Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"You Make Me Wanna La-La"

My good friend Rob at Rob's Blog (who is also a contributor at the group submarine blog Ultraquiet No More, now featuring a new image banner!) has had several posts on the "Downing Street Memos" ("DSM" for those who lurk around at DU) and what they mean. Rob has been significantly more restrained than many on the left regarding the significance of this memo (which I first blogged about over five weeks ago), but he asks a question that I believe deserves an answer:

"Interesting...the right wing so much as says "yep, the Downing Street Memo is nothing new...shows what you figured all along, Iraq was a preconceived war"...yet that is considered OK by them.
"The mindset over there in rightwing nutjob land just amazes me. When something comes out lending real credence to what many of us on the left felt was the case all along (the "fixing" of intelligence to fit Bush's agenda, truth be damned), the right not only acknowleges it, but implies that said practice is acceptable." [Emphasis mine]

For those who are interested, the supposed actual text of the "Downing Street Memos" can be found here. As Rob points out, which many on the left don't understand, this memo is not a "smoking gun" that could lead to impeachment. After all, if the memo is sooooo clear that the WMD intelligence was to be "fixed" (implying that the Brits and Americans knew he had no WMDs, and would fake the intel needed) why does the same memo then discuss potential military/humanitarian problems associated with the use of these "non-existent" WMDs? (Para. b.iii; Intel Source: the beautiful and talented Cassandra). They didn't exist, but we have to plan for how to handle their potential employment against our troops?

My point of posting here is to give my answer to Rob's question on why "the right" doesn't think that the concept of a U.S. President deciding to move towards war with an adversary before he gets Congressional authorization is not that big of a shock; and, more broadly, discuss the gulf that exists between what I refer to as the "idealists" and "realists". ("Idealists" is a nicer phrase than "moonbats" -- please note that I am opposed to moonbats of all stripes, be they the "an American sub sank the Kursk" moonbats on the left or the "Bill and/or Hillary killed Vince Foster" moonbats on the right -- they all live in "la-la" land as far as I'm concerned.)

First off, I'll start with a blatantly unprovable fact: The only people who truly believed that Iraq didn't have WMDs were the same people who believed that an American overthrow of the Taliban would result in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths during the next winter from famine -- basically, there weren't any reliable nay-sayers. (And don't bring up Scott Ritter -- how is that prediction of a U.S. attack on Iran this month looking?)

Here's another one: The only people who didn't believe that President Bush hadn't already made up his mind to overthrow Saddam if given the opportunity when he started threatening to do so really don't understand how the world works. Now, if some Senator believed that in voting for the use of force resolution in October 2002 that he wasn't giving authorization to the President to use force without another vote, do we really want someone that gullible to be President? What should the President have done? Rob blogged earlier this week about the current difficulties with North Korea. At this point, we haven't decided to go to war with North Korea, but you can be sure we're looking at options. Should President Bush get a congressional authorization for war with North Korea now, and then decide later whether or not to attack? How do you think Pyongyang would react to this little piece of political theater? Remember some of Rep. Conyers complaints in his letter on the DSM: "...the United States and Great Britain had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action." Whoa, they agreed to invade before they even invaded? I'm sure the Rep. Conyers would have been happier had we invaded first, and then decided to invade. Jeez... Does he honestly think that anyone not already a committed Democratic voter will give a rat's ass that the President doesn't go around willy-nilly asking for congressional authorizations to attack any country that he might someday decide to attack, but hasn't yet?

See, that's the way the world works; when international diplomacy is involved, people say one thing, and do another. Everyone is Washington understands that... in fact, everyone in positions of responsibility throughout the world understands that. Rep. Conyers and now Sen. Kennedy are making a big deal out of this memo, not because they believe that this will prove the President is guilty of impeachable offenses, but because it energizes their base. (Rep. McKinney, on the other hand, probably does believe all the crap she spews out...) Now, I know it'd be nice if we could live in a world where all diplomacy is completely above-board, but this world ain't it... yet. (Even today, when President Bush is still claiming that he hadn't made up his mind to invade until early 2003, is a form of politically-expedient double-speak that everyone should understand is done because it's expected. Be honest, Rob -- do you really think Sen. Clinton hasn't decided if she's going to run for President in 2008? If it comes out that she has already decided to go that direction -- will you call her a liar?)

Here's another thing that everyone who had studied the relationship between Iraq and the U.S. knew: We had several reasons (from our perspective, not necessarily what the world at large would agree to) for going to war with Iraq; the WMD was decided on as the most easily explainable to the largest number of people. They didn't have to "fix" the intel; the intel they had, including the U.N. report that contained the Iraqi-provided list of WMDs they said they had in the mid-90s, all said he hadn't destroyed them all since then. (It looks like now, of course, that they lied when the Iraqis said they had them in the mid-90s; we were looking for evidence of them destroying things that didn't exist; no wonder we couldn't find it. An understandable mistake, though; in any intelligence estimate, you have to start with certain assumptions; we assumed the Iraqis wouldn't put themselves on report for things they didn't do -- more proof that we didn't understand the Arab mindset). The reasons we had for going to war, some of which I personally witnessed, included: A complete disregard of the oil embargo imposed by the UN, continuing to shoot at our planes patrolling the No-Fly zones, and kicking out the UN weapon's inspectors in 1998. We could have, in response to any of those, simply declared the cease-fire ending the 1991 war null and void, and marched in. In retrospect, that probably would have been more useful than what we did; on the other hand, I'm not sure we could have gotten British support for that move.

Only history will tell if we did the right thing by going into Iraq; who knows if a dying Saddam, still in power, with his dreams of becoming the next Nebuchadnezzar unfulfilled, would have reached out in a last spasm of violence? I've written before about why I think that opening an Iraqi theater in the Global War on Terror was the right thing to do from the standpoint of deterrence; I still think it was right, although I do think we've dropped the ball on the follow-through by showing weakness that tends to mitigate any fear we had gotten from our enemies.

So this, Rob, is my answer: I don't think the "Downing Street Memos" are a big deal because they don't tell us anything that people who really understand how politics work didn't already know; all administrations have said one thing on matters of war and peace and done another behind closed doors, and they'll continue to do so until some future Wilsonian leader changes the way the whole world does business. That time isn't now... Besides, what would an investigation into the DSM show? That the President doesn't conduct all diplomacy in a completely above-board manner when we're at war? Remember, Rob, you're trying to change the mind of the 20% or so who might conceivably vote for either candidate in an election; having Democrats saying things to the effect of "we shouldn't have any secrets from our potential enemies" won't help you out there.

The leaders on the left understand this as well as do the leaders on the right. Democrats who are bringing this up now are playing to their base; those in the rank-and-file who invest time, money, and effort in trying to see their dreams of the neo-cons all doing a perp-walk come to fruitition are, I'm sad to say, delusional at best. It won't happen. What does Rep. Conyers get out of having all these people sign some petition? A whole bunch of "live" E-mail addresses to use for subsequent fund-raising efforts. While there are those "idealists" who think that a world built along the lines of John Lennon's "Imagine" would be a utopia, I believe that such sentiments are along the order of "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" -- an unrealistic pipe dream that totally overlooks the realities of human nature. Democrats are playing for the votes of these people, plain and simple. Whether this will help them get the votes of enough "realists" to return to being a viable force in American politics is yet to be seen -- but I don't think this is the way to do it.


Blogger Robert Schumacher said...

You raise some good points...and part of your post is why I'm not calling for "impeachment" so much as investigation.

Now, here's the issue I see with the memo; yes, as you say, pretty much everyone (left and right) believed the issue about Iraq, at least enough to vote to authorize Bush to take action. The public, by and large, believed it, too. Conyers may botch some semantics, but his point (and mine) I believe are these:

1. The intelligence appears to be both wrong and very possibly made to fit the policy, rather than the policy being made to fit the facts.
2. (This one is mainly mine, not Rep. Conyers.) The Congress (both at the urging of the President, and by their own error in action) short-cut their own Congressional authority to declare war.
3. The decision to invade Iraq, as Conyers points out, appears to have been made before the intel was in and the case made to Congress (Parliament?...not sure, didn't look into the Brit angle). Meaning before the President (and possibly Prime Minister) consulted the legislature, they had the idea of invading Iraq firmly in mind (naturally) and were "selling" this on false data. They'd made the pitch up before getting the body that actually has the Constitutional authority involved. The decision to invade was made well before the vote in Congress, and the case the memo makes (that many have long suspected) is that the facts were distorted (possibly spun from thin air) to fit the decision. It should be the other way around...decisions made on the basis of fact.

Bush's words (the typically political ones) are less a concern to me than his actions, and that of his administration. He can say all he wants when he made the invasion're right, those are the "little white lies" politicians make all the time. Like Sen. Clinton and 2008...the candidate is always supposed to look "reluctant" and all that tripe. The issue I have is if the intel and facts were being purposely manipulated to fit the desire to invade. That, to me, shows an unconscionable level of lying that (sorry, have to make the comparison) makes lying about a blow job seem rather second-banana.

If the intel was just be it. I can accept that...the intel services are by no means perfect. But, if the intel was misrepresented/distorted/falsfied/"fixed" to fit a justification, that is very wrong...war isn't something to enter into lightly, or for other than the most dire of reasons. If they knew then what we know now (that Iraq was not the "imminent threat" they claimed, that the WMD's really weren't there as they claimed) and decided to make the facts fit what they wanted (the old ELT response of "what do you want it to read"), then there was wrongdoing at the executive level, possibly to the level of the President. If he, like Congress and much of the American (and British) people, was victim of bad intelligence/bad interpretation, then the war was a screwup still...but an error, not a willful wrong.

And only an independent investigation can truly answer that.

Our government is supposed to be open, transparent, and accountable to the people of the United States. If Bush truly believes it was a case of flawed intelligence, he (and his GOP majority) have nothing to fear from and investigation. It's like nuke/sub life...hold the critique, find the facts, determine the root cause/problem/error, and fix it.

I don't think that's too much for the American people to ask.

6/08/2005 1:00 AM

Blogger Xopher said...


One of the things I’ve seen too often is people try to make the facts fit the answer they want. Trying to disprove the answer you want is a much sounder tactic, especially for a major decision. However, it is not human nature. I think it is very possible people went looking for the proof they wanted on WMD’s.

Read Tommy Franks book. In essence, if you have a mass murderer who is home on parole, and you come in to inspect his house and find a gun and ammunition in the house, but disassembled, does he have a weapon? Is he guilty of violating parole?

We gave Saddam months of notice during our diplomatic phase where we tried to talk it all out, and he knew months ahead of time we basically had a war declaration anytime Bush wanted to use it. Now that I am a civilian I don’t have access to intel, and frankly never had a need to know stuff in this part of the world. Still, having seen what I saw, knowing that we do know a lot (and know a lot less than we want), I have to wonder what the Intel community knows but isn’t saying.

In short, I think the issue on WMD’s is very muddied, and is probably one of those issues where the security clearance has to run out before the tons of documents can be released to let us know. And, the Intel community probably has some fixes it needs to make.

Given all of the above, I agree with Joel that the WMD issue was the simple version for why go to war. But let me ask this; How would you fight a transnational war against terror? I’m going after point 3 here. And another related question; How do you motive the populace to fight a sustained campaign against an enemy spread across the world?

I think I read too many blogs because I can never go back and find what I want, but just recently I was reading about a suicide bomber (not in Iraq). The populace in this area didn’t, as my father used to say, have a pot to piss in. Yet some yo-yo has enough money to get enough explosives to blow himself and about 20 other people up. Where do the resources come from?

Frankly, I think Bush has the right idea. You have to get rid of the radical Islam that is behind this. You do it by spreading a society that emphasizes freedom and the worth of the individual, and that’s Democracy.

I have Moslem friends. One, from Afghanistan, is quite vocal about the Taliban and terrorists. He hates them and what they did to his country. But he is not a cleric, so we don’t hear about guys like him. He is retired too, and has been here over 20 years, is naturalized, and considers himself an American, but he hasn’t forgotten. But many native born Americans have. There are evil people in the world, not just on TV.

My job requires me to travel a lot. As a kid, there were big differences between North and South, East and West. Now, Wal-Mart and McDonalds are every where, and we are becoming homogenized. Due to TV, planes and the internet, we are growing closer together. The same things allow people used to be no threat to be able to hurt us. Just take a few flying lessons, go anywhere in the world, and you are a flying bomb.

It used to be our Ocean Boarders were the guarantees of our security, but no more.

Constructive criticism gives a way of doing it better. We all agree that in the world of politics you say one thing and do another. So Rob-What would you have done different?

Since we can’t gang up on Rob at the group blog, I guess we have to do it here.

6/08/2005 5:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


6/08/2005 10:44 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Thank you, anonymous, for that insightful addition to the discussion...

6/08/2005 11:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time reader and commenter, so an initial tip of the cap to a right-wing post that actually takes the time to consider the other side of equation (where I tend to reside). I'm also glad to see the level of intelligence and divergent viewpoints that exist in the sub community, since my son just enlisted in the Navy a little over 6 months ago, and has since volunteered for sub duty (he's training in Charleston in the nuke school). The small point I wish to make, an echo of "Rob"'s, is that there are lies and there are Lies. One can easily understand that politicians and diplomats will speak in half-truths and/or total bs, as the circumstances warrant, but the question that remains is, did the circumstances warrant lying in this case. Remember, this was not just one lie, but a conspiracy of lies, an elaborate ruse, as it were, to accomplish an end. And it was a direct lie in response to very direct questions about the issue at hand. And, most importantly, it was a lie that was presented to the world community at large. There seems to be little concern expressed by those who justify this condut as mere "realpolitik" regarding the loss of credibility suffered by the US, and other long-term consequences of being exposred as a liar of this magnitude. When, for example, should we assume the Prez is NOT lying?

6/08/2005 11:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one who served in submarines should ever have to be disabused over transparency in government. How can there have been so many secrets on boats that many in the crew never knew where they were going, where they had been, or what had really been done? Limited secrecy from the public is necessary precisely because we have an open society, which envelopes both our self-avowed enemies and still undisclosed enemies. Surely, there are more state secrets regardless of administration, than there were operational secrets on any one boat. The variable is how we trust a given administration to react to knowledge before them. Sitting on his hands is not the current president's policy, thank God. The strategy for winning the war on Islamic terror has not and should not be shared with any public. We will be dosed, one campaign at a time. Iraq may well be the last invasion, but it will depend on what Islamic radicals decide. The price they will have to pay to attack America again is becoming clearer to them and the rest of muslim world. Our winning hand is non-combative, but we would never have gotten to the point of playing it without first demonstrating Bush's pre-emptive defense doctrine (as often as it takes) and waiting for the muslim world to take a responsible position (how long depends on them). Casius Status

6/08/2005 11:53 AM

Blogger Robert Schumacher said...

What would I have done different? Hard to say; maybe, if the intelligence really said what it said, I might have done much the same as Bush, though given my views I doubt it.

The real question in my mind isn't what I'd do, or you'd do, but this: Is there any truth to the intel being manipulated to fit the idea of invasion, or did the idea of invasion grow out of the intel?

If the intel genuinely supported the position the Administration took, then it's a debate over diplomatics/philosophy/foreign policy. One may favor a certain approach, another may favor a 180 degree approach, and we can haggle all century on the merits of each.

However...if the policy, the decision, to invade was what drove the intelligence, and if the facts were "fixed" so support an agenda, that I say is clearly wrong. Decision making on a scale of going to war *SHOULD* be done more on a "devil's advocate" method. While the DSM is not the "smoking gun" many want to think it is, it's an insight into the strong possibility that the Administration (and possibly Blair's too, but that is an issue for the Brits) went 180 degrees away from a "devil's advocate" approach and did something more akin to "here's what we want to do (invade Iraq", now make the intel fit that desire".

I could well be wrong. I only ask for a bit of Heinz 57 with my crow if a) WMD's are found or b) the facts of an independent investigation show that Bush made the policy of invasion from the data, not the data from the policy of invasion.

And I think that is a valid question that the government (as a servent of the people) should be obliged to fully answer. Again, if the Administration believes they were truly in the right, and just fell to bad intel, then there's nothing to fear...indeed an investigation would vindicate them, give them a real "ratings boost". Bush could say "see, I was right, your own inquiry backs me up" (and I'd start carving up my crow). If not, then the falsehood bears scrutiny. As someone said further up the comment line, there are lies and there are LIES. Politicians always lie, unless they are asleep...the campaign lies, the broken campaign promises, that's nickel-and-dime. "Fixing" data to sell a war is another thing entirely.

Personally, if I were George W. Bush, I'd call for the investigation put the critics to rest once and for all. His poll numbers are dismal, and if he could concretely show he did the "right thing" he'd recover a measure of respect. That he (and many in his party) dismiss this with the seeming hope that it will "go away" hints at something deeper.

Remember, Nixon initially scoffed at any implication that he was involved in Watergate...

6/08/2005 3:11 PM

Blogger Xopher said...

The only thing I can say further with regard to the intelligence on WMD is: “Shall no one rid me of this priest?” Willy Shake can probably tell you who said that, but the end result was a dead priest after a bit of frustration by the a King. I’m sure Bush made it know he wanted to know what the Intel assessment of Iraq’s WMD capability was, but if I remember right Clinton was also told Sadam still has WMD. I think the water is so muddied, and political agendas so rampant, we won’t know the truth for about 30 years.

I wouldn’t be surprised if after 9/11 Bush went looking for a fight and the reason to justify it. I think he gave a reason that Intel had been around for years to support, was easy to explain, and horrified and energized enough people to buy into it. It’s a simple and moving message. I just hope the people with the security clearances “In the Know” do know and are working on the problem. No matter what the cause, the US has lost huge amounts of credibility. My personal belief from having seen too many similar instances is that Bush went with what he wanted, took the easy simple message, hammered it home, and then was left high and dry.

But while WMD has become the reason to invade in many peoples minds, lets not forget the were many other reasons as well. My opinion-Take WMD’s out of the picture and we still needed to invade Iraq.

Aside from what many want to claim about the US, it’s pretty hard to get us outside of our traditional isolationism. If you believe the War On Terror is worth fighting, how then do you go about it? You have to cause transnational populations to develop respect for other human beings as human beings. Democracy is the best tool. Ideally, I think Communism is the best government. Realistically, Democracy works the best, because we’re all sinners, not Saints. Planting a Democracy is the best way I know of to foster the basic respect for life and toleration of religious differences that will eventually eradicate our enemies.

The UN should be the World Police? Lets get real, there is hardly a more corrupt organization on the face of the earth. As Adam Smith pointed out in the “Wealth of Nations” people pursuing their own goals contribute to the overall welfare. This only works if you respect property rights and individuals. The UN delegates are all out for themselves, and they’ll disregard any rules they can get away with. I wouldn’t want to work for Bolton, but he calls a spade a spade. Being nice hasn’t worked to date, so lets try another approach.

So if the UN can’t help us, where does that leave us. And if we didn’t get off the mark with World Trace Center I, the USS Cole, or 2 embassies being blown up, how do you motive the American Public to go the distance? We’d already invaded Afghanistan, problem solved? Even with Saddam next door? (Just as a note, go to the CIA’s World Fact Book and look at the GDP per capita of Afghanistan. Money isn’t everything, but we all know some is necessary. Compare that GDP with some other contries. Many histories rated the worth of a King on the prosperity of his people. Talk to an Afghan refugee on how the country was gutted by the Russians and the Taliban)

I work with a number of people who have worked or still work in the Middle East. I believe it was Thursday nights you didn’t let your women out, because Uday used to like to grab a woman off the street for a night of rape, torture and murder. Oh, this was told to me while Clinton was still President. It occurs to me to wonder why Arab or Moslem nations of the world didn’t decide to clean up their own house. I think Joel said we didn’t understand the Arab mentality. I know I still don’t.

God helps those who help themselves. Certainly, the UN isn’t helping us. We are getting help from our allies, not just Great Britain. But essentially, it is up to us. We are the only remaining superpower, and Spiderman is right, with great power comes great responsibility. We could choose to do nothing. Let the Middle East continue to fester, allow a few more bombings like the World Trade Center. Maybe, eventually to see some IEDs along US roads that our wives and children travel on. OR MAYBE, we do start acting as the World Police. We need recruits, only ethical governments need apply. We have limited resources, so we will act where we get the most bang for the buck, in our own interests – AND in our Allies interest.

Maybe I have succumbed to the American penchant for taking action and playing the cowboy, as opposed to the European sophisticated approach of talking a problem to death. But you know, I think George Bush and his advisors did a lot of thinking before they set off down the path. I believe their goals are worthwhile, even though mistakes have been made. And I wonder what Bush will say about what he would have done different, once he can freely write his memoirs.

Let’s face it, the biggest problem with Washington is there are people who put their political axes first instead of the country’s interest. We won’t get clear messages out of Washington ever, for this all too human reason that won’t ever go away.

But if actions speak louder than words, I support the actions.

6/08/2005 6:35 PM

Blogger Robert Schumacher said...

xopher, the one thing that I have to really, really disagree with in your statement is the premise that (even with the WMD's aside) Iraq should have been invaded. You seem to still link Iraq with 9/11, but the facts do not bear that out. I can, as you point out, see Bush "looking for a fight" after 9/11. I don't have a problem with fact, I think we should be doing a lot more to track down bin Laden and fully eliminate al Qaeda. Iraq wasn't, however, a valid front in the war on terror (there are terrorists/insurgents aplenty there now, but that is a result of the invasion, not a reason for it).

I'm not defending Saddam as a "good guy"...he's not, never was. There are many examples of abusive regimes in the world, however, and if that were the criteria for invasion we'd be at war with China right now.

The thing is, Iraq was a mistake in my opinion...even the 9/11 Commission found no substantiative link between 9/11-al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. And if the intel was massaged to "fit" a pre-determined policy, that raises the issue in my mind to something beyond your garden variety government/political corruption.

6/09/2005 2:12 AM

Blogger lawhawk said...

Interesting commentary from the peanut gallery. However, as Kevin at Wizbang notes, the definition of fix also means set, and not, as those at DU seek to assert, change and manipulate the data.

In the U.S. the word "set" would usually be used instead of "fixed." It seems that Rycroft uses the word fixed, when talking about making something set. Rewriting the sentence with the word set takes a lot of air out of the sails of those pushing the memo.
"But the intelligence and facts were being set around the policy."
Fails to sizzle, no?

Conspiracy theorists can move the goalposts all they want, but when the chair of the meeting (Blair) says intelligence was not "fixed", when The Butler Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee say intelligence was not "fixed," and when the author of the memo's use of the word "fixed" doesn't jibe with the moonbat spin; it's game over. In regards to the "fixed" line, the noted colloquialism, "that dog don't hunt" applies.

6/09/2005 11:05 AM


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