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NYT's Downing Street Dissembling

Patrick Doherty,
June 13, 2005
Between the New York Times' reticence to report on the Downing Streem Memo and today's article by David Sanger, one has to wonder if the NYT is going beyond self-censorship and "fixing the facts" around its previous reporting.

David Sanger's article, Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made, published today, makes the claim that the newly released Cabinet office memo of July 21, 2002, profiled today on by Ray McGovern (see, Downing Street II) clears the White House of allegations substantiated by the minutes of the subsequent cabinet meeting on July 23, 2002, in which both the chief of British intelligence and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw assert that Bush had already decided to remove Saddam Hussein by military force.

To do this, Sanger quotes this line, from the July 21 memo:

Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq.

Unfortunately, Sanger is quoting well out of context. "No political decision have been taken" is directly referencing the type of military option and the time frame for war. It is not in any way contradicting the reporting from July 23rd that Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of British intelligence (codenamed "C"):

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

Or from Jack Straw:

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. 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.

Sanger, it seems, has mistaken the operational-level decisions regarding how and when to invade with the strategic-level decision to remove Saddam Hussein. On that score, the July 23 memo is clear. By that time, Bush had already decided to invade Iraq.

...And to deceive the American people.




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