An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

What part of "the intelligence is being fixed" do you Not understand?

The mainstream media has finally, after receiving a deluge of outraged correspondence, covered the story behind the The Downing Street Memo. After reading the document in question and then the administration's explanations one can only wonder if the Bush administration's spokespersons assume that no one has read the memo. Or maybe they are indulging in wishful thinking.

The explanation, as given in the Washington Post, conflates the planning for the possibility of a war with the decision to go to war. Of course they had to plan for a possible war, that doesn't mean they decided. "Given what has been reported about war planning in Washington, the revelations about the Downing Street meeting did not seem like a bolt from the blue," said the ombudsman for the New York Times. Or, that newspaper reports from that time indicated war planning underway means that the Downing Street Memo only confirms information already known.

George W. Bush, in his own words:

(links to web site of press releases)

“Of course, I haven’t made up my mind we’re going to war with Iraq.” [10/1/02]

“Hopefully, we can do this peacefully – don’t get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there’s a chance he may decide to do that. And war is not my first choice, don’t – it’s my last choice.” [11/7/02]

“This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace. And the best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. It’s up to him to make his decision.” [12/4/02]

“You said we’re headed to war in Iraq – I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.” [12/31/02]

“First of all, you know, I’m hopeful we won’t have to go war, and let’s leave it at that.” [1/2/03]

“But Saddam Hussein is – he’s treated the demands of the world as a joke up to now, and it was his choice to make. He’s the person who gets to decide war and peace.” [2/7/03]

“I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.” [3/6/03]

“I want to remind you that it’s his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It’s Saddam’s choice. He’s the person that can make the choice of war and peace.” [3/6/03]

“We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.” [3/8/03]

“Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it.” [3/17/03]

(Thanks go to Think Progress for the quotes and links).

Decisions, not just plans [from the Downing Street Memo, July 23, 2002]

"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."

"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." [emphasis added, see below].

When not Whether
Mention of the phrase "No decisions had been taken" have appeared in the recent stories about the memo, as an attempt to refute the fact that the document clearly states that Bush had already made the decision to go to war. In the context of the document, the "decisions" in question related directly to the timing of a military attack, a question of when not whether. The complete sentence: "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."

Further reading:
Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books, (June 9) wrote an excellent article about this scandal. The main points:

"1. By mid-July 2002, eight months before the war began, President Bush had decided to invade and occupy Iraq.

"2. Bush had decided to 'justify' the war 'by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.'

"3. Already, 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.'

"4. Many at the top of the [U.S.] administration did not want to seek approval from the United Nations (going 'the U.N. route').

"5. Few in Washington seemed much interested in the aftermath of the war. "

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