Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair had what appeared to be a contentious meeting with President Bush. Now a second memo has been leaked by the Blair government that indicates the Bush Administration was lying to American public during the run-up to the war in Iraq. The story broke in the London Times:
Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.
“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.
So Blair signed onto the Bush plan in March 2002 – which means the intention to go to war was already set by our government. Bush started “marketing” the war (as his chief of staff Andy Card put it) in September. But remember, we were told that they were only considering war as one of several options for dealing with Saddam Hussein.
The good news for the future of our democracy is that the leaking of the second memo was reported on the front page of the Washington Post. Their story emphasizes criticism by Blair’s cabinet of the shoddy planning of the war by Bush and his staff:
[The memo] concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a “protracted and costly” postwar occupation of that country…
In its introduction, the memo “Iraq: Conditions for Military Action” notes that U.S. “military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace,” but adds that “little thought” has been given to, among other things, “the aftermath and how to shape it.”
At some point, you would think these revelations would start to damange Bush’s credibility.