How Much Proof Needed Before the Truth Comes Out? Now Seven Leaked British Documents Raise Iraq War Questions

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Downing Street Memo — minutes of a meeting with Prime Minister Tony
Blair and his advisors that said the U.S. was "fixing"
the intelligence to support the Iraq War — was not enough to get
the mainstream U.S. media or members of Congress to take the issue
seriously. Now there is Downing II, III, IV, V, VI and VII!

the evidence
mounts, the failure of the media to seriously investigate the issues
is baffling. Why aren't they interviewing current and former U.S.
military intelligence officials about these reports from highest
levels of British government? Isn't the media supposed to investigate
and get the truth for their readers and viewers?

how about Congress — shouldn't they be subpoenaing witnesses to
testify under oath about pre-war intelligence gathering, the influence
Bush administration had on manipulating or misstating intelligence
findings and whether intelligence was gathered to report the truth
or designed to support a pre-ordained war? The Chairman of Senate
Intelligence Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, has promised to investigate
whether intelligence was manipulated by the Administration — but
that promise remains unfulfilled and last week Knight-Ridder reporter
Dick Polman was told it was "still on the back burner."
Maybe it is time to make good on that promise.

much more information is needed before the truth is sought and reported
to the American people?

a summary of the British memos:

Street I:
This memorandum is the minutes of a meeting between
Britain's top national security officials and Prime Minister Blair
on July 23, 2002 – eight months before the invasion of Iraq. The
document, marked "Secret and strictly personal – UK eyes only,"
consists of the official minutes of a briefing given by Richard
Dearlove, then-director of Britain’s MI-6 (the equivalent of the
CIA) who, based on a recent visit to Washington, DC, reported that
the Bush administration planned to start a preemptive war against
Iraq. By the summer of 2002 President Bush had decided to overthrow
Iraq President Saddam Hussein by launching a war. Dearlove stated
the war would be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism
and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]." Dearlove continued:
"But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the
policy." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agreed saying: 
"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military
action, even if the timing was not yet decided." "But,"
he continued, "the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening
his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya,
North Korea, and Iran."

Steet II
: This memorandum dated July 21, 2002 to the Prime Ministers
cabinet seeks comments on the Iraq War Planning. It discusses how
to justify the Iraq War by "creating the conditions necessary
to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum
for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq." It describes
U.S> planning as proceeding: "The US Government’s military
planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet,
it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has
been given to creating the political conditions for military action,
or the aftermath and how to shape it." It also reports that
Tony Blair agreed to support the Iraq War in a discussion with President
Bush in Crawford, TX in April: "When the Prime Minister discussed
Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK
would support military action to bring about regime change . . ."
The memo expressed concern about legality stating it "is necessary
to create the conditions in which we could legally support military
action." Regarding legality, the memo notes "US views
of international law vary from that of the UK and the international
community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military
action under international law." One option to create legality
stated was "It is just possible that an ultimatum could be
cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling
to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as
unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that
(or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal
base for military action by January 2003."

Street III:
A memorandum from British Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw to the Prime Minister dated March 25, 2002 in preparation
for the PM's visit to Crawford, TX. Straw begins the memo with a
warning: "The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few.
The risks are high, both for you and for the Government." He
notes the lack of support for a war with Iraq in the Parliament
and sees the case as challenging to make because "(a) the threat
from Iraq and why this has got worse recently; (b) what distinguishes
the Iraqi threat from that [of] Iran and North Korea so as to justify
military action; (c) the justification for any military action in
terms of international law." He also notes: "there has
been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and Al Qaida. Objectively,
the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September."
He points out how Bush's u2018axis of evil' makes the task more difficult
— "A lot of work will now need to be done to delink the three,
and to show why military action against Iraq is so much more justified
than against Iran and North Korea." He concludes saying: "A
legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition
for military action. We have also to answer the big question – what
will this action achieve?"

Street IV:
This memorandum, written by Blair political director
Peter Ricketts and dated March 22, 2002 raises two concerns regarding
supporting the planned U.S. war with Iraq. His first concern: "First,
the THREAT. The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of
Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11
September. . . the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not
show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW
[Chemical Warfare/Biological Warfare] fronts." He also expresses
concerns with other aspects of "US scrambling to
establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing,"
the threat "it is qualitatively different from the threat posed
by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability
(including Iran)," After looking at the goal of the war he
says "It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

Street V:
This memorandum from then British Ambassador to the
U.S., Christopher Meyer, dated March 18, 2002 discusses a conversation
with Paul Wolfowitz. He told Wolfowitz that a war against Iraq would
be a difficult sell in Britain, and more difficult in Europe, and
"went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors
and the UN SCRs [Security Council Resolutions]."

Street VI:
A memorandum to Prime Minister Blair dated March
12, 2002 from British foreign policy advisor, David Manning, the
purpose of which is to prepare the Prime Minister for his trip to
Crawford, TX to meet with President Bush. Regarding Iraq, he reports
that Bush is "grateful for your support and has registered
you are getting flak." Manning based his comments on a meeting
with Condoleezza Rice. He said the President had not yet found answers
to several issues among them "how to persuade the international
opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified."
There was recognition that if Bush could not put together a coalition
that the U.S. "could go it alone."

Street VII
: A legal options memorandum — eight pages
long — looks at the alternative legal justifications for war — security
counsel resolutions, self-defense and humanitarian intervention
— and finds all of them lacking.

do all these leaked, confidential British memos point to? The Bush
Administration had decided to go to war at least one year before
doing so and many months before seeking a resolution from Congress.
The invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law so they
tried to create legal justification through manipulation of the
United Nations in order to trap Saddam into violating U.N. resolutions.
This also provided the side benefit of making it look like they
were seeking a peaceful resolution while at the same time putting
in place the machinery for a massive U.S./U.K invasion. The case
for war was weak — the link to terrorism particularly Al Qaida was
poor, Iraq was no more dangerous than other u2018axis of evil' countries,
Iraq's weapons program for nuclear, bio and chemical weapons was
no greater than prior to deciding to go to war and intelligence
needed to be u2018fixed' in order to justify the war to the public and
international community. Finally, these memos indicate that the
U.S. planned poorly for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq, greatly
underestimating how difficult this part of the military activity
would be.

British memos are certainly producing a lot of smoke — will anyone
with credibility and resources do the investigation needed to show
us the fire?

15, 2005

Zeese [send him mail]
is a director of Democracy
. You can comment on this article by visiting
the blog

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