Friday, November 24, 2006
how can we sleep when their beds are burning:
Courtesy of Jonathan Schwarz at Tiny Revolution, here's a scanned-in capture of the minutes of what John Quiggin is calling a second Downing Street Memo. It's a February 2002 memo summaring a conversation between Australia's United Nations ambassador and a ... wheat company executive. In it, John Dauth, the ambassador, forecasts an American invasion of Iraq predicated on WMD but in truth originating out of the post-9/11 American mania. Dauth comes astonishingly close, for someone observing before the debate over UN SC Resolution 1441, to predicting the actual time frame for launching the invasion.

Downing Street this ain't. Employ Occam's Razor here: there just isn't any way that the Australian ambassador to the United Nations is privvy to any White House or Pentagon warplanning. What Dauth is doing in this meeting is giving the wheat company executive, Trevor Flugge, his read on foreign affairs in the wake of 9/11, and how Australia would react. Look, in November 2001, Lawrence wrote a cover story for TNR on the "Coming War Against Saddam." It didn't report any explosive new revelations. Instead, it fleshed out the backstory to why war was increasingly a foregone conclusion.

All this is to say that it wasn't exactly sui generis for Bush to invade Iraq. Hell, for my college newspaper's fall 2001 parody issue I wrote a fake AP dispatch reporting that the bombs were falling on Baghdad. After all, the Jew had been scheming about this one for a long ti -- um, I mean, there was a long intellectual pedigree for an invasion in right-wing circles, and the attacks created a unique political opportunity for launching the war. Even a marginal figure like John Dauth could see that.
--Spencer Ackerman
Well, the proof would be in what happened to wheat futures- if the people involved thought this was more than a "good guess" they will have left their fingeprints on the futures markets.
Blogger serial catowner | 8:27 AM

How does that follow?
Blogger spencerackerman | 8:37 AM

I think you're overdoing the scepticism. The first of the Downing Street memos, also referring to US intentions to invade, are from early March 2002, so it's pretty clear that the Administration was keeping the UK informed.

Australia is of course a small and insignificant country, but it's also (particularly under the current government) the most reliable ally the Bush Administration has, and a country that would be expected to supply troops as a matter of course. There's nothing surprising in supposing that the Administration would have informed our government of its plans in general terms, at around the same time as it told the Blair government.

Of course, as you say, it's not as though this was something totally unexpected or unpredictable, but you would normally not expect this kind of briefing to be based on the private judgements of an individual diplomat.
Blogger John Quiggin | 4:17 AM

Wars usually make prices go up when the war starts. If you knew when a war would start, you could buy wheat at a peacetime price for delivery at a time when you could sell it for a wartime price.

Of course, if you did that, you would want to make sure the war started on schedule.

See I F Stone's Hidden History of the Korean War, in which he documents futures spikes just before the beginning of the Korean war.
Blogger serial catowner | 7:11 AM

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Blogger Fibercement | 3:10 AM