Editor and Publisher, By E&P Staff
Published: June 11, 2005 10:00 PM ET
NEW YORK Just as the U.S. media attempts�-albeit a month late�-to get on top of the so-called �Downing Street Memo,� the Sunday Times in London reports another leaked document which confirms and goes behind the message of the memo.
�Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal,� the Sunday Times reports.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Prime Minister Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier. The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair�s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was �necessary to create the conditions� which would make it legal.
by Michael Smith
Times of London
MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair's inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.
By Russ Baker
Originally published Wed, 27 Oct 2004
Two years before 9/11, candidate Bush was already talking privately about attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer
Houston: Two years before the September 11 attacks, presidential candidate George W. Bush was already talking privately about the political benefits of attacking Iraq, according to his former ghost writer, who held many conversations with then-Texas Governor Bush in preparation for a planned autobiography.
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. "Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker."
That President Bush and his advisers had Iraq on their minds long before weapons inspectors had finished their work – and long before alleged Iraqi ties with terrorists became a central rationale for war – has been raised elsewhere, including in a book based on recollections of former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. However, Herskowitz was in a unique position to hear Bush's unguarded and unfiltered views on Iraq, war and other matters – well before he became president.
In 1999, Herskowitz struck a deal with the campaign of George W. Bush about a ghost-written autobiography, which was ultimately titled A Charge to Keep : My Journey to the White House, and he and Bush signed a contract in which the two would split the proceeds. The publisher was William Morrow. Herskowitz was given unimpeded access to Bush, and the two met approximately 20 times so Bush could share his thoughts. Herskowitz began working on the book in May, 1999, and says that within two months he had completed and submitted some 10 chapters, with a remaining 4-6 chapters still on his computer. Herskowitz was replaced as Bush's ghostwriter after Bush's handlers concluded that the candidate's views and life experiences were not being cast in a sufficiently positive light.
According to Herskowitz, who has authored more than 30 books, many of them jointly written autobiographies of famous Americans in politics, sports and media (including that of Reagan adviser Michael Deaver), Bush and his advisers were sold on the idea that it was difficult for a president to accomplish an electoral agenda without the record-high approval numbers that accompany successful if modest wars.
The revelations on Bush's attitude toward Iraq emerged recently during two taped interviews of Herskowitz, which included a discussion of a variety of matters, including his continued closeness with the Bush family, indicated by his subsequent selection to pen an authorized biography of Bush's grandfather, written and published last year with the assistance and blessing of the Bush family.
Herskowitz also revealed the following:
-In 2003, Bush's father indicated to him that he disagreed with his son's invasion of Iraq.
-Bush admitted that he failed to fulfill his Vietnam-era domestic National Guard service obligation, but claimed that he had been "excused."
-Bush revealed that after he left his Texas National Guard unit in 1972 under murky circumstances, he never piloted a plane again. That casts doubt on the carefully-choreographed moment of Bush emerging in pilot's garb from a jet on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 to celebrate "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. The image, instantly telegraphed around the globe, and subsequent hazy White House statements about his capacity in the cockpit, created the impression that a heroic Bush had played a role in landing the craft.
-Bush described his own business ventures as "floundering" before campaign officials insisted on recasting them in a positive light.
Throughout the interviews for this article and in subsequent conversations, Herskowitz indicated he was conflicted over revealing information provided by a family with which he has longtime connections, and by how his candor could comport with the undefined operating principles of the as-told-to genre. Well after the interviews—in which he expressed consternation that Bush's true views, experience and basic essence had eluded the American people —Herskowitz communicated growing concern about the consequences for himself of the publication of his remarks, and said that he had been under the impression he would not be quoted by name. However, when conversations began, it was made clear to him that the material was intended for publication and attribution. A tape recorder was present and visible at all times.
Several people who know Herskowitz well addressed his character and the veracity of his recollections. "I don't know anybody that's ever said a bad word about Mickey," said Barry Silverman, a well-known Houston executive and civic figure who worked with him on another book project. An informal survey of Texas journalists turned up uniform confidence that Herskowitz's account as contained in this article could be considered accurate.
One noted Texas journalist who spoke with Herskowitz about the book in 1999 recalls how the author mentioned to him at the time that Bush had revealed things the campaign found embarrassing and did not want in print. He requested anonymity because of the political climate in the state. "I can't go near this," he said.
According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush's beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House – ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade."
Bush's circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: "They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches."
Republicans, Herskowitz said, felt that Jimmy Carter's political downfall could be attributed largely to his failure to wage a war. He noted that President Reagan and President Bush's father himself had (besides the narrowly-focused Gulf War I) successfully waged limited wars against tiny opponents – Grenada and Panama – and gained politically. But there were successful small wars, and then there were quagmires, and apparently George H.W. Bush and his son did not see eye to eye.
"I know [Bush senior] would not admit this now, but he was opposed to it. I asked him if he had talked to W about invading Iraq. "He said, ‘No I haven't, and I won't, but Brent [Scowcroft] has.' Brent would not have talked to him without the old man's okaying it." Scowcroft, national security adviser in the elder Bush's administration, penned a highly publicized warning to George W. Bush about the perils of an invasion.
Herskowitz's revelations are not the sole indicator of Bush's pre-election thinking on Iraq. In December 1999, some six months after his talks with Herskowitz, Bush surprised veteran political chroniclers, including the Boston Globe's David Nyhan, with his blunt pronouncements about Saddam at a six-way New Hampshire primary event that got little notice: "It was a gaffe-free evening for the rookie front-runner, till he was asked about Saddam's weapons stash," wrote Nyhan. ‘I'd take ‘em out,' [Bush] grinned cavalierly, ‘take out the weapons of mass destruction…I'm surprised he's still there," said Bush of the despot who remains in power after losing the Gulf War to Bush Jr.'s father…It remains to be seen if that offhand declaration of war was just Texas talk, a sort of locker room braggadocio, or whether it was Bush's first big clinker. "
The notion that President Bush held unrealistic or naïve views about the consequences of war was further advanced recently by a Bush supporter, the evangelist Pat Robertson, who revealed that Bush had told him the Iraq invasion would yield no casualties. In addition, in recent days, high-ranking US military officials have complained that the White House did not provide them with adequate resources for the task at hand.
Herskowitz considers himself a friend of the Bush family, and has been a guest at the family vacation home in Kennebunkport. In the late 1960s, Herskowitz, a longtime Houston Chronicle sports columnist designated President Bush's father, then-Congressman George HW Bush, to replace him as a guest columnist, and the two have remained close since then. (Herskowitz was suspended briefly in April without pay for reusing material from one of his own columns, about legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.)
In 1999, when Herskowitz turned in his chapters for Charge to Keep, Bush's staff expressed displeasure —often over Herskowitz's use of language provided by Bush himself. In a chapter on the oil business, Herskowitz included Bush's own words to describe the Texan's unprofitable business ventures, writing: "the companies were floundering". "I got a call from one of the campaign lawyers, he was kind of angry, and he said, ‘You've got some wrong information.' I didn't bother to say, ‘Well you know where it came from.' [The lawyer] said, ‘We do not consider that the governor struggled or floundered in the oil business. We consider him a successful oilman who started up at least two new businesses.' "
In the end, campaign officials decided not to go with Herskowitz's account, and, moreover, demanded everything back. "The lawyer called me and said, ‘Delete it. Shred it. Just do it.' "
"They took it and [communications director] Karen [Hughes] rewrote it," he said. A campaign official arrived at his home at seven a.m. on a Monday morning and took his notes and computer files. However, Herskowitz, who is known for his memory of anecdotes from his long history in journalism and book publishing, says he is confident about his recollections.
According to Herskowitz, Bush was reluctant to discuss his time in the Texas Air National Guard – and inconsistent when he did so. Bush, he said, provided conflicting explanations of how he came to bypass a waiting list and obtain a coveted Guard slot as a domestic alternative to being sent to Vietnam. Herskowitz also said that Bush told him that after transferring from his Texas Guard unit two-thirds through his six-year military obligation to work on an Alabama political campaign, he did not attend any Alabama National Guard drills at all, because he was "excused." This directly contradicts his public statements that he participated in obligatory training with the Alabama National Guard. Bush's claim to have fulfilled his military duty has been subject to intense scrutiny; he has insisted in the past that he did show up for monthly drills in Alabama – though commanding officers say they never saw him, and no Guardsmen have come forward to accept substantial "rewards" for anyone who can claim to have seen Bush on base.
Herskowitz said he asked Bush if he ever flew a plane again after leaving the Texas Air National Guard in 1972 – which was two years prior to his contractual obligation to fly jets was due to expire. He said Bush told him he never flew any plane – military or civilian – again. That would contradict published accounts in which Bush talks about his days in 1973 working with inner-city children, when he claimed to have taken some of the children up in a plane.
In 2002, three years after he had been pulled off the George W. Bush biography, Herskowitz was asked by Bush's father to write a book about the current president's grandfather, Prescott Bush, after getting a message that the senior Bush wanted to see him. "Former President Bush just handed it to me. We were sitting there one day, and I was visiting him there in his office…He said, ‘I wish somebody would do a book about my dad.' "
"He said to me, ‘I know this has been a disappointing time for you, but it's amazing how many times something good will come out of it.' I passed it on to my agent, he jumped all over it. I asked [Bush senior], ‘Would you support it and would you give me access to the rest of family?' He said yes."
That book, Duty, Honor, Country: The Life and Legacy of Prescott Bush, was published in 2003 by Routledge. If anything, the book has been criticized for its over-reliance on the Bush family's perspective and rosy interpretation of events. Herskowitz himself is considered the ultimate "as-told-to" author, lending credibility to his account of what George W. Bush told him. Herskowitz's other books run the gamut of public figures, and include the memoirs of Reagan aide Deaver, former Texas Governor and Nixon Treasury Secretary John Connally, newsman Dan Rather, astronaut Walter Cunningham, and baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Nolan Ryan.
After Herskowitz was pulled from the Bush book project, the biographer learned that a scenario was being prepared to explain his departure. "I got a phone call from someone in the Bush campaign, confidentially, saying ‘Watch your back.' "
Reporters covering Bush say that when they inquired as to why Herskowitz was no longer on the project, Hughes intimated that Herskowitz had personal habits that interfered with his writing – a claim Herskowitz said is unfounded. Later, the campaign put out the word that Herskowitz had been removed for missing a deadline. Hughes subsequently finished the book herself – it received largely critical reviews for its self-serving qualities and lack of spontaneity or introspection.
So, said Herskowitz, the best material was left on the cutting room floor, including Bush's true feelings.
"He told me that as a leader, you can never admit to a mistake," Herskowitz said. "That was one of the keys to being a leader."
Ah, it's summertime, the flowers are in bloom, and the smell of panic wafts through the air of that malarial swamp on the Potomac River called the District of Columbia.
It's me again - "grandma / mental health professional / outside the beltway." I've just read the chapter of your new book that is offered on the downing street memo web site and have placed my order.
In the chapter, you state, "I have been asking myself why Americans find it so painful to delve..." I am writing now to offer a partial answer to that question. And in advance, I will state that you have my permission to use what I am saying, either anonymously or with my name, if you find it useful.
There is, of course, as you suggest, the possibility of "denial." And yes, denial is rampant, and some of it is as insidious and sinister in the Americans who harbor it as in the effects it wreaks.
All the lastest news... Read on...
MILITARY FAMILIES CHARGE BLAIR WITH WAR CRIMES -- WILL TAKE CASE TO INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
By Grace Reid, June 11, 2005
It has been widely reported that release of war documents from Downing Street finished Tony Blair in the last election. While that is true enough, the tide turned in the May 5th election when 10 bereaved families of British soldiers killed in Iraq confronted Tony Blair face to face, charging him with war crimes.
All the documentary evidence of Bush/Blair war crimes is now laid out for judicial review before the International Criminal Court, and, thanks to the BBC and the Sunday Times, for the inspection and review before the court of public opinion. This evidence is only now surfacing in the US -- through Knight-Ridder, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. This is the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq, and the beginning of the end of George Bush, Alberto Gonzales, & the whole criminal gang.
But nothing, no bombshell memorandum, no tabloid headlines, no amount of media or public attention has had the impact of the grief wracked faces of the bereaved families of the military dead. Ten families have changed the course of the British government, the course of history in the illegal war in Iraq, and ultimately the fate of the Bush administration.
For Immediate Release: June 11, 2005
Military Families Against the War, in Britain, and AfterDowningStreet.org, in the United States, are working together to demand answers to the questions raised by the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence suggesting that the rulers of both nations conspired to deceive the public, Congress, and Parliament with regard to justification for the Iraq War.
Military Families Against the War is an organization of people directly affected by the war in Iraq. Our relatives and loved ones are members of the British Armed Services. We are opposed to the continuing involvement of UK soldiers in a war that is based on lies.
Retired Editor of MAD Magazine is Mad:
The Downing Street Minutes is one more piece of evidence that supports my contention.
By Al Feldstein, Retired Editor of MAD Magazine
I respect and admire you for your Liberal, fair and responsible stances on many Political issues...
...but let's stop all the nit-picking crap and get to the real heart of the matter.
When are you...and the rest of the American public... going to take your heads out of the sand and face the awful truth about the wasted deaths and needless maiming of our innocent G.I.s and Iraqi civilians?
This week on CounterSpin: The Downing Street memo, minutes from a 2002 British intelligence briefing that indicate that the Bush administration was intent on invading Iraq despite its claims to the contrary, is being called a smoking gun--compelling, new evidence that Bush and Blair lied to get us into war.
So why does the U.S. press corps so far seem as uninterested in the memo as, well, as the White House would obviously like them to be? We'll hear from David Swanson, co-founder of the new coalition AfterDowningStreet.org
From Our E-mail In-Box:
My 19 year old son, Gordon Gentle, joined the army in November, 2003. He finished his six months training in April, 04. He was sent to Iraq, and was killed by a roadside bomb on the 28th of June, 2004.
They were sent to Iraq on a pack of lies. Blair has a lot to answer for. This war is wrong. It is an illegal war, and no one should be forced to to go and fight it. Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush lied to us all, and now MFSO [Military Families Speak Out] are not going to stop. We now have it in the hands of solicitors. I'll not give up on this. What was Iraq's crime to warrant such an illegal invasion? Was it that Iraq contains the second largest oil reserves in the world and was viewed as an easy target for western interest to plunder? No more lies. We have to get Blair and Bush in court.
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE (Massachusetts)
June 09, 2005 Thursday, ALL EDITIONS
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A1
By Richard Nangle; Telegram & Gazette Staff
Referring to the so-called Downing Street memo - minutes of a high-level British meeting in July 2002 - U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., yesterday accused the Bush administration of "dishonesty, lack of candor, and lack of planning" in launching war on Iraq.
Mr. Kennedy's statement comes a month after 90 members of Congress, including six from Massachusetts, signed a letter that asks President Bush to address questions raised by the secret British memo, which claims the president had decided by the summer of 2002 to invade Iraq regardless of evidence of weapons of mass destruction there.
From Washington Post Listing: "Reliable Sources looks at coverage of the Downing Street memo and Hillary Rodham Clinton; with The Washington Post's John Harris, the Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Opinion Journal's John Fund. Also, the New York Times's John Tierney talks about conservatives in the mainstream media (CNN, 11:30 a.m.)."
Unease grows as war backing falls
By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff | June 11, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Faced with plummeting public support for the war in Iraq, a growing number of members of Congress from both parties are reevaluating the reasons for the invasion and demanding the Bush administration produce a plan for withdrawing US troops.
A bipartisan group of House members is drafting a resolution that calls on the administration to present a strategy for getting the United States out of Iraq, reflecting an increasing restlessness about the war in a chamber that 2 1/2 years ago voted overwhelmingly to support the use of force in Iraq.
Nearly six weeks after the disclosure of the Downing Street Memo -- which suggests that the Bush administration decided to go to war in Iraq much earlier than acknowledged, and that it manipulated pre-war intelligence to support that decision -- the memo still has not gotten much serious media coverage.
While many news organizations that ignored the story for weeks have finally touched on it, few have done more than repeating what the British Sunday Times reported on May 1, and much of the coverage has focused on the lack of coverage the memo has gotten, rather than on the content of the memo, its credibility, and what it means.
With a big boost from MoveOn.org, the count of signatures on Congressman Conyers' letter is 478,348 and climbing. Clearly we will pass the goal of 500,000 before the Congressman delivers the letter to the White House on Thursday and we all rally in Lafayette Square Park.
From DAWN -- DC Anti-War Network
WHO: Richard Cheney
WHAT: Will present the "Gerald R. Ford Journalism Awards"
WHERE: National Press Club -- 14 and F, NW -- nearest metro is Metro Center
WHEN: Monday, 11:30 till 2:15
The following chapter is taken from the forthcoming set on the Iraq war, Neo-CONNED! and Neo-CONNED! Again, from Light in the Darkness Publications. The comprehensive two-volume work deals with the run-up to and aftermath of the war with groundbraking and uncompromising analysis from 84 different contributors. Order this one-of-a-kind, must-read collection at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (toll-free) 877-447-7737. To be released August 1, now taking pre-publication orders.
IRAQI UNION LEADERS ON 'DEMOCRACY NOW!' (Pacifica Network) MONDAY, JUNE 13
From US Labor Against War
Published in St Louis Post Dispatch
By Edmund Fruchter, supporter of AfterDowningStreet.org
Friday, Jun. 10 2005
It might help if young people saw politicians, including the president, being held accountable for their actions.
While the Downing Street Memo - the "secret and strictly personal" minutes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's July 23, 2002, staff meeting on Iraq - has enjoyed wide circulation in the British press, it remains virtually unknown to most Americans. Is this a matter of ignorance or choice?
As an undergraduate at Washington University, I do a lot of reading. Having studied the student rebellion in France of May, 1968, the accounts of young Americans pouring blood on Vietnam draft records and the overwhelming activism of my parent's generation, what I wonder is: Who hit the reset button?
Via Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post:
Allegre , who keeps a diary on the liberal Daily Kos blog, reprints the e-mail she got in reply to her note about the Downing Street memo from John Walcott, Washington bureau chief for Knight Ridder newspapers:
Eric Boehlert at Salon did a more thorough and concise job than I did of flaying the corporate media over its mishandling of the Downing Street Memo story -- although personally I think the piece would have benefited from a few scatalogical insults hurled at melon heads like Tim Russert. Truth is a defense, after all.
In my own screed on the subject yesterday, I should have included links to two other organizations that are working to keep the story alive -- afterdowningstreet.com and the Big Brass Alliance, a coalition of lefty bloggers who are also pushing the issue with admirable intensity.
The Downing Street Memo Reveals Blood on the Hands of Our Complicit Corporate Media and the Hijacking of Our Collective Fear
By Anthony Wade, June 10, 2005, www.OpEdNews.com
On September the Eleventh, 2001, our worst fears were realized. I will never forget that day and traveling home by subway in New York City. Looking into the shell-shocked faces of people I never met, would never see again, realizing how truly close we all were. We were bound together by the experience. A collective outrage, a collective understanding that we were in this together. Unfortunately, some took this opportunity to capitalize on our collective fear.
By Lietta Ruger, a member family of MFSO, and supporter of AfterDowningStreet.org
Article posted at Suite 101, Military Families; Impact with Loved Ones Deployed in Iraq
THE SAD AND CONTINUING SAGA OF THE DOWNING STREET MEMO'S 'COVERAGE'
IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
By David Michael Green
Hey, here�s a question for you.
There�s a memo floating around out there, with loads of supporting evidence, suggesting
that George Bush wanted a war against Saddam Hussein real, real bad. So bad, in fact,
that he was willing to lie like a rug � nay, like a veritable Carpeteria warehouse � in order
to bring the rest of us along on his imperial superpower joyride. So bad, as well, that he
By Jim Mullins, Member of AfterDowningStreet.org
Also published by South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The rationales the Bush administration used to promote the Iraq war as necesary to counteract an imminent threat from Iraq have fallen by the wayside.
None of the commissions or congressional investigations have gone beyond the facile conclusions that "mistakes were made" or that the intelligence was "dead wrong." No official who gave the orders or held the responsibility has been named. President Bush took his re-election as a referendum on his previous policies, implying that we should move on.
Ekstra Bladet october 26 2003, 1. section, page 7
By Bo Elkj�r
Minister of foreign affairs Per Stig Moeller was told about US plans for war against Saddam Hussein in july last year
Saddam Hussein had to go. The cost and the means didn't matter, but the target was completely in the clear - and the danish minister of foreign affairs Per Stig Moeller (Conservative Party) was personally informed about the target on july 3 last year.
Saddam�s regime was to be removed by either diplomatic, economical or military means.
The Americans were concidering both 'secret operations and an open confrontation'.
By John R. MacArthur, Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2004.
"[W]here was the American press on September 7, 2002, a day when we sorely needed reporters? It was then that the White House propaganda drive began in earnest, with the appearance before television cameras of George Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David. Between them, the two politicians cited a �new� report from the UN�s International Atomic Energy Agency that allegedly stated that Iraq was �six months away� from building a nuclear weapon. �don�t know what more evidence we need," declared the president.