Sunday, June 12, 2005


Do We Need a Smoking Gun?

The "Downing Street Memo" has hit the mainstream press. A front page story in the Washington Post reports that the memo written by high-ranking British officials eight months before the U.S. invasion "notes that U.S. 'military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace,' but adds that 'little thought' has been given to, among other things, 'the aftermath and how to shape it.'"

The memo said that Bush and his aides believed war was inevitable, and that the "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." A key emphasis of the memo is that U.S. officials were unrealistic about the likely cost of a war against Iraq. For example, the Post notes, Paul Wolfowitz -- one of the chief architects of Bush's war policy -- testified in Feb. 2003, "I can't imagine anyone here wanting to spend another $30 billion to be [in Iraq] for another 12 years." The amount allocated by Congress for the Iraq war, as of May, has actually been more than $208 billion since then. (Other sources put the total war expenditures at closer to $300 billion -- a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we're talking real money.)

Liberal columnist Michael Kinsley, on the other hand, thinks the Downing Street Memo is much ado about nothing, and in his column ("No Smoking Gun") even defends Bush's pre-invasion disembling about Iraq: "Fixing intelligence and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning the war in Iraq," and adds that the memo offers no definitive proof that Bush officials actually lied in making their case for war. However, I seem to remember a few comments about weapons of mass destruction, and all that, that strayed a rather long way from the truth...

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