The Talking Lion

Saturday, June 18, 2005

If you ignore a problem, it will just go away

This, at least, is the strategy the Bush administration seems to be taking in regard to the Downing Street Memo.

Chris Matthews brought the topic up two different times in an interview with the Secretary of State you can read here. Both times Condi had interesting things to say in her attempt to avoid the topic at hand. In response to Matthews' first question, Rice said:

David Manning is a fine public servant and an extraordinary foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Blair. And we had a number of conversations. I don't remember this one in particular. But I would just note, Chris, that that was a year before the actual invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime. We had not yet gone to the United Nations to try and resolve the issue through diplomatic means. But a lot of planning went on between March of 2002 and March of 2003.

Obviously, a lot of planning went on in the 12 months leading up to the war. There is a fine line, however, between planning for the use of force as a last option after diplomacy fails and gearing up for war as if it were the only option. Condi does not address the point of the memo at all here, so Matthews brings it up again a couple of questions later:

MATTHEWS: Before we go on, that second memorandum that has been talked about—the one that was originally dubbed the Downing Street memo—said that the
intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy. What do you make of that word, “fixed?” Is that an assertion that we were fixing the argument, making a case for intel that said there was a connection with al Qaida, a connection with the WMD, just to get the war started?
RICE: Well, I don't understand—I can't go back and judge what was said.
MATTHEWS: But the word “fixed,” which is like fixed the way you fix the World Series.
RICE: Right.
MATTHEWS: Or is it British sense, which means just put things together.
RICE: Put things together. And I know the people who were involved in this, and someone like the head at that time of the British intelligence services was very much involved in the discussions we were having on intelligence. A lot of the intelligence was from Great Britain, from British sources. And the entire world thought that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I think if the world had not thought that he had weapons of mass destruction, we wouldn't have had him under sanctions for 12 years, trying to deal with these weapons of mass destruction. And there's good reason to have thought that he did, given that he'd used them before, that in 1991 he'd been much closer to a nuclear weapon than anyone thought.

So basically, she's saying that even if the administration was manipulating intelligence to fit the policy of going to war with Iraq it doesn't matter, because the whole world knew Saddam had weapons and needed to be overthrown anyway. Fantastic. The only problem is that was not what the administration was saying at the time. All diplomatic options were supposed to have been exhausted first before there was war, and Congress voted to allow the use of force only under this condition.

Rice is avoiding the issue at hand and instead simply making the same old exuses for intelligence failures and the lack of WMDs. She claims she doesn't remember the specific conversation with Manning that is discussed in the memo, but she never really addresses the specific issue at hand -- the fact that the head of British Intelligence made a damning assertion that the United States had already made up its mind to go to war. Rice dances around the questions, obviously hoping the issue will just go away soon.

Here's hoping that this is not the last time Rice will have to answer questions on this subject.


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