James S. Robbins, senior fellow in national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, takes apart the Downing Street Memo at NRO.
- The memo raises three issues dear to the hearts of President Bush's critics - the timing of the decision to go to war with Saddam, the WMD rationale, and the use (read: abuse) of intelligence to create the casus belli. One paragraph in the memo conveniently contains all three:
C [Richard Dearlove, Head of MI-6] 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. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
One newest morphs of the "timing" argument from the left is that the memo proves that Bush lied to Congress when he sought and received authorization to go to war. To buy into this argument you must suspend all knowledge of the recent history of war in the US, since Presidents rarely bothered with that formality. Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Panama, Grenada, etc. were fought without a Congressional authorization. Congress has consistently abdicated it's responsibilities in this regards (presumably preferring to control longer engagements via budgetary means), and Presidents of both parties have used the CIC role and "police action" justifications all too willingly. As they say, power abhors a vacuum.
The lying to Congress charges ignore the fact that the United States has been, in essence, at war with Iraq since the end of the first Gulf War. Military patrols of the "No Fly Zones" in Iraq had been ongoing for more than a decade with occasional flare-ups. If radar, missile systems, or hostile aircraft were detected they were destroyed. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations would have been derelict in their duties had they not planned for
Can you imagine the howls of the left if Saddam had been assassinated and the country plunged into genocidal civil war? They'd be blaming the President for failing to take action to stop destabilization of the Middle East. Frankly I'd be a little more impressed with the left had that scenario come to pass; at least they'd be staying true to Democrats traditional support for exporting freedom and ending the reign of oppressive, tyrannical despots.
With Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Conyers (neither a stranger to grandstanding non-sanctioned "inquiries") both working to keep the memo in the news, let me be the first to predict that one (or both) will hold a Winter Soldier-style hearing on the memo.
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