Meanwhile, back in Iraq. I was going to leave out of
this column everything about how we got into Iraq, or whether it was
wise, and or whether the infamous "they" knowingly lied to us. (Although
I did plan to point out I would be nobly refraining from poking at that
Since I believe one of our greatest strengths as Americans is shrewd
practicality, I thought it was time we moved past the now unhelpful,
"How did we get into his mess?" to the more utilitarian, "What the hell do
we do now?"
However, I cannot let this astounding Downing Street memo go
On May 1, the Sunday Times of London printed a secret memo that went
to the defense secretary, foreign secretary, attorney general and other
high officials. It is the minutes of their meeting on Iraq with Tony
Blair. The memo was written by Matthew Rycroft, a Downing Street foreign
policy aide. It has been confirmed as legitimate and is dated July 23,
2002. I suppose the correct cliché is "smoking gun."
"C 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. (There it is.) The NSC (National Security
Council) had no patience with the U.N. 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."
After some paragraphs on tactical considerations, Rycroft reports, "No
decisions had been taken, but he (British defense secretary) thought
the most likely timing in U.S. minds for military action to begin was
January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the U.S. congressional
"The foreign secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell
this week. 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 neighbors, 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 U.N. weapons
inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of
"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-defense, humanitarian intervention or UNSC authorization. The
first and second could not be the base in this case."
There is much more in the memo, which can be found easily online.
What's difficult now is placing the memo in the timeframe. Can you remember
how little you knew about a war with Iraq in July 2002? Most of us who
opposed the war concluded some time ago this was the way it went down.
There was plenty of evidence, though nothing this direct and cold.
Think of the difference it would have made if we had known all this three
years ago. Now? The memo was a huge story in Britain, but is almost
The memo does get us some forwarder. At least it finally settles this
ridiculous debate about how Dear Leader Bush just wanted to bring
democracy all along and we did it all for George Washington.
Enough said. What to do? Now that we're there, at least we're on the
right side, not even withstanding the disgusting Ahmed Chalabi as oil
minister. Unfortunately, our very support for the good guys is making it
much harder for them. A tactical Catch-22. I was impressed by the
premise of Reza Aslan's new book, "No God but God," which is that all of
Islam is undergoing a struggle between the modernists and the
traditionalists, between reformers and reactionaries.
But in Iraq, which already had a secular state, we have the additional
complication of sectarian/ethnic divisions -- your Sunnis, your
Shiites, your Kurds -- not to mention, the tribalism within those divisions.
(Am I bitter enough to point out once again that Paul Wolfowitz said
under oath, "There is no history ethnic strife in Iraq"? You bet your ass
Our most basic problem in-country is that having the U.S. of A. on
your side automatically makes you about as popular as a socialist in the
Texas Legislature: We are working against the guys we want to win by
supporting them. This requires some serious skulling but is not, in
politics, all that unusual a pickle.
There is a political solution. Like all politics, it requires a deal.
What about letting the interim government make a deal with the Sunnis
for us to withdraw -- as in, "You cooperate with us, and we'll get the
Americans out of here for you." We can't make that deal, but the Iraqis
Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?
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