Cross-posted at MyDD and DailyKos.

“Though “the UN route” [compelled by Tony Blair’s prodding] would be styled as an attempt to avoid war, its essence, as the Downing Street memo makes clear, was a strategy to make the war possible, partly by making it politically palatable.”

The UN route — “styled” as an attempt to avoid war — was actually a “strategy” to make war “politically palatable.”

The eagerly awaited analysis by Mark Danner of the “formerly secret memorandum published by the London Sunday Times on May 1” — “The Secret Way to War” — is finally on the NYRB’s Web site.

As diarist Ari announced on May 15, to little fanfare, “The New York Review of Books will become the first US publication to print the Downing St. Memo in the June 9 issue.  There also will be an article by Mark Danner (who has an extensive website).”

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“As Americans watch their young men and women fighting in the third year of a bloody counterinsurgency war in Iraq–a war that has now killed more than 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis,” writes Danner, “they are left to ponder ‘the unanswered question’ of what would have happened if the United Nations weapons inspectors had been allowed–as all the major powers except the United Kingdom had urged they should be–to complete their work.”

What would have happened if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to prove, before the US went “into battle,” what David Kaye and his colleagues finally proved afterward?

At the time that Danner wrote the article — he completed it on May 9 — he observed that “In the United States, on the other hand, the Downing Street memorandum has attracted little attention. As I write, no American newspaper has published it and few writers have bothered to comment on it.”

Actually, given its June 9 print date, the New York Review of Books article now follows the Chicago Tribune‘s May 17 story, titled “British memo reopens war claim,” and inexplicably retitled “Downing St. Memo’ fizzling in U.S.”? ” in The Seattle Times reprint.

I’m unable to ascertain if the Chicago Tribune story was printed in the front section of the paper, as opposed to the Washington Post piece last week — “Brtish Intelligence Warned of Iraq War” — which was buried on page A18. On May 12, the Los Angeles Times published, “Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents.”

As a veteran of the Watergate days, I hold out hope that this trickle of stories in the country’s major newspapers will eventually yield what we all need: A full Congressional investigation and Congressional hearings.

Sen. George McGovern complained throughout his ill-fated presidential campaign that the press was ignoring the Watergate break-in story — I heard him say so in a speech in Seattle — and he was defeated in a landslide by Richard Nixon. We all know what happened eventually.

One problem I see, however, is that the U.S. Senate, in those days, was populated by rather more thoughtful, ethical and pragmatic (i.e., less ideological) Senators.

As Danner notes:

For those who want answers, the Bush administration has followed simple and heretofore largely successful policy: blame the intelligence agencies. Since “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” as early as July 2000 (as “C,” the head of British intelligence, reported upon his return from Washington), it seems a matter of remarkable hubris, even for this administration, that its officials no explain their misjudgments in going to war by blaming them on “intelligence failures”–that is, on the intelligence that they themselves politicized. Still, for the most part Congress has cooperated. Though the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated the failures of the CIA and other agencies before the war, a promised second report that was to take up the administration’s political use of intelligence–which is, after all, the critical issue–was postponed until after the 2004 elections, then quietly abandoned.

Danner concludes:

Power, the argument runs, can shape truth: power, in the end, can determine reality, or at least the reality that most people accept–a critical point, for the administration has been singularly effective in its recognition that what is most politically important is not what readers of The New York Times believe but what most Americans are willing to believe. The last century’s most innovative authority on power and truth, Joseph Goebbels, made the same point but rather more directly:
There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be “the man in the street.” Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.

I thought of this quotation when I first read the Downing Street memorandum; but I had first looked it up several months earlier, on December 14, 2004, after I had seen the images of the newly reelected President George W. Bush awarding the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor the United States can bestow, to George Tenet, the former director of central intelligence; L. Paul Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq; and General (ret.) Tommy Franks, the commander who had led American forces during the first phase of the Iraq war. Tenet, of course, would be known to history as the intelligence director who had failed to detect and prevent the attacks of September 11 and the man who had assured President Bush that the case for Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was “a slam dunk.” Franks had allowed the looting of Baghdad and had generally done little to prepare for what would come after the taking of Baghdad. (“There was little discussion in Washington,” as “C” told the Prime Minister on July 23, “of the aftermath after military action.”) Bremer had dissolved the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police and thereby created 400,000 or so available recruits for the insurgency. One might debate their ultimate responsibility for these grave errors, but it is difficult to argue that these officials merited the highest recognition the country could offer.

Of course truth, as the master propagandist said, is “unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology.” He of course would have instantly grasped the psychological tactic embodied in that White House ceremony, which was one more effort to reassure Americans that the war the administration launched against Iraq has been a success and was worth fighting. That barely four Americans in ten are still willing to believe this suggests that as time goes on and the gap grows between what Americans see and what they are told, membership in the “reality-based community” may grow along with it. We will see. Still, for those interested in the question of how our leaders persuaded the country to become embroiled in a counterinsurgency war in Iraq, the Downing Street memorandum offers one more confirmation of the truth. For those, that is, who want to hear.

That conclusion is followed by a complete reprinting of the memorandum. We can hope that other magazines and newspapers — large and small — will follow suit.

Tom Engelhardt — who, as Ari points out, “co-taught a course at Berkeley with Danner,” has written an introduction to Danner’s article in his TomDispatch:

To me, perhaps the most telling line in the memo, given what’s happened since, is the observation of Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of M16 (the British CIA equivalent), just back from a U.S. visit, that “[t]here was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” This line not only represented the greatest gamble the Bush administration’s top officials would make, but the hubris with which they approached the taking of Iraq. As true believers in force – nothing impressed them more than the advanced technology of destruction they possessed and its possible applications — they were already awed by themselves and deeply believed in the shock to come once they hit Iraq hard. As the British smoking-gun memo indicates in that single classic line, they placed their deepest faith in their conviction that, once the invasion was completed successful and Saddam had fallen, everything else in Iraq would simply fall into place as well. Planning for a post-war occupation? What me worry? Tom

Read it all:The Secret Way to War

There’s far more in the piece than one diary can dissect, so I hope others will also write about this important — perhaps historic — work.

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