Thursday, June 16, 2005

Downing Street Memo: A real reporter shows how it's done 

Get up off your knees, Judy! And Howie—stop looking at your watch!

WaPo, to its credit, posted an online interview with Michael Smith, the reporter who broke the Downing Street Memo story. Here are the parts I found most interesting, but you should read the whole thing. It's an outsider's perspective (Smith says he is "not some mealy-mouthed left-wing apologist") on the surreality-based community that is DC under Bush these days:

[SMITH:] It is one thing for the New York Times or The Washington Post to say that we were being told that the intelligence was being fixed by sources inside the CIA or Pentagon or the NSC and quite another to have documentary confirmation in the form of the minutes of a key meeting [i.e., the Downing Street Memo] with the Prime Minister's office. Think of it this way, all the key players were there. This was the equivalent of an NSC meeting, with the President, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks all there. They say the evidence against Saddam Hussein is thin, the Brits think regime change is illegal under international law so we are going to have to go to the U.N. to get an ultimatum, not as a way of averting war but as an excuse to make the war legal, and oh by the way we aren't preparing for what happens after and no-one has the faintest idea what Iraq will be like after a war. Not reportable, are you kidding me?

Duh. Of course, the Republican Noise Machine exists to obscure the obvious (hard work, which is why they're so well paid for what they do).

And get this! Smith doesn't whine about the blogosphere, or call for a conference about blogger ethics. He welcomes the competition!

[SMITH:] We in the mainstream media are at a crossroads now. The Internet has opened up a large number of challenges to us. We can allow the web news sites to sideline us or we can impose our largely better honed skills and show that we are the best at what we do. U.S. journalists are world-renowned for their skills and attention to accuracy but you can be inaccurate just as much by ignoring something as you can by writing it up and getting it wrong.

There's more to come:

[SMITH:] [T]here are other facts you still don't know [like Hersh's tape of screaming boys being raped in the gulag?] and the media should be using these public documents as a base from which to find them out because it is those facts that will really damage Bush. Some of the media already are on the case. Knight Ridder went in very early on in this story and I see is still going. The LA Times and The Washington Post and lots of smaller papers have all been doing their bit. They need to keep going. If the administration, as it claims, did nothing wrong, it has nothing to fear from journalists looking for the facts.

Yes, one does wonder what, or how much, Bush has to hide.

On why Bush went to war (remembering He only started doing the freedom shtick in time for election 2004):

[SMITH:] I honestly believe it is more complex than [war for oil], but yes the control of the Middle-East as a whole, of which this is only a part, is about oil, no question. What we need are the memos that say that to make people realise it. But interestingly it was never mentioned in any of those leaked UK memos so as I say there were a lot of reasons for Iraq and it is more complex. I really do believe, as Peter Ricketts, the Foreign Office Policy Director says in one of the memos that have come back into vogue this week, "it looks like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam."

Nice! "He tried to kill my Dad."

Now Smith nails Howie the Whore:

Edinburgh, U.K.: What do you think of the argument reported in Howard Kurtz's article that Sir Richard Dearlove may have came to his conclusion [noted in the Memo's minutes] by reading the newspapers?

[SMITH:] This is the head of British intelligence, a man who has just had conversations with America's most senior intelligence and national security figures. He is reporting back at the highest level, to what is effectively a war cabinet and as I know to my own cost has no great regard for newspapers. He has made his own judgment, no-one better qualified to tell that meeting what was happening. No shadow of a doubt.

From drip, drip, drip to splash, splash, splash... I'd say it was time for another terror alert!

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