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Prelude to Iraq War. What they did and when. Summary

06/15/2005 11:44 AM
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Prelude to Iraq War. What they did and when. Summary
Does it mattter? Will this released info
have any affect on most Americans?

Reporterīs pipeline uncovers war secrets
If the Deep Throat of the Iraq War operates out of a parking garage, he or she probably calls it a "car park" since thatīs what they call them in London. This time, the reporter being led to the heart of malfeasance and mendacity isnīt Woodward or Bernstein but a defense correspondent for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times named Michael Smith.

It was Smith who dug up the now-famous Downing Street memo, which critics of the war consider the smoking gun that proves George W. Bush and his advisers lied about their intentions and manipulated "the intelligence and facts" to fabricate a justification to invade. By itself, the document basically tells us what we already knew. In context, though, it does a good deal more to tell us how the war came about and why Iraq remains such a dangerous mess.

Smith somehow has found a pipeline of secret British government documents that have produced a series of bacon-coolers for the newspaper — stories that so completely grab your attention at the breakfast table that you keep reading while your food gets cold. Taken together, they make a powerful case for both dishonesty and incompetence on the part of the White House in the genesis and the conduct of the war.

Hereīs a summary of Smithīs three major scoops:
• A memo produced by British Prime Minister Tony Blairīs Cabinet Office, dated July 21, 2002, the highlights of which were confirmed by The Washington Postīs Walter Pincus in a front-page story on Sunday. The memo indicates that in the assessment of top British officials, who at the time were trying to define Britainīs involvement in a war that seemed inevitable, U.S. officials had given "little thought" to the aftermath of an invasion to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. American plans were"virtually silent" on a postwar strategy, the memo says.
• An analysis of data from the Royal Air Force showing that U.S. and British aircraft dramatically stepped up their bombing of Iraq in May 2002, ostensibly to patrol the established no-fly zones but apparently also in an attempt to goad the Iraqi regime into a reaction that would provide a justification for war. Allied forces dropped no bombs in March, 0.3 tons of bombs in April, 7.3 tons in May and 10.4 tons in June, Smith reported. The Iraqis, however, did not react.
• The Downing Street memo itself, the "extremely sensitive" minutes of a meeting of Blairīs top security and defense aides, dated July 23, 2002. In it, the head of Britainīs MI6 spy agency — in James Bond-style he is identified only as "C"; his real name, Sir Richard Dearlove, could also be out of Ian Fleming — reports on his recent visit to Washington for high-level talks. He says war was seen as inevitable and makes that sound-bite observation about the intelligence and facts being "fixed around the policy."

So what do we have here? Itīs not just that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld decided to go to war long before they claim they did, and only went to the United Nations to provide legal cover. Itīs hard to be shocked at thissince Bob Woodward told us in his book "Plan of Attack" that plotting for the war actually began much earlier, in 2001. But are we supposed to be proud of raining bombs on Iraq, beginning in the spring of 2002, in an attempt to provoke the Iraqis into shooting back? Is that the way the United States conducts itself? And of the nearly 1,700 American troops killed in Iraq, the majority have been victims of the insurgency that we utterly failed to foresee. We now know that even in the estimation of our closest allies, the Bush administration didnīt even try to anticipate what would happen after the regime was toppled. How can the White House explain that to the families of the soldiers and Marines who will die next week or next month? Add to all of this the un-American way we have held thousands of detainees for long periods without charges or legal recourse, along with the sickening incidents of torture and abuse, and itīs no wonder that pollsters see U.S. opinion shifting against the war. Itīs not just one big shocking revelation, itīs the incremental accretion of details that gradually reveal the big picture.

I wonder when Michael Smith will descend into the car park and bring out the next piece of the puzzle.

-Eugene Robinsonīs e-mail address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.