Monday, May 09, 2005


A little more than a week ago, British newspapers revealed a secret government memo showing that on July 23, 2002, U.S. and U.K. leaders had already decided the Iraq war was “inevitable” — not just eight months before the war started, but three months before U.N. weapons inspectors even landed in the country.

The memo, which is actually minutes from a meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and several other top officials, quotes “C,” then-leader of the MI6 intelligence agency Sir Richard Dearlove, telling the prime minister and others that

Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route.

It is clear from the memo that officials believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but as another official said, that its “WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.” This implies further that the evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, more than two months after weapons inspectors began work in Iraq, was even more cynical — meaning knowingly fake — than many had suggested.

In other words, if that was the understanding of us or our allies before the inspectors arrived, and the inspectors were working for two months and found no weapons of mass destruction, Powell’s evidence didn’t just extrapolate from what was known, as has been suggested; it fabricated by ignoring what was known.

The weakness of our position is made even more obvious from the full quote —

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 Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.

— which shows that we desperately wanted Iraq to have weapons of mass destruction and forbid our investigation. When neither of those things came true, we went ahead as though they were.

So where’s the U.S. coverage of the memo, let alone the outrage? Both are next to nonexistent, for reasons that are possibly best illustrated by the last two paragraphs of The Sunday Times article on the memo:

Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said the leaked minute showed Blair had “agreed to an illegal regime change with the Bush administration. It set out to create the justification for going to war. It was to be war by any means.”

Downing Street claimed the document contained “nothing new.”

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