Today on Capitol Hill, John Conyers of Michigan will lead a hearing on the Downing Street Memo—minutes from a British leadership meeting that suggest the Bush administration first decided to go to war in Iraq and then built a case for it later. The Memo has been big, big news in Britain, but has received little attention in the U.S.
Here's a brief "primer" on the memo from yesterday's Village Voice - "What’s the Deal With the Downing Street Memo? Getting a Grip on That Bush/Blair War Scandal". Below that is a link and some quotes from an excellent Amy Goodman interview with John Conyers and Ray McGovern about it. I also included a link to the actual text of the memo so you can read it yourself.
Lastly there are 2 easy-click actions you can take to support further Congressional investigation into what looks to me like proof at last that the road to war in Iraq was intentionally paved with lies. Maybe the people will finally hold the liars accountable.
ps - this portrait of Bush is a mosaic of photos of US troops that have been killed in the Iraq war. It comes from: http://amleft.blogspot.com/archives/2004_04_01_amleft_archive.html#108112087436221697
On July 23, 2002, British prime minister Tony Blair met with several of his top advisers to discuss plans for the future concerning the United States, Iraq, and the United Nations. The minutes from that meeting were marked “secret and strictly confidential.” But on May 1, in the heat of Blair’s campaign for re-election, those minutes—which have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo—surfaced in the Times of London.
The Memo confirmed what many progressives had long suspected: that the Bush administration planned to launch a war in Iraq and then rigged a case to justify it. According to the Memo, Britain’s intelligence chief reported the following assessment with regard to his then recent trip to 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.”
The British media, from the Guardian to the BBC News, quickly explored the Memo and its implications and subsequently unearthed more documents that cast further doubt on the official Bush-Blair version of the run-up to the Iraq war (as well as the preparations for its aftermath). In the meantime, however, the titans of the U.S. press largely dodged the Downing Street bullet. As Media Matters for America noted in a study released June 15, the editorial pages of four of the nation’s five largest newspapers—USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times—remained “conspicuously silent about the controversy surrounding the document” in the first six weeks after its publication.
Nonetheless, reactions to the Memo have slowly and quietly gathered steam across the United States. Progressive media outlets including TomPaine.com, The Nation have covered the story on a regular basis, and smaller newspapers from Tennessee to Wisconsin have also taken up the issue. On the advocacy front, more than 500,000 people signed a letter to President Bush earlier this month demanding an explanation for the latest revelations, and groups of veterans and peace activists have formed a coalition to push for a formal congressional investigation. In the political arena, several members of Congress have arranged to hold hearings on the Memo this afternoon in the Capitol.
With the issue clearly gaining momentum, the key question now is whether the Memo has the muscle to sway not only those who opposed the war in the first place, but also those who at some point supported it.
Neither testimony from Joseph Wilson and Richard Clarke nor the enduring absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have all failed to unsettle the American public enough to reopen the debate over the war. Controversy over the Downing Street Memo may also wither away.
But there is a real possibility the issue could gain serious traction in the days and weeks ahead. The Memo is strikingly concrete; beyond the commentary on intelligence-fiddling and fact-tweaking, it notes quite plainly that “the case was thin” for military action in Iraq. And perhaps even more importantly, the people of the United States have become increasingly frustrated with the Iraq war; in fact, a recent Washington Post poll found that for the first time since major combat operations began in March 2003, more than half of all Americans feel the war has not made the nation safer.
Interview by Amy Goodman with John Conyers and Ray McGovern on the Downing Street Memo:
I especially liked this quote from McGovern:
"We are even more outraged by the constitutional implications here because as Congressman Conyers has just pointed out, we have here a very clear case that the Executive usurped the prerogatives of Congress of the American people and deceived it into permitting, authorizing an unauthorizeable war.
And, you know, when you get back to how our Constitution was framed by those English folks that were used to kings marching them off to the war blithely for their own good, of course, those framers of our Constitution were hell-bent and determined and wrote into the very first Article of our Constitution that the power to make or authorize war would be reserved to the representatives of people in the Congress, not in the Executive. And so, for that usurpation to happen, that is a constitutional issue, and we're even more outraged by that."
And Amy Goodman also included this transcript:
On June 7, after more than a month of media silence, a reporter for the Reuters news agency finally questioned President Bush and Tony Blair on the Downing Street Memo:
REPORTER: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July 2002 says, "Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action." Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
TONY 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, you know, 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.
GEORGE W. 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 you all dropped it out there. And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There is nothing farther from the truth. My conversations with the Prime Minister was how can we do this peacefully, what could we do, and this meeting, you know, 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 of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option.
Read the actual memo here, as published in the Sunday Times Britain on 5/1/05
--- Senator John Kerry is presently circulating a letter in the Senate that calls for the President to answer questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. We urge everyone to contact your senators--be they Republican or Democrat--and encourage them to sign on to Kerry's letter. It is expected to be made public in the coming days, but the more support it gets now the better. Congressman John Conyers has been leading the effort in the House to bring this issue into the light; now Senator Kerry is doing the same in the Senate. Let's support both of them so that the issues surrounding why and how we went to war receive the fair hearing they deserve.
--- Sign John Conyers' letter to Bush here: