Downing Street Memos Explained in Plain English

By Carmen Yarrusso

The Bush and Blair administrations have dismissed the leaked British memos (including the so-called Downing Street Memo) that provide details of what top British officials believed about the case for war in the months leading up to the Iraq invasion. Both administrations have characterized the memos as “nothing new

Protesting war online, not in streets

The Baltimore Sun
Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON - As the war in Iraq drags on, the daily violence mocks the "Mission Accomplished" banner that was a backdrop to President Bush's 2003 post-invasion flight to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

With the death toll of Americans surpassing 1,700, the most visible reminders to the nation of that cost are the periodic displays of photos of the dead in newspapers and on television.

The president's support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, has plunged from 45 percent of those surveyed in February to only 37 percent. And a majority now say that invading Iraq was a mistake that has not, as Mr. Bush keeps insisting, made Americans safer.


Winston-Salem Journal (Winston Salem, NC)

The six so-called "Downing Street Memos" written by aides to British Prime Minister Tony Blair don't contain much new information regarding President Bush's early Iraq policies. But they add credibility to charges that Bush decided first to invade and then fashioned evidence and arguments for doing so.

The memos were leaked to British journalists in fall 2004, but they received little attention, except from anti-war activists, until recently. That is because they mostly repeat much of what the press had already reported and what administration critics, such as Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council counter-terrorism official, had said.

Downing memos deeper than White House lets on

Detroit Free Press

GRANTED, FINDING a way to end the bloodshed in Iraq is at present more pressing than re-examining the rationale that was developed to start the war there more than two years ago. But the so-called Downing Street memos are still too significant to be dismissed as simply old news -- as the White House would like -- or left to historians.

They speak to the credibility of the administration of President Bush, which is telling the American people that significant progress is being made in Iraq and the murderous insurgency there is in its final throes. Meantime, U.S. military leaders say rebel attacks have remained constant at 50-60 a day, and last month was the deadliest for Iraqi civilians since the March 2003 U.S. invasion.

Demand the truth for democracy

University Wire
By Daniel Sherman, Iowa State Daily
AMES, Iowa

Consider the following questions.

Is honesty not truthfulness? Is truthfulness not a part of justice? Are justice and the law not bound together? Is the rule of law not used to sustain the social order and structure among people? In a democracy, is it not the people, bounded by the law of the land and protected within its body, who elect their leaders? And are these leaders not expected to be honest and just?

If our leaders do not value honesty but defer to deception, how are we to know whether the information they offer is the truth or not? If we are told our country is at war and the war is just, how are we to judge whether it is so? If our leaders do not value honesty, then why should we trust them?

Bush administration's supposed control over reality is starting to crumble

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
By Eric Mink

Something is happening here, Bob Dylan wrote 40 years ago in a somewhat different context, but hyperventilating liberals don't seem to know what it really is.

Starting about seven weeks ago, impassioned lefties latched onto some secret British government memos that they regard as smoking-gun evidence of Bush administration deceptions leading up to the war with Iraq. The leaked documents, dating from the spring and summer of 2002, describe discussions about Iraq between top British officials and high-ranking Bush policymakers.

The authenticity of their contents is unchallenged, but even so, the memos only record the Brits' memories and impressions. They are not word-for-word transcripts of their encounters with the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush power structure.

Cheney Comes Clean

Just kidding. But he does lie with a certain panache:

BLITZER: Did you read the so-called Downing Street memo?

CHENEY: No, I did not.

BLITZER: Well it suggests British officials came here before the war, months before the war and said the administration had already decided to go to war against Saddam Hussein. The intelligence wasn't there, and the memo says it will be fixed around the policy, the intelligence. In other words, they were going to make it up. You were going to make it up as you go along to justify removing Saddam Hussein from power.

You dispute that. I assume you dispute that.

Heads in the Iraqi Sand

Los Angeles Times
June 24, 2005 Friday

Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one to let reality get in the way of his message. With his credibility already strained after it turned out that none of his pre-war assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were true, he is nonetheless still deluded by wishful thinking. A case in point: his recent assertion that increased violence in Iraq indicates the insurgency there is in its "last throes, if you will."

No, we won't, and neither, as it turns out, will the Army's top brass. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf, essentially said that was nonsense while testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. "I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," he said, adding that the strength of the insurgency is "about the same" as it was six months ago.

Oh Well That's Alright Then

John Podhoretz tells us in today's New York Post that the Downing Street Minutes are old news, because he, Mr. Podhoretz, was out there urging Bush to ignore international law, the Constitution, and public opinion and start the dang war to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, BEFORE the meeting on Downing Street. But the DSM actually tell us that the arguments about WMD and terrorism were false excuses for a war, not reasons so strong that they justified a war at all costs. And Podhoretz's having to urge the President on to war doesn't seem the strongest proof that the President's decision to go to war was already public knowledge.

Iraqi PM meets Bush as memo questions grow

By Sam Knight, Times Online

The Prime Minister of Iraq will meet President Bush at the White House today, amid growing unease in Washington over the invasion and the continued presence of US soldiers in Iraq.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrived in Washington yesterday and visited wounded American soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Today he will meet Mr Bush at what the White House has described as "a critical time".

"The President looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Jaafari," said Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary. "This meeting does come at a critical time in Iraq's historic transformation."

Can't Find Reporters, But They've Got a Columnist!

The War President
The New York Times

VIENNA--In this former imperial capital, every square seems to contain a giant statue of a Habsburg on horseback, posing as a conquering hero.

America's founders knew all too well how war appeals to the vanity of rulers and their thirst for glory. That's why they took care to deny presidents the kingly privilege of making war at their own discretion.

But after 9/11 President Bush, with obvious relish, declared himself a "war president." And he kept the nation focused on martial matters by morphing the pursuit of Al Qaeda into a war against Saddam Hussein.

Iraq Occupation: This war can't be won


The questions about U.S. presence in Iraq aren't about winning or losing. The driving factor must be improving, protecting and respecting the lives of the Iraqi people.

Those are people such as Hassan Juma Awad and Faleh Abood Umara, two oil worker union leaders from the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Visiting Seattle with the King County Labor Council yesterday, the two men had no doubt about what the United States can do next to help their country recover from the reign of Saddam Hussein, whom Awad refers to as "a criminal, in capital letters."

Ann Wright on the Follies of Bush’s War

William Hughes is a Baltimore attorney and the author of "Andrew Jackson vs. New World Order" (Authors Choice Press) and “Saying ‘No’ to the War Party

Bush's pre-emptive war pre-empted Congress

"Bush had no authorization, not even a fig leaf. He was simply attacking another nation because he'd decided to do so. This pre-emptive war pre-empted our own Congress, as well as international law. "

Friday, June 24, 2005
Bush's pre-emptive war pre-empted Congress
Seattle Post Intelligencer

It's bad enough that the Bush administration had so little international support for the Iraqi war that their "coalition of the willing" meant the United States, Britain and the equivalent of a child's imaginary friends. It's even worse that, as the British Downing Street memo confirms, administration officials had so little evidence of real threats that they knew from the start that they were going to have to manufacture excuses to go to war. What's more damning still is that they effectively began this war even before the congressional vote.

New Flyer: Free Supplies Available

This campaign is being driven by the generosity and creativity of volunteers.

Dave Stengel has created a new brochure:

And he's willing to mail to you for free a supply to distribute. Do not ask for more than you can make good use of. Hand them out at events, or go door to door. Please don't stick them on windshields, which is annoying, where it isn't illegal.

To get a supply, send an Email with the subject "Downing Street Handouts" to

And donate the money you save to

Forget You Heard About Those Memos

Published on Thursday, June 23, 2005 by The Free Lance-Star (Fredricksburg, VA)
by Rick Mercier

The smoke has just about cleared following the small brush fire caused by the Downing Street memos, and responsible observers agree that we can ignore them.
Perhaps I shouldn't have said smoke. I didn't mean to imply that the secret British documents are smoking guns that show the Bush administration made up its mind to invade Iraq as early as March 2002 even though the intelligence did not support such action.

These memos certainly aren't smoking guns. In fact, they don't even tell us anything new, and if you had any sense you'd know that, just like you'd know that our leaders choose war only as a last option, that we invaded Iraq because we were attacked first, and that the Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes.

Letter: Vital evidence

Daily Astorian

Bush is a visionary. He apparently had the foresight to anticipate that something like the Downing Street minutes would leak, exposing his early decision and preparations for the Iraq Invasion. There was insufficient legal reason to invade so he exaggerated Iraq’s WMDs: “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Fixing the facts

Missoula Independent
by Andisheh Nouraee

Memo to Blair: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

Anatomy of a Coverup

ZNet | Iraq
by Sanjoy Mahajan; June 23, 2005

On May 1 the London _Sunday Times_ published leaked minutes -- the Downing Street Memo -- of a high-level British cabinet meeting held on 23 July 2002 that discussed contingencies, political and military, for invading Iraq.

In the Cabinet meeting, C [the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove] 'reported on his recent talks in Washington', where 'military action was now seen as inevitable' and 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' In other words, the books were being cooked to give Bush his war.

The planners assumed 'that the UK would take part in any military action.' So they had to consider the illegality of the war. Unfortunately, 'the Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.' The Attorney-General dismissed the three possible excuses: 'self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation'. Self-defense couldn't work partly because, the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: 'the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.' How could the government overcome the illegality? The memo, and the _Sunday Times_, quotes this puzzle-solving contribution from Jack Straw:

Washington Post Dot Com Seems to Have All the Talent: Does the Print Edition Need New Editors?

Why the Mainstream Media Is Catching On
Internet Bloggers Push Downing Street Memo Onto the News Agenda

By Jefferson Morley Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2005; 12:20 PM

The Downing Street Memo continues to spread in American political discussion despite efforts to dismiss its significance.

The DSM story, as the top-secret British document it is known on the Internet, has legs because it really represents two stories: an emerging alternative history of how the United States came to attack Iraq and a story of how the New Media has usurped some of the Old Media's power to set the agenda.

Just say Noruba

Arianna Huffington - Arianna Online

06.23.05 - I was thinking a lot over the weekend about the news and about how the news becomes the news, and then I read Jay Rosen's brilliant take on the Downing Street Memo coverage [to read Jay Rosen's whole piece go to]. Rosen elaborates on Josh Marshall's assertion that "news stories have a 24-hour audition on the news stage, and if they don't catch fire in that 24 hours, there's no second chance." Rosen's theory is that blogs have become the news cycle's appeals court, and that the Downing Street Memo story is still alive because it won on appeal. And thank God.

Can't Get on TV? Get on a Bridge!

The Franklin County Democratic League is organizing bridge visibilities for the first day of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Friday July 1st, from 3-6 p.m.

We plan to hold signs in protest of the Bush Administration Iraq war policy and in support of the Downing Street Memo investigation. For those of you who have participated in the bridge visibilities with us in the past, you will remember that this is an afternoon of heavy traffic. We can share our message with hundreds of people as they travel north to frolic in the hills and lakes of New Hampshire and Vermont while other Americans are dying in Iraq.


IRAQ WAR MEDIA TRACKING -- Thanks For Your HelpGrace ReidJune 22, 2005

MEDIA TRACKING TO BRING END TO WAR IN IRAQThanks for your help, KossacksI have been receiving loads of replies on my media tracking project, and some surprising breaks in the US media reporting of the illegal war in Iraq.I have started four blogs for media trackers who want to help in this project.
To break through media blackout.  To bring the news to the US, (via the UK, if necessary)  To counterattack falsehood with fact, to expose the illegal war as it was developing and reported in the US.  Ultimately the goal of this project is to bring a speedy end to the war in Iraq through the public becoming more aware of the insidious origins of the illegal war of aggression against Iraq.Pick a target area, and dates to work within (Google lets you search between certain dates) when you get your list, find US sources for stories, then a list of UK stories.THERE ARE FOUR BLOGS YOU CAN POST TO. (e mail me if you want itsgrimm at hotmail dot com)

The history of smoking guns

Alexander Cockburn
June 23, 2005

As long as I've lived in America, there's been this tragic-comic ritual known as the "hunt for the smoking gun," a process by which our official press tries to inoculate itself, and its readers, from political and economic realities.

The big smoking gun issue back in 1973 and 1974 concerned Richard Nixon. Back and forth the ponderous debate raged in editorial columns and news stories: Was this or that disclosure a "smoking gun"? Fairly early on in the game, it was clear to about 95 percent of the population that Nixon was a liar, a crook and guilty as charged. But the committee rooms on Capitol Hill and Sunday talk shows were still filled with people holding up guns with smoke pouring from the barrel telling one another solemnly that no, the appearance of smoke and the stench of recently detonated cordite notwithstanding, this was not yet the absolute, conclusive smoking gun.

What to Make of a Memo

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

"Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq's violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action."
- George W. Bush, October 16, 2002

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

From Congress to union halls: Demand widens: Exit Iraq!

Tim Wheeler
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 06/23/05 12:24

Lawmakers respond to public outcry

WASHINGTON — “Let Conyers in!

Limbaugh baselessly suggested Downing Street memo "may be a fake"

Media Matters, June 21, 2005

Syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested that the Downing Street memo "may be a fake" and compared it to the disputed memos used by CBS in its controversial story about President Bush's National Guard service.

From the June 20 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I purposely haven't talked about this Downing Street memo much because, frankly, a) it didn't interest me and, you know, if it doesn't interest me, I'm not going to talk about it. And the reason it didn't interest me is because it was just another one of these ginned up things by the libs, and it looks like it's got some similarities to Bill Burkett and the forged documents of CBS and Rathergate.

Cindy Sheehan on Hardball

Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of After Downing Street coalition member Gold Star Families for Peace, appeared last night on Hardball on MSNBC.

GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I'm David Gregory, in tonight for Chris Matthews.

Sue Russell and Cindy Sheehan have suffered pain and loss in such a personal way because of the Iraq war. Sue Russell's son, Lance Corporal Joshua Doyle (ph) was ambushed while on patrol in Iraq July 19, 2003. His thigh bone was shattered, his sciatic nerve severed. And he was shot through the knee. He is still recuperating from the physical and emotional trauma of that attack.

Movement takes Bush to task

June 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - An online movement of bloggers and political activist groups is trying to keep the Downing Street memos in the public eye and stoking support for a congressional investigation.

The memos, sent among top British foreign intelligence officials, state that President George W. Bush was predisposed to going to war with Iraq and "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The After Downing Street movement wants Congress to examine whether Bush's path to war is grounds for impeachment.

The movement began three weeks ago, about one month after the first of eight memos was leaked to the British press. Within the first three days, the site received a million hits from 10,000 different people.

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