June 22, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on the Downing Street Memo

Christopher Hitchens, who is by no means a Republican or conservative, has an excellent column at Slate.com regarding the "Downing Street Memo". In essence, he concludes that the current uproar is nothing more than a ludicrous conspiracy theory concocted by some on the left:
I am not one of those who uses the term "conspiracy theory" as an automatic sneer of dismissal. Conspiracies do occur..... But the main Downing Street document does not introduce us to any hidden or arcane or occult knowledge. As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate last week, it explains no mystery. As protagonist Jim Dixon observes in another context in Lucky Jim, it is remarkable for "its niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems." On a visit to Washington in the prelude to the Iraq war, some senior British officials formed the strong and correct impression that the Bush administration was bent upon an intervention. Their junior note-taker committed the literary and political solecism of saying that intelligence findings and "facts" were being "fixed" around this policy.

Well, if that doesn't prove it, I don't know what does. We apparently have an administration that can, on the word of a British clerk, "fix" not just findings but also "facts." Never mind for now that the English employ the word "fix" in a slightly different way—a better term might have been "organized."
We have been here before. In an interview with Sam Tanenhaus for Vanity Fair more than two years ago, Paul Wolfowitz allowed that, though there were many reasons to seek the removal of Saddam Hussein, the legal minimum basis for it was to be sought, inside the U.S. government bureaucracy and at the United Nations, in the unenforced resolutions concerning WMD. At the time, this mild observation was also hailed as a full confession of perfidy. I am now forced to wonder: Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimouslyby the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq? This was a fairly open conspiracy, and an open secret. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam "as if" (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof.
Hitchens has a point. Within months after 9/11, Bush declared in his State of the Union speech that he considered Iraq to be a member of the "Axis of Evil" and that the U.S. would continue to confront Iraq and support regime change. If this was some sort of "conspiracy", then someone forgot to tell the Bush administration.
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