Captain’s Quarters notes that the infamous Downing Street Memos cannot be authenticated because the Times reporter destroyed the originals. If the memos cannot be authenticated, they’re worthless – while they may very well be accurate, we’ve no way of knowing.
The whole issue of the Downing Street memos positively reeks of desperation on the part of the left. Far from being some kind of smoking gun, they indicate that the British had fears that Saddam Hussein would use WMDs against Israel, Kuwait, or advancing coalition troops. There’s nothing in the memos that supports the contention that Bush lied about WMDs, and the line about intelligence being “fixed” around the policy is ambiguous at best, and in context clearly doesn’t indicate what the left thinks that it does. Indeed, the memos contain nothing that was not well known at the time.
The fact was that in order to maintain a credible threat against Saddam, the US had to prepare to pull the trigger on a military option at any time. It was also quite clear that Saddam Hussein would not meet his obligations under the Gulf War cease-fire. We now know that his WMD arsenal was probably destroyed, but we also know that Hussein had maintained the capability to restart his programs, and that he was certainly developing banned missile technology. The question of whether or not Saddam Hussein violated UN Security Council Resolution 1441 is not under debate — the question is whether that should have been a pretext for war.
The Downing Street Memos provide a certain amount of insight, but a smoking gun they’re not — and given that they cannot be authenticated, it’s now an open possibility that they could have been fakes. After Memogate one would think that news outlets would be exceptionally careful to document and authenticate any documents that came there way, especially potentially explosive ones. Sadly, it would appear that the media has not yet learned its lesson about running stories based on documents of questionable provenance.
UPDATE: John Hinderocker of Powerline says the memos are more than likely legitimate. I tend to agree that the memos are what they were presented to be – minutes of various meetings of Blair’s inner circle in the runup to the war. If they were fakes, they’d be much more salacious and less contradictory than the are. However, so long as the originals cannot be verified, the story should rightly remain in some question.