Questions Over the Downing Street Memo

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Remember the Downing Street Memo? That recent-leaked note from early 2002 which showed that, at the time, the head of British intelligence thought that the intelligence for war against Iraq was “being fixed around policy”? “The case was thin,” the memo said. Right, that one. Well, the major newspapers are starting to ask questions about it—as opposed to merely writing stories about how befuddled they are that the memo, somehow, isn’t garnering more attention—and yesterday reporters confronted both Bush and Tony Blair on the subject. Freiheit und Wissen has a roundup of reports. See also ThinkProgress.

The main question here: why is this all important? Also known as: Do we really need to wade into this debate again? Well, yes. It’s true that the memo likely won’t change anyone’s mind about the war in Iraq—in some ways the validity or invalidity of the war is independent of the sinister motives behind it, and that’s doubly true today, now that Bush has convinced us that the war was fought all along to spread democracy rather than to disarm Saddam Hussein—but nevertheless, this is still very much the sort of thing worth investigating. I’m not holding my breath for Bush to be impeached, but ideally in the future I’d prefer if presidents refrained from going to war on false pretenses and skewed intelligence. And an exploration of exactly how and why it happened this time around is crucial towards preventing it from happening again.


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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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