The British invasion, revisited

Downing Street springs new leak: Second Brit memo suggests Iraq war may not end in hugs

In the Washington Post, White House blogger Dan Froomkin is calling it the DSM-II. And, truly, the second Downing Street memo to leak out of the Blair adminstration portrays a Bush war team suffering from the kind of denial and delusions you can only find in that other DSM--the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The first memo didn't catch on at first with America's news outlets. You could attribute this fact to the softness of the Washington press corps--or to the fact that the memo's startling revelations were anything but. G.I. George we learned, had already resolved to invade Iraq while going through the motions of negotiating with the UN Security Council. As the Left Coaster blog recently reminded us, the American public has known this for years. Check out the lead to this feature from a little-read rag called Time magazine, dated March 2003:

"F___ Saddam. we're taking him out." Those were the words of President George W. Bush, who had poked his head into the office of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

It was March 2002, and Rice was meeting with three U.S. Senators, discussing how to deal with Iraq through the United Nations, or perhaps in a coalition with America's Middle East allies. Bush wasn't interested. He waved his hand dismissively, recalls a participant, and neatly summed up his Iraq policy in that short phrase.

The Senators laughed uncomfortably; Rice flashed a knowing smile. The President left the room. A year later, Bush's outburst has been translated into action, as cruise missiles and smart bombs slam into Baghdad.

The new British blabbery is an eight-page briefing labeled "Top Secret," which seems to have been prepared on the eve of a U.S.-British intelligence meeting in July, 2002. Its most notable paragraph is no shocker: The U.S. wasn't 110 percent prepared for the pesky task of winning the peace (as that great war critic John Kerry used to put it):

A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired endstate would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor.

All this prompts a single question (in the spirit of transatlantic embarrassments, you may want to read it out loud, in a suitable Alec Guinness/Obi-wan accent): Who is the bigger fool--the fool or the fool who follows him?

You can read the rest of the original document in the Sunday London Times.


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