Downing Street Memo, Revisited

August 14, 2007

While skimming the comments section of LGF, I noticed that one of the Lizards suggested that Wikipedia failed to discredit the now-famous Downing Street Memo.  I felt obliged to mention that the DSM is, in fact, a real British document that was leaked to the media in May 2005*.  There is no discrediting it; neither Bush nor Blair have disputed the document’s authenticity. 

(Since I’ve never mentioned the DSM on my blog in the past, I suppose it makes as good a subject as any for tonight’s entry)

First, here is the text of the actual document (drafted July 23, 2002).

Key portions:

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.


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.

One should really read the whole thing, but these portions are what makes the document significant. Why?  Well, to me, it has to do with what Bush said a few months later, on the day the Congress authorized the use force against Saddam:

“Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq’s violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world’s demands. It’s the obligation of Iraq.”

Most of the conversation over the significance of the memo has been concerning whether it is proof that Bush “lied” about WMD.  While much can be interpreted about the line “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” (which included countless debates about what “fixed” really meant), I think this overlooks the bigger lie.

This document did not reveal the deliberations of parties that were looking to resolve a problem while considering military action as a last resort.  These were discussions about how to legitimize a war.  THAT’S the lie.  All the hype about WMD’s and connections to terrorism, along with going through the motions of UN blessings was really nothing more than the dog and pony show.   They were planning what they had to do to make an invasion happen and at least give it the appearance of being legitimate.  Intelligence with regards to Saddam’s weapons programs and ties to al Qaeda may very well have been misrepresented and conveyed to the public in a way of making worst case scenarios appear to be iron-clad facts, but that’s not really what this memo proves. It only proves that the focus on these things was seen as part of the means to an end.

*In actuality, there were about a half dozen more British documents that were leaked to the press around the same time as the original DSM, each of them containing evidence that supports my conclusion.  They’re all worth reading.  Also, another key piece of evidence about the WMD intelligence specifically came last December in the form of testimony from Britain’s UN negotiator, Carne Ross.


One comment

  1. […] Now, as tempted as I was to dissect this over at Jimmie’s place (since it was the second time in a week that an editorial rebutting the ”Bush Lied” meme was featured over there), but I figured that it’d be better for me to address this over here in the Chamber, and give my pal Jimmie a couple of pingbacks instead.  That, and I do feel frustrated that when the topic comes up, the focus is always on claims about WMD intelligence and connections to al Qaeda.  And as much as I’m convinced that the administration attempted to hyperventilate the American public with ad nauseam presentations of worst-case scenarios as iron-clad fact, this misses what I feel is the actual “lie”, so if I haven’t covered this already (I have), I’m going to do it now…again… […]

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