MoveOn's Downing Street Memo Petition is Deceptive
MoveOn.org wants you to sign a petition urging President Bush to tell the truth on the Downing Street Memo.
Problem is, if you knew little about the memo and just happened to receive MoveOn’s e-mail or went to their site, you’d be presented with a rather deceptive take on the so-called DSM. Here’s how MoveOn describes the contents of the memo:
Six months before the invasion the administration admitted to British officials that, contrary to what the American public was told, the White House was determined to go to war and was “fixing” intelligence on WMDs to justify the move..
That would indeed be an incredibly damning revelation. But that’s not what the DSM says. MoveOn doesn’t provide the actual text of the memo or a even a link to the actual text, but here’s what the memo really says:
There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
As we have discussed, this is no smoking gun. First and most importantly, the memo does not say that the administrations “was “fixing” intelligence on WMDs to justify the move.” It says “facts were being fixed around the policy.” As Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted in a USA Today story, “it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being ‘fixed around’ Iraq policy. 'Fixed around' in British English means 'bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy.”
How is that different? Because while the Bush administration may have decided war was the right action, they weren’t “fixing” intelligence. They were making sure they had the appropriate facts to back up their decision.
This isn’t to say the memo doesn’t raise some questions. Most importantly, if the decision to go to war was made before all the facts were in place, were facts that didn’t back up the decision ignored? Was the threat of WMD the real reason Bush decided to go to war or was it just the best selling point for war? These are real questions that we should be asking. And we should be asking them of the President and of the memo writer himself—after all, who better to tell us what the heck “fixed around” means than the person who wrote it?
But even if the memo does reveal some carelessness on the part of the Bush administration (and I’m not sure that in-and-of itself it does), it is absolutely not proof that intelligence was fixed. MoveOn’s insistence that this is a smoking gun is simply dishonest. People are being led to sign a petition without being giving the facts or shown the text of the memo. Now, I know this is politics as usual but that doesn’t mean it’s right.
How can we ever have real debates focused on real facts in this nation if groups like MoveOn decide to use propaganda rather than honesty in their activities? MoveOn’s willful exaggeration of what the memo says will only make it that much easier for the administration to deny the memo means anything. Propaganda begets propaganda and everyone loses.