Thursday, June 23, 2005
 
Downing Street Memos Leak Into US Press
Eleven days after LA Times Editiorial and Opinion Page Editor Michael Kinsley pooh-poohed the Downing Street Memo ["The Left Gets A Memo"], the Times has continued to ignore the issues they raise in its news coverage, but now they have run a commentary by Michael Smith, the British reporter who broke the story for the London Sunday Times.

Smith reports on receiving two sets of memos. The first, which he received nine months ago when he worked for the London Daily Telegraph, and was still a staunch war supporter, "were to change completely my opinion of the decision to go to war and the honesty of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush." They dealt with the period before Bush and Blair held a summit in Crawford, Texas in early April, 2002.

The second batch came from a different source, when he was writing for a different paper, and related to Blair's war Cabinet meeting on July 23, 2002. He writes:
Smith goes on to describe how the increase in bombing Iraq was intended to provoke Iraq into a counter-attack that could then justify all-out war:
This point is vitally important, of course. It's another nail in the coffin for Bush.

Smith's analysis only scratches the surface, however, when it comes to the issue of the media. The official corporate media spin has been that the Downing Street Memo contains "nothing new." And in a sense they're right--more right than he is. Everything that's in them was obvious to any clear-headed observer--incuding the increase in bombing Iraq, and the purpose behind it.

A similarly transparently false strategy was used in funding the terrorist war on Nicaraugua in the early 1980s. It began with the rationale of interdicting arms flowing from Nicaragua to the rebels in El Salvador. But the two countries do not share a land border, and terrorists we funded were based in Honduras--which already had an army we provided aid to that could interdict any arms flow through its territory. The terrorists we funded did nothing to stop arms flow through Honduras. They used Honduras as a base for raids on civilian targets in Nicaragua--terrorizing the population in an attempt to undermine support for the government. After almost two years of charade, the rationale was simply dropped. It was no longer needed for propaganda purposes.

The situation was the similar with Iraq. The lies were right in front of us for all to see. But Bush, Blair and the same official corporate media were all busy telling us, "Who are you going to believe, us or your own lying eyes?"

On September 11, 2002, USA Today ran a story, "Iraq course set from tight White House circle", which stated as fact:
No less a figure than Condi Rice confirmed their story:
That story ran in one of America's few national newspapers, yet it was utterly ignored then, and remains utterly ignored today. This behavior pattern clearly shows the corporate media's complicity in taking us to war illegally. They knew we were being lied to, and they looked away at best, and repeated the lies as fact at worst. Is there any wonder why they are reluctant to investigate?

Now that the Times has printed Michael Smith's account as commentary, will they follow up with news coverage? Will they have their national reporters ask the Administration the tough questions that activists and Congressmembers have already put repeatedly without getting answers? And if the Administration refuses to answer, or responds with bald-faced lies, will they simply print that that is what the Administration has done? Or will they continue--actively or passively--to be part of the coverup?

Thursday, June 09, 2005
 
Bush And Blair Lie About Downing Street Memo--Analysis
At a joint press conference on June 7, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair both blatantly lied in response to a question about the Downing Street Memo (DSM). Rather than respond to the substance of the memo itself, they repeated the very propaganda line which minutes reveal as a deliberate falsehood. Bush and Blair did not even try to discredit the minutes themselves, which is the only possible way to refute the underlying claim.

The question asked was, "On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?"

Naturally, both men responded to the ineptly-stated question by denying everything. "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all," said Blair.

But the memo itself—minutes of a meeting Blair held with his top advisors on July 23, 2002—said, "C [British intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington.... 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."

Blair made no attempt to explain why the meeting minutes directly contradict him.

"And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth," added Bush.

That somebody, Sir Richard Dearlove, is the head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA. Bush made no attempt to justify his accusation that Britain's chief of national intelligence is a liar.

Bush also said, "[W]e worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a -- put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously." Not only is this statement contradicted by the Downing Street Memo, it also lies about Saddam's response: he allowed the weapons inspectors back into Iraq, essentially complying with Resolution 1441.

 
Bush And Blair Lie About Downing Street Memo--Text
At a joint press conference on June 7, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair both blatantly lied in response to a question about the Downing Street Memo. Here is the text of the question and response. Analysis to follow:

PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.

Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

PRIME MINISTER 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. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.

But all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren't able to do that because -- as I think was very clear -- there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked, or the way that he acted.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who "they dropped it out" is, but -- I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.

My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are -- are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who've lost a loved one in combat. It's the last option that the President must have -- and it's the last option I know my friend had, as well.

And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a -- put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

 
Marines Kidnap Recruiting Target
Marine recruiters escalated from harrassment to outright kidnapping in pursuit of Axel Cobb, a recent high graduate in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, a small town 65 miles north of Seattle, according to a published account by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter.

It began with "a relentless barrage of calls" when he turned 17. His mother, Marcia, tried using call blocking. (Axel's father, a Marine Corps Vietnam Vet, died when he was 4.) "And that's when she learned her first hard lesson," Paynter wrote. "You can't block calls from the government, her server said." The harrassing phone calls continued for over a year. Then: The next weekend, when his mother was out of town, Axel was hounded at home, then at work, where he was browbeaten into taking a ride. He had no idea he would not be going home that night. They drove him to Seattle, 65 miles away. He was allowed to sleep a few hours in a motel. Then:She had tried to contact her son, but the Marines had confiscated his cell phone, "so he wouldn't be distracted during tests."

The whole chilling story is told here.

If this is what the Marines will do to an 18-year old American kid they're trying to recruit, is it any wonder what they'll do to "the enemy"?

Somebody needs to tell them, "No means no."

And if the American people will not willingly fight a war, it obviously should not be fought. Let those who believe in it so ferverently go sign up themselves. And leave the Axel Cobbs of America alone.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
 
Ted Kennedy Speaks Out On Downing Street Memo
Raw Story reports that Senator Ted Kennedy issued a statement on the Downing Street Minutes on Tuesday, June 7. "Kennedy becomes the first senator to raise the issue in the Senate, after earlier reports that Massachusetts' junior senator, John Kerry, would speak about the minutes in Washington," Raw Story reported.

In his statement, Kennedy said:
At TomKennedy.com:

 
Columbia Journalism Review Stunned By Real News
Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) "sat in shock and awe for the better part of an hour, as anchors Zain Verjee and Jim Clancy did nothing more than deliver the news like it's supposed to be done," as CNN began domestically broadcasting its news program "Your World Today" that airs regularly on CNN International.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
 
Downing Street Memo Pressure Builds
Kerry Speaks Out; Impeachment Inquiry Sought; Conyers Seeks Citizen Support

There have been 3 significant developments since RLN's story on the Downing Street Memo,
"Smoking Gun Memo Exposes Bush's Iraq War Lies"
was written:

 
Downing Street Memo--Text
Originally published in London Sunday Times, the Downing Street Memo contains minutes of a meeting in which British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisors discuss as undisputed fact the Bush Administration determination to invade Iraq, and create whatever pretext is necessary to justify it. The memo was written by Mathheew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign policy aide. The Bush Administration has now had one full month to dispute the authenticity of the memo and has not done so. In the memo, "C" refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, Britain's CIA. Here is the complete text:


SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY

DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

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.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

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.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. 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 Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT