Akron Beacon Journal
June 29, 2005
The media coverage of Watergate has been extensive since Mark Felt identified himself as Deep Throat. Granted, it's an intriguing story and definitely should not be forgotten, but is it worth all the ink when we have a looming scandal of perhaps equal significance in a memo that almost cost British Prime Minister Tony Blair his bid for re-election? The so-called ''Downing Street memo,'' the top-secret minutes from a Blair Cabinet meeting concerning a previous meeting in Washington, D.C., between top British and American security officials, was leaked to the London Times and subsequently published May 1. Among the more disturbing statements in it was this: ''Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.''
The memo dates from July 23, 2002, and supports what had been revealed by two previous members of the Bush administration, Paul O'Neill and Richard Clark: that at a very early point in his first term, President Bush was fixated on removing Saddam Hussein as Iraq's head of state. It also raises serious questions about the timing of the invasion and underscores the lack of planning for the occupation of Iraq.
Keep in mind that at the time the memo was produced, the Bush administration was telling the American public it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis. And the president had not yet approached Congress to request the use of force against Iraq.
In a related story, the Beacon Journal printed an Associated Press article June 5 alleging that John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, orchestrated the 2002 firing of U.N. official Jose Bustani, in part because the Brazilian was working to have U.N. weapon inspectors investigate reports of chemical weapons in Baghdad (''Bolton allegedly arranged ouster''). If the article's allegations are true, Bustani's firing, which took place several months after the production of the Downing Street memo, would seem to support its statement that facts were being fixed around policy.
In light of the revelations surrounding the Downing Street memo, and the decision of the Senate Intelligence Committee to beg off its promise to investigate rumors of intelligence manipulation, it becomes incumbent on the press to step up. If the contents of the memo are true, and intelligence was fixed to provide a pretense for invading Iraq, it is an extremely serious betrayal of public trust, and the American public has an absolute right to know just what in the world is going on.