Jun 23 2005
Michael Smith must think people are so stupid he can make things up with impunity, and no one will see the illogic of his statemments. Either that or he was incredibly naive about what war entails, and the work it takes to win the peace after the fighting is over.
Thanks to Bill Crawford at All Things Conservative for passing me a link to his post on a recent LA Times column by the strange Mr. Smith. Strange because he hunts up old typewriters to hide his sources when any old PC with MSWord would accomplish the same result.
As Bill said in his post, where do you start? Well I will start at the beginnig. Note to Bill: I wanted to read the article first and get my impressions down before reading and addressing your points – so bear with me please. My guess is we will come to a lot of the same conclusions.
Smith starts off with a highly improbably history:
The six leaked documents I took away with me that night were to change completely my opinion of the decision to go to war and the honesty of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush.
They focused on the period leading up to the Crawford, Texas, summit between Blair and Bush in early April 2002, and were most striking for the way in which British officials warned the prime minister, with remarkable prescience, what a mess post-war Iraq would become. Even by the cynical standards of realpolitik, the decision to overrule this expert advice seemed to be criminal.
Who is he kidding? Everyone warned about the possible challenges with Iraq! Did Mr. Smith forget about the dire predictions of the time?
(1) A bloody ethnic civil war would erupt between the Shia, Kurds and Sunnis
(2) The ‘arab street’ would rise up and topple moderate friendly states because the west was invading a muslim country
(3) Israel would be attacked and the region would erupt into war across many states
(4) Saddam would use his WMDs on Turkey and Israel
(5) Turkey would disintegrate into civil strife because the Kurds would create a Kurdistan state on their border
(6) The US would be bogged down in an endless quagmire of urban fighting with tens of thousands of dead Americans
Where was the intrepid reporter when all of these possible outcomes and more were debated? And these memos of vague challenges post success are what finally turned him into a Bush hating zealot bent on riling up Americans to impeach their president? Well you do have to admit the guy has an enormous ego to think a second rate UK reporter could make America turn on the President who saw them through 9-11 and has kept us safe from attack since then.
Then he admits he is fronting for a political hacthet job by liberals who wanted to wound Blair politically and were likley against the war in any event:
The second batch of leaks arrived in the middle of this year’s British general election, by which time I was writing for a different newspaper, the Sunday Times. These documents, which came from a different source, related to a crucial meeting of Blair’s war Cabinet on July 23, 2002. The timing of the leak was significant, with Blair clearly in electoral difficulties because of an unpopular war.
At least he confirms what the blogosphere figured out (hat tip Seixon for being the one to figure this out) that the Downing Street Memos are two distinct sets, and the only ones the British government have vetted and confirmed are the first set – not the most infamous ones.
Then he apparently deliberately misquotes the memos to draw a charge he cannot back up:
It said that Blair agreed at Crawford that “the UK would support military action to bring about regime change.” Because this was illegal, the officials noted, it was “necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action.”
The memos actually say there were doubts if the legal basis used PREVIOUSLY to attack Iraq for non-compliance (remember all those air strikes) could be used again. The quote he snips actually says they would have to make a good argument for legality of the action – not that it was illegal. If he can’t even read and comprehend the very documents he uses to make these baseless claims, why would anyone take this con artist seriously?
Then the tin foil hat came out:
But another part of the memo is arguably more important. It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that “the U.S. had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime.” This we now realize was Plan B.
I honestly think MR. Smith was not on planet Earth during the run up to the war. Yes, the Bush administration was putting pressure on Hussein to prove he would not misuse his WMD TECHNOLOGY and could be trusted not to provide them into terrorist hands. And the first step was to pressure Hussein into revealing all his weapons capabilities for the world to see. The fact Bush (and me and 2/3rds of the planet) had little faith in Hussein to comply is not Plan B – it is common sense.
And he really shows off his ignorance with his final attempt at spinning:
The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.
The US started moving men and material into the region at this time. The bombings were to take out forward defensive and offensive battlements in order to make sure Saddam wouldn’t try and inflict damage on the troops gathering on his border.
Like I said – the guy is either a poor liar or simply ignorant of the times.
OK, he could be both.
Now to Bill’s incredible piece of analysis. Bill does the work I did not have time to find and transcribe the exact, complete statements which results in COMPLETELY different results. So Bill proves Mr. Smith lies through the altering of the record. Is this a standard part of the journalistic code of ethics? Must be, since no other journalists are calling him on this. They support these lies through their silence. Excellent work Mr. Crawford!