Sunday, June 19, 2005

Before We Go Off "Half-Cocked" on the British War Memos

While breakfasting before heading for worship this morning, I read an account of those eight top secret memos reflecting concerns at the highest levels of the British government over the Bush Administration for going to war in Iraq. It all seemed pretty damning, as though President Bush and top aides were hell-bent on regime change in Iraq irrespective of the evidence regarding any alleged escalation in Saddam Hussein's program to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

But then, I read this:
The eight memos - all labeled "secret" or "confidential" - were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.

Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals.

The AP obtained copies of six of the memos (the other two have circulated widely). A senior British official who reviewed the copies said their content appeared authentic. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the material.
Even granting the attempt to authenticate the documents by the AP, I still couldn't help but wonder whether they're for real. Stories based on copied originals, which have been destroyed? I dismissed this train of thought as silliness. But, apparently I'm not the only one to wonder.

The documents may be authentic. If they are, they truly are damning. But before we draw any conclusions, shouldn't some effort be expended to definitively establish their authenticity?

Glenn Reynolds links to the Captain's Quarters post above.


Deborah White said...

Bush and Blair do not deny their authenticity.

Mark Daniels said...

I would like for them to make overt statements to that effect. Then, we could make some judgments.

Deborah White said...

I completely agree. Rep Conyers hand-delivered a letter to the White House on Friday, June 17, signed by 124 members of Congress, and cyber-signed by more than 560,000 Americans, asking the President five questions about the Downing Street Memos:

"1. Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked documents?

2. Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies. before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your administration obtain Britian's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3. Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war, as the minutes indicate?

4. At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5. Was there a coordinated effort with the US intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?"

This is the same letter that Rep Conyers and 94 members of Congress sent to the President on May 5, 2005.

Scott McClellen, White House press secretary says that there is "no need" to respond to this letter.

I agree with you, Mark. We need answers rather than stonewalling.

These five questions were asked respectfully. The American people and Congress deserve a respectful, appropriate, honest response.