- Feb 4, 2005
- Reaction score
- Saint Paul, MN
- Political Leaning
Is this going to be the Smoking Gun to shoot Bush in the foot?
For the full article, go here.
For the full article, go here.
In its June 9 issue, the New York Review of Books will be the first American print publication to publish the full British "smoking gun" document, the secret memorandum of the minutes of a meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's top advisers in July 2002, eight months before the Iraq war commenced. Leaked to the London Sunday Times, which first published it on May 1, the memo offers irrefutable proof of the way in which the George W Bush administration made its decision to invade Iraq - without significant consultation, reasonable intelligence on Iraq, or any desire to explore ways to avoid war - and well before seeking a congressional or United Nations mandate of any sort.
What would have happened if the UN weapons inspectors had been allowed to prove, before the US went "into battle", what David Kaye and his colleagues finally proved afterward?
Thanks to a formerly secret memorandum published by the London Sunday Times on May 1, during the run-up to the British elections, we now have a partial answer to that question. The memo, which records the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's senior foreign policy and security officials, shows that even as President Bush told Americans in October 2002 that he "hope[d] the use of force will not become necessary" - that such a decision depended on whether or not the Iraqis complied with his demands to rid themselves of their weapons of mass destruction - the president had in fact already definitively decided, at least three months before, to choose this "last resort" of going "into battle" with Iraq. Whatever the Iraqis chose to do or not do, the president's decision to go to war had long since been made.
On July 23, 2002, eight months before American and British forces invaded, senior British officials met with Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss Iraq. The gathering, similar to an American "principals meeting", brought together Geoffrey Hoon, defense secretary; Jack Straw, foreign secretary; Lord Goldsmith, attorney general; John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which advises the prime minister; Sir Richard Dearlove, also known as "C", head of MI6 (the British equivalent of the US Central Intelligence Agency, CIA); David Manning, the equivalent of the national security adviser; Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the Defense Staff (or CDS, equivalent to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff); Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff; Alastair Campbell, director of strategy (Blair's communications and political adviser); and Sally Morgan, director of government relations.
After John Scarlett began the meeting with a summary of intelligence on Iraq - notably, that "the regime was tough and based on extreme fear" and that thus the "only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action", "C" offered a report on his visit to Washington, where he had conducted talks with George Tenet, his counterpart at the CIA, and other high officials. This passage is worth quoting in full:
"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 [Hussein], through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [National Security Council] 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."
Seen from today's perspective, this short paragraph is a strikingly clear template for the future, establishing these points:
1) By mid-July 2002, eight months before the war began, President Bush had decided to invade and occupy Iraq.
2) Bush had decided to "justify" the war "by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD".
3) Already "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".
4) Many at the top of the administration did not want to seek approval from the United Nations (going "the UN route").
5) Few in Washington seemed much interested in the aftermath of the war.
We have long known, thanks to Bob Woodward and others, that military planning for the Iraq war began as early as November 21, 2001, after Bush ordered Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to look at "what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to", and that Secretary Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, who headed Central Command, were briefing American senior officials on the progress of military planning during the late spring and summer of 2002; indeed, a few days after the meeting in London leaks about specific plans for a possible Iraq war appeared on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post.
What the Downing Street memo confirms for the first time is that President Bush had decided, no later than July 2002, to "remove Saddam, through military action", that war with Iraq was "inevitable" - and that what remained was simply to establish and develop the modalities of justification; that is, to come up with a means of "justifying" the war and "fixing" the "intelligence and facts ... around the policy". The great value of the discussion recounted in the memo, then, is to show, for the governments of both countries, a clear hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest, war had been decided on; the question at issue then was how to justify it - how to "fix", as it were, what Blair will later call "the political context". Specifically, though by this point in July the president had decided to go to war, he had not yet decided to go to the United Nations and demand inspectors; indeed, as "C" points out, those on the National Security Council - the senior security officials of the US government - "had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record". This would later change, largely as a result of the political concerns of these very people gathered together at 10 Downing Street.