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American press's meek handling of Downing Street disclosures shames the


profession

By Jason Lauritzen
June 29, 2005 6:00 am

If you bump into someone on the street, ask the following question: “What do you think of the
Downing Street memo?” Blogs, foreign papers, Internet news and independent media have been
all over the story.

Until recently the words “Downing Street,” were foreign to people’s ears.

The Downing Street memo, marked “SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL – UK EYES
ONLY,” was written July 23, 2002. The memo describes how military action with Iraq was seen
as inevitable and President Bush would justify military action on the grounds of terrorism and
weapons of mass destruction. However, “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the
policy.”

The memo says that Bush was determined to take military action even though the case against
Iraq was thin: “Saddam was not threatening any of his neighbors, and his WMD capability was
less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

Leaders in the U.S. and British administrations have not denied the memo to be true. They have
denied only the meaning of the memo.

A new set of released documents from Britain are even more damaging to the Bush and Blair
administrations than the aforementioned Downing Street memo.

Six new documents strengthen the claims in the Downing Street memo. One discusses a meeting
between British Ambassador David Manning and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
that occurred March 18, 2002.

Manning assured Wolfowitz that the British backed regime change, “but the plan had to be
clever and failure was not an option.”

Another memo, dated March 22, 2002, says, “U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq
and Al Aaida (sic) is so far frankly unconvincing.”

Regarding weapons of mass destruction, the memo says that the pace of Saddam Hussein’s
weapons program has not changed over the years, but that U.S. and British tolerance of them
post-Sept. 11, 2001, has changed.
The language in these British memos is very plain and clear: the U.S. and British were
committed to invading Iraq months before the March 20, 2003, start of the war.

Yet the memos do not run as headlines on the front pages of major newspapers.

Media in all its forms — TV, radio, newspapers, Internet news — has the ability to do repeated
coverage of any story and the resources of thousands of reporters, but we were led to war. What
does that reveal?

In addition to what I listed earlier about the Downing Street memos, here is what else has been
reported about the Iraq war:

• Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general of Britain, told Prime Minister Tony Blair that “desire for
regime change was not a legal base for military action.”

• Scott Ritter, head of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), investigated Iraq’s
weapons programs. He said by the summer of 1995 that UNSCOM had “fundamentally disarmed
Iraq.”

• Hans Blix, chief United Nations weapons inspector, said he found no evidence that Iraq was
not cooperating with inspectors or had a hidden arsenal.

• Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported
there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had or was in the process of acquiring nuclear
weapons.

• Much of the U.S. intelligence about Iraq’s weapons programs came from a drunken cousin of
an aide to Ahmed Chalabi nicknamed “Curveball.” Biological weapons labs cited by Curveball
turned out to be trucks equipped with machinery to make helium for weather balloons.

• Jose Bustani, a Brazilian arms-control specialist, tried to send chemical weapons inspectors to
Baghdad to defuse tensions between the U.S. and Iraq. Undersecretary of State John Bolton
orchestrated the firing of Bustani.

• Paul O’Neill, former treasury secretary, said the Bush administration was planning on invading
Iraq just days after Bush was elected in 2000.

• Former U.S. counter-terrorism “czar” Richard Clarke said the president pulled him and others
aside and told them in an intimidating manner to find a connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq.
Clarke and a team of FBI and CIA experts looked for a connection and found none. His report
was never delivered to the president and Clarke was told, “Wrong answer ... do it again.”

In the post-Sept. 11 environment the press has not been asking enough questions. There is not
enough exhaustive reporting on fictitious claims offered by administration officials that led the
country to war.
The absence of coverage of the Downing Street memos shows a press that is not dedicated to
what it should be dedicated to: constantly asking questions in a search for the truth.

Simply running a single story on the Downing Street disclosures and then not following up with
more coverage is a shame and reveals to readers a media that does not serve the people, but those
in power.

It reveals a frightened and subservient press — something that should never exist.

Jason Lauritzen has a minor in political science at Appalachian State University. He lives in
Brevard and is currently doing a summer internship for the AC-T.

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