Tom Toles has drawn editorial cartoons for the Washington Post since 2002. The Post published “The first rewrite of the draft of history” in 2005 after British papers broke news about “highly sensitive” meetings of British intelligence officers, Cabinet members, political strategists, and communications specialists, and representatives of the United States.
At these meetings, later minuted in the aforementioned “memo,” US officials reportedly outlined their commitment to pursuing war in Iraq. July 2002 was long before the US government had secured Congressional approval for a military intervention.
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” —Matthew Rycroft, July 23, 2002
Within three years of this memo, the British parliament convened two inquiries into how the government talked about weapons of mass destruction and managed intelligence data-collection. The country had to wait 14 more years to get reports from a third inquiry that focused on the war itself and required key members of the Blair administration to answer for their decisions about it.
In those 14 years, I moved to the US, completed one degree, started another, studied and published on the government’s mash-up of rhetoric and the “science” of secret intelligence, and moved across country again.
Over that same period, people involved in designing the Iraq invasion kept busy rewriting conventional wisdom about it.
So I wasn’t altogether surprised this week to see US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi make claims about the US intelligence community that didn’t match the history or government inquiry findings or my own memory. It reminded me of Toles’ cartoon, which so pointedly pokes at the stories administrations weave for themselves—and then expect us all to believe.