Downing Street Memo: The Meaning Of The Word "Fixed"

Those pushing the Downing Street Memo have built their house of cards entirely on the pen of Matthew Rycroft, Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, in is role as meeting note taker. Especially drawing their attention is this curious line:

But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

My initial take on the line was that it was the peculiarly British phrasing of intel speak regarding intelligence gathering and analysis related to Iraq’s WMD program and terrorist ties.

The “smoking gun” crowd reads the word “fixed” conspiratorially to mean “doctored,” as proof that intelligence was altered (or invented) to justify war.

With 372 liberal bloggers alligned to push for more media coverage of the story, it’s ironic that none of them (to my knowledge) could be bothered to do a little background research on Rycroft. Clearly an understanding of the Rycroft’s writing style and contextual use of the word “fixed” might help shed light on the meeting notes and further the understanding of the meaning of that oddly worded line.

In a matter of minutes I was able to find (via Google) this interoffice e-mail (Available in this PDF from the Hutton Inquiry) where we see how Rycroft (just a few months after the Downing Street memo was produced) uses the word “fixed” in everyday official correspondence. [Retyped from PDF]

From:          Matthew Rycroft
Sent: 18 September 2002 17:52
To: -snipped-
Subject: RE: Ann Taylor MP

This is now fixed for 0800 in John Scarlett's office tomorrow morning, followed by her
intelligence briefing at 0900, during which she will pass on her comments to John.
John will pass on her comments to us after that.

In the U.S. the word “set” would usually be used instead of “fixed.” It seems that Rycroft uses the word fixed, when talking about making something set. Rewriting the sentence with the word set takes a lot of air out of the sails of those pushing the memo.

But the intelligence and facts were being set around the policy.

Fails to sizzle, no?

Conspiracy theorists can move the goalposts all they want, but when the chair of the meeting (Blair) says intelligence was not “fixed”, when The Butler Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee say intelligence was not “fixed,” and when the author of the memo’s use of the word “fixed” doesn’t jibe with the moonbat spin; it’s game over. In regards to the “fixed” line, the noted colloquialism, “that dog don’t hunt” applies.

I have a request for comment in to Matthew Rycroft (who is now the British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina), and will report back if he grants me an interview.

Update: Apparently I must continually rehash prior coverage to prove that this single post is not the entirety of the argument against the overreach of left on this issue. Click here for all of the previous memo coverage.

Commenters claiming that memo pushers are not arguing the word “fixed” proves that the intelligence was not doctored, manufactured, or stacked to justify war really should read more of the lefty blogs – that’s exactly what they pitching. They’re peddling lots of other stuff too, but go back to the beginning of their campaign and see where they started – they started with the three points James Robbins summarized as, “the timing of the decision to go to war with Saddam, the WMD rationale, and the use (read: abuse) of intelligence to create the casus belli.

The chair of the meeting denies their claims, the President denies their claims, commissions investigating the pre-war intelligence in both countries deny their claims, and I’ve shown that the authors use of the term “fixed” to be ambiguous. The memo pushers meanwhile offer one of several literal definitions of the word “fixed” to make their case. Yeah, that’s some slam dunk for the left.

Update 2: I’ve also requested an interview with the head of MI6 at the time, Sir Richard Dearlove, whose words Rycroft was paraphrasing.

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