Wednesday, June 29, 2005 - think - Bush Insists Iraq War Is 'Worth It' In Sober Speech

President invoked 9/11 terror attacks, called on Americans to join military

Invoking the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 five times, President Bush took to the airwaves Tuesday night in an attempt to bolster sagging support for the war in Iraq.

At times contradicting recent statements by his own vice president and secretary of defense, the President gave a sober, stern-faced assessment of how long U.S. troops could remain in the conflict and urged Americans to support their military over the July 4 holiday weekend by flying flags and writing to soldiers.

"I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible," said the President in his 30-minute speech. "So do I." Standing in front of more than 740 uniformed members of the military at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the speech comes as the President's approval rating has hit an all-time low and polls show that a majority of Americans feel the war was not worth starting and that it has not made the country safer from terrorist attacks (see "Polls: Americans Tiring Of Iraq War, Less Happy With Bush"). more

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Downing Street Memo: Part 1

June 28, 2005
Downing Street Memo: Part 1
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At the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal in 1946, Nazi leaders like Goering, von Ribbentrop, Jodl and Streicher were sentenced to death by hanging for "Crimes against Peace: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing." (Article 6, Charter of the International Military Tribunal, August 8, 1945.


It is remarkable, but now indisputable, that the current leaders of Britain and the United States are responsible for just such a conspiracy.

Carne Ross, a key Foreign Office diplomat responsible for liaising with UN inspectors in Iraq, said last week that British government claims about Iraq's weapons programme had been "totally implausible".

Ross told the Guardian: "I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too. There was a very good alternative to war that was never properly pursued, which was to close down Saddam's sources of illegal revenue." (Richard Norton-Taylor, 'WMD claims were "totally implausible",' The Guardian, June 20, 2005)

But an alternative to war was never an option for the Bush-Blair alliance. On May 1, the Sunday Times published a leaked Downing Street memo that hammered the final nails in the coffin of Tony Blair's credibility. The document - minutes of a highly confidential meeting dated July 23, 2002 - was written eight months before the invasion began.

John Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), opened proceedings by summarising 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." (Michael Smith, 'Blair planned Iraq war from start,' Sunday Times, May 1, 2005)

As Scarlett's initial statement makes clear, it was understood by everyone present that the issue at hand was how best to overthrow Saddam Hussein, not how to neutralise the supposed threat from any weapons of mass destruction. Indeed little mention was made of WMD.

The memo then records the words of Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British intelligence service MI6, who commented on his recent visit to Washington where he had held talks with George Tenet, director of the CIA: "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 [US National Security Council] 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." (ibid)

This recognition of the inevitability of war is reiterated in comments made in the meeting by foreign secretary Jack Straw: "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." (ibid)

But in the absence of a threat - even to Iraq's neighbours, much less to the West - how could war possibly be justified? Straw explained: "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." (ibid)

A further leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper from the same day clarifies that since regime change was illegal under international law it was "necessary to create the conditions" that would help provide legitimacy for war.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Michael Smith notes that the briefing paper asserts the only way the allies could justify military action was "to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors". But the briefing paper warns this would be difficult.

"It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject," the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be "most unlikely" to obtain the legal justification they needed. (Smith, 'Ministers were told of need for Gulf war "excuse",' Sunday Times, June 12, 2005)

Notice the point is not that it was "just possible" than an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would +accept+ - an outcome that might have allowed a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The aspiration was to cast an ultimatum that Saddam would +reject+, so providing an excuse for war. The goal, clearly, was to lay a trap for a war of aggression and conquest, not to negotiate for peace and security through disarmament.

After all, if disarmament had been the concern, an ultimatum would have been superfluous - Saddam was "not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran".

Smith accurately comments: "The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war." (ibid)
But this was merely Plan A of a two-part plan to make war possible.

There was also Plan B. As part of the "attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war," Smith writes, Britain and America increased bombing raids on Iraq, dropping twice as many bombs in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001. (Smith, 'RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war,' Sunday Times, May 29, 2005) By October, with the UN vote still two weeks away, RAF aircraft were dropping 64% of bombs falling on the southern no-fly zone.

This aggressive targeting of Iraqi defences contradicted Foreign Office legal advice appended to the leaked July 23, 2002 briefing paper, which states that allied aircraft were only "entitled to use force in self-defence where such a use of force is a necessary and proportionate response to actual or imminent attack from Iraqi ground systems". (ibid) The attacks, in other words, were illegal acts of state terror.

Last week, Smith summarised the two-part plan to generate an excuse for war in an article in the Los Angeles Times: "British officials hoped the ultimatum [for Iraq to readmit UN weapons inspectors] could be framed in words that would be so unacceptable to Hussein that he would reject it outright.

But they were far from certain this would work, so there was also a Plan B... Put simply, US aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict." (Michael Smith, 'The real news in the Downing Street memos,' Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2005; smith23jun23,0,1838831.story)

Straw, Blair And The Big Lie
The staggering deceit and criminality of the current British leadership is apparent when we compare the above with their public statements. Despite clearly plotting to ensure a violent outcome at least as early as July 2002, Jack Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme in January 2003: "What's important for people to understand is that war is not inevitable." ('War with Iraq not inevitable - Straw,' January 6, 2003, 12:19 GMT;

Responding to comments made by an unnamed government source suggesting that the prospect of conflict had receded from a 60:40 likelihood of conflict to a 60:40 likelihood of peace, Straw commented: "I think that's a reasonably accurate description." (ibid)

This was Jonathan Freedland's take on Straw in the Guardian: "To dump Straw would look especially perverse after Sunday's leaked memo revealed not only that Downing Street had set its heart on regime change back in 2002 - as opponents of the war always charged - but also that Straw played a Colin Powell role in those internal deliberations, warning that the case against Iraq was 'thin'. To make him the fall guy would look unfair..." (Freedland, 'Campaign 05: It won't be the names that matter,' The Guardian, May 3, 2005)

In his May 1 article, Smith had rightly rejected exactly this benign interpretation:
"Despite voicing concerns, Straw was not standing in the way of war. It was he who suggested a solution: they should force Saddam into a corner where he would give them a clear reason for war." (Smith, Sunday Times, May 1, op. cit, our emphasis)

That was obvious to Smith; it is obvious to us. How curious that it was not also obvious to Freedland. Straw was in fact proposing a conspiracy to lure Saddam into actions that would help 'legitimise' a US-UK war of aggression.

In the July 23, 2002 memo, the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. Tony Blair responded that "it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors".

Blair's comment was made in the context of Straw's points about the lack of a threat and the need for an ultimatum, and of the briefing paper arguing it was "just possible" that "an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject".

Blair, then, was also willing to use UN inspectors, not to disarm Iraq, but to provoke Saddam's refusal to cooperate, so providing an excuse for war.

Blair's criminality in launching a war of aggression, and in lying to Parliament and to the British people, is therefore not in doubt. On November 8, 2002, Blair said:
"Iraq now has a 'final opportunity' to comply with its international and legal obligations by giving up once and for all its weapons of mass destruction... If it does not, then the consequences are clear." (Cited, Panorama, Iraq - Tony & the Truth, BBC 1, 10.15PM, March 20, 2005;

The "final opportunity" was a fraud, an endgame in a plot to provide an excuse for war. The consequences, completely regardless of Saddam's response, were already clear.

In February 2003, Blair said: "If we go to war it will not be because we want to, but because we have to in order to disarm Saddam." (David Cracknell and Sarah Baxter, 'Allies set date for Iraq war,' Sunday Times, February 23, 2003)

As late as February 15, 2003 - just one month before the war began on March 20 - Blair told the Labour Party's spring conference in Glasgow: "I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam." ('Blair speech - key quotes,' February 15, 2003, 12:38 GMT;
But Blair had been plotting to secure a violent outcome since at least July 2002. With these words, Blair was deliberately deceiving the British public.

The evidence of a conspiracy to lure and goad Saddam into providing an excuse for war is amply corroborated by other sources. Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to the United States, wrote in a March 18, 2002 memo: "We backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us domestically." (Cited, Panorama, op. cit)

John Ware reported on the BBC's Panorama programme in March that this "clever" plan involved getting the UN Security Council to pass a tough new disarmament resolution. Was it intended to achieve peace or provide a trigger for war? Meyer could not be clearer: "The US could go it alone if it wanted. But if it wanted to act with partners there had to be strategy for building support for military action. I then went through the need to wrong foot Saddam on the inspectors." (ibid)

As we have seen, the 'wrong footing' involved Saddam being provoked into rejecting the ultimatum - a desired outcome that was considered "just possible".

Richard Haass, director of policy planning, State Department 2001-2003, also confirms that war had long been the intended outcome: "... the first time I came away persuaded that a war was ninety nine percent likely was in early July of 2002 during one of my regular sessions with Condoleezza Rice, then the national security advisor... I was uneasy about it, thought that it raised questions to me at least whether it was worth it... and when I began to raise these concerns, Condi's reaction was essentially, save your breath, hold your fire 'This decision's pretty much been made, this is where the President is.'" (Cited, Panorama, ibid)

Part 2 will follow shortly.

Downing Street Memo Has Lingering Effect

Activists Use British Documents To Mount Media Campaign,
Put Bush on Defensive Over Iraq

June 28, 2005; Page A4

Write to Christopher Cooper at

A series of three-year-old British documents seized upon by those who think the Bush administration manipulated intelligence before the war with Iraq has demonstrated unusual staying power. That is due in part to declining public support for the conflict – but it also has much to do with an Internet campaign by war critics prodding journalists to talk about them.

Documents detailing the run-up to the Iraq war have been splashed across London newspapers since they surfaced in the fall and hit a crescendo on May 1 with the publication of the so-called Downing Street memo.

After a slow start in the U.S., a half-dozen liberal activists are having some success in making the documents fodder for Capitol Hill rhetoric and White House news briefings.

Their campaign comes at a dicey point for President Bush, who has seen support for his Iraq policy erode amid the insurgent violence that has followed January elections in that country. A spate of recent bombings in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on Iraqi security forces and has produced fresh anxiety in the U.S. about how long American troops will have to remain in Iraq.

Facing criticism from Democrats and some fellow Republicans, Mr. Bush will deliver a nationally televised speech from Fort Bragg, N.C., tonight in an attempt to regain the high ground in public opinion.

The documents, summarizing meetings between U.S. and British officials in the spring and summer of 2002, appear to lend support to what administration critics have long alleged: That the White House was determined to invade Iraq nearly a year before it did and that it "fixed" intelligence to justify the invasion.

In many ways, though, the documents don't reflect much new; at the time they were produced, U.S. news outlets were speculating that Mr. Bush might be heading toward conflict in Iraq, which is why they garnered little attention here when reported earlier.

Still, the memos have galvanized left-leaning activists in the U.S., with some even saying the matter justifies impeachment proceedings against Mr. Bush for lying to Congress. Though congressional Republicans so far have declined to hold hearings, minority Democrats have held their own mock hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, the activists believe that a grass-roots Internet campaign to prod the U.S. media into covering them is yielding fruit. At a joint White House appearance recently, Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair both denied they had fixed anything and said they preferred alternatives to war. "There's nothing farther from the truth," Mr. Bush said. "Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."

The current Internet pressure from the left is reminiscent of a publicity battle waged by conservatives during Mr. Bush's re-election run that questioned Democrat John Kerry's service as a Swift Boat commander in Vietnam and his antiwar activity that followed. Though Swift Boat Veterans for Truth used some traditional media to get its message out, the group mounted a potent cyberspace campaign that helped keep the issue at the fore of the public debate.

"The coverage seems to be getting more intelligent," after reporters initially gave the memos short shrift, says Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid himself has begun citing the documents in public remarks, ad libbing a reference to them in a recent Senate floor speech.

The most politically provocative document summarized a July 2002 meeting between Mr. Blair and other British officials. Though U.S. newspapers at the time were swirling with leaked Pentagon war plans, Mr. Bush maintained he was dedicated to finding a peaceful solution. The Downing Street memo recounts a meeting between a British official referred to as "C" and his U.S. counterpart. Media outlets in Britain and the U.S. have identified "C" as a senior British intelligence official.

In the document, the senior British intelligence official reported "a perceptible shift in attitude" about Iraq in Washington months before the war. "Military action was now seen as inevitable," the document says, and "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism" and weapons of mass destruction. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

In mid-May, three regular readers of Daily Kos, a liberal blog, published their own Web site to publicize the documents. According to its operators, was created by a Silicon Valley Web-page designer, a Chicago college student and a Canadian citizen certain they had stumbled onto the smoking gun that could drag the Bush administration down.

They were joined later by three other Daily Kos readers, including Bob Fesmire, husband of the Silicon Valley Web designer. Mr. Fesmire, a marketing executive for an engineering business, said he returned from a business trip to find his wife, Gina, obsessed with the leaked British documents, so he read them. "I said, 'This is it -- this is what's going to crack this whole thing open,' " Mr. Fesmire recalled.
He was equally struck by the lack of interest in the documents, even among liberals.

The idea to target news operations came from Michael Clark, a Pennsylvania professor of ancient history and occasional poster to Daily Kos who didn't know the Fesmires before joining the effort.

Mr. Clark said he knew nothing about running such a campaign, but decided to contact three media outlets a day, including the likes of C-Span, the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

On June 3, the group directed messages to NBC. On June 6, MSNBC did a segment on the Downing Street memo. On June 9, Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC's evening newscast, posted a request for a truce on his Internet blog: "One more note to those of you who are part of the mass email project on the so-called Downing Street Memo: That's enough, we get's an important story...and all you're doing now is taking up computer space. We're well aware of the story, we've covered it, and likely will again."

Mr. Clark broadened his efforts to include smaller newspaper chains and newspapers, searching for email addresses of specific editors. Downingstreetmemo isn't the only Internet-based group calling attention to the British documents. Overall, the efforts appear to be working.

A search of U.S. publications and television news-program transcripts shows that in the two weeks after the London Times broke its story, the Downing Street memo was mentioned fewer than 100 times. The phrase has appeared nearly 800 times since Mr. Clark's efforts began, although it isn't clear the extent to which this is the result of his campaign.

Mr. Clark plans to turn his campaign on Congress this summer and has told supporters to email Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas. "I've been so busy with this that I haven't been out to spray my orchard," Mr. Clark said. "I'm going to lose my crop this year."

A spokeswoman says the Republican senator has received about 40 emails but doesn't plan to hold hearings.

Mr. Fesmire, the group's spokesman, said he is often asked who is really behind and what kind of support it is receiving from national liberal groups. The truth, he said, is hard for some people to swallow.

"It really is just six people, and I don't even know the name[s] of two of them," he said. "People find it hard to believe it when I tell them that for a $20 Web-hosting fee, you too can get something like this going."