Sunday, May 29, 2005

Question: What is this, and why is it important?

I got the document here, on the website about Ron Suskind's book about Paul O'Neill, The Price of Loyalty.  It is the agenda for President Bush's first National Security Council meeting.  The agenda is stamped "January 31, 2001."  That was less than two weeks after the inauguration.  The purpose of the meeting was "To review the current state-of-play (including a CIA briefing on Iraq) and to examine policy questions on how to proceed."  The third item on the agenda: "Tab C: Executive Summary: Political-Military Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq Crisis."  

This indicates that the Bush administration thought that planning for Post-Saddam Iraq was the most important security issue they faced.  Why else would it be the topic at the very first NSC meeting?  It would be a matter of interest to see what conclusions they reached "on how to proceed," but that remains secret information.  

I blogged about this a while back; in fact, it was one of the first things I posted.  As it happens, it was my thirteenth post.  The formatting is a little dorky now because I changed my template a few times, and changed to a different commenting system twice since then.  Any comments that may have been made are long gone, although it is highly doubtful that there were any.  (At the time, I was rated as a prion in the Blogosphere Ecosystem.)

Back to the point.  Now I find, via Ron Beasley at Middle Earth Journal and Simbaud at King of Zembla, that a couple of groups are forming to publicize the Downing Street Memo.  Those two posts follow Cyndy's post at Mousemusings, which expresses concern about the same topic.  (I'm sure that many others have blogged about this; I'm citing only the ones that inspired my own post.) Their concern is that the memo indicates that the US and UK were set on war even before the UN Security Council debated the matter.  That is, the war was going to happen no matter what the outcome of the Council meetings.  The groups publish at www.afterdowningstreet.org and shakespearssister.blogspot.com.  Their point:
Bonifaz's memo, made available today at www.AfterDowningStreet.org, begins: "The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution" . . . .
Following Cyndy's link, we can see the questions contained in a letter written, to Mr. Bush, by US Rep John Conyers (D-Mich) and 88 other Congresspersons on the topic:
1) Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?
As I mentioned back in January 2004, the O'Neill memo isn't really conclusive; perhaps the Downing Street memo isn't really conclusive, either.  Perhaps no smoking gun has been found, yet; but the two memos smell like gunpowder to me.

The O'Neill memo was picked up by the media, briefly.  Katie Couric asked O'Neill about it on the Today Show. Shortly afterward, the media dropped it.  I never understood why the media failed to give this the attention that it deserved.  O'Neill himself stated:
O'Neill said Tuesday that he did not mean to imply that the administration was wrong to begin contingency planning for a regime change in Iraq but that he was surprised that it was at the top of the agenda at the first Cabinet meeting.

O’Neill said he also had qualms about what he felt was the pre-emptive nature of the war planning. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap,” he said on CBS.

He later told Time magazine that during his 23 months as secretary, which included a permanent seat on the National Security Council, he never saw evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. 
Want to find the smoking gun?  Mr. Conyers does too, which is why he wants people to sign a petition endorsing an investigation.  While you're at it, perhaps you would consider sending additional emails to all of your US Reps, here. The Downing Street memo appears to be gaining more traction than the O'Neill memo ever had, so let's not let them drop this one.  

(Note: The Rest of the Story/Corpus Callosum has moved. Visit the new site here.)
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Not that I'm against looking for that smoking gun, but it really doesn't matter to the basic point of destroying Bush's legitimacy as a leader.

Bush is a charlatan. But plenty of people voted for him. Even those who did not have ego invested in believing that the system is legitimate. As someone in the mental health field, you know that Bush & Co. are very clever at exploiting people's faith in his legitimacy, and creating the illusion that questioning his legitimacy is questioning the legitimacy of the whole system (in other words, opposing him is unpatriotic).

Ego is involved too. Admitting that you made a mistake in voting for Bush is hard. Suppose we are still in Iraq in 2008. Suddenly Iraq will turn into a disaster because the people who voted for Bush will no longer have anything invested in supporting the misadventure, even if they vote Republican. Remember Nixon? He ran as a peace candidate.
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