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Posted by on Mar 27, 2006 in At TMV | 13 comments

British Memo Says Bush Was Intent On Invading Iraq

This isn’t the first time this has been reported in the world media — but a New York Times piece is now giving wider circulation to a British memo that paints a picture of President George Bush as being intent to invade Iraq, no matter what — even to the point of suggesting that an incident was needed to provoke a U.S. invasion:

In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush’s public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair’s top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

“Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning,” David Manning, Mr. Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

“The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March,” Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. “This was when the bombing would begin.”

Were these contingency plans? The British memo, if proven correct over time and possibly with further accounts in coming months, suggests that the UN and diplomat efforts were actually kind of cover stories to claim that all other means were honestly exhausted. According to the Times account, Bush’s mind was made up:

The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.

Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq — which they failed to obtain — the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.

The Times notes that some of this info was published or broadcast earlier elsewhere. But what it brings home is that Blair and Bush were supremely confident in not just the war, but how easy the post-war period would seemingly be. In other words, there was a massive miscalculation on their part:

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was “unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.” Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

But the most damning part is this:

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Those proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush’s extemporaneous suggestions, or were elements of the government’s plan.

So what should you make of it?

It underscores once again this administration’s credibility problem. From one standpoint, the memo shows that Bush was determined to invade Iraq, knew there were no weapons there at a time when he was telling Americans that there were weapons there, and was seemingly ready to stage his own little Gulf of Tonkin incident to provide a pretext for an invasion. Also, it isn’t said here whether Bush was suggesting sending a surveillance plane that had pilots or not. If he was suggesting a piloted plane the becomes far graver.

From another standpoint, it’s a fact that governments do have contingency planning. But was this contingency planning? It looks like far more that that. Contingency planning means you have plans A, B, C ready to go, watch a situation, judge it, then pick one.

This looks as if the decision was made way ahead of time that Sadaam was a bad guy and a future threat but what was needed was a cover story to take him out. If this memo is accurate, the UN meetings, statements about weapons of mass destruction were all CYA efforts to make sure the action could be justified in terms of international law, international politics and domestic politics. They couldn’t just announce: “We believe for X reasons Sadaam is a danger” and go after him. They needed more.

That does not negate the separate questions about whether Sadaam was
an evil leader and posed a long-term threat to the United States if he allied with terrorists in the future. Those are still valid questions.

But like so much in the Bush administration this memo shows a near fatal credibility flaw in this administration. Even more than the Clinton administration, on so many issues the Bush administration is proving to be the “It all depends what is is” administration. This is why even on a vital issue such as immigration reform Bush will have problems because even many within the Republican party now realize that what is said may later proven to be be at variance with the actual facts.

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  • Thomas Maguire

    From one standpoint, the memo shows that Bush…knew there were no weapons there at a time when he was telling Americans that there were weapons there…

    Really? I would have said that the memo shows that Bush and Blair were glumly aware that no WMDs *had been found*, which is quite a different thing.

    Tom Maguire

  • republican

    Everyone knows (this has been on Fox News and all the reliable sources) that there were lots of WMD that have been moved to Syria, Iran and terrorist groups throughout the middleeast which shows that Operation Iraqi Freedom was not only necessary but a great success. Now we need to attack Iran and Syria so they can move the WMD to other countries we can attack.

  • 01 Boxer

    One reason why Bush was hestitant on new inspections was because he was skeptical of the UN’s ability to find WMDs even if they were there, due to Saddam’s previous history of hiding them, and our previous poor track record of finding them. I doubt Bush was surprised that we hadn’t found any. He didn’t expect the UN to, even if they were there. So Bush acknowledging no WMDS had been found is not the same thing as Bush saying there were no WMDs. And equating the two is pretty poor logic.

  • Mike P.

    What previous history of hiding them? Poor track record of finding them!?

    I don’t recall any such history, though I could be wrong… In any case, not finding WMDs is not the same as hidden WMDs, and to equate the two is pretty poor logic.

  • K. Gregory

    You’re missing the key point of his post and the Times article. So hire a lawyer to parse every word. But the main point of the post and the Times article is very troubling. That is the issue here.

  • Celcus

    All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

  • BrianOfAtlanta

    So, Bush was dead set on taking down Saddam. Whoda thunk it?

  • Pyst

    (Bush) “He threatened my daddy”.

    (Neo-cons) “Taking Saddam down will ignite democracies all around the arabic world”.

    (Oil companies) “All that Iraqi for the taking, invade them now!”

    (Economic advisors) “How dare Iraq, and Iran consider changing to the euro as the trading currency! Invade them now!”

    (Actual US politcal needs at that time) “Find, then kill Bin Laden, and al Qaeda”.

    (Reality) “Saddam gone, Iraq a mess, Bin Laden at large, and al Qaeda still opperating, and in Iraq. Iraqi oil not happening, Iran still going to change to euro. American public taken for the ride of a lifetime, and the US is a mess.

    “Had enough yet”, (Newt Gingrich’s slogan for democratic use)

  • Captain Carnage

    So now that’s what – two (third party) memos suggesting that Bush had decided to invade Iraq before getting the world’s permission?

    How much evidence points the other way? – enormous effort in the UN, Powell flying around the world non-stop.

    All this suggests to me – if indeed the memo is accurate, which is by no means established – is that the Americans were putting together a plan to invade Iraq, which strikes me as extremely prudent under the circumstances. It does not suggest that they did not regard Iraq as a threat, that this was a “hobby” invasion.

    I am extremely sceptical about the “paint the plane blue” plan – the risks associated with such a stunt would be enormous. How would you hide the evidence, and how many people would need to keep quiet? The fundamental questions that should be asked of any conspiracy theorist.

    America writes plans for conflict with numerous other countries, no matter how unlikely such an event is. These plans are regularly refreshed. They probably have even one ready for a conflict with Canada. It’s called being prepared for any eventuality, and there is nothing sinister about that.

    BTW Pyst – “he threatened my daddy” was not used as a justification for war. Many other reasons were given, go check it out. WMD was one in a long list.

  • Elrod

    I’m with Brian here. Who honestly doesn’t believe that Bush was dead-set on an invasion of Iraq, no matter what? In fact, the decision to go to the UN at all was probably not the result of cynicism as it was a divided White House. People like Cheney, Perle, Feith and Rumsfeld did not want to go to the UN at all. They wanted an invasion without any discussion with the UN. Powell, on the other hand, insisted that Bush get UN approval. Or at the very least, make a concerted effort to get the UN to support the invasion. I bet Blair and Powell together convinced Bush to make the case to the UN – in fact, to emphasize to the world community Saddam’s breach of UNSC resolutions as the casus bellum – in order to shore up international legitimacy for the invasion. But there was never any doubt that the invasion would go forward, approval or not.

  • Not to be melodramatic, but I cannot believe that anyone is surprised or disturbed in the least by this article. If we all had to put on our authors hats for a second and write a scene that involved a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in January of 2003, I have a feeling it would look an awful lot like this.

  • Pyst

    “BTW Pyst – “he threatened my daddy” was not used as a justification for war. Many other reasons were given, go check it out. WMD was one in a long list.”

    That was the real reason, not the publically stated reason.

    Geez some people can’t understand satire. The Daily Show would be lost on you.

    WMD was the ONLY reason given for over 6 months to the public, so stop trying to spin for free it’s unseemly.

  • dan

    America writes plans for conflict with numerous other countries, no matter how unlikely such an event is. These plans are regularly refreshed. They probably have even one ready for a conflict with Canada. It’s called being prepared for any eventuality, and there is nothing sinister about that.

    and this administration certainly has established a history of that. *cough* katrina *cough*

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