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"The Memo, the Press, and the War"

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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 03:01 PM
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"The Memo, the Press, and the War"
Writing about the Iraq war and the Downing Street memo in the July 14th issue of the New York Review of Books, Mark Danner commented on a recent column by Los Angeles Times editorial and opinion editor Michael Kinsley, No Smoking Gun.(1) Mr. Kinsley has now responded. His letter and Mark Danner's reply appear below.]

To the Editors:

It's easy to appreciate the frustration of "Downing Street Memo" enthusiasts like Mark Danner. They think they have documentary proof that President Bush had firmly decided to go to war against Iraq by July 2002. Yet some people say the memo isn't newsworthy because the charge is not true, while others say the memo isn't newsworthy because the charge is so obviously true. A smoking gun is sitting there on the table, but he's going to get away with murder because everyone -- for different reasons -- won't pick it up.

And I think Danner is right to resent the whole "smoking gun" business -- an artifact of Watergate --which comes close to establishing the old Chico Marx joke, "Who are you gonna believe: me or your own two eyes," as a serious standard of proof. Not every villain is going to tape record his villainy. George W. Bush, as I noted in the column that Danner objects to, is especially good at insisting that reality is what he would like it to be, and the smoking-gun standard helps him to get away with this.

But the DSM is worthless if it is not a smoking gun -- not because I need a smoking gun to be persuaded (a "cynical and impotent attitude," Danner says), but precisely because people who don't require a smoking gun are already persuaded. And the document is just not that smoking gun. It basically says that the conventional wisdom in Washington in July 2002 was that Bush had made up his mind and war was certain. "What," Danner asks, "could be said to establish truth' -- to prove it'?" I suggested in the column that it would have been nice if the memo had made clear that the people saying facts were fixed and war was certain were actual administration decision-makers. Danner asks, Who else could the head of British intelligence, reporting on the mood and gossip of "Washington," be talking about if not "actual decision-makers"? He has got to be kidding.
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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 03:23 PM
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