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 generalÃ¢€”who has no jurisdiction in these 50 statesÃ¢€”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.