Thursday, June 30, 2005

TONY BLAIR apparently liked Dick Cheney's nonsensical attempt to discredit the Downing Street memos enough to give it a try himself.

Last week, Cheney told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he had not read the Downing Street memos but knew they were wrong anyway. He said it was not true that the Bush administration had made a firm decision to invade Iraq nine months before the war officially began, and that the U.S. and Britain went to the United Nations as a political strategy to make it look like they had tried to avoid war. It was not true, he said, because the United States and Britain went to the United Nations and got a resolution.

...[T]he vice president said the premise of the memo -- that a decision to go to war had been made months before the March 2003 invasion -- was "wrong."

"Remember what happened after the supposed memo was written. We went to the United Nations. We got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean," he said.

"The president of the United States took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force. It wasn't possible in this case."

Of course, this makes no sense at all. The whole point of the strategy revealed in the DSM was that Bush and Blair went to the United Nations to make their pre-existing decision to invade look like a last resort.

C [Richard Dearlove, then the head of British intelligence] 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. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The second page of the memo makes it clear that Blair persuaded Bush to go the UN route, to make it look as though the decision to invade had been made only after all peaceful means to resolve the conflict had been tried and had failed.

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.

Blair, however, was not at all deterred by the absurdity of using the UN resolution as proof that the U.S. and Britain did not plan in advance to invade, when the DSM clearly indicated the decision to go to the UN was taken so that the invasion would NOT look as if it were planned in advance. In response to a question from a member of the House of Commons as to whether the intelligence was fixed around the decision to go to war, Blair basically said, Of course not; we went to the United Nations, so how could we have already decided to go to war?

Blair said the contents of that memo had already been covered by a high-level independent investigation into the British government's case for war in Iraq.

He emphasized that the 2002 meeting took place before Britain and the United States sought and secured a resolution from the United Nations Security Council -- a path that indicated they were not bent on military action.

"I have to say that this was of course before we went to the United Nations and secured a second resolution, the resolution 1441 that had unanimous support," Blair added.

Blair also, as Bush did last night, insisted on bringing up 9/11 again, implying a connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon that has been thoroughly discredited.

What happened for me after Sept. 11 is that the balance of risk changed." ...

After Sept. 11, it was necessary to "draw a line in the sand here, and the country to do it with was Iraq because they were in breach of U.N. resolutions going back over many years," he said. "I took the view that if these people ever got hold of nuclear, chemical or biological capability, they would probably use it."

That's garbage, of course, because Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. They didn't take part in the attacks; they didn't take part in the planning. There is no connection there at all. And if Tony Blair is saying, as he seems to be, that he decided that Iraq would make a great choice for a country to invade because it had breached U.N. resolutions for many years, then he could just as easily have picked Israel, or the United States, for that matter. Why did they pick Iraq?

We shouldn't even be asking such questions at this point, according to Blair.

Blair suggested that ensuring victory in Iraq was now more important than debating the case for invasion.

"The most important thing we can do in Iraq is concentrate on the fact ... that what is happening there is a monumental battle that affects our own security," he said. "You've got every bad element in the whole of the Middle East in Iraq trying to stop that country (from getting) on its feet and (becoming) a democracy."

Blair echoed Bush's pledge a day earlier to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until the fight is won. "There is only one side to be on now and it is time we got on it and stuck in there and get the job done, and not leave until the job is done," he said.

There's a few problems with that idea, though. First, the decision to invade was not ever debated in the first place. Some of us may have thought it was, but clearly the debate was fixed and the decision made. So don't tell us now that it's not important to talk about how the case for invasion was made.

Second, there is no possibility of "victory" in Iraq anymore; not that there ever was, given the way Bush and Blair went about it. Blair's idea of victory -- a decade or more of war; hundreds of thousands of dead on both sides, every human need at home sacrificed and ignored to feed the war machine; our own freedoms and liberties sacrificed on the altar of unquestioning nationalism and xenophobic patriotism, and a society that glorifies war and military values more and more every day -- is my idea of genocide and absolute devastation and destruction of every human value. I will not accept the base and degraded argument that we are fighting a "monumental battle" against "bad elements that affect our own security" when my government, with the assistance and cooperation of the government Blair heads, created that battle and germinated those "bad elements" themselves by unilaterally deciding, with a total contempt for democracy and debate, to invade Iraq.

So here's my answer to "There is only one side to be on now and it is time we got on it and stuck in there and get the job done, and not leave until the job is done." You are 100 percent right, Mr. Blair. There is only one side to be on now, and that is the side of conscience, justice, freedom, and democracy. If you believe the correct way to stand up for those values is to oppose dissent, tell free citizens of democracies to stop questioning their leaders, and advise all of us that there is only one side to be on -- the side you support -- then give it your best shot. I will continue to stand up for conscience, justice, freedom, and democracy by speaking out against policies I think are wrong, by questioning authority, by speaking freely, by thinking for myself and not accepting your version of truth, and by refusing to be a lemming or a sheep.

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