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Is this Bush's 'smoking gun'?


War opponents seek U.S. inquiry into U.K. memos Documents show war started before Congress approved
Toronto Star
TIM HARPER, WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON—Cindy Sheehan never supported George W. Bush's war in Iraq, and always thought the case for the invasion was built on a pyramid of lies.

Her son Casey shared her views, she says, even as he deployed for Iraq from Fort Hood, Tex. His perception didn't change even as the army specialist mounted a rescue mission in Sadr City 14 months ago, then took a bullet in the midst of chaotic battle, ending a life that didn't last 25 years.

He had been in Iraq only two weeks.

"I always knew this war was built on lies," the California mother said, "and I will always regret that I didn't speak out before my son died.

"But now I have something that confirms what I've always known. It's there in black and white and I'm not going to let this thing die."

The evidence that has so energized Sheehan and others in the United States is known as the Downing Street memos.

War opponents say the eight leaked documents are the smoking gun that prove the United States was taken to war on a pack of falsehoods and that more than 1,700 young Americans have died in a conflict that was preordained by the U.S. president and his advisers.

The memos outline a series of British perceptions of Bush's determination to rush to war in Iraq throughout 2002. They accuse Washington of fixing intelligence to fit its policy, lacking any plan for post-invasion reconstruction and trying to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliation against air strikes to provoke a pretence for invasion before the case was made at the United Nations.

So pervasive have the Downing Street memos become in the United States, they are now widely recognized by the acronym DSM.

Two Democratic representatives, John Conyers of Michigan and Barbara Lee of California, are behind a growing demand for a congressional inquiry into the memos, to determine whether Bush lied to the American people.

The two lawmakers have delivered a letter signed by more than 560,000 Americans seeking an inquiry.

"I want to wake up the country so more people don't get the type of wakeup call I got," Sheehan said.

Two of the memos have received the most attention in the United States.

The minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top officials refer to reports from Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain's intelligence service.

"Military action was now seen as inevitable," the minutes state. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by conjunction of terrorism and WMD (weapons of mass destruction). But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Two days earlier, another briefing memo given to Blair seems eerily prescient:

"A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on that point."

The memos were originally obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who wrote about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

Nobody in Blair's government has questioned their authenticity.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times this week, Smith argued that the real news in the July 23 memo was that the United States was engaged in an illegal air war against Iraq in the summer of 2002.

Smith pointed to the part of the memo quoting Geoffrey Hoon, Britain's defence secretary at the time, saying the U.S. had already begun "spikes of activity" over Baghdad, long before Washington argued its case before the United Nations.

The United States had begun intensified aerial bombing of Baghdad in May 2002, continuing through August of that year, in a bid to trigger a retaliation that would justify a full-out invasion.

When that did not happen, the U.S. responded by ratcheting up the bombing in September 2002, continuing until the invasion formally began on March 19, 2003.

Based on the memos he obtained, Smith argued that Bush and Blair really began an air war six weeks before the U.S. Congress approved military action.

In a March 25, 2002, memo British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Blair: "If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the U.S. would now be considering military actions against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with OBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaeda."

Three days earlier, Straw had received this assessment from Peter Ricketts, Blair's foreign policy adviser: "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

Initially, the Downing Street memos received scant attention in the United States, with large newspapers either ignoring them or relegating reports about them to their back pages.

With the benefit of hindsight, more mea culpas have been offered, but the original thought in the United States seemed to be that the so-called fixing of intelligence and the predetermination to take out Saddam had been thoroughly aired.

After all, similar allegations have been made in books published by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and renowned journalist Bob Woodward.

Bush had been forced to distance himself from perceptions that Saddam had somehow been linked to the terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001.

And successive government inquiries proved the intelligence used to justify the war was flawed at best, bogus at worst.

Downing Street memos? Yawn. Old news.

Yet, the mainstream media have been forced to look again by the likes of David Swanson, co-founder of a website called afterdowningstreet.org.

"I've worked on a lot of campaigns and coalitions, but I've never seen anything grow this fast," Swanson said.

"The reason we're getting so many hits is that readers couldn't go to the New York Times website or CNN.com to read these memos."

But Nile Gardiner, a specialist in U.S.-Britain relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation, called the memos "much ado about nothing."

He said they show no evidence that either government sought to mislead.

"I don't see how this can significantly shift opinion in the U.S. The debate here is all about troop casualties, how long they will remain there, what happens if they leave — debate which looks ahead, not backward."

Bush has been publicly asked about the memos only once, after a White House meeting with Blair on June 7.

First, he tried to question the motive of the leaks, coming on the eve of the British election, then denied he had made up his mind for an invasion as early as 2002.

"There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush said. "My conversation with the prime minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do?

"And so it's — look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."The Downing Street movement has grow since then.

The slogan "Ask me about the Downing Street memo" has been plastered on T-shirts, barbecue aprons, teddy bears, wall clocks and even shirts for your dog. They are available on the americablog.com website.

Network and cable news programs took up the case this week and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove have fielded questions about the memos.

Rove, on MSNBC's television show Hardball, dismissed the memos as "a Brit making a comment about what he perceived to be U.S. policy.''

Rumsfeld said that no one in the administration lied about weapons of mass destruction.

Still, the memos have dovetailed with a precipitous drop in public support for the war, emboldening war opponents and Democrats awakened from their post-election slumber.

"This is all about our system of checks and balances," Swanson said. "If you can't impeach when lives are lost on lies, when can you impeach?"

Additional articles by Tim Harper

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Well, it's out there, all the documentary evidence and proof needed to make an irrefutable case for impeaching Bush. The question now that will have enormous impact on our history as a nation is, will the American people create enough of a rallying cry to arouse the House and Senate to legitimate action? The case is there, but that will not be nearly enough. Bush has already shown an unprecedented proclivity to circumvent the normal oversights and veins of accountability built into our democratic system of government. We have a news media far removed from the viligance and integrity of the Watergate era. We, the citizenry, will have to take this on ourselves. Signing a petition, as I did, with the participation of 560,000 citizens and 122 members of Congress is a beginning, but just that. Our numbers need to be in the tens of millions, with each of us spreading the word to friends and family with the following instructions to aid in our effort:
At least once per week, 1. Contact each of your largest newspapers, television, and radio stations, demanding that the information in the DSM and it's implications be honestly and completely reported so that the people can decide it's relevance. Tell them in no uncertain terms that you will not support them until they do so.
2. Contact your Senators and Representatives and demand a full investigation begin immediately. Demand an answer, call/write several times if you have to in order to find out their true positions. And if they follow the typical rhetoric that this is old news, demand a further explanation and inform them this will have every impact on your voting decision in the 06 midterm election. These people work for you, and must be voted in by you, they will eventually listen, even the corrupt ones (not a problem for me in the 32nd district, with the very honorable Rep. Waters)
3. Participate in online petitions such as this and encourage your friends to do so.
Just look at the uproar that has already begun and the total change in political climate since the election. Bush's approval ratings are at historic lows for a contemporary president, only rivaled by Nixon in modern times at the height of the Watergate scandal. Bush has no mandate on his domestic agenda of Social Security or stem cell research, and a protest in the form of inadequate recruitment rates all signal that he is out of alignment with the American people, even without the DSM. But, again, that will not be enough, we must take action. Everyone can accomplish the steps disseminated above in just a few minutes a week, the question is will you? Have you? You can contact most of these individuals on the internet, although for local congress a phone call is much more efficacious. As an 11 year veteran of the Navy, I will not let Casey Sheehan or the 1,725 of his noble brothers and sisters go unforgotten, and to hold Bush accountable will send the clearest message to future wannabe-commander-in-chiefs that the American citizenry will not tolerate sending our precious armed forces into battle under less than the most absolutely necessary circumstances.

It is vitaly important to keep the pressure up on congress. With the 2006 election coming up our leverage is at its maximum. It is not only up to congress to impeach little George Stupid but it is also ultimately up to congress to end this insane war, we know little George is not going to do it. Congress holds the purse strings, no money no war.

Little George Stupid is allready running scared, witness the upcoming address to the nation next week, prepare for more lies and bull shit. Then there is the rantings and ravings of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donnie Runsfeld; these rascals are scared to death, they know a democratic congress means a lot of them will go to jail. There incoherent lashing out shows that they are on the defensive and running scared. Lets keep up the pressure!

We need to keep up the pressure and make Idiot Bush realize that we as Americans won't stand for deception; blatant greed and self-interest; inhumane treatment of prisoners; cut backs to military families who are serving our country proudly despite the senseless, illegal war they are fighting; the uncompassionate, insensivity this administration has shown for ALL of our people - the poor, the disabled, the middle class who are struggling harder than ever before in our history - the elderly who are losing financial ground steadily with this administration - the loss of funding for our schools - the cutbacks in funding for young adults who couldn't afford to go to school without this help - the disasterous, blatant environmental policies of this administration showing a TOTAL disregard for cleaner air, cleaner water and global warming - the total utter failure of his "No Children Left Behind" policy which should be called "No TEACHERS LEFT STANDING" - the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid - the loss of respect his blatant disregard for the opinions, attitudes and lives of those in foreign countries making them hate us all the more creating even MORE terrorists than ever and add to all this the worst part of all - our funding of an illegal, senseless war which has put us 5 BILLION dollars in debt and growing daily along with the list of killed, maimed for life, or post traumatic stress disorder military who DO come back in one piece and survive that horrific ordeal only to face NO jobs which pay enough so they can make a liveable wage - a cut in health care for them and a President who can only smirk like a Chimpanzee and say 'stay the course'. Yes, stay the course in HIS mind so that he, his father, Cheney and the Saudis all continue to make millions of dollars from their stock in Halliburton.

I say keep the pressure on - in 2006 we ALL vote Democratic and then impeach Bush and throw Cheney out on his ear as well. Throw Rice, Rove, Rumsfeld and the rest of his cabinet in jail where they belong.

They were ready to crucify Bill Clinton for having sex with Monica Lewinsky who was a consenting adult. I say, "Clinton lied but no one died". This is a far MORE serious group of offenses against our own people; our constitution and our futures than what Clinton did.

Keep the pressure on and impeach Bush NOW!

It is past time for the people in this country to wake up and realize they have been duped by this administration.
The bush supporters in Washington are either very greedy or downright stupid.
How many lives will be sacrificed for power and greed and arrogance??
Anyone who thinks this war is about anything other than oil and greed should check the facts and read the downing st.memo.
There is an excellent book that explains the reasons and planning behind this war.It is called "Cronies" and is written by Robert Bryce.
It explains how this country is actually being run by the state of Texas and has been since the 80's.
To fully realize what is going on you must read this book!!!

There is one thing I have noticed about the American public that will affect our efforts to bring about change: Forgetting how much hardship has been done previous to the times elections occur. In America, we seem to have a short attention span by only focusing on what is in front of us. We have to find a way to reestablish the energy and outrage generated from the various list of wrong doings the current Administration has put forth. Here is a list of things I hope will be in the face of the American public come the next election process:

1. The Lost and unaccounted for weapons left after we invaded Iraq.

2. The Jeff Gannon story.

3. The non-Democratic prisons and detention centers.

4. The lack of attention paid to the high cost of gas.

5. The truth resulting from the lie for why we invaded Iraq.

6. The lives lost resulting from the lies for why we invaded Iraq, both Americans and Iraqi’s.

7. The Downing Street Memo

8. The Downing Street Cover up – a work in process.

I think by point is demonstrated. We cannot forget the pack of lies that has caused me to question who we are as a country.

Joseph.

I have many years experience as a military planner and am a graduate of War College, the US's pre-eminent military school. I, like all senior US officers understand what war is supposed to be about - why we go to war and how it is supposed to be conducted. While there are a lot of damning statements in the 'Downing Street Memos', the issue of 'artificial intelligence' is not the worst. If you read the Cabinet Office Paper (the most important document of them all), the most significant statement was the one which said.

The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

This statement is highly disturbing, because as every senior military officer knows, you do not go to war unless you know what the environment will look like afterwards. If you don't have a clear picture in your mind about the post conflict situation, how can you go about achieving it. Indeed, how can you know that the situation will be better than what it is beforehand. Of course, every senior military officer knows this. The British cabinet seems to know it. How come the NSC didn't? And how can the military planning lacked a political framework. You can't plan a military campaign without a political context. War IS politics - it is not simply a bunch of soldiers shooting at each other. That has been clearly understood for centuries, at least since Clausewitz, who is bedtime reading at any military college.
I hope someone will point out these simple, well known facts to US politicians. If course, that was the job of the JCS, which they either failed to do or were ignored. Perhaps if the media starts shouting it, someone might listen.
Regards
Mike Swinbourne

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