Phony War, Real Deaths
Tony Blair's words, as revealed by previously secret memos plastered across British newspapers this evening, will reverberate among the British populace. But how will the U.S. press handle what seems to be a smoking gun of mass deception about the invasion of Iraq?
As The Independent (U.K.) is reporting, Blair had plenty of warning that the Iraq invasion was unjustifiedin fact, he knew it was a bogus deal and went along with George W. Bush's handlers anyway. The newspaper's Raymond Whitaker, Andy McSmith, and Francis Elliott write:
- The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmithwho took part in the meetingwarned [in July 2002] that "the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action". But the Prime Minister countered that "regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD."
The document [of that meeting, obtained by The Sunday Times,] ended with the admonition: "We must not ignore the legal issues," adding that "the Attorney General would consider legal advice." The Government has consistently refused to say when the Attorney General was first asked for an opinion on the legality of war.
Eight months later, Lord Goldsmith drew up his 13-page legal opinion, released by Downing Street last week, which echoed many of the doubts expressed in the earlier Foreign Office brief. The Attorney General echoes the Foreign Office paper, rejecting U.S. claims to be able to decide whether Iraq was in breach of U.N. resolutions. The Americans were alone in this position, he said, before dramatically altering his opinion 10 days later.
Michael Smith of The Sunday Times broke the story of the July document. He writes:
- "If the political context were right, people would support regime change," said Blair. He added that the key issues were "whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan space to work".
The political strategy proved to be arguing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed such a threat that military action had to be taken. However, at the July meeting Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, said the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran".
Straw suggested they should "work up" an ultimatum about weapons inspectors that would "help with the legal justification". Blair is recorded as saying that "it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors".
A separate secret briefing for the meeting said Britain and America had to "create" conditions to justify a war.
Naturally, this is hot shit in Britain, which has an election only four days from now. Here's more from Smith's story in The Sunday Times:
- The papers, the second sensitive leak close to the election, appear to be an attempt by disaffected Whitehall insiders to attack Blair's integrity. They are likely to fuel claims he misled the country on Iraq.
One reason for the secrecy is that the minutes record discussion of US plans for invasion; another is that at the time Blair had given no indication that plans were so advanced.
He had not revealed to MPs or the public that in April 2002 he had told Bush "the UK would support US military action to bring about regime change", as recorded in the Foreign Office briefing paper. Both before and after the July meeting Blair insisted in public no decision had been made.
The July meeting was later mentioned by Lord Butler in his report on the use of intelligence on WMD as a "key stage" in the road to war; but its details have never been revealed until now.