Liberal media at work
Liberal media at work
Posted on Wednesday, June 22, 2005
No recent issue better exemplifies
the paralysis of one-party
government than the so-called Downing Street memos. For readers who have been either vacationing on Mars or getting all their news from the so-called mainstream media, those are minutes of the British government’s July 2002 deliberations about its then-secret agreement with the Bush administration to invade Iraq. A brief primer: Downing Street is the British equivalent of White House. Marked "Secret and strictly personal—UK eyes only," the memos constitute the official record of meetings between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet; the equivalent, that is, of a get-together among President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Gen. Tommy Franks and then-CIA Director George Tenet. The documents were leaked to The Sunday Times of London in May. What’s caused the biggest stir are the frank comments of Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI-6, the British CIA. After visiting his U.S. counterparts, he reported on July 22, 2002, that "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." (My emphasis.)
In an earlier column, I observed that in British usage, "fixed" doesn’t signify deliberate corruption. In an on-line colloquy with Washington Post readers, English reporter Michael Smith said, "I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence.... [T] he intelligence was being cooked to match what the administration wanted it to say to justify invading Iraq."
The Sunday Times is not a left-wing newspaper. Smith says that far from being "a mealy-mouthed left-wing apologist," he’s a British Army veteran who believes in a strong national defense and votes Conservative; that is, anti-Blair.
Last year, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee produced a damning report on botched pre-war intelligence, but postponed investigating the touchy question of how the Bush administration used it until after the 2004 election. Almost needless to say, the Republican-controlled committee has since dropped the idea.
Even more damning in the Downing Street documents is evidence of both governments’ calculated dishonesty. Blair’s cabinet believed that attacking Iraq for "regime change" alone would constitute an illegal war of aggression; therefore, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged, "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the U. N. weapons inspectors."
Blair agreed that "[i] t would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U. N. inspectors," according to the minutes.
It appears to me that going to the U. N. was designed not to avert war, as Blair and Bush assured everybody, including Congress and the U. N. Security Council, but in the hope of provoking Saddam Hussein into rashness. Also during the summer of 2002, as Jeremy Scahill reported recently in The Nation, USAF and RAF bombers began a massive secret bombing campaign against Iraqi military and civilian targets. Months before the congressional vote and U. N. resolutions, the war had already begun.
Even so, Saddam capitulated. It’s been shown beyond a reasonable doubt that had Bush and Blair allowed U. N. inspectors to finish the job, they’d have proved that Iraq had no forbidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Instead, they invaded.
Even so, during the 2004 campaign, Bush often repeated this brazen falsehood: "We gave [Saddam] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in."
Yet the most damaging aspect of the Downing Street memos is what they reveal about the arrogant incompetence of the White House ideologue who thought occupying Iraq would be a "cakewalk."
From the start, Blair’s advisers warned him that "U.S. military plans are virtually silent" about the likelihood that conquering Iraq would lead to a post-war occupation and "a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." Straw, the British foreign secretary, wanted to know how "there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better. Iraq has no history of democracy, so no one has this habit or experience." According to a transcript search claimed by Arianna Huffington, ABC and CBS news have scarcely mentioned the Downing Street memos while running 256 Michael Jackson stories. NBC has run six Downing Street pieces, 109 on Jackson; CNN, 30 vs. 633. The New York Times has pooh-poohed the evidence. Washington Post and Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Kinsley scolded readers excited by the British revelations as "paranoid." " Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, "he added, as if there’s no difference between his world-weary cynicism and government documents proving the point. Post columnist Dana Milbank mocked Democratic congressmen holding an unofficial hearing on the subject as taking" a trip to the land of make-believe. " Your gutless liberal media at work.
—––––– •–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.
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