Non-Denial Denials: Transcript of Bush & Blair on the Downing Street Memo

I happened to see an old clip the other day of President Clinton facing reporters at a White House press conference during the height of the Lewinsky scandal. It was interesting to see – and to remember – the undisguised disdain that radiated from the press corps toward the president throughout the course of that scandal.

By contrast, President Bush and British Prime Minister faced a much different press corps at the news conference they held yesterday. What emanated from the men and women of the press is hard to describe. Is it fear, or a sort of Stockholm Syndrome?

But credit must be given to the reporter from Reuters who dared asked Bush a question about the Downing Street Memo. Not that he got an answer – or that there was any follow-up from him or his colleagues challenging the non-responses, which are, after all, another form of lies.

Here is what Bush and Blair said, in toto, taken from the White House transcript:

Q Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn’t do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.

But all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren’t able to do that because — as I think was very clear — there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked, or the way that he acted.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I — you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I’m not sure who “they dropped it out” is, but — I’m not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.

My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations — or I went to the United Nations. And so it’s — look, both us of didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It’s the last option. The consequences of committing the military are — are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat. It’s the last option that the President must have — and it’s the last option I know my friend had, as well.

And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a — put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

These have to the limpest nonresponses on record. Yet Dana Bash on CNN today seemed bemused that the liberal blogs weren’t satisfied. Nobody should be satisfied with these answers, particularly those who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to report the truth about important issues like war and terrorism.

Have you signed the Conyers letter? This is not a letter that advocates impeaching the president – that’s a bromide from the Right. It’s simply a letter that demands that President Bush explain the discrepancies between what was said in the minutes of the Blair meeting and what Bush, Cheney and the others were telling Americans about their plans to go to war.

Sign the letter:


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