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Monday, June 13, 2005


creating the conditions

the london sunday times has uncovered yet more evidence of deceit in the runup to the iraq invasion. in a piece following up on the downing street memo revelation, a 2002 british cabinet briefing paper outlines the need to "create the conditions" under which the invasion of iraq could be legally justified. the times' michael smith writes:

The document said 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 it warned 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.

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. The attack on Iraq finally began in March 2003.

The briefing paper is certain to add to the pressure, particularly on the American president, because of the damaging revelation that Bush and Blair agreed on regime change in April 2002 and then looked for a way to justify it.
michael kinsley in the washington times notes that the downing street memo itself is perhaps not novel, in that it says what many already assumed to be true.

Of course, if "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," rather than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush's intentions, as well as a scandal in its own right. And we know now that this was true and a half. Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the war in Iraq. But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decision makers had told him they were fixing the facts. Although the prose is not exactly crystalline, it seems to be saying only that "Washington" had reached that conclusion.

And of course Washington had done so. You don't need a secret memo to know this. Just look at what was in the newspapers on July 23, 2002, and the day before. Left-wing Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer casually referred to the coming war against Iraq as "much-planned-for." The New York Times reported Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's response to an earlier story "which reported preliminary planning on ways the United States might attack Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein." Rumsfeld effectively confirmed the report by announcing an investigation of the leak.
be that as it may, these documents from within the blair government show that the brits (at least) knew they were about to engage in deceiving their electorate and the world by manufacturing a cassus bellum where none existed.

perhaps there's nothing terribly surprising -- or even illegal -- in that. i personally am of the mind that a politician's very essence in this age (and maybe all ages) is deception, and it is up to the electorate to hold him accountable for it. i see no impeachable offense here, as horrifyingly ungrounded as the behavior of american and british leadership may be.

what is most disturbing to me about the information is the utter and complete apathy -- or worse, total denial -- of that electorate when confronted with the disturbing truths about what transpired. what does the lack of energy or will for criticism, insight and reform -- incipient in kinsley's piece -- say about the health of american democracy?

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