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CNN Reports on Why It's Not Reporting on the Downing Street Minutes

Here's a transcript. Check out the intro to this segment in which they suggest that a soldier who just died probably didn't think much about how the war got started. Please post if you've ever met an Iraq War vet who didn't think about that.

BROWN: An American soldier died today when a roadside bomb went off near a military convoy outside Tikrit. The soldier, he or she, we don't yet know, was the 16th to die this month in Iraq and the 350th to die this year.

We don't imagine he or she spent much time thinking about how the war came to pass or why. Troops have more important things to worry about. But back home, a memo from Britain's intelligence service is once again raising those long-running questions. Questions also of why the memo isn't getting attention that some, some, believe it deserves.

Here's CNN's Jeff Greenfield.


JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): It was the question many of President Bush's critics have been waiting to hear for weeks: a question posed by Reuter's correspondent Steve Holland to the president and to British prime minister, Tony Blair.

STEVE HOLLAND, REUTER'S CORRESPONDENT: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says, "Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action." Is this an accurate reflection of what happened?

GREENFIELD: The so-called Downing Street memo has been a huge story in Great Britain ever since "The Times" of London published it on May 1, just four days before the British general election.

The memo says that the head of British intelligence told the British government that President Bush saw a war against Saddam as inevitable and that intelligence in Washington was, quote, "being fixed around the policy." That idea was adamantly denied by both leaders.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all.

BUSH: There's nothing farther from the truth. Both of us didn't want to use our military.

GREENFIELD (on camera): Two questions surround this memo. First, even if it is an accurate summary of how Bush was feeling in the summer of 2002, would it matter?

Second, why did it stir so much attention on one side of the Atlantic and hardly any at all in the United States?

(voice-over) The second question is relatively easy to answer. The memo surfaced just before Britons went to the polls in an election where Blair's support for the Iraq war was a major issue. The war's unpopularity in Britain was one reason why Blair's Labour Party won with a sharply reduced majority in Parliament.

In the United States, by contrast, the high-voltage presidential campaign ended months ago.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK": I think there's a certain amount of Iraq fatigue, at least among the media, which is hard to kind of fathom in some way. It goes in cycle.

GREENFIELD: Richard Wolffe is "Newsweek's" senior White House correspondent.

WOLFFE: I think there is an appetite to rerun this historical debate. The question is, is it worth still being there? What was the reason for being there? And is it still worth defending and fighting for?

GREENFIELD: Further, the idea that Bush has been committed to the removal of Saddam for a very long time has been raised before. Among others, by former treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill and by former White House terrorism chief, Richard Clarke.

But what about the substance? It is true that all through the last months of 2002 and the first months of 2003, the president was publicly insisting that war was not inevitable, that he was looking for a way to pressure Saddam peacefully.

BUSH: I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, I hope we don't have war. I feel the same way.

War's not my first choice.

I made the decision to go to the United Nations because I wanted to try to do this peacefully.

WOLFFE: We had no idea that he had really decided to go to war, which is what this memo says. All of the public comments were that the president had no war plans on his desk.

GREENFIELD: But the memo's account of the past is not the biggest Iraq dilemma facing the president. It's what's happening now: the continuing violence, the absence of any near-term likelihood of a conclusion, and the financial drain.

Iraq and Afghanistan will now cost some $400 billion. And a just released ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows a clear public shift. For the first time, more than half believe the Iraq war has not made America safer. Two thirds say the United States is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting. More than 40 percent now see Iraq as something like another Vietnam.

(on camera) The real power of this memo, then, is its potential to reinforce beliefs that flow from current events. The more worried Americans are about the present, the more pessimistic they become about the future, the more likely they are to have doubts about what really happened in the past.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: More politics here. The thing we like most about Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic Party, these days is that he's good copy. It's a selfish thing, I know. But every honest reporter will tell you, good copy beats bad copy in a heartbeat.

Over the last couple of weeks, Dr. Dean has been especially good copy, which may or may not be good politics.

Here's CNN's Bill Schneider.




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