Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kudos to Mark Danner for Explaining the Importance of the Downing Street Memos

The lack of interest shown in the Downing Street Memos by the mainstream media has been astonishing. Via James Wolcott, Citizen Cain recently came across an exchange between Michael Kinsley and Mark Danner on the meaning of the Downing Street Memos and of the lack of interest that the mainstream media has shown in them. This exchange was published in the New York Review of Books, and TomDispatch has posted or linked to all of the relevant documents in this exchange, and provided helpful context and framing. It is highly recommended, particularly Danner’s evisceration of Kinsley’s assertion that:
the DSM is worthless if it is not a smoking gun [proving that President Bush had made up his mind to go to war by July 2002]-- not because I need a smoking gun to be persuaded . . . but precisely because people who don't require a smoking gun are already persuaded. And the document is just not that smoking gun.

Kinsley has backed up his words with inaction, studiously not addressing the DSM on his Los Angeles Times opinion pages except to discount their significance.

Danner’s full response is worth reading, but let me summarize some key points:

  • the DSM adds to a mountain of evidence that the administration was “fixing the facts around the policy” of going to war against Saddaam Hussein by demonstrating that the highest government officials in our closest ally believed that this was the case;
  • while a summary of a meeting among British officials cannot tell us definitively when the President had decided to go to war, the memo does show that the chief of British intelligence believed, based on recent meetings with CIA director George Tenet and other high officials in the United States, that the President had made up his mind by July 2002;
  • the British government thought that the legal case for war was weak, and discouraged the United States from going to war immediately, but instead to push for the reintroduction of U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq in the hopes that Saddaam Hussein would reject the inspectors and provide a stronger legal basis for going to war;
  • in the view of top British officials, and almost certainly of President Bush, “the inspectors were introduced not as a means to avoid war, as President Bush repeatedly assured Americans, but as a means to make war possible.”

Can Kinsley claim that his newspaper has adequately addressed these aspects of the DSM? Can any mainstream American newspaper?