This note contains the clearest possible point on why the documents being released in recent weeks are so damning to the Bush administration:
Bush would do well to de-personalise the objective- focus on elimination of WMD, and show that he is serious about UN Inspectors as the first choice means of achieving that (it is win/win for him: either Saddam against all odds allows Inspectors to operate freelyk[sic]- in which case we can further hobble his WMD programmes, or he blocks/hinders, and we are stronger ground for switching to other methods).
Those are my italics.
This is the point which so far almost no one, including the blogosphere, is focusing on. Perhaps folks have forgotten (with a lot of help from Bush, who has repeatedly told false stories about this particular phase of the rush to war) that indeed Saddam did comply fully with inspections, against odds that were not in fact very long given Saddam's relevant past conduct, and allowed UN weapons inspectors access to his country's defense infrastructure (such as it existed) that was unprecedented in the history of nation-states.
This is the point that the right wing, including the White House, has gone to such great lengths to obscure. The reason is obvious - when we look at the facts, it becomes clear that rather than the Bush administration merely being wrong about Saddam's alleged weapons, the Bush administration never actually cared about weapons of mass destruction as a primary issue. There is a lot of evidence for this viewpoint that's been in the public domain for a while (witness the total lack of attention the White House gave to securing Iraq's weapons sites after the invasion), but this is the first time we see spelled out so clearly the logical case that was made before the war began.
FACT: Saddam allowed weapons inspectors into the country, and gave them the access that they asked for.
If you're not a news junkie, this may come as a major shock to you. After all, the president has repeatedly said the opposite. Here's Bush in the Washington Post in July 2003, to cite just one example:
Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
If you read the article, the Two Danas note that this position "is at odds with several of his own aides;" they, uncharacteristically for print media, also note the more relevant fact that it's at odds with the factual record. To wit, here's Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector in Iraq, speaking in January 2003:
[The italicized portion is a correction - I had originally been looking at an abstract which did not do this. My apologies for this error, which was not in print for very long. I also deleted some related text below. Good work Danas.]
Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming.
This massive, easily disproven whopper by our president would be shocking if it weren't so unspeakably typical. Yet since the invasion, the press has seemed incapable of coming to terms, except for brief moments such as the article above, with the reality that our president took us to war on false pretenses, not simply presenting false facts but actually directly, materially lying about the motivations for and genesis of the Iraq war plan.
Now the press has a chance to partially redeem itself by pointing out what the newly released British documents show - that Bush cynically used UN inspections as a ploy to try to goad Hussein into defying the UN, and when Iraq in fact complied with the UN beyond anyone's wildest expectations, Bush invaded anyway, in contravention of the UN charter and thus in direct violation of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, an impeachable offense.
The clock starts now, WaPo and NYT. If you'll forgive me, I'll use a calendar in leiu of holding my breath in anticipation. But the editors and reporters at these august publications must seize this undeserved opportunity for redemption, lest their credibility, already at a historical low point, be irrevocably lost.