Monday, June 27, 2005

Gurwitz and the Downey Memo

The Downey memo (snicker). That’ll teach Jonathan Gurwitz to turn in his column at the Express-News without checking the page before it goes to print.
The headline they put on his Sunday column is “Downey memo fuel for hatred”. Of course, they should have put “Downing memo” or more accurately “Downing Street memo.” The fact that the editorial folks at the Express-News are so unfamiliar with the whole Downing Street memo controversy that they would let a mistake like this go through unnoticed is really a sad testament. Pathetically sad. I’ll bet they don’t have any trouble spelling Aruba. As of Monday morning they hadn’t even bothered to correct the version online.

But screwed up headlines aside, I had some other problems with Gurwitz’ Downing Street memo column. He starts off by claiming that this sentence from the July 21, 2002 Cabinet Office paper

"Although no political decisions have been taken, U.S. military planners have drafted options for the U.S. Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq."

“directly contradicts” the main point of the July 23, 2002 Downing Street memo which states that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" to invade Iraq.

How could they be fixing intelligence around an invasion policy that didn’t exist, he asks?

But saying that no “political decisions have been taken” is not the same thing as saying no decision on invading Iraq has been made. Clearly the decision to invade had been made at that point and the talk about “political decisions” was meant to infer public decisions. A political decision is one that is out in the open for everybody to see. What is clear from these memos is that the decision to invade had already been made but the administration was keeping it all hush-hush. They were still trying to build their case by having the intelligence fixed around the policy before letting the American people and their representatives know about it.

So there is no contradiction between the two documents as Gurwitz tries to claim.

Next, Gurwitz briefly raises the right-wing conspiracy theory that maybe the documents are fake and repeats the lie that the reporter who wrote the initial stories for the London Times “destroyed the originals”, when in fact he only destroyed photocopies he had made of the original documents.

The Republicans in Congress have refused to hold hearings on these matters which could help to clear up some of the confusion. And when Democrats, out of frustration, sought to hold their own informal hearings the Republicans impetuously refused to even allow them to use empty committee rooms, forcing them to hold their hearings in a basement. That is why Gurwitz can lampoon the “mock impeachment of President Bush that took place in the Capitol basement”.

But Gurwitz makes one final observation that is quite surprising for a conservative pundit and is yet another example of why I like him:

”Legitimate reasons exist to question the wisdom of going to war in Iraq and to criticize the Bush administration for its handling of the conflict.”

Wow! How many other conservative commentators would admit to that? Not many. Most tend to take the stand that anybody who is critical of the war in Iraq is a traitor to their country.

But Gurwitz goes on to warn people to avoide thinking too much about the Downing Street memo. Sounding a lot like Yoda from Star Wars he warns:

”Following the twisted and incongruous path of the Downing Street memo, however, leads to a fever swamp of irrational conspiracy theories, ignorance and hatred.”

That’s right, my young padawan! Be warned. The Downing Street memo is the path to the dark side! Or is that the Downey memo?

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