Conspiracy Theories: Downing Street Memo

Christopher Hitchens has a typically biting piece at Slate entitled, “Conspiracy Theories – If you liked The Da Vinci Code, you’ll love the Downing Street Memo.” The opening is brutal:

A few weeks ago, at an airport in Europe, I saw Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code staring at me across the bookstore bins. I had seen it many times before and averted my gaze, but I was facing a long delay, and I suddenly thought: May as well get it over with.

Well, of course I knew it would be bad. I just didn’t know that it would be that bad. Never mind for now the breathless and witless style, or the mashed-paper characters, or the lazy, puerile reliance on incredible coincidence to flog the lame plot along. What if it was all true? What if the Nazarene had had issue, in fleshly form, with an androgynous disciple? The Catholic Church would look foolish but, then, it already looks foolish enough on the basis of the official story. “Opus Dei,” according to Brown, is a sinister cult organization. Excuse me, but I already knew this, so to speak, independently.

Hitch’s ability to force himself to read books he knows will be bad simply because he should have read them is one I admire, having perhaps a hundred or more books on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get through for some time.

But I digress. Hitchens heaps several paragraphs of ridicule on the authoritativeness of the Downing Street Memo, coming to a conclusion that I have (thus confirming his brilliance):

I am now forced to wonder: Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq? This was a fairly open conspiracy, and an open secret. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam “as if” (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof. The British attorney general—who has no jurisdiction in these 50 states—was worried that “regime change” alone would not be a sufficient legal basis. One appreciates his concern. But the existence of the Saddam regime was itself a defiance of all known international laws, and we had before us the consequences of previous failures to act, in Bosnia and Rwanda, where action would have been another word for “regime change.”

Quite right. Now, of course, it would have been harder–if not impossible–for Bush and Blair to persuade the world that war was justified without reference to the WMD. I know this to be true since they were largely unable to do so even with the reference to the WMD.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markus says:

    Now, of course, it would have been harder–if not impossible–for Bush and Blair to persuade the world that war was justified without reference to the WMD. I know this to be true since they were largely unable to do so even with the reference to the WMD.
    Non sequitur? Seriously, this is nonsense of the highest order and it implies a view of fellow citizens as ignorant sheep that I find highly disgusting. You’re basically saying that the people had to be lied to in order to convince them, and that their hesitation in the face of some very dubious statements and the fact that nothing turned up once inspectors were there proves it wouldn’t have been possible to be honest with them. This is a nice rationalisation for covering lies with more lies but moreover, in that it absolves politicians from any need to make their case honestly and convince the populace of the merits of their plans, it is simply un-democratic.
    I suggest reconsidering what you think about your fellow citizens and what you “know” about things that were not the case.

  2. Pug says:

    Hitchens and fellow Brit Andrew Sullivan flogged WMD as hard as anyone. How about a simple “I was wrong, but . . .”

    Now his line of reasoning seems to be, “Well, of course the people had to be lied to. We, your intellectual superiors, were forced to do it because you wouldn’t have done what was best for you if we didn’t. So what?”

    Of course he can’t write anything without calling someone a “moral cretin” or some such garbage. Hitchens’ attitude of moral and intellectual superiority is disgusting.

  3. reliapundit says:

    wow! great post, thanks. hitch is superb on this issue.

  4. St. No No. says:

    “badly worded and third-hand opinion about a meeting by a junior clerk”
    – isn’t that how that drunk wind bag Hitchens started his career?

    Its good to know that Christopher feels this way to prove the validity of something that doesn’t need to be validated.

    Do we need to actually prove whether the memo is real or not?

    Isn’t clear by now from both sides of the bullshit that we’re all being screwed here and what we’re really doing is trying to rationalize the heaps of sputum to pretend that we’re really not bitch slaves to the energy companies? It would be like naming that British television show “Keeping Up Appearances with a Plunger up your Ass”

    Have we not known since the 1950’s that these so-called Super Powers of the World are nothing but toadies for oil syndicates?

    Let’s see all these wind bags (ie: people who comment on obvious tyrrany) go over and get their heads blown off for some Crude, dude. As far as I know Hitchens is not poor, and he’s not hispanic. So don’t listen to him. 3 paragraphs is a milestone for that hack. Keep clicking your heels Chris you’ll make it home someday . . .

     

  5. Inaru says:

    “Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam “as if” (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof.” Bull, Hans Blix did not believe there were WMDs, that’s why he was treated like a pariah and dismissed – what kind of nonsense is Hitchens spewing? Doesn’t he keep up w/the news?

    Amazon.com Editorial Reviews of Blix’s “Disarming Iraq”:

    Amazon.com
    Disarming Iraq is an insider’s account of the diplomatic and inspection efforts leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Though a bit dry, the book is logically presented and gives an excellent background on the inspections process and the politics surrounding it. Hans Blix, who came out of retirement in 2000 to lead the inspections effort, was often bashed by American politicians and journalists, but he does not use this forum to strike back. Instead, he allows the evidence to do the talking, only occasionally offering his own opinion. Blix stresses that he never trusted Hussein and that inspectors were often misled and stonewalled, but he also points out that they never found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction either. Though Blix welcomes the end of Hussein’s brutal dictatorship, his removal was “neither the avowed aim nor the justification given” for the war—-WMDs were the issue. Therefore, he believes the invasion was unnecessary and possibly counterproductive in the long run and is disappointed that they were not given enough time to complete their task. “Containment had worked,” he writes. “It has also become clear that national intelligence organizations and government hawks, but not the inspectors, had been wrong in their assessments.”

    Blix blames “monumental” intelligence failures on the part of the U.S. and Great Britain for most of these errors. In particular, he questions America’s reliance on Iraqi defectors over their own intelligence agencies. He further wonders why the U.S. dismissed nearly all of the inspection agencies’ findings over the past decade, in essence depriving themselves of a valuable source of information. He concludes that inspections are a worthwhile and effective method of containing potentially dangerous regimes and he believes that too high a price was paid for the war: “in the compromised legitimacy of the action, in the damaged credibility of the governments pursuing it, and in the diminished authority of the United Nations.” –Shawn Carkonen

  6. stickdog says:

    But the existence of the Saddam regime was itself a defiance of all known international laws, and we had before us the consequences of previous failures to act, in Bosnia and Rwanda, where action would have been another word for “regime change.”

    OK. So the existence of Hussein’s regime was in defiance of ALL known international laws. Wow. Because you said so. Right, Chrissy? It’s not like agressive imperial invasions are against international law. No, sir. No, international law breaking is caused not by murderous actions, but by mere EXISTENCE! So when one government mounts an invasion, it’s obviously upholding the law by punishing another government for EXISTING illegally! Right, Chrissy?