Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 12, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

KINSLEY ON THE DOWNING STREET MEMO....About 30 minutes ago, in an update to last night's post about the Downing Street Memos, I suggested that reporters weren't paying a lot of attention to them because they thought it was old news. After all, they had figured out a year ago that Bush's war plans had been set in stone long before the war started, so the memos didn't really provide any new information.

In the intervening 30 minutes, though, I've read Michael Kinsley's latest column on the subject. It's pretty obvious that I was wrong. Not everyone has figured out what's going on.

First, here is the wording of the original DSM:

C [the head of MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable.

....The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

....The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided.

Got that? The head of MI6, the defense secretary, and the foreign secretary all reported that military action was a foregone conclusion. Here's how Kinsley reports this:

The key passage summarizes "recent talks in Washington" by the head of British foreign intelligence (identified, John le Carre-style, as "C"). C reported that "military action was now seen as inevitable."

....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, C was only saying that these people believed that war was how events would play out.

So: three high level officials from our closest military partner came to Washington for high level talks. All three came to identical conclusions. What's more, the balance of the DSM is a discussion of military plans and legal justifications that assumes military action as a given. The only question mark is the exact date.

Yet Kinsley treats this as if these guys were just some bloggers who were shooting the breeze about the DC rumor mill. Is he serious?

And then, after spending 500 words telling us that the memos prove nothing at all (and that the lefty suggestion that Bush planned to go to war all along is just a "paranoid theory"), he finishes up by agreeing with me: everyone does knows all this stuff already, he says, so why the big deal? "Fixing" intelligence is standard Bush practice, and there was lots of contemporary reporting that suggested war was inevitable. So why is everyone making such a fuss?

Shorter Kinsley: the DSM is just rumormongering....but it's probably true....no smoking gun, though....but I wouldn't be surprised....they were just talking about how things would "play out"....but the Wall Street Journal was pushing for war....but....but....but....

Kaboom!

Kevin Drum 1:44 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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