June 16, 2005


The left gets a memo (Michael Kinsley, 6/16/05, CS Monitor)

[E]ven on its face, the memo is not proof that Bush had decided on war. It states that war is "now seen as inevitable" by "Washington." That is, people other than Bush had concluded, based on observation, that he was determined to go to war. There is no claim of even fourth-hand knowledge that he had actually declared this intention. Even if "Washington" meant administration decisionmakers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.

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. Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the Iraq war. But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo. Nor does the memo assert that actual decisionmakers 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.

Of course, 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. [...]

Then there's poor Time magazine (cover date July 22 but actually published a week earlier), which had the whole story. "Sometime last spring the President ordered the Pentagon and the CIA to come up with a new plan to invade Iraq and topple its leader." Originally planned for the fall, the war was put off until "at least early next year" (which is when, in fact, it occurred).

Unfortunately, Time went on to speculate that because of a weak economy, the war "may have to wait - some think forever," and concluded that "Washington is engaged more in psy-war than in war itself."

There was never any chance that President Bush was going to leave oiffice before settling Saddam's hash--9-11 just gave him a pretext.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2005 6:44 AM

Here are the BrothersJudd archives for July 2002. Everyone knew that war was inevitable.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2005 10:22 AM

Except for us wobbly types who were worried it wasn't. :-)

I think Kinsley actually hits on something very significant here, which you re-iterate, that anyone paying attention a year ago already knew what was in the Downing Street memo. That's why its impact has been so minimal. It's definitely amusing to see Bush's opponents, after spending literally years calling him a blood thirsty war monger, think that a memo confirming that some British official also thought he was a blood thirsty war monger will make a difference. Those opponents have, in effect, already inocculated Bush against the charge with their preceeding hyperbole.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at June 16, 2005 11:11 AM

David: Sadly, you can't expect the media, or the general public, to keep in mind what happened last week when reporting on today's events, so forget about remembering what was going on three years ago.

Remember last fall when the LA Times wrote a big article (using anonymous sources, of course) saying that the administration had decided not to attack Fallujah until after the elections to avoid big casualties? Sure enough, Fallujah was attacked only a few days later. Did the LA Times write a follow-up article trying to explain what the heck went wrong with their story? Did they even acknowledge that they had written such a story, in their later reporting? It was gone down the memory hole...

Posted by: b at June 16, 2005 11:21 AM

You say pretext, I say another in a long list of good reasons.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2005 6:19 PM

Isn't that what a pretext is?

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2005 8:31 PM

pre·text (prē'tĕkst') n. 1. An ostensible or professed purpose; an excuse. 2. An effort or strategy intended to conceal something.

tr.v., -text·ed, -text·ing, -texts.

To allege as an excuse.

[Latin praetextum, from neuter past participle of praetexere, to disguise : prae-, pre- + texere, to weave.]

Posted by: David Cohen at June 16, 2005 11:32 PM

And 9-11 provided a good excuse for doing what he was going to anyway, no?

Posted by: oj at June 16, 2005 11:36 PM

Well, if you want to tear the word from its usual meaning, that's ok with me...

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 8:06 AM

Oh, and I think that, absent 9/11, Saddam, or at least the Ba'athist regime might have survived W. After 9/11, regime change, even if it took a war to accomplish, was inevitable. WMD's then became a handy excuse.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 8:08 AM

1. An ostensible or professed purpose; an excuse.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 8:10 AM

OK, let's have a show of hands. Who thinks that OJ was using "pretext" in the hope of being understood to mean an "actual, additional reason" and who thinks that he was using it provokingly to suggest to our poor, beknighted lefty friends that W was lying about WMDs?

Looks like I win overwhelmingly.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 10:26 AM

In what sense are the two mutually exclusive? The definitioon doesn't indicate that a pretext has to be false, just that it be an excuse.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 10:31 AM

Sorry, the decision of the hands is final.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 10:52 AM

Ah, a hand job...

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 10:58 AM

For the last time, it's just not going to happen so stop hinting around.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 19, 2005 6:26 PM

enough complaining, Portnoy.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2005 6:33 PM