On the downing street memos: I'm not sure that I share the enthusiasm many liberals have these days for the content of these documents. Lets say, indeed, that Bush had decided on war in early 2002.
I say, so what? Why does it matter when the actual military decision was taken? Surely you'd expect there to be a gap between the time of decision-making and the time of the beginning of warfare, if only for military reasons.
Someone might reply by saying that the memos prove that Bush did not give the UN inspections a chance to work; he had already made up up his mind. But the memos prove no such thing. Whatever decision Bush made in 2002, he may have changed his mind to give inspections a chance.
Indeed, the compromise that resulted in UN resolution 1441 and Iraqi inspections arose out of the efforts of the US to gain support from other countries for the invasion of Iraq. So it was already widely known that Bush's efforts to build a coalition to invade Iraq were changed, at least temprorarily, into plans for an inspection regime.
Now there is one passage in the memos I consider damning to Bush.
[ Sir Richard Lovelace, head of the MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.But this tells us nothing we did not already know: Bush misled the public about Iraqi WMDs. Old news.
Now I feel Bush's deception on Iraqi WMDs was not covered sufficiently by the media. And to the extent that these memos will coerce the media into fulfilling their duty I'm happy. But I don't think they offer us much in the way of new evidence.