HUME: When we come back with our panel, the memo that the left says the U.S. media won't talk about it. Well, we'll talk about it, next.
HUME: We're back with our panel.
It is regarded on the anti-war left as proof positive that President Bush intended from the start to go to war in Iraq and rigged American intelligence to support the case. It is called the Downing Street Memo, and it is such a focal point now that it even has its own Web site, www.downingstreetmemo.com .
Mort, what is the Downing Street Memo?
KONDRACKE: Well, the Downing Street Memo was an account of a secret...
HUME: Minutes, right?
KONDRACKE: ... minutes of a meeting of Tony Blair and his top national security team in July 2002. And the head of foreign intelligence had just been to the United States to go around the administration and see what the policy was likely to be. And when he reported, as the memo says - - and this is paraphrasing now, it's not quoting him -- that military action was now seen as inevitable -- that is in Washington -- Bush wanted to remove Saddam...
HUME: In Washington about Iraq?
KONDRACKE: Right. Bush wanted to remove Saddam though military action -- through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. And this is the key controversial sentence. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Now, does that mean that we are being jimmied, we are being -- that intelligence was being cooked?
HUME: But this guy that said this based this on his conclusion on discussing this with national security aides surrounding President Bush, right?
KONDRACKE: Right, right.
HUME: Not policymakers?
KONDRACKE: Right, and the adversaries of the policy are fastening on this sentence to say, "Aha!"
HUME: The smoking gun.
Ceci, is it a smoking gun?
CONNOLLY: Hard to say that it's a smoking gun. It certainly raises legitimate questions about timing, and motives, and again, going back to the discussion of how good our and everyone else's intelligence was about Iraq.
There was a group that tried to make this a campaign issue against Tony Blair. And it potentially contributed some to his damage and loss of some support, but he did in the end win reelection. So I think that's another reason why this is not getting ongoing attention and scrutiny.
HUME: Well, is it -- does it really say, in effect, that the intelligence -- I mean, does it establish with any authority that U.S. intelligence was manipulated for the purpose of supporting this case?
CONNOLLY: No. I mean, I think the most factual statement in there is that the intelligence was thin. And that's something that we have all come to realize over the past two-year period now.
KONDRACKE: Well, that was the observation -- I'm sorry.
BARNES: That's true, that's...
BARNES: What I want to know is -- wait a minute.
HUME: Yes, but what about the burden -- what does he mean by intelligence was fixed around the policy?
BARNES: He clearly meant it was fixed, it was manipulated. But if it were manipulated, if the U.S. manipulated it, how did they also manipulate French intelligence, and German intelligence, and British intelligence, and fool the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and that -- what was it -- Silberman-Robb Commission that looked into the whole thing. They fooled everybody, and manipulated the intelligence all over the world.
Obviously, you could read that "fixed" thing that way, but that's obviously not what it means.
HUME: Well, it may have been what it meant, but, well, the question is...
BARNES: Well, it's just incorrect.
HUME: ... whether it's true, right.
KONDRACKE: That observation that the intelligence was thin was the observation of Jack Straw who was against the policy and resigned as foreign secretary...
HUME: Jack Straw?
BARNES: Robin Cook.
KONDRACKE: Robin Cook. Robin Cook. I'm sorry.
HUME: Not Jack Straw. Jack Straw is the guy that came in, in his place.
KONDRACKE: You're right, you're right. Robin Cook was the foreign secretary at the time.
HUME: That's why we don't need a picture of Jack Straw. Good.
KONDRACKE: Sorry, you're right.
CONNOLLY: But it's hard to disagree at this point in hindsight that the intelligence was not very good. We don't know why.
BARNES: Well, we all know that.
HUME: But the key question here -- look, this is a memo that is being cited in support of the proposition that the policy had been decided ahead of time. And the policy was war, military action to depose Saddam Hussein. Now, deposing Saddam Hussein, I think it's fair to say, had been the policy of the U.S. government since 1998, when actually there was a measure passed by Congress that's called -- what was it called, the Iraqi Freedom Law or something like that?
BARNES: For regime change.
HUME: Right, a call for regime change in Iraq, which meant getting rid of Saddam Hussein. So that was clearly the policy. But this said that the policy was to do it by military means and that intelligence was manipulated, so the point -- is this not, in fact, evidence that that was the case, at least?
KONDRACKE: Well, I think it's evidence that the United States was going to put military pressure on Saddam Hussein and, in the end of the game, would probably have to go to war.
HUME: Ceci suggested that one reason why this didn't get much coverage in the U.S. media, in part because everybody knew the intelligence was bad. Tony Blair fought this, got reelected. Any other reason, quickly?
KONDRACKE: I don't think that the American press is trying to protect George Bush, because that's the...
BARNES: We've been through all this. We've examined all the intelligence, or lack of good intelligence. You know, this is -- we know the answer here. It's not that the intelligence was manipulated, it's that it was flawed.
HUME: That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see a Hollywood casting call for a movie about Washington. Wait until you see who is playing whom, next.