Smoking Signposts to Nowhere

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Imagine that
the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press
— no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, but
in newspapers in Australia or Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record
of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American
papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine
that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that
came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread
them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or
of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous
or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn’t go away,
they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial
pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn’t add up
to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn.

This is, of
course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has
followed on the Downing
Street memo
, then memos. As of late last week, four
of our five major papers
(the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles
Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn’t even commented
on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times,
complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece
(Prewar
British Memo Says War Decision Wasn’t Made
) that focused on the
second
of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair’s “inner
circle,” and began: “A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet
office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made
u2018no political decisions’ to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for
the possibility was advanced.”

Compare that to the front-page lead written a day earlier by Michael Smith of
the British Sunday Times, who revealed the existence of the document and
has been the Woodstein of England on this issue (Ministers
were told of need for Gulf war "excuse"
):

“Ministers
were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led
invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already
agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the
Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.”

The headlines the two papers chose more or less tell it all. It’s hard to believe
that they are even reporting on the same document. Sanger was obviously capable
of reading Smith’s piece and yet his report makes no mention of the April meeting
of the two leaders in Crawford explicitly noted in the memo and offers a completely
tendentious reading of those supposedly unmade “political decisions.” Read the
document yourself. It’s clear, when the Brits write, for instance, “[L]ittle thought
has been given [in Washington] to creating the political conditions for military
action,” that they are talking about tactics, about how to move the rest of the
world toward an already agreed-upon war. After all, though it’s seldom commented
on, this document was entitled, “Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military
action,” and along with the previously released memo was essentially a war-planning
document. Both, for instance, discuss the American need for British bases in Cyprus
and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. It was, as well, focused on the
creation of “an information campaign” and suggested that “[t]ime will be required
to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action
against Saddam Hussein.”

We are talking here about creating the right political preconditions for moving
populations toward a war, quite a different matter from not having decided on
the war. To write as if this piece reflected a situation in which no “political
decisions” had been made (taking that phrase out of all context), without even
a single caveat, a single mention of any alternative possible explanation, was
bizarre, to say the least.

A day later, the New York Times weighed in with another piece. Written
by Todd Purdum
and this time carefully labeled “news analysis,” it was placed
on page 10 and arrived practically exhausted. “But the memos,” wrote the world-weary
Purdum, “are not the Dead Sea Scrolls. There has been ample evidence for many
months, and even years, that top Bush administration figures saw war as inevitable
by the summer of 2002.”

The Times editors at least had the decency to hide both their pieces deep
inside the paper (and the paper remained editorially silent on the subject of
the memos). The Washington Post did them one better. On its editorial page,
its writers made Purdum look like the soul of cautious reason by publishing Iraq,
Then and Now
, which had the following dismissal of the memos:

War opponents
have been trumpeting several British government memos from July 2002, which describe
the Bush administration’s preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President
Bush’s deceptions about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why “the mainstream
media” have not paid more attention to them. Though we can’t speak for The Post’s
news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos add not a single fact to
what was previously known about the administration’s prewar deliberations. Not
only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.

Of course, the editorial writers might at least have pointed out that, before
March 2003, the Post editorial page, now so eager to tell us that we knew
it all then, was generally beating the drums for war. If they knew it all then,
they evidently couldn’t have cared less that the administration’s “prewar deliberations”
bore remarkably little relationship to its prewar statements and claims. Nor did
they bother to repeat another boringly obvious point — that the best of the
Post’s reporting on the subject of the administration’s prewar deliberations
from journalists like Walter Pincus had, in those prewar days, generally been
consigned to the inside pages of the paper, while the administration’s bogus claims
about Iraq (which, they now imply, they knew perfectly well were bogus) were regularly
front-paged.

Let’s just add that if Post editorialists and Times journalists
can’t tell the difference between scattered, generally anonymously sourced, pre-war
reports that told us of early Bush administration preparations for war and actual
documents on the same subject emerging from the highest reaches of the British
government, from the highest intelligence figure in that government who had just
met with some of the highest figures in the U.S. government, and was immediately
reporting back to what, in essence, was a “war cabinet” — well, what can
you say? To return to the Pentagon Papers and Watergate affairs, long before news
on the Papers was broken in 1971 by the Times, you could certainly have
pieced together — as many did — much about the nature of American war planning
in Vietnam, just as long before the Watergate affair became recognizably itself
(only months after the 1972 election), you could have read the lonely Woodstein
pieces in the Post (and scattered pieces elsewhere) and had a reasonable
sense of where the Nixon administration was going. But material from the horse’s
mouth, so to speak, directly from Pentagon documents or from Deep Throat himself,
that was a very different matter, as is true with the Downing Street memos.

Let Sunday Times reporter Michael Smith — by his own admission, a
British conservative and a supporter of the invasion of Iraq — explain this,
as he did in a recent on-line
chat at the Washington Post website
, with a bluntness inconceivable
for an American reporter considering the subject:

“It
is one thing for the New York Times or The Washington Post to say
that we were being told that the intelligence was being fixed by sources inside
the CIA or Pentagon or the NSC and quite another to have documentary confirmation
in the form of the minutes of a key meeting with the Prime Minister’s office.
Think of it this way, all the key players were there. This was the equivalent
of an NSC [National Security Council] meeting, with the President, Donald Rumsfeld,
Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks all there. They say the
evidence against Saddam Hussein is thin, the Brits think regime change is illegal
under international law so we are going to have to go to the U.N. to get an ultimatum,
not as a way of averting war but as an excuse to make the war legal, and oh by
the way we aren’t preparing for what happens after and no-one has the faintest
idea what Iraq will be like after a war. Not reportable, are you kidding me?”

Similarly, on the line in the initial Downing Street memo that has been much hemmed
and hawed about here — “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around
the policy.” — he has this to say:

“There
are number of people asking about fixed and its meaning. This is a real joke.
I do not know anyone in the UK who took it to mean anything other than fixed as
in fixed a race, fixed an election, fixed the intelligence. If you fix something,
you make it the way you want it. The intelligence was fixed and as for the reports
that said this was one British official. Pleeeaaassee! This was the head of MI6
[the British equivalent of the CIA]. How much authority do you want the man to
have? He has just been to Washington, he has just talked to [CIA director] George
Tenet. He said the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

But does all of this even qualify as a news story today? For that you need a tad
of context, so here in full is the President’s response when, at
a recent news conference
with Tony Blair, he was asked about that facts-being-“fixed”
reference in the Downing Street memo:

“PRESIDENT
BUSH: Well, I — you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo,
particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of [Tony Blair’s election]
race. I’m not sure who “they dropped it out” is, but — I’m not suggesting
that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know,
we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s
nothing farther from the truth.

“My
conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what
could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before
we even went to the United Nations — or I went to the United Nations. And
so it’s — look, both us of didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants
to commit military into combat. It’s the last option. The consequences of committing
the military are — are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President
is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat. It’s the last
option that the President must have — and it’s the last option I know my
friend had, as well.

“And
so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take
a — put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and
he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously.
He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

So even today, our President gets up and, in response to these memos, denies that
he or Tony Blair made a decision to go to war until the last second (“There’s
nothing farther from the truth.”), something our papers are now saying we all
knew wasn’t so back when. So he lied then, and he lies today on this matter, and
somehow this isn’t considered a news story because somewhere, sometime, some reporters
on some major papers actually published pieces contradicting him before the Downing
Street documents themselves were written? The logic is fascinating. It is also
shameful.

As
ever, to hear this discussed in a blunt fashion, you have to repair to the Internet,
where, at Salon, for instance, you can read Juan Cole writing in The
Revenge of Baghdad Bob
:

“Bush
is trying to give the impression that his going to the United Nations showed his
administration’s good faith in trying to disarm Saddam by peaceful means. It does
nothing of the sort. In fact, the memo contains key evidence that the entire U.N.
strategy was a ploy, dreamed up by the British, to justify a war that Bush had
decided to wage long ago… The docile White House press corps, which until the
press conference had never asked the president about the Downing Street memo,
predictably neglected to press Bush and Blair on those issues, allowing them to
get away with mere obfuscation and meaningless non-answers.”

I swear, if the American equivalents of the Downing Street memos were to leak
(as they will sooner or later), there would be stories all over the world, while
our papers would be saying: No news there; we knew it all along. So how have the
various memos
defied a mainstream media consensus and over these weeks risen,
almost despite themselves, into the news, made their way into Congress, onto television,
into consciousness?

Well, for one thing, the political Internet simply wouldn’t stop yammering about
them. Long before they were discussed in print, they were already up and being
analyzed at sites like the War in Context
and Antiwar.com. So
credit the blogosphere with this one, at least in part. But let’s not create too
heroic a tale of the Internet’s influence to match the now vastly overblown tale
of the role of the press in the Watergate affair. Part of the answer also involves
a shift in the wind — the wind being, in the case of politics, falling
polling figures
for the President and Congress. Can’t you feel it? The Bush
administration seems somehow to be weakening.

The mainstream media can feel it, too, and weakness is irresistible. Before we’re
done, if we’re not careful, we’ll have a heroic tale of how the media saved us
all from the Bush administration.

Sadly, the overall story of American press coverage of this administration and
its Iraqi war has been a sorry one indeed, though there are distinct exceptions,
one of which has been the work done by the Knight Ridder news service. Its reporters
in Washington — Warren Strobel, John Wolcott, and Jonathan Landay among others
— seemed remarkably uncowed by the Bush administration at a time when others
were treading lightly indeed. Even now, compare Strobel’s recent piece published
under the very un-American sounding headline British
documents portray determined U.S. march to war
with the reporting norm. It
begins: “Highly classified documents leaked in Britain appear to provide new evidence
that President Bush and his national security team decided to invade Iraq much
earlier than they have acknowledged and marched to war without dwelling on the
potential perils.” As it happens, Knight Ridder doesn’t have a flagship paper
among the majors that would have highlighted its fine reporting, and so its work
was essentially buried.

About a month ago, to accompany a forceful analysis by Mark Danner (posted
on May 15
at Tomdispatch), the New York
Review of Books
would become the first publication in this country to put
the initial Downing Street memo in print (a striking act for a “review of books”
and an indication of just how our major papers have let us down). Recently, John
Wolcott of Knight Ridder wrote Danner a brief response and in the July 14th issue
of the Review, Danner, who has been
on fire this year
, considers what to make of the strange media coverage of
the memo in this country and why it is important. Thanks to the kindness of the
Review’s editors, you can read the exchange here. ~ Tom

Why
the Memo Matters

By
Mark Danner

On
May 16th, the New
York Review of Books
put the original Downing Street memo in print in this country for the first time.
Mark Danner wrote the accompanying analysis, “The Secret Way to War.” In response
to that piece, John Walcott of Knight Ridder news service wrote a brief letter
and Danner, in answering, has now taken the opportunity to return to the significance
of the Downing Street memo and the press coverage of it. This exchange will appear
in the July 14th issue of the New
York Review of Books
,
on newsstands June 20th.

To
the Editors:

Mark Danner’s excellent article on the Bush administration’s path to war in Iraq
[The Secret Way to War,
NYR, June 9] missed a couple of important signposts.

On
October 11, 2001
, Knight Ridder reported that less than a month after the
September 11 attacks senior Pentagon officials who wanted to expand the war against
terrorism to Iraq had authorized a trip to Great Britain in September by former
CIA director James Woolsey in search of evidence that Saddam Hussein had played
a role in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Then, on
February 13, 2002
, nearly six months before the Downing Street memo was written,
Knight Ridder reported that President Bush had decided to oust Saddam Hussein
and had ordered the CIA, the Pentagon, and other agencies to devise a combination
of military, diplomatic, and covert steps to achieve that goal. Six days later,
former Senator Bob Graham of Florida reports in his book, he was astounded when
General Tommy Franks told him during a visit to the US Central Command in Tampa
that the administration was shifting resources away from the pursuit of al-Qaeda
in Afghanistan and Pakistan to prepare for war in Iraq.

John Walcott Washington Bureau Chief Knight Ridder

Mark
Danner replies:

John Walcott is proud of his bureau’s reporting, and he should be. As my colleague
Michael
Massing
has written in the pages of the New York Review of Books, during
the lead-up to the Iraq war Knight Ridder reporters had an enviable and unexampled
record of independence and success. But Mr. Walcott’s statement that in my article
“The Secret Way to War” I “missed a couple of important signposts” brings up an
obvious question: Signposts on the way to what? What exactly does the Downing
Street memo
(which is simply an official account of a British security cabinet
meeting in July 2002) and related documents that have since appeared, prove? And
why has the American press in large part still resisted acknowledging the story
the documents tell?

As I wrote in my article,

“The
great value of the discussion recounted in the memo…is to show, for the governments
of both countries, a clear hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest,
war had been decided on; the question at issue now was how to justify it —
how to u2018fix,’ as it were, what Blair will later call u2018the political context.’
Specifically, though by this point in July the President had decided to go to
war, he had not yet decided to go to the United Nations and demand inspectors;
indeed, as u2018C’ [the chief of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA] points out,
those on the National Security Council — the senior security officials of
the U.S. government — u2018had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for
publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record.’ This would later change, largely
as a result of the political concerns of these very people gathered together at
10 Downing Street.”

Those “political concerns” centered on the fact that, as British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw points out, “the case [for going to war] was thin” since, as the Attorney
General points out, “the desire for regime change [in Iraq] was not a legal base
for military action.” In order to secure such a legal base, the British officials
agree, the allies must contrive to win the approval of the United Nations Security
Council, and the Foreign Secretary puts forward a way to do that: “We should work
up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors.”
Prime Minister Tony Blair makes very clear the point of such an ultimatum: “It
would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow
in the inspectors.”

On February 13, 2002 — five months before this British cabinet meeting, and
thirteen months before the war began — the second of the articles Mr. Walcott
mentions had appeared, under his and Walter P. Strobel’s byline and the stark
headline Bush
Has Decided to Overthrow Hussein
. The article concludes this way:

“Many nations…can
be expected to question the legality of the United States unilaterally removing
another country’s government, no matter how distasteful. But a senior State Department
official, while unable to provide the precise legal authority for such a move,
said, u2018It’s not hard to make the case that Iraq is a threat to international peace
and security.’… A diplomatic offensive aimed at generating international support
for overthrowing Saddam’s regime is likely to precede any attack on Iraq…

“The United States, perhaps
with UN backing, is then expected to demand that Saddam readmit inspectors to
root out Iraq’s chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs… If Baghdad
refuses to readmit inspectors or if Saddam prevents them from carrying out their
work, as he has in the past, Bush would have a pretext for action.”

Thus the stratagem that the British would successfully urge on their American
allies by late that summer was already under discussion within the State Department
— five months before the Downing Street meeting in July 2002, and more than
a year before the war began.

Again, what does all this prove? From the point of view of “the senior State Department
official,” no doubt, such an admission leaked to a Knight Ridder reporter was
an opening public salvo in the bureaucratic struggle that reached a climax that
August, when President Bush finally accepted the argument of his secretary of
state, and his British allies, and went “the United Nations route.” Just in the
way that unnoticed but prophetic intelligence concealed in a wealth of “chatter”
is outlined brightly by future events, this leak now seems like a clear prophetic
disclosure about what was to come, having been confirmed by what did in fact happen.
But the Downing Street memo makes clear that at the time the “senior State Department
official” spoke to the Knight Ridder reporters the strategy had not yet been decided.
The memo, moreover, is not an anonymous statement to reporters but a record of
what Britain’s highest security officials actually said. It tells us much about
how the decision was made, and shows decisively that, as I wrote in my article,
“the idea of UN inspectors was introduced not as a means to avoid war, as President
Bush repeatedly assured Americans, but as a means to make war possible.”

The Knight Ridder pieces bring up a larger issue. It is a source of some irony
that one of the obstacles to gaining recognition for the Downing Street memo in
the American press has been the largely unspoken notion among reporters and editors
that the story the memo tells is “nothing new.” I say irony because we see in
this an odd and familiar
narrative
from our current world of “frozen scandal” — so-called scandals,
that is, in which we have revelation but not a true investigation or punishment:
scandals we are forced to live with. A story is told the first time but hardly
acknowledged (as with the Knight Ridder piece), largely because the broader story
the government is telling drowns it out. When the story is later confirmed by
official documents, in this case the Downing Street memorandum, the documents
are largely dismissed because they contain “nothing new.”

Part of this comes down to the question of what, in our current political and
journalistic world, constitutes a “fact.” How do we actually prove the truth of
a story, such as the rather obvious one that, as the Knight Ridder headline had
it, “Bush has decided to overthrow Hussein” many months before the war and the
congressional resolution authorizing it, despite the President’s protestations
that “no decision had been made”? How would one prove the truth of the story that
fully eight months before the invasion of Iraq, as the head of British intelligence
reports to his prime minister and his cabinet colleagues upon his return from
Washington in July 2002, “the facts and the intelligence were being fixed around
the policy”? Michael
Kinsley
, in a recent article largely dismissing the Downing Street memo, remarks
about this sentence:

“Of
course, if u2018intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,’ rather
than vice versa, that is pretty good evidence of Bush’s intentions, as well as
a scandal in its own right. And we know now that was true and a half. Fixing intelligence
and facts to fit a desired policy is the Bush II governing style, especially concerning
the war in Iraq. But C offered no specifics, or none that made it into the memo.
Nor does the memo assert that actual decision makers had told him they were fixing
the facts.”

Consider for a moment this paragraph, which strikes me as a perfect little poem
on our current political and journalistic state. Kinsley accepts as “true and
a half” that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” —
that is, after all, “the Bush II governing style” — but rejects the notion
that the Downing Street memo actually proves this, since, presumably, the head
of British intelligence “does [not] assert that actual decision makers had told
him they were fixing the facts.” Kinsley does not say from whom he thinks the
chief of British intelligence, in reporting to his prime minister “on his recent
talks in Washington,” might have derived that information, if not “actual decision
makers.” (In fact, as the London Sunday Times reported, among the people
he saw was his American counterpart, director of central intelligence George Tenet.)
Kinsley does say that if the point, which he accepts as true — indeed, almost
blithely dismissing all who might doubt it — could in fact be proved, it
would be “pretty good evidence of Bush’s intentions, as well as a scandal in its
own right.”

One might ask what would convince this writer, and many others, of the truth of
what, apparently, they already know, and accept, and acknowledge that they know
and accept. What could be said to establish “truth” — to “prove it”? Perhaps
a true congressional investigation of the way the administration used intelligence
before the war — an investigation of the kind that, as I wrote in my article,
was promised by the Senate Intelligence Committee, then thoughtfully postponed
until after the election — though one might think the question might have
had some relevance to Americans in deciding for whom to vote — then finally,
and quietly, abandoned. Instead, the Senate committee produced a report that,
while powerfully damning on its own terms, explicitly excluded the critical question
of how administration officials made use of the intelligence that was supplied
them.

Still,
Kinsley’s column, and the cynical and impotent attitude it represents, suggests
that such an investigation, if it occurred, might still not be adequate to make
a publicly acceptable fact out of what everyone now knows and accepts. The column
bears the perfect headline, “No Smoking Gun,” which suggests that failing the
discovery of a tape recording in which President Bush is quoted explicitly ordering
George Tenet that he should “fix the intelligence and facts around the policy,”
many will never regard the case as proved — though all the while accepting,
of course, and admitting that they accept, that this is indeed what happened.
The so-called “rules of objective journalism” dovetail with the disciplined functioning
of a one-party government to keep the political debate willfully opaque and stupid.

So: if the
excellent Knight Ridder articles by Mr. Walcott and his colleagues do indeed represent
“signposts,” then signposts on the way to what? American citizens find themselves
on a very peculiar road, stumbling blindly through a dark wood. Having had before
the war rather clear evidence that the Bush administration had decided to go to
war even as it was claiming it was trying to avert war, we are now confronted
with an escalating series of “disclosures” proving that the original story, despite
the broad unwillingness to accept it, was in fact true.

Many in Congress, including many leading Democrats who voted to give the President
the authority to go to war — fearing the political consequences of opposing
him — and thus welcomed his soothing arguments that such a vote would enable
him to avoid war rather than to undertake it, now find themselves in an especially
difficult position, claiming, as Senator John Kerry did during the presidential
campaign, that they were “misled” into supporting a war that they believed they
were voting to help prevent. This argument is embarrassingly thin but it remains
morally incriminating enough to go on confusing and corrupting a nascent public
debate on Iraq that is sure to become more difficult and painful.

Whether or not the Downing Street memo could be called a “smoking gun,” it has
long since become clear that the UN inspections policy that, given time, could
in fact have prevented war — by revealing, as it eventually would have, that
Saddam had no threatening stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction” — was
used by the administration as a pretext: a means to persuade the country to begin
a war that need never have been fought. It was an exceedingly clever pretext,
for every action preparing for war could by definition be construed to be an action
intended to avert it — as necessary to convince Saddam that war was imminent.
According to this rhetorical stratagem, the actions, whether preparing to wage
war or seeking to avert it, merge, become indistinguishable. Failing the emergence
of a time-stamped recording of President Bush declaring, “I have today decided
to go to war with Saddam and all this inspection stuff is rubbish,” we are unlikely
to recover the kind of “smoking gun” that Kinsley and others seem to demand.

Failing
that, the most reliable way to distinguish the true intentions of Bush and his
officials is by looking at what they actually did, and the fact is that, despite
the protestations of many in the United Nations and throughout the world, they
refused to let the inspections run their course. What is more, the arguments of
the President and others in his administration retrospectively justifying the
war after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — stressing
that Saddam would always have been a threat because he could have “reconstituted”
his weapons programs — make a mockery of the proposition that the administration
would have been willing to leave him in power, even if the inspectors had been
allowed sufficient time to prove before the war, as their colleagues did after
it, that no weapons existed in Iraq.

We
might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying
in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story
of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become
more important, not less. Consider the strong warning put forward in a recently
released British Cabinet document dated two days before the Downing Street memo
(and eight months before the war), that “the military occupation of Iraq could
lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise.” On this point, as
the British document
prophetically observes, “US military plans are virtually
silent.” So too were America’s leaders, and we live with the consequences of that
silence. As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: for most
citizens, 1,700 American dead later — tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later
— the war’s beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending.

This article appears in
the July 14th issue of The
New York Review of Books.

Tom Engelhardt
[send him mail] is editor of TomDispatch.com,
a project of the Nation Institute.
He is the author
of several books, including The
Last Days of Publishing: A Novel
and The
End of Victory Culture
. Mark Danner, a longtime New Yorker Staff writer
and frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, is Professor
of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and Henry R. Luce Professor
at Bard College. His most recent book is Torture
and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror
, which collects his
pieces on torture and Iraq that first appeared in the New York Review of Books.
His work can be found at markdanner.com.

Tom
Engelhardt Archives

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