Sunday, June 12, 2005

Memo Paranoia

The left blogosphere and some in the liberal media are in a frenzy over the so-called Downing Street Memo. This document, prepared for a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, indicates a belief that the Bush Administration intended to invade Iraq long before they publicly said so and that they shaped intelligence to fit their intentions. The document was published in the British press during the recent British election, apparently as an attempt to discredit Blair and his party.

Michael Kinsley, a man with impeccable credentials as a liberal, sees the Downing Street Memo frenzy for what it is,

...an encouraging sign of the revival of the left. Developing a paranoid theory and promoting it to the very edge of national respectability takes a certain amount of ideological self-confidence. It takes a critical mass of citizens with extreme views and the time and energy to obsess about them. It takes a promotional infrastructure and the widely shared self-discipline to settle on a story line, disseminate it and stick to it.

It takes, in short, what Hillary Clinton once called a vast conspiracy. The right has enjoyed one for years. Even moderate and reasonable right-wingers have enjoyed the presence of a mass of angry people even further right. This overhang of extremists makes the moderates appear more reasonable. It pulls the center of politics, where the media try to be and where compromises on particular issues end up, in a rightward direction. Listening to extreme views on your own side is soothing even if you would never express them and may not even believe them yourself.

...even on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It says that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant actual administration decision makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, [the author] is saying only that these people believe that war is how events will play out.

As Kinsley points out, there's nothing referred to in the Downing Street Memo that can't be found in the media, in reports published at that time and since. The constant drumbeat about it from some liberals is just more hysteria, of the kind found too often on both the left and right in our political discussion. Worse than that, it's old news. Let's move on.

11 Comments:

Blogger carla said...

As Kinsley points out, there's nothing referred to in the Downing Street Memo that can't be found in the media, in reports published at that time and since.

Really? So there are official government documents elsewhere that show Bush was pushing intelligence to go into Iraq while subverting/ignoring other intelligence? Please, show me.

1:04 PM, June 12, 2005  
Blogger Francesca said...

I'm with Carla on this one. Even though I distinctly remember a rumbling in the media in the summer of 2002 about Iraq (I was in Europe at the time and it was getting more press than here in the US), there was no mention of the creation of evidence against Saddam and/or the rejection of information that would detract from any argument in favor of a war there.

It's important to remember that at about the same time that this meeting took place, the US & UK stepped up bombing in Iraq quite heavily, as if to "bully" Saddam into making a military move and giving us a real reason to invade. Here's a link to that story.

3:10 PM, June 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been two seperate investigations into whether or not Bush twisted the facts and both found he did not. Talk of this is absurd.

Oh no! Bush and Blair planned for war! Well, no shit. Every leader of a country order wars plans against possible foes. It's a matter of national defence and has happened since Hammorabi walked on the Earth if not before.

11:24 PM, June 12, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

Have you all seen the following about the Downing Street Memo? Gindy (http://gindy.blogspot.com/2005/06/text-of-the-infamous-downing-street.html#comments) discussed it but the main crux that needs to be realized is the following (courtesy of USA Today):

Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, says it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being "fixed around" Iraq policy. " 'Fixed around' in British English means 'bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy," he says.

11:54 PM, June 12, 2005  
Blogger greeneyed_lady said...

As I have argued before in other blogs about this, here's the question; If Blair and Bush are planning a big "lie" would there be "memos"? Documentation? No, Bush can't be that stupid. If there is a real secret here, just as in Watergate, it takes things like wire taps and someone like "Deep Throat" to uncover it. In reality, in this last 2-3 yrs, if the truth were known, the dems have most likely tried everything to get something on Bush with substance and proof. Yet These little disgruntled employee remarks and books is the very best we've got. So if you say "liar" enough, people believe it without no substanial proof just have a few gardeners, meaning those that like to plant things. Those kinds of things are easy to find at, what do you know, just the perfect timming. The real stuff don't come that easily.

6:46 AM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger Francesca said...

I hate to say it, but Anonymous posters always make the most asinine statements.

"Oh no! Bush and Blair planned for war! Well, no shit. Every leader of a country order wars plans against possible foes. It's a matter of national defence [sic] and has happened since Hammorabi [sic] walked on the Earth if not before."

This isn't about making war plans for possible foes. This is about making Saddam into a possible foe--cooking the data to make him look like more of a threat than he really was.

And please post a link to these two inquiries into the veracity of Bush's motives for war. Thanks.

10:00 AM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

To the best of my knowledge there aren't any official documents showing that Bush was pushing intelligence to go into Iraq while subverting/ignoring other intelligence. That could be because it isn't true. Bush and Blair have both flatly denied the controversial aspects of the memo. That's good enough for me until there's proof otherwise.

The memo, if you actually read it, is nothing but a paraphrased record of a meeting. The parts that have folks worked up are second or third-hand accounts of what someone else said about second or third-hand accounts. You have to be operating in a data-free environment with your mind already made up to get excited about it. It's grasping at straws.

I couldn't count the number of meetings I've been in where contingency plans were discussed and the intentions of other parties speculated upon. The content of some of those meetings would curl your toes, if you weren't involved in them and didn't understand the word "contingency." And the memo, aside from the odd British language, sounds like a thousand others I've read. Taken alone, it proves nothing and means little.

It also bothers me that the memo is a classified document, even if it's British, that was stolen (how else would you describe it?) and gleefully published by the media. I don't know about the media people involved, but the person who stole the memo would most likely be subject to the UK Official Secrets Act and could end up in jail. I hope he/she does.

10:41 AM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

To the best of my knowledge there aren't any official documents showing that Bush was pushing intelligence to go into Iraq while subverting/ignoring other intelligence.

DSM is an official British government document, Tom. And it shows that intelligence was being used to push a certain policy..rather than the policy being formed around the intelligence. More documents are starting to come out..including one this weekend that has British Ministers being told that Britian was supporting action against Iraq as early as July 2002...but at the time such action was thought to be illegal. They were told to find a way to "make it legal". These are also official British government papers.

More documentation is set to be released this week..including six other British government documents.

This material backs up contentions by various former Bush Admin insiders, Scott Ritter and Bob Woodward. I'm curious as to how many times you'll have to be smacked over the head with this before you stop making excuses for these clowns in the White House.

12:04 PM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Apologies, Carla. I thought you were referring to official U.S. documents. I should have known better. I stand by the remainder of my comments and the post itself.

12:55 PM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger Zack Brown said...

Come visit The Big Red Blog: A Political Road Sign Transcending State and Party Lines. zbrown.blogspot.com

4:21 PM, June 13, 2005  
Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

I'm with Tom on this one. Without proof, the anti-Bush rhetoric only serves to make the Dems look petty and childish to the moderates and swing voters. This is why the Dems keep losing elections to the fundies. There comes a time to look at today and tomorrow, and a time to say "good bye" to the past. This is that time.

6:52 AM, June 14, 2005  

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