligence] was thin." Straw did not resign and remains Foreign Secretary today. Robin Cook was Straw's predecessor as Foreign Secretary from 1997-2001. After the 2001 British elections he remained in Blair's cabinet but became the Leader of the House of Commons. He objected to the invasion of Iraq, and on that basis resigned from Blair's cabinet on March 17, 2003. (According to the Downing Street memo, Cook was not present at the meeting it records.)]

KONDRACKE: Sorry, you're right.

CONNOLLY: But it's hard to disagree at this point in hindsight that the intelligence was not very good. We don't know why.


[Those of us willing to read the Downing Street minutes know why. We were lied to.]

BARNES: Well, we all know that.

HUME: But the key question here -- look, this is a memo that is being cited in support of the proposition that the policy had been decided ahead of time. And the policy was war, military action to depose Saddam Hussein. Now, deposing Saddam Hussein, I think it's fair to say, had been the policy of the U.S. government since 1998, when actually there was a measure passed by Congress that's called -- what was it called, the Iraqi Freedom Law or something like that?

BARNES: For regime change.

HUME: Right, a call for regime change in Iraq, which meant getting rid of Saddam Hussein. So that was clearly the policy. But this said that the policy was to do it by military means and that intelligence was manipulated, so the point -- is this not, in fact, evidence that that was the case, at least?

KONDRACKE: Well, I think it's evidence that the United States was going to put military pressure on Saddam Hussein and, in the end of the game, would probably have to go to war.

[The Downing Street minutes make clear that the Bush Administration had already determined to go to war. That is NOT evidence that they would probably have to go to war.]

HUME: Ceci suggested that one reason why this didn't get much coverage in the U.S. media, in part because everybody knew the intelligence was bad. Tony Blair fought this, got reelected. Any other reason, quickly?

[Bad and fixed, mistaken and forged, misinformed and concocted are not the same.]

KONDRACKE: I don't think that the American press is trying to protect George Bush, because that's the...


BARNES: We've been through all this. We've examined all the intelligence, or lack of good intelligence. You know, this is -- we know the answer here. It's not that the intelligence was manipulated, it's that it was flawed.

HUME: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see a Hollywood casting call for a movie about Washington. Wait until you see who is playing whom, next.

[I guess we know who will play the journalists.]


This article is from After Downing Street Dot Org

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