Jun 20 2005

The Manning DSM – Seymour Hersh?

Published by at 8:38 pm under All General Discussions,Downing Street Memos

After getting the comment from Seixon which resulted in the previous post, I decided to re-look the Manning DSM, which is the memo which stands out uniquely as not being transcribed by typewriter or in a PDF format.

In this memo there is a very bizarre reference to Seymour Hersh – yes that Seymour Hersh.

Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks. (See the attached piece by Seymour Hersh which Christopher Meyer says gives a pretty accurate picture of the uncertain state of the debate in Washington.)

Now why would the British Ambassodor to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, reference a fringe liberal writer as someone being accurate to the pulse of America at this time? For one thing Hersh has never been accurate in capturing the broad pulse of America, just the liberal enclaves in NY City. But let’s look at this closer. Here is a PBS interview with Sir Christopher Meyer on these very events and times, and listen to the tone of his comments about Bush, Blair and Iraq

Well, it was very different then. What you have to remember is that before 9/11, the issue really between Britain and the United States — and indeed for the whole Security Council – was, how do you make sanctions work better? The whole sanction system was going wrong for two reasons. One was it had become unbelievably cumbersome and there was this oil for food program, which was being partly hampered because the kinds of innocuous stuff that people were allowed to sell to the Iraqis was being held up by very cumbersome sanctions of the system.

The other thing, of course, was that the sanctions were beginning to leak more and more and [be] violated.

We finally got to the White House after this very emotional morning [in New York]. One of the issues was, were the Americans going to use 9/11, quite apart from hunting down Al Qaeda, to go after Iraq as well? Tony Blair’s view was, whatever you’re going to do about Iraq, you should concentrate on the job at hand, and the job at hand was get Al Qaeda. Give the Taliban an ultimatum, and everything else was secondary to that.

We arrived at the White House, … and immediately, the president took Blair by the elbow and moved him off into the corner of the room, where we all congregated, and he said, I believe, to the prime minister, “I agree with you that the job in hand is Al Qaeda and Taliban. Iraq, we keep for another day.”

I think Blair and Bush have come to the view that you have to deal with Saddam Hussein through very different paths. Blair was prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1997, 1998, when Saddam provoked the first crisis with the inspectors. So Blair has had experience from that time, formed a view at that time — a view which said the international community, one way or another, has got to deal with Saddam Hussein.

President Bush comes into government in January 2001 and is not immediately focused on Iraq from a war fighting point of view, to put it crudely. For Bush, the transforming moment as far as Iraq is concerned, is 9/11. … They have an earlier priority, which is the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But once they’re out of the way, more or less, then Iraq comes up front. And as it comes up front, the nexus, the two lines cross between the way in which Blair has first seized the issue and the way that Bush subsequently is.

They’re not coming from identical positions; they come from positions which intersect

Well, you’ve got to remember something about Tony Blair and this is something I’ve had to remind people of frequently, particularly those who have accused him of being “Bush’s poodle.” When we had the start of the crisis with Saddam Hussein in 1998, which then led to the expulsion of the previous set of inspectors, UNSCOM, Blair made a very interesting speech to I think it was members of the Labor Party in January 1998, in which idea for idea, proposition for proposition, he said about Saddam Hussein what he’s been saying in the last days, weeks and months. [He] challenged [the] international community [to] try and deal with it by diplomacy; if you can’t deal with it by diplomacy, it’s got to have a credible threat of force. …

Of course, in January 1998, he was a voice crying in the wilderness. But when this kind of policy thinking started in the White House in the first quarter of 2002, I think Blair was ready to start discussing seriously with the Americans what this meant, and if this was going to be pursued, how did you do it?

It may well be that that was Blair’s intuition. But certainly at that stage, it was not inevitable. I know that President Bush has always believed that Saddam Hussein was a leopard who would never change his spots, so that the U.S. administration — or at least the president — did not believe it was possible to disarm Iraq without removing Saddam Hussein. …

On the other hand, I think if you had questioned people in the White House all through that, yes, they would have preferred to see, if you like, the Iraqi regime implode under pressure from the outside and have Saddam removed by some internal process, which would have obviated the need for an invasion.

Does this sound like a man who would refer to Seymour Hersh as accurately reflecting the American position?????

What game is Michael Smith playing? Well obviously Sir Christopher Meyer could shed light on item in the Manning DMS. Maybe someone should ask him.

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