Saturday, June 25, 2005

'Spikes of Activity' In The DSM

(Updated on Friday, July 1st at 4:30 pm)

(Downing Street Minutes to Hit House Floor: "Congressman John Conyers, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee are asking their colleagues in the House of Representatives to join them on the evening of June 28 to discuss the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of the House. Speeches will be posted within 15 mins at and linked to from

(The Raw Story reports that the Democrats' speeches on the Downing Street Memos have been postponed until Thursday. The Congressional members "were forced to delay their plans after the Republican leadership scheduled several late-night votes, Conyers press secretary Dena Graziano told RAW STORY. They now plan speeches Thursday evening, though they could be thwarted again if votes are scheduled or Congress is adjourned.")

Last Thursday, Michael Smith, the reporter for The Sunday Times who broke the Downing Street minutes story, wrote a must-read op-ed for the L.A. Times ("The Real News in the Downing Street Memos") which relates to an overlooked part of the memos and provides some more background on the "deep throats" who leaked the top secret documents:

"It is now nine months since I obtained the first of the "Downing Street memos," thrust into my hand by someone who asked me to meet him in a quiet watering hole in London for what I imagined would just be a friendly drink. At the time, I was defense correspondent of the London Daily Telegraph, and a staunch supporter of the decision to oust Saddam Hussein. The source was a friend. He'd given me a few stories before but nothing nearly as interesting as this."

Real Republicans take note of this:

"The six leaked documents I took away with me that night were to change completely my opinion of the decision to go to war and the honesty of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush."

And the real news as Michael Smith sees it:

"American media coverage of the Downing Street memo has largely focused on the assertion by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British foreign intelligence, that war was seen as inevitable in Washington, where "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. But another part of the memo is arguably more important. It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the U.S. had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B."

"Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict."

"In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq."

In his autobiography, American Soldier, retired General Tommy Franks, who led the 2003 (I should say...2002) invasion of Iraq, employed the phrase "spikes of activity" a few times (link):

"I'm thinking in terms of spikes, Mr. Secretary-spurts of activity followed by periods of inactivity. We want the Iraqis to become accustomed to military expansion, and then apparent contraction."

"As Phase I is completed, we could flow steadily for the next sixty days, while continuing spikes of activity to lend credence to our deception. During the sixty days we would increase kinetic strikes in the no-fly zones to weaken Iraq's integrated air defenses."

On November 27th in 2002, in response to a question asked by the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, the Ministry of Defense released the information "on how many occasions (a) coalition aircraft and (b) UK aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone in Iraq have (i) detected violations of the no-fly zones, (ii) detected a direct threat to a coalition aircraft and (iii) released ordnance in each month since March, stating for each month the tonnage released" (House of Commons Hansard) included in these charts:

(i) No-fly zone (NFZ) violations are detected in several ways. I am withholding details of detection methods in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The number of violations recorded, by month, in the southern No Fly Zone, is as follows:


Number of violations recorded



















(ii) Coalition aircraft recorded threats on a total of 143 occasions, as follows:


Coalition aircraft recorded threats




















We do not hold separate threat figures for individual nations' aircraft.

(iii) (a) Coalition aircraft in the southern NFZ responded in self defence against Iraqi Air Defence targets on 41 occasions in the period from 1 March to 13 November, and released 126.4 tons of ordnance.


Responses conducted in self defence

Tonnage of ordnance released




























(iii) (b) Of these totals, UK aircraft responded on 17 occasions and released 46 tons of ordnance:

27 Nov 2002 : Column 331W


Responses conducted in self defence

Tonnage of ordnance released




























This LA Times op-ed is the first time that this essential part of the Downing Street Memo story has appeared in the mainstream American press, even though Michael Smith wrote about it in relation to the DSM on May 29th ("RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war").

But that's not the first time Michael Smith reported on the airstrikes launched by the Bush and Blair Administrations before the President officially went to Congress or the United Nations to seek approval for the war.

In fact, Smith reported it multiple times when he wrote for The Telegraph, as it occurred in 2002, but I guess no one noticed...or cared (link, link and link).

On September 6th, 2002, Michael Smith reported:

"About 100 American and British aircraft took part in an attack on Iraq's major western air defence installation yesterday in the biggest single operation over the country for four years. The raid appeared to be a prelude to the type of special forces operations that would have to begin weeks before a possible American-led war. It was launched two days before a war summit between President George W Bush and Tony Blair in America."

On September 13th, 2002, Michael Smith reported:

"Advance parties will begin deploying to Kuwait within two weeks in preparation for an attack on Iraq which could involve up to 30,000 British troops, defence sources said yesterday. At the same time, attacks on Iraq by aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones will be stepped up with the intention of piling the pressure on Saddam Hussein to agree to give up his weapons of mass destruction."

On September 17th, 2002, Michael Smith reported:

"America admitted last night that British and US aircraft enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq had changed tactics to extend the damage being caused to Iraq's air defences. Despite recent official denials, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, said he ordered the change in tactics last month because US and British pilots were coming under more effective fire from Iraqi gunners. The US air force is now concentrating on buildings and other fixed targets, rather than mobile targets such as radars and surface-to-air missile launchers, in an effort to cause more lasting damage."

When will the American press notice?

When will the American press care?

When will this illegal pre-invasion become news?

On Sunday, Michael Smith's latest article on the DSM appeared in The Sunday Times: "How the leaked documents questioning war emerged from 'Britain's Deep Throat'."

Smith presents more details about his meetings with the two "deep throats" and gives tons of credit to the blogosphere for helping this story reach the American press (I'm going to excerpt from Michael Smith's article a little more than I usually do...but please take the time to follow the link to read the rest of it):

"After reporting these secret memos, which revealed the dubious manoeuverings of government, I expected the US press to react. Surely there would be a storm of anger over the way in which the American public had been deceived into going to war? But still there was no interest. Then slowly something astonishing happened. People power took over."

"The Sunday Times website was inundated with ordinary US citizens wanting to read the minutes of the July meeting. Bloggers set to work passing the word."

"Six ordinary, patriotic citizens with no political axe to grind were so outraged to discover the truth about the path to war that they set up their own website, naming it after the minutes, which had become known as the Downing Street memo."

"Another website called AfterDowningStreet followed. People got together to lobby their local newspapers and radio and television stations to demand to know why they weren’t being told about the memo. There were even T-shirts made with the slogan: “Have you read the memo?” With anger over the war growing, Washington politicians finally acted. More than 120 congressmen wrote to Bush, demanding to know whether the memo was true. They held their own hearings to try to draw attention to it. The issue was forced into the mainstream media."

"Last week one US blogger, Larisa Alexandrovna of, unearthed more unsettling evidence. It was an overlooked interview with Lieutenant-General T Michael Moseley, the allied air commander in Iraq, in which he appears to admit that the “spikes of activity” were part of a covert air war."

"From June 2002 until March 20, when the ground war began, the allies flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, attacking 349 carefully selected targets. The attacks, Moseley said, “laid the foundations” for the invasion, allowing allied commanders to begin the ground war."

"The bloggers may have found their own smoking gun."

Michael R. Gordon wrote an article for The New York Times on July 19, 2003 entitled "U.S. Attacked Iraqi Defenses Starting in 2002" which includes an interview with Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the chief allied war commander, who is referenced in Michael Smith's article:

"American air war commanders carried out a comprehensive plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the Iraq war, according to an internal briefing on the conflict by the senior allied air war commander."

"Known as Southern Focus, the plan called for attacks on the network of fiber-optic cable that Saddam Hussein's government used to transmit military communications, as well as airstrikes on key command centers, radars and other important military assets."

"The strikes, which were conducted from mid-2002 into the first few months of 2003, were justified publicly at the time as a reaction to Iraqi violations of a no-flight zone that the United States and Britain established in southern Iraq. But Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the chief allied war commander, said the attacks also laid the foundations for the military campaign against the Baghdad government."

"We were able to figure out that we were getting ahead of this guy and we were breaking them up faster than he could fix them," General Moseley said of the fiber-optic cables. "So then we were able to push it up a little bit and effectively break up the fiber-optic backbone from Baghdad to the south."

"But General Moseley said it was possible that the Iraqi attacks increased because allied planes had stepped up their patrols over Iraq. "We became a little more aggressive based on them shooting more at us, which allowed us to respond more," he said. "Then the question is whether they were shooting at us because we were up there more. So there is a chicken and egg thing here."

"As full-scale war approached, the air war commanders had five goals. They wanted to neutralize the ability of the Iraqi government to command its forces; to establish control of the airspace over Iraq; to provide air support for Special Operations forces, as well as for the Army and Marine forces that would advance toward Baghdad; and to neutralize Iraq's force of surface-to-surface missiles and suspected caches of biological and chemical weapons."

On May 15th, 2005, not long after the Downing Street minutes were leaked, President Bush nominated "Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the No. 2 officer in the Air Force, to succeed the current chief, Gen. John Jumper." (link). It almost makes you wonder if that was some sort of attempt to invoke the Bush Administratin policy of pre-emptive warfare in order to rein Moseley in.

Perhaps, over one year later and after the release of the Downing Street minutes and other documents, the American press and some of the Congressional leaders - Democrats and Republicans who are disenchanted with the ongoing war in Iraq - will be more interested in what General Moseley has to say about the "war before the war."

John Byrne and Larisa Alexandrovna's article at The Raw Story has more on Moseley, and also a fantastic interview with director John Pike, who reveals how the Bush/Blair Administrations "explicitly altered the rules of engagement."

The Briefing

On September 16th, 2002, the Department of Defense held a press briefing with Gen. Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld from September 16th, 2002. Shockingly (or not so shockingly), Rumsfeld made light of the "war before the war" and many members of the press laughed about it with him. (

Q: "General, we've been noting the continued strikes in Iraq in both the Northern and Southern no-fly zone. Military -- Pentagon officials have been portraying these as essentially routine. But the toll continues to mount as we look at the targets that have struck in the South. Can you still say that this is a routine level of activity, or has there been an increase in the U.S. response, understanding that just about every time the United States or its allies fly in the no-fly zones, Iraq provides some kind of provocation by shooting at the planes. But still, you decide when you're going to respond and how you're going to respond, and has there been an escalation?"

Pace: "I would certainly not use the term "routine." Any time we have folks getting airplanes flying over territory where they're being shot at every time they do is not a routine mission, and the response is not routine. And what has changed, I think, and what perhaps you may be referring to, is the number of events, as you look back over the last several years, is about on par with what has happened in the last couple of years. What has changed a little bit is the tactics that are being employed in response to that so that the air defense network in Iraq, which includes the radars and the buildings that have the command nodes in them and the airfields themselves, the response to that by the commanders on the ground has been to go after more of the targets like communications buildings, that are not easily moved, and striking those. So instead of going at the specific radar that was involved, which can easily be moved between the time the missile was fired and the time we're able to counter-strike, they're picking on targets that are still part of that continuum of air defense but that are not going to be (easily/able to be ?) moved and can be struck readily and provide appropriate level of response to that kind of provocation."

Q: "Did the recent strikes in the last weeks and months -- have you succeeded in degrading Iraq's air defenses because of that? And does that, in fact, lay the groundwork if there's potential military action against Iraq in the future?"

Pace: "The recent strikes have degraded the air defense capabilities."

Rumsfeld: "Oh, wait -- there's two aspects to that question. One is, have they degraded them on a relative basis, and have they degraded them on an absolute basis, net? Because they are constantly trying to improve them. They have been putting in fiber optic, and they have been doing a whole series of things -- developing queuing techniques."

"And I am not in a position to know if they have been net degraded. There is no question but that when a response option is executed, that some of the time but not all of the time, the battle- damage reports indicate that what you intended to do was some percentage accomplished. So you could say that's degrading. Whether it is degrading it faster than it is being improved no one not on the ground is in a position to respond to that."

Q: "General --"

Pace: "That's what the general meant to say." (Laughter.)

Q: "General Pace, you didn't really answer whether -- is that laying the groundwork for an Iraqi strike? In other words, why the change on this? Some might say this was just laying the groundwork"

Rumsfeld: "Well, it can't hurt. I directed it."

Q: "Why did you direct it?"

Rumsfeld: "Because it seemed right at the time. The -- I don't like the idea of our planes being shot at. We're there implementing U.N. resolutions. The -- it's not just the United States. It's the British, the coalition forces involved. And the idea that our planes go out and get shot at with impunity bothers me."

Q: "Can you --"

Q: "When did you direct the change?"

Rumsfeld: "And I don't like it. I don't like it. And so what we are doing is we are attempting to, in an orderly way, as the general indicated, arrange our response options in a way that we think -- hope -- we hope will be net harmful to their capabilities on the ground. We can't know for sure if it has been net harmful, but our intention is to make it net harmful."

Q: "But is this laying the groundwork for Iraq? That's the question."

Rumsfeld: "The President hasn't made a decision with respect to Iraq. Didn't I say that earlier? I thought I said that."

Q: "When did you order the change?"

Q: "When did you order this? When did this change take place, Mr. Secretary?"

Rumsfeld: "Hmm."

Q: "Now?" (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: "Less than a year -- less than a year and more than a week." (Laughter.) I think less than six months and more than a month."

Q: "Okay."

Rumsfeld: "But I can't remember. I don't keep track of all -- I don't keep notes."

Q: "Can you take my question, please?"

Q: "Could someone take that question and get back to us?"

Q: "General, do you remember?"

Pace: "I remember it happening since I've been here, which was 1 October last year."

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Pace: "Which is almost a year now. But I don't remember."

Q: "Will you take that question?"

Rumsfeld: "If you want to take the rhythm of what happened, what happened was that after I came, which is the extent of my knowledge -- or recollection, there had been a pattern of responses that had been relatively only marginally effective, both in the North and the South. And we were flying patterns that were getting us shot at. And our responses being what they were, at some point -- and I don't remember, I think it was this year -- at some point -- maybe it was, like, last year -- we decided, after a good deal of talk, General Pace, General Myers, others in the National Security Council, that it really did not make an awful lot of sense to be flying patterns that we were being shot at if in response, we were not doing any real damage that would make it worth putting pilots at risk. So we modified some of our flights to that they were then flying in areas that were less likely to put them at risk and more in keeping with the value of what we were achieving by doing it."

"You look at a cost-benefit ratio and you say, all right, you're willing to take that much of a risk because the benefit's this. So we modified it slightly. At some point, after we were able to review it over a period of time, it became pretty clear that there was a way to make the cost-benefit ratio make more sense, and at that stage we then changed it to go back to a set of flight patterns, but attached to those flight patterns, response options that we felt would give us a benefit that would merit the risks that were undertaken. That is kind of what the rhythm over time has been."

(To General Pace) "Is that your recollection, roughly?"

Pace: "Sir, that's correct."

Rumsfeld: "Now, what I'd like -- did that answer that question?"

Q: "Yes, a little bit. Could you explain tactically -- when I went over with your predecessor, they were -- the folks at Incirlik were actually really kind of excited about the work that they were doing, because by taking out these little tactical assets, there was going to be less shooting at them, and these are the things that are so hard to find, if indeed a war comes, whereas the buildings, as you said, can't be moved, and so they're easily targeted, if you need to do that."

"So can you explain tactically why going after a stationary target is of more value to the military than taking out the things that are actually targeting them?"

Rumsfeld: "I wouldn't say it's more valuable. I think both can be valuable. And one of the problems is that over time, the capabilities on the ground change. And, for example, as fiber optic was put in, and as queuing ability was developed and enhanced, what target would cause us the least grief in terms of risk to our pilots changed. And as you work your way through fixed targets, then they're gone -- unless they're replaced. As you attack moveable targets and get them, the question is can you get them faster than they can replace them through the relative porous borders they have with at least three countries on their periphery. So we ought not to think of it as a static situation."

After a few more questions, the "war before the war" was brought up again:

Q: "On Iraqi air --"

Rumsfeld: "This is the last question."

Q: "On Iraqi air defenses, could the strikes against them have the effect, inadvertent or not, of degrading them in a way that would have -- lay the groundwork if we -- if the President went ahead and made the decision to attack? I mean --"

Rumsfeld: "Well, I think that goes back to the earlier question that General Pace and I both responded to. And there's no question but that to the extent they keep shooting at our airplanes and to the extent we keep engaging in response options and to the extent that those response options are harmful to their air defense, which they are, that that's good. Whether they're going to be net stronger or weaker in the event anything were to occur in the future, again, is a function of what kind -- how fast they're able to rebuild and replace and replenish that capability. So I don't know how one could answer it any more skillfully than the general did."

"Thank you. Good to see you all."

Media Coverage

Although I've linked to it before, I'd like to draw attention again to NYU Journalism Chair Jay Rosen's pretty comprehensive accounting of the MSM's coverage of the Downing Street minutes since Michael Smith first broke the story on May 1st. Since I last linked to it, a week ago, Rosen has updated his post and there is a great ongoing discussion taking place in the comments section: "The Downing Street Memo and the Court of Appeal in News Judgment."

Rosen also added a link to an article that Arianna Huffington wrote at The Huffington Post which compared coverage of the DSM to reports about Michael Jackson and Natalee Holloway on the major network television newscasts from May 1st to June 20th: "Just Say Noruba."

Also, in an ongoing series, the PSoTD blog has been keeping track of the news articles about the DSM gathered from Google News as compared to the blog postings according to Technorati. On June 1st, PSoTD found 254 news articles and 1504 blog posts. In his latest progress report on June 25th, those numbers jumped to 2090 news articles and 9005 blog posts, which gives a rough idea how much the blogosphere has led this story and the effect that it's had on the mainstream media.

US Bombing Watch has a compilation of articles that appeared in the mainstream media which detail all the airstrikes in 2002, and other years (hat tip to Shockwave, a Daily Kos diarist for providing the link).

Another great resource is a Website started by yet another Daily Kos diarist named Timbuk3 called What We Knew, What We Were Told (The Stories That Led Us to War). It includes links to archived articles from the MSM ranging from March of 2002 to January of 2004 that can be viewed in a new light since the release of the Downing Street Memo.

Dissent From The Left

When I first read Michael Smith's May 29th Sunday Times article - linked to in a DKos diary by Welshman - which touched on the "spikes of activity" I was more than a little bit unimpressed. Right away, I noticed a mistake in the article and I posted a diary about it at Daily Kos that same night: "Time Out On The Sunday Times Story." I wrote:

"I don't want to get burnt because of crappy reporting but the numbers in the Sunday Times article that everyone is writing about do not compute."

Another Daily Kos diarist, leckavrea, agreed that there was "definitely something amiss."

But I've since learned that it was a misprint made by the Webmaster for (which is responsible for posting The Sunday Times' articles) and not the fault of Michael Smith.

The phrase "a month" was accidently added to this sentence by the Timesonline Webmaster:

"However, between May 2002 and the second week in November, when the UN Security Council passed resolution 1441, which Goldsmith said made the war legal, British aircraft dropped 46 tons of bombs a month out of a total of 126.1 tons, or 36%."

According to a source, a correction should be made very shortly to the Website.

But I had other misgivings, as well. In the Daily Kos diary, I wrote:

"But the fact of the matter is that the bombings were going on for years...and that President Clinton did more than his share of bombing."

At the time, I hadn't found the House of Commons link to confirm Michael Smith's numbers and couldn't find a way to verify how many tons of bombs were dropped during President Clinton's last years in office. Again, from my Dkos diary:

"The best I could find was this article by Tariq Ali from October of 2000 in which he remarks on a statement by British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon which reads "Between 20 December 1998 and 17 May 2000, UK aircraft released 78 tons of ordnance over the southern no-fly zone, at an average of 5 tons per month."

"Tariq notes "In other words, over the past eighteen months the United States and United Kingdom have rained down some 400 tons of bombs and missiles on Iraq." But that is inaccurate, as well. The statement only referred to the southern no-fly zone: Operation Southern Watch. So if one assumes that the same amount of bombs were dropped in the northern no-fly zone, Operation Northern Watch, that would mean 800 tons of bombs were dropped in that 18 month period."

"Any way you figure it...there's no doubt that the number of bombings increased at the end of 2002, but I think it's wrong to run with this Sunday Times story since it's not very specific."

"I think this article is important in regards to Britain's escalation...but not ours."

(Since I wrote this diary, I've done some extensive research, and could pretty much assuredly say that I was way off on my guesstimation on how many tons were dropped in the northern no-fly zone.)

Downing Street Memo's georgia10 wrote a diary at Daily Kos on Sunday night in reaction to some similiar criticism: "In Response to "Who Cares"? - PreWar Bombing, etc." It was specifically directed at a comment left by Daily Kos diarist space on another DSM thread. Space mentioned four caveats that were ably countered by georgia10, and which I'm providing further evidence to back up.

First, space argued:

"Clinton was conducting similar bombing on a smaller scale. If this is the "smoking gun" then Clinton is guilt of war crimes as well, even if his smoking gun is of a smaller caliber."

Georgia10 responded:

"Clinton did NOT conduct similar bombing. The bombing conducted by the Bush adminstration was essentially unprovoked (subsequent self-defense by Iraq aside)."

One of the last significant military actions authorized by President George Herbert Walker Bush was a 100 airplane coalition assault, composed of American, British and French aircraft, "against Iraqi fixed air-defense and mobile missiles sites in southern Iraq" on January 13, 2003 (link). At a press briefing, U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Hoar, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, told the press that "the mission was prompted by Iraq's rebuff of a January 6 demarche by Russia, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to remove its surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites from below the 32nd parallel and to stop violating the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq." Over the next seven days, smaller strikes followed.

Until U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed on November 6th, 2002, the phrase "no-fly zone" never was explicitly mentioned in any of the prior resolutions that pertained to Iraq. But the last three Administrations have looked to resolutions 687 and 688 as giving them proper authorization.

This is taken from the summer 1994 Joint Force Quarterly magazine (pdf link):

"Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF–SWA) was formed in August 1992 to conduct Operation Southern Watch in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions 687 and 688. JTF–SWA is often associated with enforcing the no-fly zone below the 32 d parallel in Iraq under resolution 688 which calls for the fair treatment of Iraqi minorities, including Shias in the marshes, and a no-fly zone to monitor Iraq’s compliance. But equally significant has been resolution 687 with its provisions on weapons of mass destruction, where JTF–SWA planned and, if directed, would conduct a campaign against Iraqi targets as a means of compelling compliance."

Not long after, the French dropped out of the coalition in disagreement with the legality of the no-fly zones.

The first significant airstrikes executed at the command of President Clinton occured in June of 1993; a direct retaliation in response to an attempted plot to kill former President George Herbert Walker Bush in April of that same year. From

"Commencing at approximately 4:22 p.m. (EST) on 26 June 1993 US naval forces launched a Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Iraqi Intelligence Service's (IIS) principal command and control complex in Baghdad. This facility is the headquarters for the IIS, which planned the failed attempt to assassinate former President Bush during his visit to Kuwait in April 1993. This US military action was completed upon impact of the missiles on target at approximately 6 p.m. (EST)."

Georgia10 also linked to a press briefing given by President Clinton three days later on June 29, 1993, in which he explained:

"I would remind you that the action I took was in response to an operation that involved a bomb that, had it exploded in downtown Kuwait City, had a 400-yard radius of lethal destruction. So, I think it was the appropriate thing to do."

Except for a military buildup in October of 1994 when Iraq seemed set to assault Kuwait before withdrawing its forces, it wasn't until September 6, 1996 that Clinton ordered another significant airstrike. Operation Desert Strike was launched after "elements of the Iraqi army attacked and captured the town of Irbil in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq" seven days earlier (link). 44 Tomahawks and 12 cruise missiles were launched against Iraqi military targets and, afterwards, the southern no-fly zone was extended from the 32nd to the 33rd parallel and it now included parts of southern Baghdad.

Aside from some continued controversy surrounding the legality of the no-fly zones, there really isn't question that the major bombing raids that took place during Clinton's first five years in office were undertaken as defensive measures, as opposed to the more offensive attacks that President George W. Bush later ordered.

But in 1998, the case wan't so clear-cut.

In an interview with Michael Smith published on June 27th, the Downing Street Memo bloggers asked him about the difference between the bombings under Bush and Clinton (link):

"Q: Some are equating the Bush administration's bombing in 2002 with the air strikes launched against Iraq under the Clinton administration. Is there any real difference? If so, what makes one more legal (or illegal) than the other?"

"A: The Desert Fox operation was launched by Clinton and Blair in December 1998 to punish Iraq for forcing out the weapons inspectors. Thereafter Iraqi air defences were attacked whenever the allies came under attack. The legality of this is disputed but the Foreign Office legal advice makes clear that both Britain and the US believed it to be legal. The period between December 1998 and May 2002 saw more bombs dropped than had been dropped before Desert Fox but nowhere near as many bombs as were dropped from May 2002 to the start of the war, or should I say the official start of the war. While what was going on between December 1998 and May 2002 was borderline legal. Spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime is illegal plain and simple. They were there to protect the ethnic minorities by preventing Iraqi aircraft overflying the areas inhabited by those minorities under UNSCR 688. That was not an Article VII resolution, which is the only type of UN resolution that allows for the use of military force to enforce it and the no-fly zones were certainly not put there to put pressure on the regime, for which read provoking the regime into giving the allies an excuse for war."

more to come...developing, as they say...

(hat tip to luke of wotisitgood4 for alerting me to the LA Times op-ed yesterday)

(Acknowledgements: Thanks to David Anderson of ISOU, Peter Daou of The Daou Report, After Downing Street's David Swanson here and here, Ryan Fenno at The Liberal Avenger, tcf at ThatColoredFellasweblog, The Heretik, Tas at Loaded Mouth, Roxanne Cooper at Rox Populi, Jude Nagurney Camwell at Iddybud , Shakespeare's Sister, Agitprop, Jay Rosen at Press Think, Luke at wotisitgood4, ~A! at Watching The Watchers, and Greg Beato at Wonkette for linking to this story. Also, Apian has a wonderful diary at Daily Kos which also links to this post - MSM WTF? dKos & RAWSTORY on "SPIKES OF ACTIVITY" - and is crossposted at The Booman Tribune. Thanks to Buzzflash, too, for linking to me under the title: "The Importance of the Downing Street Memo Reconfirmed.")

(If you have a blog...I'd appreciate a link...but if not...please, at least, go to the House of Commons Website linked above and post the charts that I did. This story needs to come out.)

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