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creating conditions to preclude peace?

Americans who read stories buried on page 14 or further in the newspaper have heard something (though not as much as I would hope the media would provide on something like this) about the Downing Street Memo, which indicates that American intelligence was being "fixed" around going to war in Iraq eight months prior to the invasion, while the Bush administration was still declaring its openness to resolving the crisis with peaceful means. The memo's language could be read in more than one way. One could read the memo's statement that American intelligence was being "fixed" around invading Iraq as meaning either that outcomes of inquiry were predetermined by a decision to go to war; one could also read "fixed" in that context as meaning something like "affixed," and conclude that the administration was simply metaphorically stacking data that would support invasion on one side as a means of assessing whether invasion was necessary.

Now the Times of London has transcribed a British cabinet paper from July 21, 2002 that (if it's reliable) seems to me to be unambiguously showing that invading Iraq was not a "last resort" for the Bush administration, as they were declaring in public in July of 2002, but was a goal toward which the administration was working, and hard. Here's the paragraph that clinches it for me:

Ministers are invited to: ...
3) Agree to engage the US on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.

Of course, Saddam Hussein did allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, and the U.S. invaded anyway.

I would have hoped that prior to the invasion of Iraq, our government and other governments around the world would at the very least have been doing their best to try to disarm Saddam Hussein (if, of course, he was armed) and bring him into compliance with international law and U.N. resolutions without risking the lives of our troops and countless Iraqi civillians. Seems reasonable, no?

I'm no great lover of the Bush administration's policies and style of government, but I still have been doing all kinds of intellectual yoga to try to see some way to get around this conclusion:

If U.S. and British officials were tasked with "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action," then Saddam's peaceful disarmament and full compliance with U.N. resolutions would be a failure of policy. In other words, rather than trying to create the conditions in which peace was possible, U.S. and British officials were asked to create conditions that would preclude peaceful resolution.

Does anyone see another way to read this?

June 14, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Sorry, there is no other way to read it. Hans Blix thought he was there to facilitate disarmamnet but I think it was a pretext for regime change. Our Prime Minister deserves a doctorate for evasionof direct questions on this. I find it very disillusioning as the chasm between the political ruling class and the public is growing very large indeed.

Glad to see it being picked up across the pond as there is an element of fatigue concerning Iraq in UK

Posted by: Paul | Jun 14, 2005 5:53:34 PM

no other way to read it. the whole circus was about making it impossible for saddam to comply.

ironically, the most accurate acount we had of the status of WMD at the time was the report filed by the iraqies themselves.

Posted by: fernando | Jun 17, 2005 11:39:52 AM

As regards the interpretation of "fixed", in a recent interview, Michael Smith, the Sunday Times journalist who started the coverage on the DOwning Street Memo stated:

"Michael Smith: There are number of people asking about fixed and its meaning. This is a real joke. I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed as in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something, you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed and as for the reports that said this was one British official. Pleeeaaassee! This was the head of MI6. How much authority do you want the man to have? He has just been to Washington, he has just talked to George Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. That translates in clearer terms as the intelligence was being cooked to match what the administration wanted it to say to justify invading Iraq. Fixed means the same here as it does there. More leaks? I do hope so and the more Blair and Bush lie to try to get themselves off the hook the more likely it is that we will get more leaks."

I also suggest reading this timeline:

There is no doubt that from day one the real purpose of the Bush administration was not that of neutralizing Saddam's "WMD", rather that of changing his regime. Hidden ends carried out through means typical of a conspiration rather than a democracy. Whatever the political belief, this cold-blooded mendacity cannot be accepted.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 24, 2005 10:23:51 AM

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