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Wizfizzle: Blogging from Beyond the Far Right
There's something very democratic about the ability of any ordinary schmuck with a computer to set up a blog and loudly defend dictatorship. Here's a dissection of wixbangblog.com's confusions of the moment.
Mr. Wiz posted today the comments that Blair and Bush made yesterday at their press conference. Then he wrote:
"From the Boston Globe grabs [sic] this comment from AfterDowningStreet.org (who are pissing in the wind about impeachment):''We now have official government minutes of an official government meeting putting down what a lot of people suspected. If these minutes are accurate, Bush lied to the American people and to Congress."
The person who chaired the meeting (Blair) just denied the accuracy of the minutes, leaving you with precisely squat.
[Actually, he did not do that explicitly. He disputed key facts. So, we're left with a large body of evidence, including these official minutes, all pointing in one direction, while the Prime Minister turns and sniffs in the other direction, but offers precisely squat beyond his denial of some of the facts presented in the minutes and many other pieces of evidence available at www.afterdowningstreet.org.]
Even The Washington Post has signed the certificate of expiration on the manufactured controversy.
[That's what we all thought too, with regard to Dana Milbank's column, and we bombarded him with Emails, but he replied by claiming that he had meant that the silence was over, not the story. Go figure. You'd think he would have written that differently. In any event, there are others at the Post keenly interested in pursuing this, and more power to them.]
But his query [Steve Holland] ended a slightly strange episode in the American media in which the potentially explosive report out of London had become a seldom acknowledged elephant in the room.
The Times report was intriguing: It showed that the head of British foreign intelligence told Blair seven months before the invasion of Iraq that Bush saw military action against Saddam Hussein as "inevitable" and that intelligence in Washington was "being fixed around the policy." In part, the memo never gained traction here because, unlike in Britain, it wasn't election season, and the war is not as unpopular here. In part, it's also because the notion that Bush was intent on military action in Iraq had been widely reported here before, in accounts from Paul O'Neill and Bob Woodward, among others.
I'll have one more giant nail in the coffin of the story - proof as to what "fixed" actually means - in a separate exclusive story later today.
Update: Here's the "fixed" story
Those pushing the Downing Street Memo have built their house of cards entirely on the pen of Matthew Rycroft, Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, in is role as meeting note taker. Especially drawing their attention is this curious line:
"But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
My initial take on the line was that it was the peculiarly British phrasing of intel speak regarding intelligence gathering and analysis related to Iraq's WMD program and terrorist ties.
[How peculiarly insightful. Sadly, it's not just one word, but a sentence in a paragraph in a document, a sentence that - in order to take on Bangman's desired meaning -- would have to begin with "And" rather than "But" and appear in a document without this sort of material: "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 neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force." In addition, Wizzer would need to reread Prime Minister Blair's comments from yesterday and explain this: "No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all."]
The "smoking gun" crowd reads the word "fixed" conspiratorially to mean "doctored," as proof that intelligence was altered (or invented) to justify war.
With 372 liberal bloggers alligned to push for more media coverage of the story, it's ironic that none of them (to my knowledge) could be bothered to do a little background research on Rycroft. Clearly an understanding of the Rycroft's writing style and contextual use of the word "fixed" might help shed light on the meeting notes and further the understanding of the meaning of that oddly worded line.
In a matter of minutes I was able to find (via Google) this interoffice e-mail (Available in this PDF from the Hutton Inquiry) where we see how Rycroft (just a few months after the Downing Street memo was produced) uses the word "fixed" in everyday official correspondence. [Retyped from PDF]
From: Matthew RycroftSent: 18 September 2002 17:52To: -snipped-Subject: RE: Ann Taylor MP
This is now fixed for 0800 in John Scarlett's office tomorrow morning, followed by her intelligence briefing at 0900, during which she will pass on her comments to John. John will pass on her comments to us after that.
In the U.S. the word "set" would usually be used instead of "fixed." It seems that Rycroft uses the word fixed, when talking about making something set. Rewriting the sentence with the word set takes a lot of air out of the sails of those pushing the memo.
"But the intelligence and facts were being set around the policy."
Fails to sizzle, no?
[No, fails to resemble a believable sentence in a coherent paragraph in a credible set of minutes. What does that mean? The facts were being booked for appointments with Colin Powell to see which ones he'd be willing to utter? Whether facts were being gathered around the policy, used to bolster the policy, or signed up for dinner dates with the policy, the policy was not being based on the facts. Rather something contrary to that usual state of affairs was underway. Hence the word "but." The preceding sentence tells us what justification Bush WANTED for his action. The sentence in question does not inform us that this justification is based on facts. Rather, it makes clear that facts are being "fixed" to fit what Bush wants. Thus Blair's denial yesterday.]
Conspiracy theorists can move the goalposts all they want, but when the chair of the meeting (Blair) says intelligence was not "fixed", when The Butler Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee say intelligence was not "fixed,"
[Quoting a nice summary from Media Matters: The Senate Intelligence committee's report examined the creation of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was the intelligence community's most comprehensive and authoritative statement about Iraq. But the committee decided at the outset not to investigate the Bush administration's use of intelligence, including public statements by administration officials, in the first phase of its investigation.
Though the committee initially planned to conduct the second phase of its investigation following the 2004 election, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) indicated in March that the committee's investigation into whether the administration misrepresented intelligence judgments in its public statements would be indefinitely postponed, because of administration officials' insistence that "they believed the intelligence, and the intelligence was wrong." "[W]e sort of came to a crossroads, and that is basically on the back burner," Roberts said.
The 9-11 Commission report said even less about the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The 567-page report focuses entirely on issues surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks, addresses Iraq only in the context of Al Qaeda and September 11, and does not assess the accuracy or honesty of the Bush's public statements about the Iraqi threat.
Other official reports have similarly avoided the question of whether the Bush administration politicized intelligence. The Robb-Silberman commission's report on intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction noted: "[W]e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community." The Duelfer report presented the results of the Iraq Survey Group's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq following the invasion but did not compare these findings either with Bush's prewar statements to the public or with the prewar assessments of the intelligence community.
The British inquiry into prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons program, known as the Butler report, determined that Bush's 2003 State of the Union address claim that the "British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was "well-founded," but did not examine the administration's other uses of intelligence. But despite the report's findings, Bush's statement clearly contradicted the judgments of the U.S. intelligence community: in a statement released in July 2003, then-CIA Director George Tenet said agency officials "differed with the British dossier on the reliability of the uranium reporting." ]
and when the author of the memo's use of the word "fixed" doesn't jibe with the moonbat spin; it's game over. In regards to the "fixed" line, the noted colloquialism, "that dog don't hunt" applies.
I have a request for comment in to Matthew Rycroft (who is now the British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina), and will report back if he grants me an interview.