John Kerry criticizes news media, joins call for inquiry on Downing Street Memo

Thursday, June 2, 2005

John Kerry Senate Photo
John Kerry Senate Photo

In a swing through South Coast, Florida, former 2004 presidential candidate Senator John Kerry criticized the near silence of the U.S. mass media regarding the so-called "Downing Street Memo". The Downing Street Memo is a leaked secret British document that details the minutes of a 2002 meeting between top-level British and American government officials. The memo states that George W. Bush "was determined" to attack Iraq long before going to Congress with the matter, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." The accuracy of the memo is not being disputed by either government. The memo caused an uproar in Great Britain and made a significant impact in the British national elections, but has gotten little attention in American news. Kerry said of the memo:

"When I go back [to Washington] on Monday, I am going to raise the issue. I think it's a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth and a profoundly important document that raises stunning issues here at home. And it's amazing to me the way it escaped major media discussion. It's not being missed on the Internet, I can tell you that."

He questioned Americans' understanding of the war and the idea that criticism equals disloyalty, saying,

"Do you think that Americans if they really understood it would feel that way knowing that on Election Day, 77 percent of Americans who voted for Bush believed that weapons of mass destruction had been found and 77 percent believe Saddam did 9/11? Is there a way for this to break through, ever?"

Representative John Conyers has written to the President regarding the memo:

"...a debate has raged in the United States over the last year and one half about whether the obviously flawed intelligence that falsely stated that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was a mere 'failure' or the result of intentional manipulation to reach foreordained conclusions supporting the case for war. The memo appears to close the case on that issue stating that in the United States the intelligence and facts were being 'fixed' around the decision to go to war."

There is a growing movement on the internet and in Congress for a "Resolution of Inquiry" into issues surrounding the planning and execution of the Iraq war, especially in regard to the Administration's handling of intelligence. John Dean, a key Watergate figure, wrote in a June 2003 column for, that, "To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked... Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be a 'high crime' under the Constitution's impeachment clause."

However, in practical terms impeachment in the U.S. Senate requires a 2/3 majority for conviction, which is unlikely given that 55 out of 100 Senators are Republican.

When asked about the Downing Street Memo on May 23, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said:

"If anyone wants to know how the intelligence was used by the administration, all they have to do is go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and that's all very public information. Everybody who was there could see how we used that intelligence.

"And in terms of the intelligence, it was wrong, and we are taking steps to correct that and make sure that in the future we have the best possible intelligence, because it's critical in this post-September 11th age, that the executive branch has the best intelligence possible."