Downing Street Memo: 4th Edition, New and Improved

Andrew Sullivan and Michael Kinsley of the LA Times explain why there hasn’t been a greater fuss over the Downing Street Memo (DSM) that gave Golis and poster “Jim” aneurisms in April and May. The Kinsley article is well worth reading.

Back to work. All of you spending your summers in relaxation mode (like, say, gallivanting across the country) should be ashamed of yourselves.


23 responses to “Downing Street Memo: 4th Edition, New and Improved

  1. Jamal, you fatuous sweating imbecile.

    This piece by Kinsley is insanely dishonest and self-deceiving: another piece of evidence for use in some future class in political psychopathology under ‘cognitive dissonance.’

    Kinsley tries to discount the memo simply by saying that it reflects the situation in “Washington.” This is the only substance of his article, and it is stupid.

    “Washington” is not a city in this instance. It has nothing to do with the Wizards or Marion Barry. It’s metonymy for “The White House,” “The Pentagon,” and “The CIA.” (Look it up. Metonymy. This is seventh-grade stuff.)

    What Kinsley — and implicitly you, you pseudonymic hacklettante — are claiming is that the HEAD OF BRITISH INTELLIGENCE went to Washington and COLLECTED A BUNCH OF GOSSIP, which he then introduced at the beginning of his presentation in a high-level top-secret British cabinet meeting.

    This is, as I said, stupid.

    When the head of British Intelligence comes to Washington he doesn’t go out with a microphone, like m’f’in’ Jay Leno, to find out what the haps are. This isn’t an episode of “Street Smarts.” He doesn’t watch the Jumbotron at a Wizards game to see if MJ has been promulgating jingoism within the rank and file. He doesn’t go to cocktail parties to see how close he can stand to Condi and eavesdrop. He doesn’t even go hang out in bars with reporters, from Time or elsewhere, who speculate to him. He TALKS TO THE DECISION MAKERS. And they do NOT think out loud. They do not tell him whatever they think might be true. They do not suggest that he go to the snack bar at 10 Downing Street and draw his own conclusions and present them to the PM as fact. They tell him what has been decided.

    Nothing could be more manifestly false, to any intelligent person who gives it a second’s thought, than the notion that this presentation was not what the White House wanted Tony Blair to hear. On the contrary, THIS IS HOW GOVERNMENTS COMMUNICATE. This memo is purely unmediated fact.

    As should, by the way, be obvious, my aneurysm (spelled with a Y) has nothing to do with the memo itself, which doesn’t surprise me in its content*, and everything to do with the lack of intellectual integrity entailed in pretending that the memo has no content relevant to our public discourse about our government and its accountability.

    I recommend the following link for more on the sensibility that leads to such aneurysms (Conniptions of Truth [TM], against which, incidentally, no one with any lick of fealty to the principle of evidence has any chance of speaking substantively).

    More important on the minutes (not memo, by the way — a memo speaks for one person, minutes represent a meeting): .

    Jamal, you four-flushing bringer of sporks to gunfights, you’re going to have to better than this if you don’t want to be Exhibit 17,323,832 at the future Cognitive Dissonance Reconciliation Commission. I mock you to the edge of language, and contemn your hackticity.

    (You might want to fix the links, by the way — you’ve got them both linking to Kinsley. Sullivan, of course, has come to despise Bush (but I haven’t read his DSM piece).)

    I propose that you promote this to the front page, since it’s dead quiet here in the summer and people deserve more than just your monthly class presentation on “What I Learned on My Summer Vacation from the Yahoo! Sidebar.”

    With utmost fondness,


    * One piece of the DSM (as it’s now called) did surprise me, actually: the assertion that the calendar for the Iraq War was being planned to begin with the peak of the 2002 midterm election season. This isn’t my interpretation — it’s what the memo says, almost verbatim. Even to a cynic like me this is a shocking misuse of the warmaking power for crass political purpose, and so blatant that it enrages me beyond the capacity of vein-bulging furniture-throwing tantrums to express.

  2. Jamal Sprucewood


    Actually aneurism has two spellings. Check out Also, thanks for the heads-up about the link. Fixed now.

    I think that if there were any smoking gun in the DSM that the MSM would have picked it up by now. It’s just inconceivable to me that they would somehow give any administration a free pass on something like this when the normal MO for the press is to ramp up stories on mere vapors of evidence sometimes.

    You should seriously take a creative writing class if you haven’t already. I’d say you’d pull an easy A. That post had me laughing hard. I’m serious.

    Touche, with my spork.

  3. “I think that if there were any smoking gun in the DSM that the MSM would have picked it up by now.”

    a) Why don’t you read it for yourself? It’s like a page.,,2087-1593607,00.html

    b) Things that happen in the mainstream media, like things that happen in the government, are NOT IPSO FACTO CORRECT, appropriate, or even true. For example, the international editor of the AP wrote yesterday that “There is no question AP dropped the ball in not picking up the DSM sooner.”

    c) Things that you are not personally aware of are NOT IPSO FACT NONEXISTENT. For example, you say, “I’m sure the media would have picked it up by now.”

    They have, you dummy. A lot.

    You’re really embarrassing yourself. Seriously. No, just stop. Click the Google link below.

    Thanks for your kind words about my writing; I’ll consider pursuing such a path.

    “On May 1, Britain’s Sunday Times broke the story of the now-infamous Downing Street Memo; that document, the minutes of a meeting of Blair’s top advisers, showed that the prime minister had known, some eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, that a war not authorized by the United Nations would be illegal for British troops to take part in. Now The Times has scooped its rivals again with the news — and the text of — a leaked, extremely secret British Cabinet Office briefing paper dated July 23, 2002.

    Prepared for Blair and his closest advisers, this newly discovered document clearly states that “since regime change was illegal, it was ‘necessary to create the conditions’ which would make it legal.” “ ei=5070&oref=login


  4. Two corrections, one of me and one of you:

    It’s downingstreetmemo.COM. Not org.

    And the spelling ‘aneurism’ may exist, but it’s wrong. ‘Ism’ words come from Latin; ‘Ysm’ words come from Greek, where they are spelled with an epsilon.

    It’s like ‘dislexia’ — also wrong, because it’s Greek.

    In conclusion: Put your epsilon this!


  5. Jamal Sprucewood


    When I mean that the MSM would have picked it up, I mean that they would have made a big deal about it. I’m aware that it was written about, but that’s different than the major outlets focusing hard on it for an extended period of time. A good example would have been the Al Qaqaa munitions depot in October last year or even the spurious CBS News documents. Given the beating that the press has taken in the last year in the public eye, wouldn’t it make sense to take something this explosive to the public to catch the administration “gotcha” style like it did with Watergate? Wouldn’t that only improve its image? The press has little to lose in pushing this hard, but it is not. It could be that the press sees little in the DSM as well.

    I agree with Sullivan and Kinsley. There is simply no smoking gun in the DSM – numerous sources were speculating about the same things at the same time the DSM was authored. Maybe I’m just a realist, but it makes sense to me that if you decided it was in the best interest for your nation to take a certain action that you would work to make that action seem as legitimate as possible when presenting your case. This doesn’t mean that evidence was fabricated; it simply means that you prepare the best case that you can with the evidence at hand. That doesn’t mean that you ignore other evidence, but as with many things in life, you weigh the evidence and then take a course of action. I fail to see in the DSM evidence of anything greater than this. I know that some do – but many, even some against the war from day one, aren’t delving into this conspiracy theory.

    It may be that a smoking gun will come to light that does implicate the administration, and when that happens I’ll not dismiss it. But until then, I’m not convinced by the DSM alone.

  6. I’m serious, you really need to stop. You have no idea what you’re talking about and you’re making no sense. Just let it go.

    “The media has nothing to lose by pushing this story” — except its driving post-election narratives, which have left Iraq decision-making far behind; and all of its White House access.

    “I’m not convinced” — who cares? Shut up. You’re not paying enough attention to have an opinion that matters.

    “I agree with Kinsley” — who cares? Shut up. You’re not paying enough attention to have an opinion that matters.

    “As with many things in life, you weigh the evidence and then take a course of action.” — Not if you’re the Bush administration. The memo is explicit on this point. The action was chosen and THEN the evidence was set in place around it.

    How can you write a sentence so obviously contradicted by the thing it’s supposedly about? Are you from space?

    “A lot of people were speculating” — not many of them HAD BEEN BRIEFED IN SECRET BY THE UPPERMOST DECISION-MAKERS AND OFFICIALS OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN ORDER TO BRIEF IN SECRET THE PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN. I’m serious, you’re really being willfully dimwitted and you should be ashamed.

    There’s no need for a conspiracy theory: this is now a fact. The Bush administration lied — not about the WMD, but about caring whether there were WMD or not. They were going, as Bush said in earshot of three Senators, to “Fuck Saddam — we’re taking him out!” (also 2002).

    Your genteel, sheeplike confidence in the media’s decision-making powers is a disgrace to the university you’re said to attend.

    “Maybe I’m just a realist” — no, you’re a cynic and an apologist for a deceptive government. If deception doesn’t bother you, that’s fine, but you don’t need to pretend that people who call it deception are ‘conspiracy theorists’. The deceptiveness of the case for war is officially not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact.

    “I fail to see in the DSM evidence of anything greater than this” — this is nonsense. The memo is explicit about the policy coming first, then the evidence.

    “It may be that a smoking gun will come to light that does implicate the administration,” — IN WHAT? No one’s claiming that they’re people of bad intent, just that they lied. Which they did. That is a fact. So when you say that there’s a lack of a smoking gun, you’re describing YOUR OWN EMOTIONS, nothing more, your own complacent satisfaction with the world that began to be handed to you after Theresa LePore’s incompetence gave us a man in the Oval Office with no qualifications or temperament to manage a nation of principle and scope.

    You’re rejecting things without even specifying a topic. You’re expressing an emotion, not a thought, which is the same thing you did in the voting booth, which you should be ashamed of an ostensive student and citizen.

    Shut up. You’re embarrassing yourself.

    “That’s different than the major outlets focusing hard on it for an extended period of time”
    Again, they ARE doing that now, as taking a second to enter any of the links I sent would have told you. This is a real story. And evidence doesn’t get any firmer than this for the facts that you don’t even bother to specify in the course of pretending they’re not there.

    You can write back and express a decent sense of shame, having done a modicum of homework on this question, or you can, as I said, shut your pie-hole. I’m embarrassed on your behalf. Do you call what you do at your keyboard DISCOURSE? It’s a parody of discourse. It’s an exercise of moral weakness and ovinity. You can look that up too, if you like, somewhere besides, cause it’s not a typo.

    And neither is it a typo when the Downing Street Memo says that the run-up to war was slated to begin 30 days before the U.S. elections. In other words, the WAR WAS A POLITICAL CHOICE, not a security one. If that makes you feel more secure, that’s because you redefine words like ‘security’ to match your emotions of being sheltered by a tough-talking government rather than to match realities in the world.

    Maybe I’m just a realist, but it seems clear to me that the media makes decisions based on what will fit their driving narratives and therefore sell papers and commercials. The fact that you regard their marketing decisions as guideposts for your own opinion-formation says much more about you than it says about the world. (And yes, the reason the DSM is getting attention now is that the web forced it into view AND THE WAR IS GOING BADLY. Only this latter fact makes the story topical, and even then it wouldn’t be getting covered if not for the administration getting beat on Social Security, Schiavo, and the nuclear option. The prevailing winds of the dominant media narrative are changing — but if you think that that has moral authority to it as a fact, you’ve got another think coming. At least I pray to all things holy that you do, cause the think you’ve had so far has been massively and embarrassingly inadequate.)

    I’m so disgusted by your public conduct that I suggest you delete your post and this one, and we can try this whole thing again. In your next post see if you can bring more than like three ganglia to the desk, and we’ll start over.

    Truly and honestly embarrassed on your behalf,


    Incidentally, al-Qaqaa was not a weapons depot; it was an enormous array of military equipment under IAEA supervision, and the materials in question were under IAEA seal, not simply warehoused for Iraqi deployment to Tel Aviv or whatever.


    (Kinsley massively outnumbered, and the media all over the story generally)

    While editors nationwide call for increased scrutiny of Downing Street Memo, biggest editorial pages remain silent

    Since the publication of the Downing Street Memo, a secret British intelligence memo suggesting that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war in Iraq, the editorial pages of four of the five largest U.S. newspapers — USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times — have remained conspicuously silent about the controversy surrounding the document.

    But a Media Matters for America survey of U.S. newspaper coverage from May 1 to June 15 shows that of the 20 editorial pages across the country that addressed the memo, from large-circulation papers such as The Dallas Morning News to smaller papers such as the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, 18 emphasized the importance of the document, many calling for further investigation into the explosive questions it raises. The dissenters were editorials in The Denver Post and The Washington Post, both of which claimed that the memo merely reinforces what was already known from other sources and argued that U.S. attention is best focused on how to win the war in Iraq.

    Further, of 12 editorial page editors nationwide who addressed the memo in op-eds, eight asserted the importance of the memo and four took the position that it contains nothing significant or new, though three of those were nonetheless critical of the Bush administration, in some cases, harshly so. In addition, five of the six reader representatives or ombudsmen who addressed coverage of the memo argued the story warrants more coverage than it has received in their own papers or the media at large.

    Following are newspapers that ran editorials referencing the Downing Street Memo:

    Editorials emphasizing the importance of the memo:
    Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) — 5/5/05
    The Salt Lake Tribune — 5/16/05
    Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey) — 5/17/05
    The Palm Beach Post (Florida) — 5/19/05 and 6/8/05
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — 5/20/05
    Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee) — 5/25/05
    Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Virginia) — 5/25/05
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer — 6/1/05
    Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina) — 6/1/05
    Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts) — 6/2/05
    Bergen Record (New Jersey) — 6/7/05
    Minneapolis Star Tribune — 6/9/05 and 6/15/05
    The Dallas Morning News — 6/9/05
    Houston Chronicle — 6/9/05
    San Francisco Chronicle — 6/10/05
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — 6/10/05
    Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) — 6/11/05
    The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) — 6/13/05

    Editorials downplaying or dismissing the memo:
    The Denver Post – 5/24/05
    The Washington Post – 6/15/05

    Following are newspapers that ran op-ed pieces by editorial page editors referencing the Downing Street Memo:

    Op-eds emphasizing the importance of the memo:
    Tuscon Citizen (Arizona), Billie Stanton – 5/17/05
    The Oregonian, David Sarasohn – 5/18/05
    Rock Hill Herald (South Carolina), James Werrell – 5/20/05
    Cleveland Plain Dealer, Elizabeth Sullivan – 5/26/05
    Raleigh News & Observer (North Carolina), Steve Ford – 6/5/05
    Philadelphia Daily News, Carol Towarnicky – 6/8/05
    St. Petersburg Times (Florida), Philip Gailey – 6/12/05
    Minneapolis Star Tribune, Steve Berg — 6/15/05

    Op-eds downplaying or dismissing the memo:
    Ventura County Star (California), Richard Larsen – 5/17/05
    Bangor Daily News (Maine), Todd Benoit – 6/4/05
    Los Angeles Times, Michael Kinsley – 6/12/05
    Philadelphia Inquirer, Chris Satullo – 6/12/05

    Following are newspapers whose ombudsmen or reader representatives responded to the issue of the Downing Street Memo:

    Reader representatives critical of the coverage of the memo by their own paper or the media at large:
    The Washington Post, Michael Getler – 5/15/05
    The Palm Beach Post, C.B. Hanif – 5/22/05
    San Diego Union-Tribune, Gina Lubrano – 5/23/05
    Orlando Sentinel (Florida), Manning Pynn – 6/12/05
    Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kate Parry — 6/12/05

    Reader representatives defending their newspaper’s coverage of the memo:
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Angela Tuck – 5/21/05

    Following is a sampling of quotes from the editorials and opinion articles listed above that argued in favor of the memo’s importance:

    * In the interest of the nation and the administration, the source and content of the Downing Street Memo need to be fully explained. [“Memorandum of Intent,” Houston Chronicle, 6/9/05]

    * At a White House photo op on Tuesday, Bush continued to maintain that war was his “last option.” But a more detailed response to the questions raised by the memo is needed. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and 88 other House Democrats have asked Bush to answer five questions relating to the Downing Street memo. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, says there is “no need” to reply to that letter. We think there is great need. [“Bush & Blair; Iraq denials raise questions,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/9/05]

    * Even if you consider this memo a “smoking gun,” does it still matter after so much other gun smoke? The Bush administration has been busily changing the war’s justification from imminent danger to the spread of freedom, and declaring, with weight-of-the-world solemnity, that what matters now isn’t the past but the future. But the details of how we got there will be an issue as long as decisions are being made by the same people, still pronouncing their strategies and certainties — still blowing smoke at us. [“Smoking Gun Still Sends Smoke Signals,” David Sarasohn, The Oregonian, 5/18/05]

    * Some will ask: What’s the point of bringing up the Downing Street memo now, two years after the invasion and at a time when terrorist suicide bombers are making life hell not only for U.S. troops but the Iraqi people? The point is this: President Bush didn’t level with the American people before going to war. And he still hasn’t. [“The American People Have Been Had,” Philip Gailey, St. Petersburg Times, 6/12/05]

    * [The Downing Street Memo story] underscored why readers’ questioning of reporting about Iraq hasn’t abated, and shouldn’t. … “The Post should be commended,” wrote Jody Young of Wellington, “for its editorial regarding subterfuge and concealment of the truth by the Bush administration. But the editorial board could have hit one over the fence had it referenced the recently uncovered 2002 memos concerning the planning for the Iraq War as reported by the Times of London, Knight-Ridder, Salon, numerous respected weblogs and others.” … One need not agree with Mr. Young’s assessment to recognize that the memo was newsworthy. [“Paper Underplayed Iraq Memo,” C.B. Hanif, The Palm Beach Post, 5/22/05]

    * The American press has failed to call adequate attention to the document, which, although British in origin, describes the United States government’s plans for a war that continues to cost dollars and lives. [“A Missing Story?” Manning Pynn, Orlando Sentinel, 6/12/05]

    Following is a sampling of quotes from the editorials and opinion articles listed above that dismissed or downplayed the memo:

    * The American media has been castigated for not giving more prominence to the British memo, but it reinforces what we already know from other sources. Former U.S. security adviser Richard Clarke has said Bush came into office in 2001 obsessed with Iraq. U.S. inspectors never found weapons of mass destruction. Last summer, a panel that investigated U.S. intelligence failures attributed the mistakes to groupthink and adherence to unproven assumptions. Attention now is best focused on how to win the war and leave Iraq to a democratic future. [“U.K. memo weakens credibility,” The Denver Post, 5/24/05]

    * But even 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 decision-makers, rather than the usual freelance chatterboxes, [the head of British foreign intelligence] was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out. [“The Left Gets a Memo,” Michael Kinsley, Los Angeles Times, 6/12/05]

    * [T]he discovery of the memo is like finding out that the glove fit O.J. Simpson after all — interesting in a historical sense but proving nothing new. George Bush was disingenuous about the impetus for the war in Iraq, his consideration of alternatives to war and the cost of the war. This was all understood before November 2004. [“For better or worse, a cooling of political romances,” Todd Benoit, Bangor Daily News, 6/4/05]

    * George W. Bush’s punishment should have been for voters to fire him last year. Didn’t happen. The Downing Street memo, interesting as it is, can’t change that. [“Why the ‘Downing Street memo’ hasn’t rocked Bush’s world,” Chris Satullo, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/12/05]

    * Deputy Managing Editor Susan Stevenson believes, as I do, that our coverage was appropriate. Americans learned about Bush’s faulty intelligence during U.S. elections. How you view this depends on your politics. [“Coverage of British war documents hits hot button,” Angela Tuck, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/21/05]

  8. Jamal Sprucewood


    While I admire your writing, I really do, I’m sorry to say that I’m not the one writing off of emotion.

    There is nothing, really, truly, nothing, in the DSM that was not speculated about during the time that it was written. There is no shock value. So the administration wanted to remove Saddam Hussein in early to mid-2002. Does this surprise anyone? It was the official policy of the United States, signed under the Clinton Administration, that the US was dedicated to regime change in Iraq. Given the environment in early 2002, it is surprising that we didn’t invade then, instead of waiting until 2003 and making the run through the UN.

    And don’t take my comments out of context. I mentioned weighing the evidence in the context of having to make a decision and then build the best case you could with the evidence on your side. This is called persuasion. It works both ways. It’s why those against the war don’t recognize that Bush clearly emphasized bringing democracy to Iraq in his 2003 State of the Union (instead, they focus nearly exclusively on the WMD rationale). It’s why many of those for the war refuse to recognize that Saddam Hussein was not directly involved in the 9/11 attacks. It’s merely a case of what is inconvenient.

    Yes, it truly is an embarrassment that WMD have not been found in Iraq. It means that if ever again this nation says that we have smoking gun evidence against a nation that we won’t be believed. But it’s bad for almost every major intelligence agency in the world (including the French and German intelligence services), who believed that Saddam had WMD as well. There were few voices pre-war who believed that Saddam lacked WMD. I believe that the failure to find WMD was just that – a failure, a mistake. Despite what you’ve said, I’m not cynical enough to believe that so many people got this wrong to push a narrow agenda and put people in harm’s way. And until there is clear evidence that lying took place – which the DSM does not show – I’m sticking to this relatively optimistic picture.

    One final note. You have absolutely no idea what my political philosophy is. You have no idea how I voted. For the record, I was against the war until just before the invasion took place. I had serious, serious qualms about the US using a pre-emptive strike policy. I have since changed my mind, but I’m not an apologist nor am I a shill because I simply disagree with you.

    Your post is a perfect example of why moderates like myself can’t feel at home in today’s Democratic Party. The so-called big tent, which once looked appealing, is shrinking everyday. Not that I’m comfortable on the other side of the aisle either. But that a statement of opinion, on one issue, sends you into such a fit of frenzy is beyond me.

    Clearly, you believe the memo to be explicit. I believe the memo to be far less than bombshell material. We disagree. Even so, I will not tell you to shut-up and I won’t say “who cares” to your opinion. It is you, not I, that needs to reign in our emotions.

  9. Jamal Sprucewood

    Here’s a pretty balanced article by Kaplan over at Slate.

    Again, I’m not arguing that the DSM is false or worthless. It is indeed evidence of how pre-war planning occurred. But it is not a smoking gun and it’s doesn’t paint as dire a picture of the Bush Administration as many believe. But that’s my opinion and you are certainly entitled to your own.

  10. “There is nothing, really, truly, nothing, in the DSM that was not ***speculated about*** during the time that it was written.”

    The memo establishes facts. You think speculation has the same discursive value as fact. This is why I regard your opinion as meaningless.

    The intelligence agencies did NOT think that Saddam necessarily had WMD. The evidence was fixed around the policy. This is what it means when someone briefs an ally and says that Washington says “The facts and intelligence are being fixed around the policy.”

    Read the NYT piece on the aluminum-tube evidence if you think this was an intelligence failure. The fact is that you’re wrong.

    “I’m sticking to this relatively optimistic picture” — Yes, you go ahead and do that. Regardless of how you voted (and I apologize for assuming too much) you will earn no respect from me with this kind of reasoning.

    Why is my post an example of why moderates can’t feel at home in the Democratic Party? I’m not speaking for the Democratic Party. For all you know I voted for Nader, or am Canadian. You’re doing the same thing you accuse me of.

    I will claim to speak, however, for an Enlightenment tradition of fact-based discourse. And you’re outside that tent in a big way until you start to make a little effort to learn about what goes on around you.

    The memo is explicit. That’s its job. It describes a meeting. The job of the meeting was to describe a set of facts. This is what it means for a text to be factual. There is no room here for the postures and gentility of OPINION.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions; but not their own facts (Moynihan). You are simply NOT ENTITLED to believe that the Bush Administration told the truth about what the intelligence agencies were finding with regard to WMD. They gave us a cooked picture. That is a fact. Your claim that this is a matter of opinion sends me into a frenzy, because it suggests that there is no such thing as knowledge, no such thing as evidence, no such thing as stable discourse of any kind. It’s not a partisan stance for me to say that I consider your behavior in this matter contemptible.

    For all I know, no Democrats would agree with me about this. I am speaking for myself. You can quit whining about being victimized by a tent that shuts you out because you complacently cling to debunked beliefs, just about any time now.

    Call me an emotional realist, but I do not regard your ‘beliefs’ about what this text represents as legitimate. They are simply wrong.

    Note that the Kaplan piece, which yes, thank you, I read already, as soon as it was posted, since I pay attention to things, says that the memo proves Bush was deceptive (see below). I find this state of affairs, a deceiving government, dire in itself. You are entitled to believe that it is not dire. But you are not entitled to believe that the administration was not deceptive in claiming that WMD was the reason for the war. It was deceptive. That is now a fact.

    The fact that the administration thought Saddam might have WMD, even though there was almost no credible evidence to that effect, does not mean that that was the reason they went to war. This is what the Kaplan piece says, almost verbatim, if you would just read it with more than a fifth of your brain (the fraction that decides whether something is ‘frenzied’ or ‘balanced,’ and calls it a day).

    So the point is not that they got it wrong on purpose, the point is that they didn’t care whether they were wrong or not.

    Which reminds me of somebody.


    PS. I think democracy — or at least the optimistic possibilities entailed in a projection of US power in the name of democracy — actually WAS the reason we went to war in Iraq. But it was not the reason given. The reasons given were lies.

    PPS. In a separate post I will demolish your claim that Bush “emphasized” democracy in Iraq in his 2003 State of the Union address.

    Kinsley: “They just _knew_ Saddam had WMD, and if the facts didn’t quite prove he did, they would underscore and embellish the tidbits that came close. The problem was, their man wasn’t guilty, at least on the charges of indictment. Does this distinction [between pretending there are WMD and pretending to CARE that there are WMD] matter? If all you want to know is whether Bush was deceptive, no; he was deceptive.”

  11. I am pasting all of the 2003 SOTU that has to do with Iraq or the region. I am putting in bold everything that has to do with democracy, or, to be generous, “freedom,” in Iraq, and in italics everything that has to do with democracy or freedom in general. I am putting just a few snarky comments about the deceptive parts of the speech in caps — I had made more, but then I lost the post.

    Just keep on scrolling, Jamal, I’m sure you’ll find this stuff in there somewhere. Oh yes, he sure did emphasize the democracy-in-Iraq element in this speech: look, of course, he emphasized it, it’s in bold!

    Sometimes, Jamal, people lie accidentally, due to laziness or incompetence — due to intellectual shortcuts they take despite their best intentions. I would submit that you did that in your reference to this speech in your last post.

    But if you’d like to make this a matter of opinion, we can crunch the numbers and you can try to defend your claim that the bolded bits below are the EMPHASIZED aspect of this rationale for starting a war. (I include the bits about the war on terror since Bush himself said “You can’t discriminate between Saddam and al-Qaeda when it comes to the war on terror.” You can scroll past them if you like, to get to the good bits that are all about democracy.)

    The qualities of courage and compassion that we strive for in America also determine our conduct abroad. The American flag stands for more than our power and our interests. Our founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity, the rights of every person, and the possibilities of every life. This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men.

    In Afghanistan, we helped liberate an oppressed people. And we will continue helping them secure their country, rebuild their society, and educate all their children — boys and girls. (Applause.) In the Middle East, we will continue to seek peace between a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine. (Applause.) Across the Earth, America is feeding the hungry — more than 60 percent of international food aid comes as a gift from the people of the United States. As our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling as a blessed country is to make this world better.

    Today, on the continent of Africa, …

    This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature. And this nation is leading the world in confronting and defeating the man-made evil of international terrorism. (Applause.)

    There are days when our fellow citizens do not hear news about the war on terror. There’s never a day when I do not learn of another threat, or receive reports of operations in progress, or give an order in this global war against a scattered network of killers. The war goes on, and we are winning. (Applause.)

    To date, we’ve arrested or otherwise dealt with many key commanders of al Qaeda. They include a man who directed logistics and funding for the September the 11th attacks; the chief of al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf, who planned the bombings of our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole; an al Qaeda operations chief from Southeast Asia; a former director of al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan; a key al Qaeda operative in Europe; a major al Qaeda leader in Yemen. All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way — they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies. (Applause.)

    We are working closely with other nations to prevent further attacks. America and coalition countries have uncovered and stopped terrorist conspiracies targeting the American embassy in Yemen, the American embassy in Singapore, a Saudi military base, ships in the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits the Gibraltar. We’ve broken al Qaeda cells in Hamburg, Milan, Madrid, London, Paris, as well as, Buffalo, New York.

    We have the terrorists on the run. We’re keeping them on the run. One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice. (Applause.)

    As we fight this war, we will remember where it began — here, in our own country. This government is taking unprecedented measures to protect our people and defend our homeland. We’ve intensified security at the borders and ports of entry, posted more than 50,000 newly-trained federal screeners in airports, begun inoculating troops and first responders against smallpox, and are deploying the nation’s first early warning network of sensors to detect biological attack. And this year, for the first time, we are beginning to field a defense to protect this nation against ballistic missiles. (Applause.)

    I thank the Congress for supporting these measures. I ask you tonight to add to our future security with a major research and production effort to guard our people against bioterrorism, called Project Bioshield. The budget I send you will propose almost $6 billion to quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola, and plague. We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us. (Applause.)

    Since September the 11th, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have worked more closely than ever to track and disrupt the terrorists. The FBI is improving its ability to analyze intelligence, and is transforming itself to meet new threats. Tonight, I am instructing the leaders of the FBI, the CIA, the Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense to develop a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, to merge and analyze all threat information in a single location. Our government must have the very best information possible, and we will use it to make sure the right people are in the right places to protect all our citizens. (Applause.)

    Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power. In the ruins of two towers, at the western wall of the Pentagon, on a field in Pennsylvania, this nation made a pledge, and we renew that pledge tonight: Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men — free people will set the course of history. (Applause.) (BY THIS BUSH MEANS US, MOSTLY, SO I’M NOT COUNTING IT)

    Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation.

    This threat is new; America’s duty is familiar. Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit. In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism, and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances, and by the might of the United States of America. (Applause.)

    Now, in this century, the ideology of power and domination [?] has appeared again, and seeks to gain the ultimate weapons of terror. Once again, this nation and all our friends are all that stand between a world at peace, and a world of chaos and constant alarm. Once again, we are called to defend the safety of our people, and the hopes of all mankind. And we accept this responsibility. (Applause.)

    America is making a broad and determined effort to confront these dangers. We have called on the United Nations to fulfill its charter and stand by its demand that Iraq disarm. We’re strongly supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its mission to track and control nuclear materials around the world. We’re working with other governments to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, and to strengthen global treaties banning the production and shipment of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction.

    In all these efforts, however, America’s purpose is more than to follow a process — it is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world. All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks. And we’re asking them to join us, and many are doing so. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. (Applause.) Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people. (Applause.)

    Different threats require different strategies. In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people , pursues weapons of mass destruction, and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny — and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom. (Applause.)

    On the Korean Peninsula, an oppressive regime rules a people living in fear and starvation. Throughout the 1990s, the United States relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed. (Applause.)

    America is working with the countries of the region — South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia — to find a peaceful solution, and to show the North Korean government that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship. (Applause.) The North Korean regime will find respect in the world and revival for its people only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions. (Applause.)

    Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States. (Applause.)

    Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons — not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.

    Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct — were not sent (FREUDIAN SLIP) to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq’s regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons OR ITS SECRET DESIRES TO GET THEM, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.

    The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons, I MEAN, PETRI DISHES sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein BACK IN THE DIZZAY had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    From three Iraqi defectors ON CRACK we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein THIRTEEN YEARS AGO had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned, SORT OF, THEN DECIDED IT WAS NOT TRUE that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes IN ALMOST NO WAY suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

    The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.

    Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

    Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, IF HE HAD THEM, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.

    With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources ON CRACK, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, IF HE HAD THEM, or help them develop their own.

    Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans — this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)

    Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)

    The dictator who is assembling the world’s most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)

    And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country — your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)

    The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi’s legal — Iraq’s illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.

    We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. (Applause.)

    Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces: Many of you are assembling in or near the Middle East, and some crucial hours may lay ahead. In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you. (Applause.)

    Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a President can make. The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost and we dread the days of mourning that always come.

    We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail. (Applause.)

    And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies — and freedom. (Applause.) WHEW, ALMOST FORGOT TO MENTION THAT.

    Many challenges, abroad and at home, have arrived in a single season. In two years, America has gone from a sense of invulnerability to an awareness of peril; from bitter division in small matters to calm unity in great causes. And we go forward with confidence, because this call of history has come to the right country.

    Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

    Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity. (Applause.)

    We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know — we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

    May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

  12. Jamal Sprucewood


    This will be the last post on the subject because, quite frankly, I’m tired of going back and forth with you and I doubt that anyone is getting anything out of this debate.

    By emphasizing in the SOTU I meant, and should have said, mentioned. I was thinking in my mind of Bush’s February 2003 AEI speech and must have remembered parts of it as being in the 2003 SOTU. I’ve been writing pretty much off the top of my head since I’ve been at work and didn’t have time to reread the SOTU.

    My general point though was that Bush did, in fact, emphasize democracy throughout the lead-up to invading Iraq as one of the main rationales for the war. It was not a rationale that came up only after WMD failed to materialize. Another good example would be Bush’s May 1, 2003 speech (Mission Accomplished) where he frequently mentioned freedom.

    Despite what you’ve said, I think mine is actually the more accurate reading of the Kaplan piece. In fact, Kaplan rebuts the intentional deception charges. An intentional deception is in practice the act of lying. Kaplan: “In other respects, though, the memo doesn’t make as strong a case against Bush as some have claimed. Read in conjunction with the six other British documents, the case weakens further. The memos do not show, for instance, that Bush simply invented the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or that Saddam posed a threat to the region. In fact, the memos reveal quite clearly that the top leaders in the U.S. and British governments genuinely believed their claims.” I don’t think that it’s possible to be intentionally deceptive if you don’t know that you are being deceptive.

    Finally, I just don’t, actually, understand your distinction between knowlingly lying about WMD and lying about caring if there were WMD. If, as Kaplan notes, both the Bush and Blair Administrations believed that Iraq had WMD, then they could not have lied about caring. They did care. They cared because they believed that they existed. This is different. You’re right, this is my opinion – but so is yours. Nothing is yet “established fact” and the DSM doesn’t validate your construction either. It simply says that the intelligence was being fixed around the policy. It was a policy born of the deeply held belief that Iraq had WMD. And why should they have not believed that Iraq had WMD? The international community believed that he had them. The dispute was on whether he was attempting to acquire more or intended to. It was incumbent upon Saddam to show that he had no WMD or was in the process of dismantling his programs. He showed neither.

    In order for your view to be valid, there would needed to have been knowledge that either the programs had been (or were being) dismantled or that the WMD had been destroyed and that the Bush administration then ignored this evidence and proceeded to push the WMD angle. This would, in fact, amount to lying. So I don’t see the distinction. I think it can be claimed, which Kaplan does, that Bush and Blair oversold the evidence on hand at the time. But it was oversold, again as Kaplan reasons, precisely because both administrations proceeded on the baseline assumption that the WMD existed.

    If you want to accuse the administrations of overselling evidence or assuming too much – fine. I think that you’ve got a great case. I may even agree with you. But I don’t think that lying about WMD or lying about “caring” holds much water. Both require a level of intentionality that didn’t, in my opinion, exist. This is why, even though I think Kaplan had a good piece, I think that he went too far in saying that the distinction in “fixing” showed “deception.” I think Kaplan’s article clearly showed assuming too much and overselling “the product,” as he calls it. But deception, as it is commonly used, implies intentionality. I’m not going to claim that everything in the lead up to the war was done straight-arrow, but, having been on the “inside” of several events that were inaccurate portrayed by the media, and misunderstood by the general public – I hesitate to make conclusions on internal debates that, quite frankly, no one except those integrally involved in the decisions, knows about.

    The DSM shows the take of “C” on what was happening in those debates. It doesn’t establish fact. This is why I can’t see your side. If this were a court, the DSM would be probably be considered hearsay. It reads almost like news analysis. Does it have value? Sure. But does it conclusively show intentional lying – deception? I don’t think it does. I think it shows a big-time screw-up by those who may have been drinking a bit much kool-aid and never stopped to reconsider their baseline assumptions. If anything, it shows that the administrations perhaps cared too much about WMD. They cared so much so that they were the victims of tunnel vision and groupthink.

    I value fact as much as you do. The problem, as you’ve identified, is that I don’t consider it fact. You stating that it is fact doesn’t change this. Given that we are coming from two completely different starting points on this, I’m going to (as I frequently do) agree to disagree with you on this. I apologize for assuming too much about your political preferences, but I think that you well understood my general point that I don’t appreciate being told that my opinion is “contemptable” and “shameful” and that I’m a dupe and shill and stupid and the like simply because you disagree with me about something that quite clearly reasonable people disagree on. I’ve yet to respond to you in a disrespectful tone and I ask the same of you.

  13. You`re right Jamal. No one`s been paying attention since the third reply or so.

    Loosen up people, “It`s summertime, and the livin` is easy, fish are jumping” etc etc.

  14. “I’ve been writing pretty much off the top of my head”
    No! Really? Never woulda guessed.

    “If, as Kaplan notes, both the Bush and Blair Administrations believed that Iraq had WMD, then they could not have lied about caring.”
    Why not?

    “I just don’t, actually, understand your distinction”
    No! Really? You’re kidding! Never woulda guessed.

    “I don’t think that it’s possible to be intentionally deceptive if you don’t know that you are being deceptive.”
    They were deceptive not about the weapons but about THEIR OWN REASONS FOR THE WAR. I call that important deception.

    “It was a policy born of the deeply held belief that Iraq had WMD.” No, it wasn’t.

    This is not hard to understand. Your willful fudging of what I could not have made clearer is — and I stand by the word even though I retract anything else you found disrespectful, most of which was mostly tongue-in-cheek (and the fact that you have a pseudonym makes it much easier to enjoy insulting you, so you’re asking for it in a way) contemptible.


  15. I’ve been writing pretty much off the top of my head”
    No! Really? Never woulda guessed.


  16. Dear World:

    I was just rereading this, to see precisely how obnoxious I’d been, and I noticed something that I canNOT allow to pass into posterity unremarked. It demonstrates precisely the elements of lazy, self-absorbed thinking that I find so abhorrent in Jamal’s manner of discussing this (to me) incredibly important issue of public accountability. And it goes, moreover, to the heart of the question of whether there is such a thing as fact, elements of reality that should be regarded as a (to use Jamal’s sociopathically misdeployed word) baseline.

    The sentence I refer to is the one where Jamal says that C’s description of his briefings in Washington — “The facts and intelligence were being fixed around the policy” — and I quote: “Reads almost like a news analysis.”



    What we have here, Posterity, is an instance of the most complacent and unimaginative possible stance toward a text. It’s an instance of someone finding an analogy in his own very narrow frame of political experience to a world much bigger than himself or his dabblings — and then supposing that this analogy EXPLAINS THE ACTUAL GOVERNMENTAL DOCUMENT.

    The truth, Jamal, is that YOU read this like a news analysis. You think everything is a news analysis. And this is a very, very lame and, indeed, embarrassing thing for you to admit to.

    Do you suppose, Jamal (and I ask you merely rhetorically, since you’re so TIRED of going ‘back and forth’ with me, and your feelings are all hurt and stuff), that there’s any possibility that genres of language might exist BESIDES THE ONES THAT YOU PERSONALLY HAPPEN TO CONSUME? Do you think it’s possible that things might be written within policy-making circles that are not close cousins to the speculative, secondhand format of the thumbsucking newspaper article?

    This is a prime example of the thing that angers me about these otherwise weak and uninteresting attempts to spin the Downing Street Minutes: they pretend that all language is used as political ‘journalists’ use it. They pretend that nothing is fact, everything is spin or opinion, that how you interpret something depends only on your politics. If you’re doing a ‘News Analysis’ for the Times, after all, you’ve got a liberal agenda; likewise, mutatis mutandis, for a Fox outlet or the Washington Times.

    It’s bad enough that we regard this slipshod idea of what language should do as tolerable in the media: but the notion that ALL LANGUAGE EVERYWHERE IS LIKE THIS, that everything written down anywhere, no matter how official and self-explanatory, is speculative and biased, and nothing is evidence of anything, is perhaps the most offensive thing I’ve encountered in the past horrible five years or so.

    I am enraged at the sheer effrontery of this: pretending that the minutes of a meeting of top policymakers behind closed doors is best understood by getting in the mindset of a casual glancer at the front page of a newspaper! Pretending that the head of British intelligence models his conversations with the leaders of his government on the offhand equivocating platitudes of a beat-reporter-manque on deadline with Rupert Murdoch looking over his shoulder. Pretending that the thing that pops into your head as you look at something, no matter who you are or what your (lack of) relevant experience, is the thing most worth saying to explain it.

    If I’m going to agree to disagree with something, I’d rather have it be the honest and patently nonsensical hackery of Paloma in this conversation than this self-satisfied and faux-world-weary-cosmopolitan-who’s-already-seen-it-all-cuz-he-reads-the-papers posturing.

    So no, Jamal, I will not agree to disagree with you when you maintain a stance like this. I take your attitude toward citizenship personally and I have nothing but contempt for your news-analyzing approach to the most important geopolitical fact of this clash-of-civilizations age — the deceptiveness with which the world’s greatest nation was persuaded to put on the mask of Empire.

    I apologize if this ‘reads like’ I’m wrong and you’re right, but I encourage you to move beyond that first impression. Your attitude is the real issue here, and it’s a fact.


  17. Jamal Sprucewood


    First, your comments have never hurt my feelings (I’ve got much tougher skin than that). I asked only that you address me with the same respect with which I address you.

    Secondly, to respond to some of your concerns. Yes, this does in fact read akin to news analysis in my opinion. Sorry you disagree. No, I do not think that everything reads like news analysis.

    “Do you think it’s possible that things might be written within policy-making circles that are not close cousins to the speculative, secondhand format of the thumbsucking newspaper article?”

    Sure, all the time. The DSM is not an example of one of these documents, again, in my opinion.

    Jim, I think that the real issue here is that you seem to regard disagreement with you about the value of the DSM (something that very intelligent people disagree on besides those on this website) as tantamount to denying absolute truth. I, in fact, regard your assertions to absolute truth and fact to be deeply worrying. If you find my suspicion of “truth” to be “self-satisfied and faux-world-weary-cosmopolitan-who’s-already-seen-it-all-cuz-he-reads-the-papers posturing,” I don’t know where to begin to discuss the issue with you, as you regard any position but your own to be fatally deviant from “truth.”

    Finally, there’s this – the idea that “everything written down anywhere, no matter how official and self-explanatory, is speculative and biased, and nothing is evidence of anything, is perhaps the most offensive thing I’ve encountered in the past horrible five years or so.” This is not my opinion, and I think that you’ve made quite a leap from what I’ve written to the conclusion that I believe this. But isn’t is curious how you say this to me in an accusatory fashion? It is strange to me that you would accuse me of holding this attitude when at the same time you regard other intelligence produced by the same agency responsible for the DSM as being deliberately deceptive. So we are to regard as truthful and absolute fact the DSM and not the reports of British intelligence officers and officials who said that Iraq had, and intended to produce more, WMD? I’m supposed to believe that the human frailties of error, misconduct, and deceptiveness are transferable to governmental operations of every kind, except when documents (produced by humans) support what you believe to be “the most important geopolitical fact of this clash-of-civilizations age?”

    This is not to deny truth, but to simply approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. I would hope that, given the intelligence failures made by the same agency, you would regard this suspicion as not only prudent, but warranted. I hope that you wouldn’t find this type of citizenship to be “contemptible” – it’s the same version I believe you hold in high esteem. It just so happens that our suspicion and questioning has led us to different conclusions. This does, believe it or not, happen all of the time, even with “self-evident” truths.

  18. Good, Jamal, thank you. Now you’re taking a stand on a substantive issue and we know where you’re coming from. (cf. Paloma’s risible position on this blog in May — is this different?).

    Your position, as I understand it, is that claims presented publicly in order to persuade people of a course of action deserve no more skepticism than near-transcripts of conversations in secret in which policymakers discuss and plan a public deception. This is quite a remarkable stance: formally identical to maintaining that accused bank robbers’ alibis in court are equally credible as a videotape they acknowledge making of themselves, in which they plan a heist of the same MO on the same day of the same bank that got robbed. I invite you to explain how these claims are not formally identical, or how that videotape could possibly be considered less reliable than the defendants’ testimony, and we’ll have a substantive discussion about the merits of this evidence.

    The good news for you, though, is that I’m happy now to agree to disagree with you, if you’d like to acknowledge that your position is that official records of secret meetings of top national-security teams are no more credible than contemporaneous statements politicians make to the press in public.

    Your claim is also, if I understand it right, reducible to the claim that the head of an agency that makes mistakes about the likelihood of secret weapons stockpiles 3,000 miles away (and actually, you’ve yet to bring to the table any surviving evidence of any kind of consensus about WMD in the intelligence community of Britain or elsewhere) cannot be trusted to remember the substance of important conversations he himself attended in order to be briefed two days earlier.

    Have I understood your post right? (If so, you’re right that I don’t find your stance contemptible; only funny and a little pathetic.)

    Please bear in mind in your response that these are the MINUTES of this meeting, sent to all the participants, and that a “former senior U.S. official called it ‘an absolutely accurate description of what transpired’ during the senior British intelligence officer’s visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.” (Knight Ridder, May 25).

    You might try next time to avoid putting the word “‘truth'” in quotation marks in a post in which you’re trying to claim that you believe in hard facts as much as the next guy.

    I’d note also that you actually claim directly in this last post that the thumbsucker (NB. this is a term of art in journalism) ‘news analysis’ format, developed no sooner than the early nineties, in a daily newspaper, is a solid analogy for understanding the substance of the minutes of a national-security briefing. If this is truly your CONSIDERED opinion, then I’m willing to agree to disagree with you on that too.

    Take your time and bring some evidence to the table in your next post. My URLs are eating you for lunch.


    And Lexis is your friend for reading this very detailed NYT report about insanely fixed intelligence that made no sense.

    October 3, 2004, Sunday

    THE NUCLEAR CARD: The Aluminum Tube Story — A special report.; How White House Embraced Suspect Iraq Arms Intelligence

    Late Edition – Final , Section 1 , Page 1 , Column 1

    ABSTRACT – Bush administration brushed aside doubts of its foremost nuclear experts in leadup to war with Iraq when it embraced theory that high-strength aluminum tubes being acquired by Iraq were part of Saddam Hussein’s program to develop nuclear weapons; Vice Pres Dick Cheney would go on to argue ‘with absolute certainty’ that tubes were intended for uranium centrifuge despite considerable evidence supporting alternative theory that they were in fact rocket parts; centrifuge idea was first championed by junior CIA analyst in April 2001, and momentum gathered behind it built on pattern of haste, secrecy, ambiguity, bureaucratic maneuver and persistent failure in Bush administration and in Congress to ask hard questions; tube episode is case study of intersection between politics of pre-emption and inherent ambiguity of intelligence; photos; drawings (L)

  19. “I think that if there were any smoking gun in the DSM that the MSM would have picked it up by now. It’s just inconceivable to me that they would somehow give any administration a free pass on something like this… “



  20. Jamal Sprucewood



    “Your position, as I understand it, is that claims presented publicly in order to persuade people of a course of action deserve no more skepticism than near-transcripts of conversations in secret in which policymakers discuss and plan a public deception. This is quite a remarkable stance: formally identical to maintaining that accused bank robbers’ alibis in court are equally credible as a videotape they acknowledge making of themselves, in which they plan a heist of the same MO on the same day of the same bank that got robbed. I invite you to explain how these claims are not formally identical, or how that videotape could possibly be considered less reliable than the defendants’ testimony, and we’ll have a substantive discussion about the merits of this evidence.”

    I think you are misreading what I’ve wrote. I think that they both deserve skepticism. Of course the videotape is more reliable evidence than an alibi, but that is not exactly the same as what we have here.

    “Your claim is also, if I understand it right, reducible to the claim that the head of an agency that makes mistakes about the likelihood of secret weapons stockpiles 3,000 miles away (and actually, you’ve yet to bring to the table any surviving evidence of any kind of consensus about WMD in the intelligence community of Britain or elsewhere) cannot be trusted to remember the substance of important conversations he himself attended in order to be briefed two days earlier.”

    From the Kaplan article we discussed earlier, he quotes several British officials who were worried about the WMD program in Iraq.

    I don’t know why you assume that I’m going to find your citing of an American intelligence blunder as evidence of your superior position. I’ve admitted that mistakes were made. I’ve said that overzealousness caused the Administrations of both the US and UK to make stupid decisions. That you cite the aluminum tubes doesn’t make me believe that the DSM is any more important.

    Finally, anonymous WaPo citer…from the article itself. “Critics of the Bush administration contend the documents — including the now-famous Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002 — constitute proof that Bush made the decision to go to war at least eight months before it began, and that the subsequent diplomatic campaign at the United Nations was a charade, designed to convince the public that war was necessary, rather than an attempt to resolve the crisis peacefully. They contend the documents have not received the attention they deserve.

    Supporters of the administration contend, by contrast, that the memos add little or nothing to what is already publicly known about the run-up to the war and even help show that the British officials genuinely believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They say that opponents of Bush and Blair are distorting the documents’ meaning in order to attack both men politically.

    But beyond the question of whether they constitute a so-called smoking gun of evidence against the White House, the memos offer an intriguing look at what the top officials of the United States’ chief ally were thinking, doing and fearing in the months before the war.”

    This is exactly what has played out and been said in this discussion. I think that the article shows that there was an ongoing debate within the Blair administration documented by the DSMs. Obviously some of Blair’s subordinates disagreed with the decision he made. There were others, however, who agreed with him. They are quoted in the documents as well. Interesting, yes. Evidence of what was going on, yes. I’ve said this. Smoking gun insight into deliberately decepitve evildoing? I don’t think so.

    And my comment I think still stands. How long has this been floating around? If it was truly smoking gun material (not just a document of interest), it would have hit the press quickly, not gradually. And the focus would have been intense, constant, and unrelenting – not due to bias, but because it would have deserved it and clearly shown what has been claimed here. That didn’t (and hasn’t) happened. I recognize that the DSM has been covered, as was cited earlier, but I think it’s clear that there has not been the kind of intense focus and scrutiny commensurate with something being a smoking gun. It has been commensurate with it being an interesting document. Maybe my standard is too high. I get the impression that the commenters here think that the DSM is Watergate material and that’s what kind of press coverage I’m expecting. It hasn’t happened. Of course, the Watergate scandal broke slowly. But I’ve already said in one of the first comments that I’m more than open to reconsidering my stance on the importance of the DSM if more evidence comes to light. Until then, I guess we’ll hold on to our opinions.

  21. Jamal,

    You’re a lazy person on these topics.

    You failed to note that I asked HOW the alibi-stuff was incommensurate, and you failed to note that I was conceding explicitly that Brit. intelligence might have made mistakes about the WMD.

    Yes, indeed, Watergate broke slowly. But the question isn’t “Is this like Watergate?” but “Should it be? Why or why not?” Your laziness makes you incapable of thinking normatively or methodically about this question.

    None of what you’ve said speaks in any way to my point that the DSM proves these govts lied about caring about the WMDs and lied about being motivated by them.

    And indeed the sentence from the article that you think backs you up actually says nothing:

    “add little or nothing to what is already publicly known about the run-up to the war and even help show that the British officials genuinely believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction [this last little bit might be true, as I’ve conceded]. They say that opponents of Bush and Blair are distorting the documents’ meaning in order to attack both men politically.”

    This begs the question, “Oh really? DID the public know that the war wasn’t about WMD? REALLY?” And the question “HOW are we distorting the meaning in any way? Can you specify just a TINY amount? Or are you overwhelmingly and pathetically lazy hypothetical spin-doctors?”

    Vague, lazy answers from you and from these hypothetical defenders of the administration. Changes of subject, evasions, and laziness.

    Quickly indeed:



  22. You’re also willfully fudging the fact that the aluminum-tube story is NOT about a US intelligence
    “blunder” but precisely the contrary: it’s about a SUSTAINED effort to WILLFULLY misread a piece of intelligence and SYSTEMATICALLY STIFLE experts who said, with all the evidence on their side, that these tubes were unsuitable for a centrifuge. Maybe if you were less lazy on these topics you’d have read the thing, or any thing, that I’ve suggested.

    All this not to say that you’re lazy in general, or bad at your highly demanding and fascinating summer internship, whatever it is.


  23. “There is nothing, really, truly, nothing, in the DSM that was not speculated about during the time that it was written. There is no shock value.”

    In a sign of the continuing partisan division of the nation, more than two-in-five (42%) voters say that, if it is found that President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should hold him accountable through impeachment. While half (50%) of respondents do not hold this view, supporters of impeachment outweigh opponents in some parts of the country.

    Among those living in the Western states, a 52% majority favors Congress using the impeachment mechanism while just 41% are opposed; in Eastern states, 49% are in favor and 45% opposed. In the South, meanwhile, impeachment is opposed by three-in-five voters (60%) and supported by just one-in-three (34%); in the Central/Great Lakes region, 52% are opposed and 38% in favor. …

    A large majority of Democrats (59%) say they agree that the President should be impeached if he lied about Iraq, while just three-in-ten (30%) disagree. Among President Bush’s fellow Republicans, a full one-in-four (25%) indicate they would favor impeaching the President under these circumstances, while seven-in-ten (70%) do not. Independents are more closely divided, with 43% favoring impeachment and 49% opposed.

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