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Fresh meat or dry bone shards?

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at

Does the secret Downing Street memo really tell us anything new?

For progressives and modern liberals, one of the hot topics in the blogosphere and the online lists was the newly uncovered memo in the UK that purports to show the doubt of British officials as war in Iraq loomed.

There are still some questions about the document's authenticity, and not just among conservative news sources. Leaving all that aside and assuming that the document is absolutely genuine, what does it tell us that we didn't already know?

Certain British officials thought that facts and intelligence were being manipulated in Washington to make a better case for war. Well, we knew that from speeches that President Bush gave before the fact. After Iraq had a democratic government, Colin Powell said that the intelligence picture wasn't as complete as the Bush Administration had thought.

"But this is the smoking gun," some say. "This is THE proof that Bush lied and people died."

There is one huge problem with that. Prior to 9-11, Mr. Bush was well on his way to becoming an isolationist President. After 9-11, the first thing the Bush Administration did was dig up the existing intelligence about al-Qaeda specifically and the Middle East generally. One of the things they turned up was Iraq.

And President Bill Clinton's 1998 pronouncements that Iraq either possessed weapons of mass destruction or was very close to developing them. Mr. Clinton was supported from the floor of the Senate by some very prominent members of both major parties.

So let's review.

A confidential UK government memo shows that some officials had doubts about the case for war in Iraq but thought that the US was going to go forward anyway. We knew that.

Much of the Bush Administration's case for war in Iraq was based on existing intelligence dating back to the Clinton era and before. We knew that.

As President, Mr. Clinton made a strong case for curbing Saddam Hussein's ambitions in the name of world peace. We knew that.

After 9-11, Mr. Bush also thought that Hussein should be removed from power because he was a threat to peace. We knew that.

Mr. Bush has a foreign policy agenda. We knew that.

Incidently, I'd still like to know how just the fact that Mr. Bush has an agenda is "evil." Every President in history has had an agenda, and I would be worried if a President didn't have one.

Much of the world doesn't think that the US should put any force behind it's foreign policy. We knew that.

Does this memo introduce anything new? No.

Does this memo prove that Mr. Bush broke the law? No.

Does this memo imply that Mr. Bush broke the law? No.

Does this memo suggest that anyone in the Bush Administration broke the law? No.

Does this memo suggest that Bush knowingly lied about Iraq? No.

So this memo doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know. It certainly doesn't make the case for impeachment as some have claimed. Especially since Congress authorized the President to seek ways to remove Hussein from office during the Clinton Administration, the U.N. Security Council voted numerous times to take steps against Iraq if it didn't comply with the terms of the surrender that Iraq had agreed to, and Congress authorized and funded war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All in all, it looks like a old soup bone once the dogs have finished. Nothing but a few splinters barely hinting at meals long gone.

Posted: Thu - June 2, 2005 at 05:13 AM

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