Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Downing Street Memo: The Bush / Blair defense


QUESTION: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July, 2002, says “Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military actions.”

Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?

BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily.

No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations.

Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me.

And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November, 2002, United Nations resolution to give a final change to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law.

He didn’t do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.

But, all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict.

As it happened, we weren’t able to do that because, as I think was very clear, there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked or the way that he acted.

BUSH: Well, you know, I read, kind of, the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I’m not sure who they dropped it out is, but I’m not suggesting that you all dropped it out there.


And somebody said, Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.

My conversations with the prime minister was how could we do this peacefully, what could we do.

And this meeting, evidently it took place in London, happened before we even went to the United Nations – or I went to the United Nations.

And so it’s – look, both of us didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. That’s the last option.

The consequences of committing the military are very difficult. You know, one of the hardest things I do as the president is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat.

It’s the last option that the president must have, and it’s the last option I know my friend had as well.

And so we worked hard to see if we could figure how to do this peacefully, to put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, so the world speaks. And he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.


This is actually spelled out in the minutes of the meeting. However, some important details that were in the minutes, were left out by Bush and Blair in their response. Take a read:

:The Foreign Secretary (UK Jack Straw) said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister (Tony Blair) said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work. On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary (UK Jack Straw) thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary (UK Geoffrey Hoon) said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Most clear line in there: "...the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work." The "detail" that was left out, or rather, ''lied about'', was why they used the "political strategy" that they did: ''not'' in pursuance of a peaceful solution, as they contend above, but "to give the military plan the space to work.", in plain and simple terms, to manufacture consent for WAR.


Blogger Marie said...

I thought Bonifaz had a pretty good response to the news conference. The memo contradicts both of their comments yesterday.
Neither President Bush nor Prime Minister Blair denied today that the Downing Street Minutes are, in fact, the official minutes of the secret meeting that Prime Minister Blair held in London on July 23, 2002, with his top national security officials to receive a briefing from Richard Dearlove, then director of Britains CIA equivalent, MI-6.

Neither President Bush nor Prime Minister Blair denied today that Mr. Dearlove, in reporting on his meetings with high U.S. Government officials in Washington, stated at that meeting: Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, 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.

8/6/05 05:32  
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