News and opinions on situation in Iraq
12/6/05 DOWNING STREET DOCUMENTS — Ten Briefcases Full by Grace Reid

Sun Jun 12th, 2005 at 19:04:06 GMT

The papers are coming alive over the “Downing Street Memo.” Am I supposed to get excited? Bollocks. Until the night of the 9th of June, the “Downing Street Memo” didn’t even exist. We had the “Downing Street Minutes” all right. And we had a BBC transcript from March 20, 2005 that included the minutes, and several memos… including one from Christopher Meyer and one from David Manning. These things were explosive, to be sure. But no one read them, so they didn’t exist.

That is not until 8:00PM, June 9th, 2005 when some brave or misguided soul decided to put a whole zip file of five confidential British memorandum up on the World Wide Web — until then we were a little short of anything one could call “Downing Street Memo.”

For a period of three and a half weeks we had a concept of “Downing Street Memo,” and it had entered into the lexicon by the 10th of May, 2005. A website called “Downing Street” was born around the 11th of May. So you have a word, and a website, ergo sum, you have a memo.

When Sen. McCain addressed the Downing Street Memo on CNN, he said “I don’t agree with it.” Well maybe Sen. McCain knows something the rest of us don’t, as minutes are not an opinion you can disagree with, but a statement of fact. Maybe he was referring to something else, other than minutes of a high level Prime Minister’s meeting on Iraq. “Intelligence was fixed” to fit the policy of an illegal war of aggression on Iraq.

An “unnamed former senior US official” is quoted as saying the account of the senior British Intelligence officer’s visit to Washington is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired.” Now that’s what is in the minutes, we’re talking minutes here, folks, and that means FACTS.


Somewhat like Dorothy’s red shoes in the Wizard of Oz, we’ve all had the Downing Street Memos all the time, in ADDITION to the Downing Street Minutes. On the 20th of March, 2005, the BBC aired the Panorama Programme: Iraq: Tony & The Truth. All the confidential memoranda referred to here and elsewhere are contained in, and in most cases quoted from directly in the transcript of that program. Anyone could read it. Anyone could have read it in the last 90 days it has taken to bring this to the American attention. And anyone can read it now. Please God, somebody does, and let it be the American People.

Congressman John Conyers on June 9, 2005, said that when he convenes the House Democratic Judiciary Hearing on the 16th of June, they will be investigating not just the Downing Street Minutes, but also confidential memorandum that backs up the evidence in the Downing Street Minutes, but is not as incriminating as that first document.


The Downing Street Minutes; High Level Prime Minister’s Meeting on Iraq; Minutes, July 23, 2002:,,2087-1593607,00.html

Briefing Annex to the Downing Street Minutes: see: Walter Pincus, Washington Post; June 11, 2005:

Four Confidential UK memos (not yet authenticated)


This is one of the memos that came up on the Net the other night:

DATE: 14 MARCH 2002


I had dinner with Condi on Tuesday; and talks and lunch with her and an NSC team on Wednesday (to which Christopher Meyer also came). These were good exchanges, and particularly frank when we were one-on-one at dinner. I attach the record in case you want to glance.

IRAQ: We spent a long time at dinner on IRAQ. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option… Condi`s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks. (See the attached piece by Seymour Hersh which Chrisopher Meyer says gives a pretty accurate picture of the uncertain state of the debate in Washington.)

From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions:

* how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified;

* what value to put on the exiled Iraqi opposition

* how to coordinate a US/allied military campaign with internal opposition (assuming there is any)

* what happens on the morning after?

Bush will want to pick your brains. He will also what to hear whether he can expect coalition support. I told Condi that we realized that the Administration could go it alone if it chose. But if it wanted company, it would have to take account of the concerns of its potential coalition partners. In particular:

The UN dimension. The issue of the weapons inspectors must be handled in a way that would persuade European and wider opinion that the US WAS CONSCIOUS OF THE INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK, AND THE INSISTENCE OF MANY COUNTRIES ON THE NEED FOR A LEGAL BASE. Renewed refusal by Saddam to accept unfettered inspections would be a powerful argument;

– the paramount importance of tackling Israel/Palestine. Unless we did, we could find ourselves bombing Iraq and losing the Gulf.


No doubt we need to keep a sense of perspective. But my talks with Condi convinced me that Bush wants to hear your views on Iraq before taking decisions. He also wants your support. He is still smarting from the comments by other European leaders on his Iraq policy.

This gives you real influence: on th public relations strategy; on the UN and weapons insepections; and on the US planning for any military campaign. This could be critically important. I think there is a real risk that the Administration underestimates the difficulties. They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.

Will the Sunni majority really respond to an uprising led by Kurds and Shias? Will Americans really put in enough ground troops to do the job if the Kurdish/Shi’ite strategem fails? Even if they do will they be willing to take the sort of casualties that the Republican Guard may inflict on them if it turns out to be an urban war, and Iraqi troops don’t conveniently collapse in a heap as Richard Perle and others confidently predict? They need to answer these and other tough questions, in a more convincing way than they have so far before concluding that they can do the business.

The talks at the ranch will also give you the chance to push Bush on the Middle East. The iraq factor means that there may never be a better opportunity to get this Administration to give sustained attention to reviving the MEPP.


(This memo has not yet been authenticated.)


What does this mean for the American people? Well, we’ve got just five days before the Democratic House Judiciary Hearing on the Downing Street Minutes to enrich our vocabulary by a few more office terms: we’ve got transcripts, minutes, memos, and briefing notes. The bad news is that while the Downing Street Minutes have been authenticated, and the memos leaked on the net on the night 9th of June, 2005 are, for the most part, backed up completely by the BBC Transcript, they still cannot be authenticated by what we’ve got so far.

For newshounds, and people who have a great interest in this matter the news is good. For people interested in the House Democratic Judiciary Hearing on the 16th of June, the news is excellent.

Oh yeah, and for everyone who has been marketing “Downing Street Memo” they can sell a few more bumper stickers. The market for British intelligence is on an upswing.


If you’re following this as closely as I am you should be well into your second briefcase by now.

News Reports 2001-2005

Hutton Report, Butler Report, Wilmshurst Minute 1, 2002; Wilmshurst Minute 2, 2003; Goldsmith Opinion March 7, 2003.

O’Neill and Clarke

Extra Strength Tylenol, Cartoon File: Bush’s Poodle; Bushisms; Press Conferences: McClellan, Mehlman, Hume, McCain, Whizbang, Bush & Blair; Two pair queen size Leggs Control Top pantyhose, off black; 10 gel ink pens; 80 cigarettes: Major, Rothmanns, Carrols, and John Player Blues; 4 Red Copybooks; Passport; Wallet; Eyeglasses: tinted bi-focals; Love Notes from Friends; lint and crumpled notes.

See also:


On Minutes and Ministers — Legal Considerations Downing St. Minutes:

The Game’s Afoot, Watson — DOWNING STREET DOSSIER:

Courtesy of Grace Reid

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