June 22, 2005

Downing Street Downer

Voices on the political left have raised into a howl over what has become known as the Downing Street Memo (DSM), a document that claims to contain minutes of a July 22, 2002 meeting of British government officials in the build-up to the Iraq war.

Read the original Downing Street Memo,

A left-wing site dedicated to the DSM is available as well.

A quick review of the DSM conspiracy site above implies something nefarious is going on, but can't quite nail it down to specifics… but they know Bush did “something” criminal.

But what does the DSM really tell us?

Not much. It never could.

For starters, the document that became known as the Downing Street Memo is not a memo, or even a transcript of a conversation. It was, and has never claimed to be anything other than, meeting minutes.

Minutes are the paraphrased summary of a meeting. Informational points are presented and summarized, decisions noted, action items are discussed, and status updates for previous action items and decisions are presented for review. Unless transcribed from audio, they are at best the selective, paraphrased recollections of the individual taking notes during the meeting.

In practice, meeting minutes are the summary of several other summaries, filtered through one set of eyes, in fits and starts. If you have a good scribe taking minutes, he or she hopefully doesn't miss major points of the current conversation while trying to decide how to summarize what was just said. Minutes are only meant to capture high-level thoughts, and are notoriously inaccurate in the details.

That is the truth of the Downing Street Memo, and one of its many critical failure points.

Since the release of the original Downing Street Memo, other documents have come forth from the same source, and these documents flatly contradict the assertions some were making in interpreting the DSM. There was no early decision to go to war. There was no intention to set up a false WMD case.

The 9/11 Commission Report and several congressional probes also investigating these and similar claims also found that they had no merit even before the “discovery” of the DSM.

Proponents of the DSM as evidence of a smoking gun must also put aside the fact that Saddam was given a chance to comply with United Nations inspectors, and he made the conscious decision not to do so. Are we next going to hear that Saddam Hussein was in on the plan with Bush and Blair from the very beginning?

The Downing Street Memos, as the original and following documents are now collectively known, are historically interesting as they show insight into the British view of a relationship between two old allies, but that is their only real merit.

Someone gin up Lucy Rameriz. The Left is going to need more documents.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 22, 2005 12:21 AM | TrackBack