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The Fix is In - American Media Ignore Downing Street Memo

Over the last month, the American media has studiously avoided a story that has dominated the rest of the world. A leak transcript of a meeting with the British Prime Minister well before the invasion of Iraq showed that the US had decided to go to war even though it had no proof of weapons of mass destruction. Mainstream media argue that there is no news, that the American people already knew that the Bush admistration was mistaken. Conservative talk show hosts continue to deny that there are any problems. In a small, cramped room in the Capitol, Cong. Conyers held hearings on the Downing Street Memo. Ralph Nader, the Green Party and Rep. Maurice Hinchey call for impeachment.
A Press Coverup
By Joe Conason

Friday 17 June 2005

Leave it to the Beltway herd, with their special brand of arrogance, to insist that the Downing Street memo wasn't news.
To judge by their responses, the leading lights of the Washington press corps are more embarrassed than the White House is by the revelations in the Downing Street memo -- which quite suddenly is becoming as "famous" as NBC's Tim Russert suggested weeks ago, when most of his colleagues and everyone at his network were still ignoring the document.

Mooing in plaintive chorus, the Beltway herd insists that the July 23, 2002, memo wasn't news -- which would be true if the absence of news were defined only by their refusal to report it.

They tell us the memo wasn't news because everybody understood that George W. Bush had decided to wage war many months before the United States and its allies invaded Iraq. The memo wasn't news because anyone who didn't comprehend that reality back then has come to realize the unhappy facts during the three ensuing years. The memo wasn't news because Americans already knew that the Bush administration was "fixing the intelligence and facts around the policy," rather than making policy that reflected the intelligence and the facts about Iraq.

Only a very special brand of arrogance would permit any employee of the New York Times, which brought us the mythmaking of Judith Miller, to insist that new documentary evidence of "intelligence fixing" about Saddam's arsenal is no longer news. The same goes for the Washington Post, which featured phony administration claims about Iraq's weapons on Page 1 while burying the skeptical stories that proved correct.

If you listen to those mooing most loudly, such as the editorial page editors of the Post, the Downing Street memo still isn't news because it doesn't "prove" anything. (Only a Post editorial would refer to Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of Britain's MI6 intelligence service who reported the fixing of intelligence to fit Bush's war plans, as merely "a British official.") Certainly it proves much about the candid views held by the most knowledgeable figures in the British government. Evidently the Post's editorialists would rather not learn what else the memo might prove if its clues were investigated.

How foolish and how sad that all these distinguished journalists prefer to transform this scandal into a debate about their own underachieving performance, rather than redeem mainstream journalism by advancing an important story that they should have pursued from the beginning. This is a moment when the mainstream press could again demonstrate to a skeptical public why we need journalists. Instead they are proving once more that their first priority is to cover their own behinds.

To my ear, their arguments lack conviction as well as logic. Although reporters tend to be timid or cynical, very few are stupid -- and almost none are truly stupid enough to believe that this memo wasn't "news" according to any professional definition of that word.

Deciding what constitutes news is a subjective exercise, of course, with all the uncertainty that implies. Yet there are several obvious guidelines to keep in mind while listening to the excuses proffered in the New York Times and the Washington Post by reporters who must know better.

A classified document recording deliberations by the highest officials of our most important ally over the decision to wage war is always news. A document that shows those officials believed the justification for war was "thin" and that the intelligence was being "fixed" is always news. A document that indicates the president was misleading the world about his determination to wage war only as a last resort is always news.

And when such a document is leaked, whatever editors, reporters and producers may think "everyone" already knows or believes about its contents emphatically does not affect whether that piece of paper is news. The journalists' job is to determine whether it is authentic and then to probe into its circumstances and meaning. There are many questions still to be answered about the Downing Street memo, but the nation's most prominent journalists still aren't asking them.

As striking as the bizarre redefinition of news now underway among the Washington press corps is its strange deficit of memory. Everyone did not know in the summer and fall of 2002 that Bush had reached a firm decision to wage war -- not even if "everyone" really refers only to the readers of the Times and the Post.

What were the Post and the Times telling us then about the president's intentions?

Consider Michael Kinsley, the Los Angeles Times editorial page editor and columnist, who recently derided the memo's importance. According to him, "you don't need a secret memo" to know that "the administration's decision to topple Saddam Hussein by force" had been reached by then. Anybody could tell that war was "inevitable," he wrote. "Just look at what was in the newspapers on July 23, 2002, and the day before," he wrote, citing an opinion column by Robert Scheer and a Times story about Pentagon war planning.

But let's also look at what Kinsley himself wrote on July 12, 2002, after those war plans were leaked. On the Post's Op-Ed page, he suggested that despite all the logistical planning and bellicose rhetoric, "Bush may be bluffing ... Or he may be lying, and the leak may be part of an official strategy of threatening all-out war in the hope of avoiding it, by encouraging a coup or persuading Hussein to take early retirement or in some other way getting him gone without a massive invasion."

So Kinsley himself wasn't quite certain whether Bush had decided on war, yet now he says we all knew.

On that same Op-Ed page two months later, fervent hawk James Hoagland, whose views on the war closely reflect those of the paper's editorial board, wrote a column about the president's U.N. speech. Hoagland described Bush as "diligent prosecuting attorney, sorrowful statesman and reluctant potential warrior.

"Bush wisely did not base his appeals for collective action against Iraq on a doctrine of preemption ... Instead he explained how the need for such drastic steps can be avoided by concerted international action." War, that is, could still be avoided, or so Hoagland believed as of Sept. 15, 2002.

A few days earlier, an editorial in the Times had likewise lauded the president's speech: "While Mr. Bush reserved the right to act independently to restrain Iraq, he expressed a preference for working in concert with other nations and seemed willing to employ measures short of war before turning to the use of force. These are welcome and important statements." So despite what Times reporters and analysts claim today, their newspaper clearly did not consider war inevitable several weeks after July 23, 2002.

And on Oct. 8, 2002, the Times noted approvingly that in requesting a congressional war resolution, Bush had said: "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." The next day, the paper of record reported that around the world, politicians, journalists and ordinary citizens had derived hope from those words.

Those hopes were misplaced, as we now can be certain. Instead of pretending that we all knew what we know now, the Washington press corps should stop spinning excuses, stop redefining what constitutes news and start doing its job.


Joe Conason writes a weekly column for Salon and the New York Observer. He also wrote the book, Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth.

Just Hearsay, or the New Watergate Tapes?
By David Paul Kuhn

Thursday 17 June 2005

At a crowded basement forum on the Downing Street memo, Democrats demanded an inquiry into what Bush knew about Iraq war planning and when he knew it, but stopped short of calling for impeachment.
Washington - Forced to the basement of the U.S. Capitol and prevented from holding an official hearing, Michigan Rep. John Conyers defied Republicans and held a forum Thursday calling for a congressional inquiry into the infamous British document known as the "Downing Street memo."

Three dozen Democratic representatives shuffled in and out of a small room to join Conyers in declaring that the Downing Street memo was the first "primary source" document to report that prewar intelligence was intentionally manipulated in order make a case for invading Iraq. Not only did Republican leaders consign the Democrats to the basement, Democrats claimed that the House scheduled 11 votes concurrent with the forum to maximize the difficulty of attending it. Because the forum wasn't an official hearing, it won't become a part of the Congressional Record, but members worked to make sure that the attending media and activists captured their words for posterity.

The Downing Street memo, so far disputed by Washington and London in some of its details but not its authenticity, reports on minutes of a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his national security team on July 23, 2002. First reported by the London Sunday Times on May 1 of this year, the internal memo states that, in the opinion of "C" (Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service), "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush administration's] policy. The author of the memo added that it "seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action." Since then, several other British government memos have become public that also make the case that the White House was planning the war long before it admitted to doing so.

The Democratic representatives attending the forum said they believed if such information had gotten out prior to the war, neither the House nor the Senate would have supported the Oct. 11, 2002, congressional vote giving the president the power to order the invasion.

To the Democrats taking turns to speak at the forum on Thursday, the memo was tantamount to the first word of tapes in the Nixon White House during the Watergate scandal. Impeachment was on these representatives' minds as four longtime critics of the war in Iraq, including former Ambassador Joe Wilson, repeatedly urged Congress to hold an official inquiry into the validity and origins of the Downing Street memo.

"We sent our troops to war under dubious pretenses," asserted Wilson, who traveled at the government's behest to Niger in February 2002. There he discovered that President Bush's claim that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium in Africa was false. The White House later retracted the accusation.

Speaking to the question of impeachment, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., asked point blank, "Has the president misled, or deliberately misled, the Congress?"

The answer is at the heart of Conyers' push for further investigation. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, and Conyers' petition for an inquiry into the memo seemed a first step in that direction -- though no one made that call outright.

"Many of us find it unacceptable to put our brave men and women in harm's way, based on false information," Conyers said. Though most of those at the forum voted against the war in Iraq, Conyers, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, insisted that the forum was not partisan politicking, but a function of their oversight duty.

As members of Congress crammed into the small room, no bigger than 30 by 50 feet, Democratic representatives spoke and then scurried out to make scheduled votes. After being denied a hearing, then forced to the basement, which Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., called unprecedented, the Democrats believed Republicans had purposely scheduled 11 votes to interrupt the forum.

"Absolutely, it was absolutely timed," McDermott said in an interview after the forum. "There was no need to do it then. And they were having a major appropriations hearing at the same time. That was also to keep people away, because appropriations are your chance to get money for your district that you've been working all year on."

McDermott spoke as Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., delayed her aide and sprinted down the hall in her high heels to do an interview with Pacifica Radio. Covered mostly by liberal media outlets, the forum got some mainstream news attention, from the AP to the Baltimore Sun to CNN. Democrats who dropped by included Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Charles Rangel of New York, Virginia's Jim Moran, and Barbara Lee of Oakland, Calif.

Following the forum, Conyers led Democratic representatives and activists on a march to the White House, hoping to deliver a letter with more than 550,000 signatures of the public and more than 120 members of Congress, mostly but not all Democrats. White House spokesman Scott McClellan told the Associated Press that Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates."

As he left, the mild but indefatigable Conyers was a little angry that the forum was denied a proper room in the Capitol.

"They tried to shut us out," Conyers said after the hearing. "They tried to cut us off. They put us in a tiny room. The significance shouldn't be lost on anybody."


For Immediate Release:
Thursday, June 9, 2005

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624,
mclarty (at)
Nancy Allen, Media Coordinator, 207-326-4576,
nallen (at)


The Downing Street Memo proves that invasion of
Iraq wasn't the 'last resort' but Bush's intent
all along, leading to cooked intelligence and
other impeachable offenses; Greens note
bipartisan and media complicity in overlooking
evidence of deceit, urge public protest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green leaders reiterated the
party's July 2003 call for impeachment of Bush,
and called on all Americans outraged by the Bush
Administration's list of deceptions, violations
of the U.S. Constitution, the disastrous Iraq
occupation, and policies that have disgraced the
U.S. to demand that Congress begin the
impeachment process.

"The invasion and occupation of Iraq has caused
the deaths of over 1,600 U.S. military personnel,
as well as untold suffering and tens of thousands
of civilian dead in Iraq," said David Cobb, the
Green Party's 2004 candidate for President of the
United States. "The Downing Street Memo confirms
what we already knew -- that a conspiracy to
deceive the American people led us into the war,
and that this conspiracy constitutes 'high crimes
and misdemeanors' according to the U.S.

The Green Party of the United States called for
the impeachment of George W. Bush during the
party's 2003 national meeting
Greens have organized and participated in
numerous protests against the war since early
2003, and have called for an immediate end to the
occupation, cancellation of further war spending,
and removal of military recruiters from schools
as U.S. troops continue to face death and injury
in Iraq.

Greens praised Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.)
public demand for an explanation from President
Bush in the wake of Downing Street Memo's
publication, and questioned why so many of the
mainstream U.S. media have remained silent on the
content and implications of the memo.

But Greens also called many Democrats as
responsible as Republicans for Iraq policy,
having voted in October 2002 to transfer war
power to the President, which created the
scenario for White House deceit and abuse of
power, and having recently voted for another $82
billion for the war.

"It was already apparent, long before the Downing
Street Memo, that President Bush's case for
invading Iraq was based on fraud," said Rebecca
Rotzler, co-chair of the Green Party's Peace
Action Committee. "All of the reasons for
invasion that Mr. Bush listed in his January 28,
2003 State of the Union address -- Iraqi WMDs,
collusion between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda,
evidence that Saddam had sought nuclear weapons
materials from Africa, nuclear aluminum rods,
Iraq's supposed threat to the U.S. and to other
nations -- are now known to be false. The
Downing Street Memo shows that the intelligence
supporting an invasion was fixed, with the
complicity of the Bush and Blair administrations
as early as July 2002."

Green Party leaders also noted that Ahmed
Chalabi, whose false testimony to U.S.
intelligence officials on Iraqi WMDs formed much
of the basis of the claim that Saddam Hussein was
an iternational threat, is now serving as interim
Iraqi Oil Minister, with the Bush
Administration's approval; and that John Bolton,
now under consideration for appointment as U.S.
Ambassador to the U.N., repeatedly manipulated
intelligence and lied to the U.S. media and the
U.N. about Iraqi weapons materials.

"Americans should be protesting in every way
possible against the continued occupation of
Iraq, and for impeachment of President Bush and
Vice President Cheney," said Jake Schneider,
treasurer of the Green Party of the United
States. "But this has also been a bipartisan war
all along, and every Democrat and Republican in
Congress who has supported it despite evidence of
deceit from the very beginning also deserves
removal from office."


Green Party of the United States
1700 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 404
Washington, DC 20009.
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193

Green Party Peace Action Committee

"The 'I' word"
By Ralph Nader and Kevin Zeese
The Boston Globe, May 31, 2005\i_word/

Letter to Pres Bush Concerning the "Downing
Street Minutes"
From Rep. John Conyers

"Hold Bush Accountable If He Lied About Iraq"
By Mark Dunlea (Green Party of New York State)
The Albany Times Union, July 9, 2003

Congressman Maurice Hinchey believes it is time for a Resolution of Inquiry

Kevin Zeese , DemocracyRising.Us

Wednesday, 15 June 2005 - Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) became the first Member of Congress to urge the first step toward impreachment -- a Resolution of Inquiry. He spoke to the media on June 13, 2005 saying: "Bush made the policy, then altered, twisted and distorted the facts to fit the policy."

He told The Times Herald-Record: "If the president intentionally twisted the facts about the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war, and lied to Congress about it, and then elicited authorization from Congress to launch a war that's caused the deaths of 1,700 U.S. men and women along with tens of thousands of others, that is definitely an impeachable offense."

Hinchey told on Monday, "I think a Resolution of Inquiry is completely appropriate at this stage. It's something that should be done."

Contact the Congressman to thank him!

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Re: The Fix is In - American Media Ignore Downing Street Memo

Great article. Don't let these guys get away with lying and murder for profit. Keep the heat on them. This administration is doing us all a terrible injustice.


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