Mark Danner’s The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History compiles some of his commentary from The New York Review of Books. Although brief, it also includes the infamous DSM and several related memos. When describing the media’s gullibility in parroting the Bushevik pro-war line, Danner notes:
The Downing Street memo serves, among other things, as a not very subtle reminder that much of the press was duped by the government in a rather premeditated and quite successful way. No one likes to be reminded of this, certainly not reporters and the institutions they work for… […] When it comes to the war, much of American journalism has little more institutional interest in reexamining the past than the Bush administration itself. [p. 63, “The Memo, The Press, and the War,” NYRB, 11 August 2005, emphasis added]
John Prados, author of Hoodwinked: The Documents that Reveal How Bush Sold Us a War, has an article “Bush’s Paper Trail Grows” at TomPaine discussing the Manning memo, which finally began getting some attention in the US last week. The New York Times notes that, despite Bush’s assertions to the contrary, he had already decided to invade Iraq while he was lying to Americans—and the rest of the world—that military action was a “last resort:”
During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein. [emphasis added]
David Corn compares Bob Woodward’s description (from Plan of Attack) of the meeting with Manning’s, and analyzes the two in detail:
Woodward likes to say that his best-selling books--which are good reads--are the first drafts of history. That's true. But they can also be tilted drafts--especially when his high-level confidential sources have an interest in tilting the facts. Whoever gave him the details of this Bush-Blair session--Rice, perhaps?--left out the best and most important stuff. The net result was a less-than-full but Bush-positive account of the event. This goes to show that Woodward is only as good as his sources and that those insiders are not always so good when it comes to disclosing the real story.
If Iraq becomes the next recipient of Bush’s “last resort,” I will be curious to see what documents become public years later to shed light on Bush’s decision-making process.