The Downing Street Memos
Jefferson Morley notes that the "memos" expressing the state of the Blair Government's pre-war planning for the eventual U.S.-U.K. military seizure of Iraq have "made headlines from Australia to China to Pakistan" since the London Times published the first of them on Sunday, May 1, just four days shy of the British national elections that returned the Labour Party to power.
Too bad they haven't made as many headlines in the States. Even worse, when they have -- the June 8 Columbus Dispatch and Houston Chronicle, the June 12 Washington Post, and the June 15 Los Angeles Times come to mind -- readers have been fed a steady diet of official denials and grossly misleading context.
Instead of trying to filter out the noise that accompanies officially sanctioned acts of violence on behalf of American Power -- For what else is warmaking, after all? -- the way that a deafening roar does the launching of a rocket ship, I've decided to post here the links to the eleven principal British memos to have been published in the British media over the course of the past several weeks, beginning, in fact, with the May 1 Sunday Times.
Note also that today's Baltimore Sun published a copy of the July 23, 2002 memo, drafted by the Blair Government's then-foreign policy aide, Matthew Rycroft. (These days, the gentleman serves as the British Ambassador to
Of course, its ultimate historical importance will rise or fall from here, depending on what we're able to do about it. Beginning Thursday with the informal hearing by House Democrats and chaired by Representative John Conyers into this latest catastrophe the Americans have brought upon the world.
Iraq: Options Paper, Overseas and Defense Secretariat, Cabinet Office March 8, 2002 (Self-explanatory)
Iraq: Legal Background, [No Author, No Date (March, 2002?)] (Self-Explanatory)
Your Trip to the U.S., David Manning, March 14, 2002 (Document in preparation for Prime Minister Tony Blair's Aril 8, 2002 trip to the United States to visit with President George Bush et al. at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas)
Iraq and Afghanistan: Conversation with Wolfowitz, Christopher Meyer, March 18, 2002 (Document recounting a March 17, 2002 meeting between the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and the U.K. Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer)
Iraq: Advice for the Prime Minister, P.F. Ricketts, March 22, 2002 (Self-explanatory)
Prime Minister, Crawford/Iraq, Jack Straw, March 25, 2002 (Document by the U.K. Foreign Secretary raises issues about the feasibility of overthrowing the Iraqi Government, as well as the legality of such an undertaking)
Possible Legal Bases for the Use of Force, Lord Peter Goldsmith, March 7, 2003 (Document represents the definitive position of the British Attorney General about the legal bases for the war option)
"Lord Goldsmith's published advice on the legal basis for the use of force against Iraq," March 17, 2003 (as posted to The Guardian's website)
Update (June 21): For two of the worst commentaries yet to have appeared on the so-called Downing Street Memos:
"No Smoking Gun," Michael
"Let's Go to the Memo: What's really in the Downing Street memos?" Fred Kaplan, Slate, June 15, 2005
Perhaps you will recall a similar hatchet job that Slate's Fred Kaplan performed last fall on the study comparing Iraqi mortality rates, pre- an post-invasion, released by The Lancet on October 29, 2004 ("Mortality before and after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey," Les Roberts et al)? In that exercise ("100,00 Dead -- Or 8,000," October 29), Kaplan dismissed The Lancet study's "estimate [that] there were 98,000 extra deaths (95% CI 8000-194 000) during the post-war period," pretending that the study's authors had claimed only that they were "95 percent confident that the war-caused deaths totaled some number between 8,000 and 194,000," and that the "number cited in plain language -- 98,000" represented nothing more significant within the totality of the data than the "halfway point in this absurdly vast range," making their estimate no better than a "dart board." In other words, Kaplan dishonestly pretended that The Lancet study itself had asserted an equally high degree of probability for the estimate of 8,000 as it had for the estimate of 194,000 or for the estimate of 98,000, ultimately making the study's findings worthless -- a sheer misrepresentation of what the study itself claimed.
As Kaplan himself went on to conclude about the likely number of Iraqi deaths caused by the American war and occupation:
let's call it 15,000 or—allowing for deaths that the press didn't report—20,000 or 25,000, maybe 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed in a pre-emptive war waged (according to the latest rationale) on their behalf. That's a number more solidly rooted in reality than the
In shrugging-off the importance of the "Downing Street Memos" today, Fred Kaplan and Michael Kinsley are employing the exact same kind of strategy that Kaplan employed in shrugging-off The Lancet study last fall. Gee. If only we all could be as sophisticated as Fred Kaplan and Michael Kinsley.
Update (June 27): A commentary in Saturday's Guardian (
For those of you so inclined, you might check out the real thing from 14 years ago (minus all of the "Neo-Con" nonsense that cripples contemporary thinking, though plays well on the Nation-Left and, disconcertingly, judging by Hobsbawm's commentary, in the