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Winner, 2006 Carey McWilliams Award, given by the American Political Science Association
At the beginning of May 2005, just before the British elections, the London Times published the so-called Downing Street memo, the leaked secret minutes of a July 2002 meeting of senior British foreign policy and security officials. The memo suggested that eight months before the invasion of Iraq, long before weapons inspections resumed, President Bush had already decided on war and to justify it by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorists, that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” that the US wanted to avoid consulting the UN, and that few plans were being made for the aftermath of war.
Largely ignored in the US press for weeks afterward, the memo was finally published, with an extensive commentary by Mark Danner, in The New York Review. Danner wrote two follow-up pieces about the significance of the memo, showing how it proves that Bush had decided to invade Iraq much earlier than he admitted and only agreed to weapons inspections not to avoid war but in the expectation that the Iraqis would invite it by refusing to cooperate. Most important, Danner argues that in the face of such clear evidence of deception, the press, public, and Congress still have not held the administration responsible.
The Secret Way to War beings together Mark Danner’s strongly argued analysis of the Downing Street Memo, along with the text of the memo itself and seven other leaked British documents that show Tony Blair’s government struggling to find legal and political rationales and strategies to support regime change in Iraq.