Classified British documents, recently published in The Times of London, reveal that President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair secretly agreed to attack Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein and had discussed “fixing” intelligence and facts to support that decision, months before congressional authorization was sought.
Among the documents was a memo labeled “secret and strictly personal – UK eyes only,” reporting on a July 23, 2002, meeting attended by Blair and other top British officials. According to the memo, the head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency, Richard Dearlove, reported that “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.”
Bush officials “had no patience with the UN route,” the memo said, and “there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told attendees it seemed “clear that Bush had made up his mind to go to war” although the case for war was “thin.” Straw noted that “Hussein was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”
Attorney General Peter Goldsmith advised the group that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action,” and that claims of self-defense and humanitarian intervention could not be argued successfully. Nevertheless, the memo shows Blair and other British officials focused on finding ways to justify collaborating with the U.S. on a military attack on Iraq. “If the political context were right, people would support regime change,” Blair said.
Based on Bush administration claims that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S., Congress voted in October 2002 to support military action.
Eighty-nine members of Congress have signed a letter asking Bush for an explanation, saying the British report “raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration.”
The author of the letter, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, “While the president of the United States was telling the citizens and the Congress that he had no intention to start a war with Iraq, he was working very closely with Tony Blair and the British leadership at making this a foregone conclusion.”
British officials have not disputed the document’s authenticity. A spokesman for Blair said, “At the end of the day, nobody pushed the diplomatic route harder than the British government.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied that intelligence was “fixed,” telling reporters, “Anyone who wants to know how the intelligence was used only has to go back and read everything that was said in public about the lead-up to the war.”
But, in the recent Senate hearings on the nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador, testimony by State Department and intelligence officials showed a clear pattern of heavy pressure on intelligence agencies to come up with “facts” to fit the agendas of administration warhawks.
Moreover, it has now been widely reported by journalists like Bob Woodward and others that U.S. planning for an invasion of Iraq began as far back as November 2001, if not earlier.