Media Black Out Downing Street Minutes
By David Swanson, www.afterdowningstreet.org
Aggressive followers and participants in U.S. politics often have strong opinions about the Downing Street Minutes. Most other Americans have not heard of or are not clear about what the Downing Street Minutes are.
How is this possible? Here we have the official government minutes from a meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials, including a briefing by Richard Dearlove, then-director of Britain’s CIA equivalent, MI-6, who had just returned from meetings with high U.S. Government officials in Washington. While the meeting recorded in these minutes occurred on July 23, 2002, months before President Bush submitted his resolution on Iraq to the United States Congress and months before Bush and Blair asked the United Nations to resume its inspections for alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the minutes make clear that Bush had decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by launching a war which, Dearlove reports, would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction].” Dearlove continues: “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
In other words, here is an official document confirming the earlier reports of various former Bush Administration officials that Bush had decided to invade Iraq long before he made that public, and that he manipulated evidence to provide a bogus justification for the attack. Here is a smoking gun if there ever can be one. How can people not know about this?
Media critic Norman Solomon offers evidence for the following analysis: “Big media outlets shun the idea that the president might really be a war criminal.”
Maybe they do, but they still have to report the facts, don’t they? They are the news media, right?
To check this out, I went to the Nexis database, which does not include every single article and transcript produced by major US media, but which comes pretty close to doing so, and which certainly offers a representative picture.
In order to gauge the sort of reporting I ought to find on this topic, I did a couple of quick searches for major news stories of vital importance to our democracy. I searched, between May 1 and May 30 in English language media, for “Michael Jackson” and for “Star Wars.” For each of those searches, however, I found over 1,000 articles, which is too many for Nexis to display.
I was sure I would run into the same problem when I searched for “Downing Street Memo.” To make that even more likely, I searched for “Downing Street Memo” OR “Downing Street Minutes” OR “Bush lied.” Amazingly, however, I found only 123 articles in May in English-language media. Even odder was the nature of those articles. Unlike most searches I’ve done in Nexis, this one found a large percentage of articles (about half) that were not articles at all. They were letters to the editor. Of these letters, 39 informed the public about the Downing Street Minutes, the majority of these also complaining about a lack of media coverage. One letter argued against paying any attention to the Minutes. Meanwhile, 23 letters included the phrase “Bush lied,” 21 of them arguing that he had lied about Iraq, two suggesting that he had lied about something else. (There’s some overlap in these numbers, in that some letters cited both the Downing Street Minutes and Bush lying.)
But letters weren’t the only non-article articles found in this search. Three of the articles were just lists of articles. Three more were identical copies of the same transcript from a White House briefing at which the White House Press Secretary was asked about the Downing Street Minutes. Another three were guest columns about the lack of media coverage. Yet another three were columns by newspapers’ in-house columnists about the lack of media coverage. Four were the transcripts of chats on washingtonpost.com in which people asked about the Downing Street Minutes and the Post employees quickly dismissed the subject. And one was a press release put out by a member of the www.AfterDowningStreet.org coalition.
Of course, after eliminating all of those, the rest must have been substantive articles reporting on this important document and what it means for the Bush Administration’s record of veracity