• Bush's New Iraq Argument: It Could Be Worse
Washington Post, August 24, 2006
Of all the words that President Bush used at his news conference this week to defend his policies in Iraq, the one that did not pass his lips was "progress."
For three years, the president tried to reassure Americans that more progress was being made in Iraq than they realized. But with Iraq either in civil war or on the brink of it, Bush dropped the unseen-progress argument in favor of the contention that things could be even worse.
The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration -- a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon. [...]
• Report on Prewar Intelligence Lagging
Information Democrats Want Most Might Not Come Out Until After Election
Washington Post, July 30, 2006
...The Republican-led committee, which agreed in February 2004 to write the report, has yet to complete its work. Just two of five planned sections of the committee's findings are fully drafted and ready to be voted on by members, according to Democratic and Republican staffers. Committee sources involved with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they are working hard to complete it. But disputing Roberts, they said they had started almost from scratch in November after Democrats staged their protest. [...]
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee's ranking Democrat, began inquiring about the evidence against Iraq one week before U.S. troops invaded. His interest was sparked by revelations that the Bush administration passed on forged documents to U.N. weapons inspectors to support allegations that Iraq had sought uranium from the African nation of Niger.
Roberts resisted a full investigation for three months. But in June 2003, when it became increasingly apparent that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, the committee agreed to look into the intelligence cited in the administration's case for war.
A year later, the committee issued the first phase of its bipartisan report, which found that the U.S. intelligence community had assembled an exaggerated assessment of Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities. The second phase was to focus on the Bush administration's use of intelligence and examine public statements made by key policymakers about the threat posed by Iraq. That is the phase that has been delayed. [...]
The Special Plans office, which ran its own intelligence gathering operation with the help of Iraqi exiles, stopped cooperating with the Senate panel last year. Roberts said key officials hired lawyers and quit talking when Rockefeller suggested that laws may have been broken. But Democrats dismissed that as an excuse.
The intelligence community's warnings about the possibility of chaos and violence in post-invasion Iraq also are under review in a separate chapter, staff members said. "What we have so far makes clear the intelligence community was saying lots of things can go wrong here, and they were certainly right," one congressional source said. [...] [emphasis ours]
• Blair could be forced to give evidence over Iraq decision
Daily Mail, July 26, 2006
Tony Blair could be forced to give evidence under oath after families of British soldiers killed in Iraq won a dramatic legal breakthrough in their bid for a full public inquiry into the legality of the conflict.
Lawyers representing the families say they want the Prime Minister and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to be quizzed in court over their roles in the build-up to war. [...]
In a decision that dismayed ministers, three of the most senior judges in the land overturned an earlier ruling blocking the bid. [...]Central to the families' case is the controversial eve-of-war advice to the Government from Lord Goldsmith that military action would be lawful.
But it emerged last year that he had expressed private concerns to Mr Blair about the legality of war. The latest documents to emerge following requests under freedom of information laws show that he told officials he had changed his mind 'after further reflection'.
Lord Goldsmith has insisted he came under no political pressure to change his view. But the discrepancy between his initial advice and later, public view would be the focus of any public inquiry into the Government's case for war. [...]
'We also need to know did Tony Blair commit himself to regime change in early 2002 and was he entitled to do that?' [...]
• PREWAR INTELLIGENCE
Is There A Double Standard On Leak Probes?
National Journal, April 26, 2006
Roberts, one of the staunchest defenders of the Bush administration's effort to stop the flow of sensitive information to the press, said in a statement that "[t]hose who leak classified information not only risk the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods, but also expose the brave men and women of the intelligence community to greater danger. Clearly, those guilty of improperly disclosing classified information should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
But three years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States. [...]
"He [Roberts] had given up that we had a penetration of [Saddam's] inner circle," says a former senior intelligence official. "It was the worst thing you could ever do."
A Republican congressional aide who was familiar with the March 20, 2003 speech and who spoke to Roberts about it around the time it occurred, said that Roberts' comments were a "mistake" and a "dumb act," and "not done with bad intent." The aide suggested that Roberts might have been carried away by the moment, or acted out of "self-aggrandizement." [...]
• White House denies report on Iraq WMD
Washington Post, April 13, 2006
The Bush administration yesterday denounced a Washington Post report that questioned the handling of postwar intelligence on alleged Iraqi biological weapons labs. [...]
The Post reported yesterday that a Pentagon-appointed team of technical experts had strongly rejected the weapons claim in a field report sent to the Defense Intelligence Agency on May 27, 2003. That report, and an authoritative, 122-page final report by the same team three weeks later, concluded that the trailers were not biological weapons labs. Both reports were classified and never released. The team's findings were ultimately supported by the Iraq Survey Group, which led the official search for banned weapons, in a report to Congress in September 2004, about 15 months later.
Whether White House officials were alerted to the technical team's finding is unclear, The Post article reported. In any case, senior administration and intelligence officials continued for months afterward to cite the trailers as evidence that Iraq had been producing weapons of mass destruction -- the chief claim used to justify the U.S.-led invasion.
McClellan dismissed the news article as "rehashing an old issue," saying Bush has repeatedly acknowledged "the intelligence was wrong." [...]
• Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War,
Administration Pushed Notion
of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary
Washington Post, April 12, 2006
On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."
The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.
A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.
The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories. [...]
• Bush Was Set on Path to War,
Memo by British Adviser Says
New York Times, March 27, 2006
In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin." [...]
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.
Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident. [...]
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
Those proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush's extemporaneous suggestions, or were elements of the government's plan. [...]
Despite intense lobbying by the United States and Britain, a second United Nations resolution was not obtained. The American-led military coalition invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, nine days after the target date set by the president on that late January day at the White House.
• What Bush Was Told About Iraq
National Journal, March 2, 2006
[A highly classified intelligence] report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that it was unlikely that Saddam would try to attack the United States -- except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault, according to records and sources.
On at least four earlier occasions, beginning in the spring of 2002, according to the same records and sources, the president was informed during his morning intelligence briefing that U.S. intelligence agencies believed it was unlikely that Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.
The one-page documents prepared for Bush are known as the "President's Summary" of the much longer and more detailed National Intelligence Estimates.... The summaries stated that both the Energy and State departments dissented on the aluminum tubes question. This is the first evidence that Bush was aware of the intense debate within the government during the time that he, Cheney, and members of the Cabinet were citing the procurement of the tubes as evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program.
That a summary was also prepared for Bush on the question of Saddam's intentions regarding an unprovoked attack on the United States is significant because the administration has claimed that the president was unaware of intelligence information that conflicted with his public statements and those of the vice president and members of his Cabinet on the justifications for attacking Iraq.
• Ex-CIA Official Faults Use of Data on Iraq
Washington Post, February 10, 2006
The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade. [...]
"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote. [...]
[Note to reader--we highly recommend reading Intelligence, Policy, and the War In Iraq by Paul R. Pillar, the source material from which this article is based.
• Blair 'made secret US Iraq pact'
BBC, February 3, 2006
Tony Blair and George W Bush decided to invade Iraq weeks earlier than they have admitted, a new book by a human rights lawyer has claimed.
The book by Philippe Sands says the two leaders discussed going to war regardless of any United Nations view.
And it suggests the US wanted to provoke Saddam Hussein by sending a spy plane over Iraq in UN colours.
Downing Street said on Thursday it did not comment on discussions that "may or may not have happened" between leaders.
[T]he new book centres on a meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair at the White House three weeks earlier, on 31 January.
Professor Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College London, says the two-hour meeting was also attended by six advisers.
The book quotes from a note it says was prepared by one of the participants.
According to the note, Mr Bush said the military campaign was pencilled in for March. Mr Blair is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".
The book claims Mr Blair only wanted a second UN Security Council resolution because it would make it easier politically to deal with Saddam.
And it says Mr Bush told Mr Blair the US "was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours".
If Saddam fired on them, the Iraqis would be in breach of UN resolutions, he suggested.
Mr Bush is also quoted saying it was possible an Iraqi figure would defect and be able to give a "public presentation" of weapons of mass destruction.
The note said Mr Bush thought there was also "a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated".
The book also claims the president "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". [...]
• Report: Bush, Blair decided to go to war months before UN meetings
Christian Science Monitor, February 3, 2006
In a case of yet another leaked memo in Britain, one of the United Kingdom's top international lawyers quotes minutes from a January 31, 2003 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush in an updated version of his book, "Lawless World", where it appears the two men made the decision to go to war regardless of what the United Nations decided about passing a second resolution that would have allowed the start of the war.
Britain's Channel Four TV network, which says it has seen the minutes of the meeting, reports that during the meeting, Mr. Bush raised the idea of painting US U-2 spy planes in the colors of the United Nations, in the hope that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would fire on the planes, and thus give the US and Britain a legal basis to attack Iraq. [...]
• Bush wanted plane in UN colours to trick Saddam
The Herald, February 3, 2006
George W Bush wanted to use a spy plane painted in United Nations colours to trick Saddam Hussein into breaching UN rules, according to a new version of a book on the Iraq invasion.
During a meeting with Tony Blair focusing on the need to identify evidence that the dictator had broken UN Resolution 1441, the US president suggested a plot to lure Saddam into firing on the plane.
According to a leaked memo from the meeting, Mr Bush told the prime minister that the US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq painted in UN colours. [...]
• Blair 'backed Iraq war in January 2003'
The Telegraph, February 3, 2006
Tony Blair and George W Bush decided to invade Iraq weeks earlier than they have admitted, a new book by a human rights lawyer has claimed.
The book by Philippe Sands says the two leaders discussed going to war regardless of any United Nations view.
And it suggests the US wanted to provoke Saddam Hussein by sending a spy plane over Iraq in UN colours.
Downing Street said on Thursday it did not comment on discussions that "may or may not have happened" between leaders.
[T]he new book centres on a meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair at the White House three weeks earlier, on 31 January.
Professor Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College London, says the two-hour meeting was also attended by six advisers.
• Book: Bush, Blair Talked War in Jan. '03
CBS/AP, February 3, 2006
President Bush told Prime Minister Tony Blair nearly two months before the invasion of Iraq that the United States intended to go to war even if inspectors failed to find evidence of a banned weapons program...
Author Phillippe Sands said Bush made the comments in a White House meeting with Blair on Jan. 31, 2003. He cites a memo of the meeting as saying Bush also told Blair that military intervention was scheduled for March 2003 even without U.N. backing.
The prime minister responded that he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm" Saddam Hussein...
A spokesman for Blair, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said Downing Street does not comment on books or on leaked documents, and reiterated that Britain only committed to military action in Iraq after approval by the House of Commons on March 18, 2003. [...]
Other claims made in the book say Bush floated the idea of a number of extreme measures aimed at provoking Saddam.
The president is said to have told Blair the U.S. "was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq. The aircraft would be painted in U.N. colors, so that if Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach of U.N. resolutions, the book said.
The book also claims Bush "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups" in Iraq following the invasion.
• Blair accused of supporting Iraq invasion before approach to UN
Financial Times, February 3, 2006
Tony Blair faces dramatic new allegations today that he and George W. Bush were set on invading Iraq well before diplomatic efforts to secure explicit United Nations support had failed.
In an updated version of his book Lawless World, Philippe Sands, an international law professor, says Mr Blair offered his full support for Mr Bush at the White House in January 2003 during a private meeting in which the president disclosed he had pencilled in a March 10 invasion date and suggested military action was inevitable. The president, the book says, also floated a way of tricking Saddam Hussein into breaching UN demands and even talked of assassinating the former Iraqi leader. [... Balance of article behind paid subscription wall]
• Bush 'plotted to lure Saddam into war with fake UN plane'
The Independent, February 3, 2006
George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spy-plane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memorandum of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.
The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though they were privately convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
He added: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated." The memo damningly suggests that the decision to invade Iraq had already been made when Mr Blair and the US President met in Washington on 31 January 2003 - when the British Government was still working on obtaining a second UN resolution to legitimise the conflict.
The leaders discussed the prospects for a second resolution, but Mr Bush said: "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway." He added that he had a date, 10 March, pencilled in for the start of military action. The war actually began on 20 March. [...]
[Article is behind paid subscription wall. Go here to read text on FindArticles.com]
• Bush 'tried to lure Saddam into war using UN aircraft'
The Times (London), February 3, 2006
PRESIDENT BUSH had plans to lure Saddam Hussein into war by flying an aircraft over Iraq painted in UN colours in the hope he would shoot it down, a book reveals.
Mr Bush told Tony Blair of the extraordinary plan during a meeting in the White House on January 31, 2003, six weeks before the war started, according to an updated version of Lawless World by Philippe Sands, a human rights lawyer. He says the President made it clear that he had already decided to go to war, despite still pressing for a UN resolution. [...]
If the U2 idea was a serious proposal, it would have made sense only if the spy plane was ordered to fly at an altitude within range of Iraqi missiles. Mr Bush’s reference in the recorded conversation to the U2 being escorted by fighter aircraft indicates that that is what he had in mind. [...]
• Blair-Bush deal before Iraq war revealed in secret memo
The Guardian, February 3, 2006
Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.
A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.
"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".
The disclosures come in a new edition of Lawless World, by Phillipe Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College, London...
The memo seen by Prof Sands reveals:
· Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]". [...]
· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur...
The revelation that Mr Blair had supported the US president's plans to go to war with Iraq even in the absence of a second UN resolution contrasts with the assurances the prime minister gave parliament shortly after. [...]
Downing Street did not deny the existence of the memo ...
• The White House memo Revealed: Bush and Blair discussed
using American Spyplane in UN colours to lure Saddam into war
Channel 4 News (UK), February 3, 2006
... Channel 4 News has seen minutes from that meeting, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. The two leaders discussed the possibility of securing further UN support, but President Bush made it clear that he had already decided to go to war. The details are contained in a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC.
Taken from the White House Meeting Memo, 31 January 2003, seen by Channel 4 News - and detailed in 'Lawless World' by Philippe Sands.
President Bush to Tony Blair: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach" [...]
Blair: "A second Security Council Resolution resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected and international cover, including with the Arabs. " [...]
• Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts
New York Times, November 6, 2005
A top member of Al Qaeda in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.
The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, “was intentionally misleading the debriefers’’ in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda’s work with illicit weapons.
The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al 8Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.
Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’
The newly declassified portions of the document were made available by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Levin said the new evidence of early doubts about Mr. Libi’s statements dramatized what he called the Bush administration’s misuse of prewar intelligence to try to justify the war in Iraq. [...]
• MPs unite for inquiry into Blair’s conduct over Iraq
The Sunday Times, November 6, 2005
Tony Blair is set to face an unprecedented parliamentary inquiry into his conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war. [...]
The failure to plan for the aftermath is likely to be at the heart of the committee’s inquiries now that Iraq is in the grip of a violent insurgency, says the Tory MP Douglas Hogg, one of the inquiry’s architects and who is canvassing support for the move. [...]
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said his party had not supported earlier attempts to impeach the prime minister but was in no doubt that parliament should hold its own inquiry.
“Information that has emerged, in particular the memos leaked to The Sunday Times, strengthen overwhelmingly the case for an inquiry into the judgments of ministers, and in particular the prime minister, in the run-up to war and thereafter,” he said. [...]
• Democrats close Senate to push war probe
CNN, November 1, 2005
Democrats forced the Senate into a closed session Tuesday to pressure the Republican majority into completing an investigation of the intelligence underpinning the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Democrats demanded that Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts move forward on a promised investigation into how Bush administration officials handled prewar intelligence about Iraq's suspected weapons programs.
The probe would be a follow-up to the July 2004 Intelligence Committee report that blamed a "series of failures" by the CIA and other intelligence agencies for the mistaken belief among U.S. policymakers that Iraq had restarted its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
The Senate reopened about two hours later, after members agreed to appoint a bipartisan group of senators to assess the progress of the "Phase 2" probe, the office of Majority Leader Bill Frist said. [...]
• A Leak, Then a Deluge -
Did a Bush loyalist, trying to protect the case for war in Iraq,
obstruct an investigation into who blew the cover of a covert CIA operative?
Washington Post, October 30, 2005
That Saturday afternoon, the indictment states, is when Libby confirmed for Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and disclosed to Judith Miller of the New York Times the classified fact that Wilson's wife, who was known as Valerie Plame, "worked at the CIA." Just over two weeks earlier, after a previous conversation with Cheney, Libby had told Miller more tentatively that Plame "might work at a bureau of the CIA." [...]
Libby's possible motive is only one of many unknowns left in the aftermath of Friday's indictment, which prompted the resignation of one of the most powerful figures in the White House and left the Bush administration reeling politically. Still to be determined is who first leaked Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak -- the original act that led to Fitzgerald's investigation -- and the roles of many other administration officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. [...]
• CIA leak illustrates selective use of intelligence on Iraq
Knight-Ridder, October 25, 2005
A Knight Ridder review of the administration's arguments, its own reporting at the time and the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 report shows that the White House followed a pattern of using questionable intelligence, even documents that turned out to be forgeries, to support its case - often leaking classified information to receptive journalists - and dismissing information that undermined the case for war.
The Iraqi National Congress, an exile opposition group whose leader, Ahmad Chalabi, was close to Cheney and others, had begun feeding Western reporters Iraqi defectors' tales that Saddam was training Islamic extremists to hit U.S. targets and hiding banned weapons shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The INC, which was deeply distrusted by the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, piped the same information into Cheney's office and the Pentagon, according to a June 2002 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee from the group's Washington spokesman.
• Official Says U.S. Rushed to War in Iraq
Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2005
A top U.S. official for aid to Iraq has accused the Bush administration of rushing unprepared into the 2003 invasion because of pressures from President Bush's approaching reelection campaign.
Robin Raphel, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq assistance, said that the invasion's timing was driven by "clear political pressure," as well as by the need to quickly deploy the U.S. troops that had been amassed by the Iraq border.
Soon after the invasion, Raphel said, it became clear that U.S. officials "could not run a country we did not understand". It was very much amateur hour."
... Although the officials' views vary widely and some are positive about the U.S. effort the accounts make clear that many of the veteran diplomats who were the first to be sent to Iraq had misgivings about the effort from the beginning, with their views foreshadowing criticisms that followed months and even years later.
Many analysts speculated in 2003 that the timing of the invasion might be affected by Bush's desire to complete the war before the beginning of the 2004 political campaign. But Raphel is apparently the first government official closely involved in the effort to publicly level such an accusation.
Raphel, a 28-year veteran of the State Department's foreign service and a former assistant secretary of State, said in her account that veteran diplomats who were sent to Iraq early in 2003 shared a view that "we were not prepared."
• Prewar Memo Warned of Gaps in Iraq Plans
Washington Post, August 18, 2005
One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warned of "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in a secret memorandum prepared for a superior.
The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant "to take on 'policing' roles" in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally. Jay M. Garner, the first post-invasion administrator, was told of the issues in the memo, its authors said.
The Feb. 7, 2003, memo, addressed to Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, came at a time when the Pentagon was increasingly taking over control of post-invasion planning from the State Department. It reflected the growing tensions between State Department and Pentagon officials and their disparate assessments about the challenges looming in post-invasion Iraq.
• Poll shows most Americans feel more vulnerable
USA Today, August 8, 2005
An unprecedented 57% majority say the war has made the USA more vulnerable to terrorism. A new low, 34%, say it has made the country safer.
A 54% majority say going to war in Iraq was a mistake, equaling highs measured last summer when insurgent attacks were increasing. The same proportion say the war was not "worth it." A majority of Americans have expressed that view since last October.
• Key No 10 aides were split over war
The Sunday Times, July 31, 2005
Ministers have... insisted that the stepped-up attacks, which began in May 2002, were as a result of increased Iraqi activity and were not an attempt to provoke a response that would give the allies an excuse for war.
The figures do not support those claims. In the first seven months of 2001 the allies recorded a total of 370 "provocations" by the Iraqis against allied aircraft. But in the seven months between October 2001 and May 2002 there were just 32.
• Senate probe of prewar intelligence stalls
The Boston Globe, July 27, 2005
The revelation that Karl Rove, a White House political adviser, leaked information about a CIA operative to discredit her husband's complaints about President Bush's use of intelligence has focused new attention on the relationship between the White House and CIA. But the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has shown no signs of moving ahead with its investigation.
"The chairman has declared firmly that it will be done," said Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia. ''I always think there's a reluctance to do anything which might embarrass the administration. I think that's been true since the beginning of all of this."
• Poll: USA doubts Iraq success, but not ready to give up
USA Today, July 26, 2005
For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction the central justification given for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003 after stores of the weapons weren't found.
• Use and abuse of intelligence
The Guardian, July 19, 2005
The security and intelligence agencies had their own specific concerns: Britain's alliance with the US did not help their attempts to recruit agents or informants where they most needed them, in the mosques and the souks.
Al-Qaida is now as much of a concept as an organisation or network. It blossomed in Afghanistan, and the US soon became a target, partly because of its military presence in the Middle East. Al-Qaida would have continued out there anyway, on videos and websites. But Iraq has helped to spread its influence and encourage young Muslims.
• Top Cheney Aide Among Sources in C.I.A. Story
The New York Times, July 17, 2005
The vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was a source along with the president's chief political adviser for a Time story that identified a CIA officer, the magazine reporter said Sunday, further countering White House claims that neither aide was involved in the leak.
In an effort to quell a chorus of calls to fire deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, Republicans said that Rove originally learned about Valerie Plame's identity from the news media. That exonerates Rove, the Republican Party chairman said, and Democrats should apologize.
But it is not clear that it was a journalist who first revealed the information to Rove.
A lawyer familiar with Rove's grand jury testimony said Sunday that Rove learned about the CIA officer either from the media or from someone in government who said the information came from a journalist. The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity because the federal investigation is continuing.
In a first-person account in the latest issue of Time magazine, reporter Matt Cooper wrote that during his grand jury appearance last Wednesday, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "asked me several different ways if Rove had indicated how he had heard that Plame worked at the CIA." Cooper said Rove did not indicate how he had heard.
The White House's assurance in 2003 that Rove was not involved in the leak of the CIA officer's identity ''was a lie,'' said John Podesta, White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration. He said Rove's credibility "is in shreds."
• State Dept. Memo Gets Scrutiny in Leak Inquiry on C.I.A. Officer
The New York Times, July 16, 2005
Investigators in the case have been trying to learn whether officials at the White House and elsewhere in the administration learned of the C.I.A. officer's identity from the memorandum. They are seeking to determine if any officials then passed the name along to journalists and if officials were truthful in testifying about whether they had read the memo...
The memorandum was dated June 10, 2003, nearly four weeks before Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times in which he recounted his mission and accused the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq. The memorandum was written for Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and it referred explicitly to Valerie Wilson as Mr. Wilson's wife...
The memorandum was prepared at the State Department, relying on notes by an analyst who was involved in meetings in early 2002 to discuss whether to send someone to Africa to investigate allegations that Iraq was pursuing uranium purchases.
• Hinchey presses for Iraq probe
The Daily Freeman, July 8, 2005
The Downing Street memos, a series of communications that some say proves the Bush administration fabricated its justification for the war in Iraq, should be the subject of a full-blown Congressional inquiry, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey told the crowd assembled for a presentation on the memos on the SUNY New Paltz campus Thursday night.
But the lack of checks and balances in the "monolithic" government, in which both the Congress and Senate favor the administration, will make mounting such an investigation a difficult prospect for those lawmakers who have questioned and continue to question both the impetus for the war in Iraq, and America's continued involvement there, Hinchey, D-Hurley, said.
• The Impeachment Question
Washington Post, July 6, 2005
More than four in 10 Americans, according to a recent Zogby poll, say that if President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.
[The polls] suggest an appetite for more investigation into Bush's reasons for war and specifically -- in light of the assertions in the Downing Street memos -- whether his public rationales were in fact at all like his private rationales.
Was Bush motivated more by personal animosity toward Saddam Hussein than by a post-Sept. 11 desire to protect America from a grave threat? Did he exaggerate that threat? At what point was war inevitable?
Those are not settled questions. And evidently quite a few Americans would like to see some accountability if Bush deceived them.
• Secret air campaign against Iraq?
Christian Science Monitor, June 30, 2005
The Downing Street plan, according to the leaked briefing paper, was to use the United Nations to trap Saddam Hussein into giving them a reason to attack.
But if that didn't work, the US was already working on "Plan B," and the information on that was in the Downing Street memo.
[quoting Michael Smith] "It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that 'the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime.' This we now realize was Plan B [and apparently confirmed by Gen. Moseley's comments mentioned above]. Put simply, US aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict."
Smith reported that another of the leaked documents, a paper on British Foreign Office legal advice, showed that the increased bombing campaign was "illegal" under international law, despite US claims to the contrary.
• Blair Downplays 'Downing Street'
CBS News, June 29, 2005
"I am a bit astonished at how this has received such coverage in the U.S. because the fact is after the memo was done we went to the United Nations," Blair said.
"What people forget about that memo is that that (it) occurred nine months before the conflict... So whatever issues there were, we resolved them ultimately by saying we have got to give it one last chance to work peacefully."
• Survey Finds Most Support Staying in Iraq,
Public Skeptical About Gains Against Insurgents
Washington Post, June 28, 2005
So far, continuing spasms of violence in Iraq are competing with regular declarations of progress in Washington. Few people agree with Vice President Cheney's recent claim that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The survey found that 22 percent of Americans barely one in five say they believe that the insurgency is getting weaker...
A large majority, about six in 10 people, say the United States is "bogged down" in Iraq.
For the first time, a narrow majority -- 52 percent -- said the administration deliberately misled the public before the war, a nine-point increase in three months. Forty-eight percent said the administration told the public what it believed to be true at the time.
Fewer than half -- 46 percent -- of those interviewed agreed that defeating the insurgents in Iraq would do much to defeat terrorism elsewhere, while 53 percent said it would have, at best, only limited impact on the broader anti-terrorism campaign.
• 'Downing Street Memo' Has Lingering Effect
Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2005
After a slow start in the U.S., a half-dozen liberal activists are having some success in making the documents fodder for Capitol Hill rhetoric and White House news briefings.
"The coverage seems to be getting more intelligent," after reporters initially gave the memos short shrift, says Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid himself has begun citing the documents in public remarks, ad libbing a reference to them in a recent Senate floor speech.
The idea to target news operations came from Michael Clark, [who] said he knew nothing about running such a campaign but decided to contact three media outlets a day, including the likes of C-Span, the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.
A search of U.S. publications and television news-program transcripts shows that in the two weeks after the London Times broke its story, the Downing Street memo was mentioned fewer than 100 times. The phrase has appeared nearly 800 times since Mr. Clark's efforts began, although it isn't clear the extent to which this is the result of his campaign.
• From Memos, Insights Into Ally's Doubts On Iraq War
Washington Post, June 28, 2005
Behind the scenes, British officials believed the U.S. administration was already committed to a war that they feared was ill-conceived and illegal and could lead to disaster...
British cabinet ministers, Foreign Office diplomats, senior generals and intelligence service officials all weighed in with concerns and reservations. Yet they could not dissuade their counterparts in the Bush administration -- nor, indeed, their own leader -- from going forward...
A U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of the events said the concerns raised by British officials "played a useful role."
"Were they paid a tremendous amount of heed?" said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think it's hard to say they were..."
"What has changed that suddenly gives us the legal right to take military action that we didn't have a few months ago?" demanded David Blunkett, one of Blair's closest political allies.
"Blair comes back from Crawford with a clear sense that the Americans are preparing for war," said Michael Clarke, director of the International Policy Institute at King's College, who met with policymakers at key points during the year. "But the British approach is slightly different -- that we are preparing for war as a means of forcing Iraq to comply so that we don't actually have to fight."
• General admits to secret air war
The Sunday Times, June 26, 2005
Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 "carefully selected targets" before the war officially started.
The nine months of allied raids "laid the foundations" for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.
If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.
Details of the Moseley briefing come amid rising concern in the US at the war. A new poll shows 60% of Americans now believe it was a mistake.
• Brits backed Sunni-led Iraq
Newsday, June 26, 2005
The British government, in sharp disagreement with the United States' ultimate position, believed that post-invasion Iraq should be run by a Sunni-led government and not one controlled by the majority Shias.
The current insurgency is led by disaffected Sunnis who controlled the government under Hussein while only accounting for 20 percent of the Iraqi population.
Iraq's Arab neighbors have virtually boycotted the new government that resulted from the election process dictated by the United States. Only Egypt announced yesterday at a summit sponsored by the United States and the European Union in Brussels that it would send an ambassador to Baghdad.
• Relatives of some troops killed in Iraq seek hearings on Downing Street memo
Stars and Stripes, June 22, 2005
"This war was based on lies and deception," said Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was killed in April 2004 while providing security for investigators searching for WMD. "The only way we can understand how we’ve come to this disastrous position is to find out what the truth is."
Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said if true the allegations in the memo are "shameful" and told the parents, "Those who are responsible should be held accountable."
"This clearly wasn’t a war of necessity; it was a war of choice," he said.
• Wolfowitz won't talk about war planning
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 22, 2005
At a breakfast meeting with reporters, Wolfowitz said he hasn't read the memos because he doesn't want to be "distracted" by "history" from his new job as head of the world's leading development bank...
The authenticity of the British documents has not been challenged, but Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have both denied any pre-determination to go to war. They insist that the war decision came only after diplomatic alternatives had been exhausted.
Wolfowitz professed no recollection of discussing U.N. tactics with [then-British Ambassador Christopher] Meyer.
• WMD claims were 'totally implausible'
The Guardian, June 20, 2005
"I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too".
Carne Ross, who was a member of the British mission to the UN in New York during the run-up to the invasion, resigned from the FO last year...
"There was a very good alternative to war that was never properly pursued, which was to close down Saddam's sources of illegal revenue", he says.
• U.S. War Plans Much-Discussed in Memos
Associated Press, June 18, 2005
"We have also to answer the big question what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than on anything," [UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw] said in a March 25, 2002, memo to Blair.
"Most of the assessments from the U.S. have assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq's WMD threat," he said. "But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better. Iraq has had NO history of democracy, so no one has this habit or experience."
• 2002 Memos Undercut British WMD Claims
Associated Press, June 18, 2005
An intelligence dossier before the Iraq war [claimed] that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and could deploy some within 45 minutes.
No WMD were found after the war, and the official Butler inquiry said the intelligence used was drawn in part from "seriously flawed" or "unreliable" sources. It also said the dossier, which helped Blair win the support of Parliament to join the U.S. in the conflict, had pushed the government's case to the limits of available intelligence and left out vital caveats.
• British documents portray determined U.S. march to war
Knight Ridder, June 17, 2005
By mid-March 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, top British officials were already so resigned to a war that they seemed preoccupied mostly with building international support and finding a legal justification.
Neither the U.S. government nor the British government has disputed the memos' authenticity.
The British memos document in crisp, sometimes wry, prose how advanced political preparations were even more than a year before the March 2003 invasion.
In his own letter to Blair... Straw also seemed to question the scale of the threat. "In the documents so far presented, it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly different from that of Iran and North Korea as to justify military action," he wrote.
While Bush continues to assert that he tried diplomacy, things looked different in the spring and summer of 2002, at least as seen through the prism of the British government.
• Bush pressed to answer `Downing Street Memo' questions
Knight Ridder, June 16, 2005
Thursday's hearing on the memo was organized by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
It was held in a cramped Capitol basement room and was attended by about 20 House Democrats and some anti-war activists. Republicans, who control Congress, refused to hold an official hearing or to participate, so Conyers termed it a "forum." [...]
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said, "The evidence that appears to be building up points to a direction of whether the president deliberately misled Congress. I want so badly to believe that no president would ever sacrifice human life."
"Now we're at $300 billion, countless lives and there's no end in sight," said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.
The official cost of the war so far is $208 billion and the lives of 1,704 U.S. troops, according to the Congressional Research Service and the Department of Defense. [...]
Conyers delivered petitions signed by 105  members of Congress and some 540,000 [560,000] signatures sent via e-mail to a security gate at the White House early Thursday evening. The petitions urged Bush to thoroughly answer questions about the memo. [...]
• U.S. Democrats cite British memo in Bolton fight
Reuters, June 16, 2005
U.S. Senate Democrats rejected a Republican compromise over John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador on Thursday and cited a British report backing their view that the Bush administration hyped intelligence on Iraq before the 2003 invasion.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, scheduled a procedural vote on Monday to try to break the deadlock. Democrats said they had enough votes to stall the nomination until the White House turns over information they demanded on Bolton. [...]
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries' weapons programs, a key issue in the long-stalled nomination.
"All over the news the last few days has been concerns about weapons of mass destruction by virtue of the memo that was discovered," the Nevada Democrat said, referring to the so-called "Downing Street memo."
• Congressman Tries to Renew Focus on US Justifications for War in Iraq
Voice of America, June 16, 2005
A Democratic member of Congress is trying to focus new attention on a document known as the Downing Street Memo, in which British officials are quoted as describing the Bush administration as having shaped intelligence findings to justify a pre-determination to go to war against Saddam Hussein. [...]
On Thursday, Democratic Congressman John Conyers, who has criticized the Republican congressional leadership for not holding a hearing on the subject, staged a public forum in the U.S. Capitol.
"We can't do anything in this hearing to change the facts and the problems on the ground in Iraq today," said Mr. Conyers. "But we can pledge today to do everything within our power to find out how we got there, and to make sure it never happens again." [...]
As part of his efforts to shine a new spotlight on administration justifications for going to war in Iraq, Congressman Conyers included a family member of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan.
"As far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter whether one is a Democrat or Republican. A full investigation into the veracity of the Downing Street memo must be initiated immediately," said Ms. Sheehan. [...]
Democrat-sponsored efforts include a petition signed by some 540,000 [560,000] Americans demanding that President Bush answer questions about the Downing Street memo.
All of this comes amid renewed legislative steps, including one by a small group of four House Democrats and Republicans, to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
• From Downing Street to Capitol Hill
Newsweek, June 15, 2005
Two senior British government officials today acknowledged as authentic a series of 2002 pre-Iraq war memos stating that Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program was "effectively frozen" and that there was "no recent evidence" of Iraqi ties to international terrorismprivate conclusions that contradicted two key pillars of the Bush administration's public case for the invasion in March 2003.
A March 8, 2002, secret "options" paper prepared by Prime Minister Tony Blair's top national-security aides also stated that intelligence on Saddam's purported weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was "poor".... [T]he options paper concluded "there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD."
[T]he March 8, 2002, “options paper”which asserted the Iraqi opposition was “weak, divided, and lacks domestic credibility”described Chalabi as a “convicted fraudster” who was nonetheless “popular on Capitol Hill."
The memos were first obtained by Michael Smith, a London-based reporter who previously wrote for The Daily Telegraph and now works for the Sunday Times of London... On the advice of the Telegraph’s lawyers, the paper had a secretary retype the documents verbatim on separate paperthen returned the originals to his source.
• New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq
LA Times, June 15, 2005
The documents contain little discussion about whether to mount a military campaign. The focus instead is on how the campaign should be presented to win the widest support and the importance for Britain of working through the United Nations so an invasion could be seen as legal under international law.
The memo [from UK ambassador to the US David Manning to Blair] went on to say: "Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks. From what she said, Bush has yet to find answers to the big questions:
• How to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified;
• What value to put on the exiled Iraqi opposition;
• How to coordinate a US/allied military campaign with internal opposition (assuming there is any);
• What happens the morning after?
Another memo, from British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on March 22, 2002, bluntly stated that the case against Hussein was weak because the Iraqi leader was not accelerating his weapons programs and there was scant proof of links to Al Qaeda "U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda is so far frankly unconvincing," he said.
The paper said the British view was that any invasion for the purpose of regime change "has no basis under international law."
• Deep Throat of Downing Street
Washington Post, June 14, 2005
The document, a British government briefing paper from July 21, 2002, informed Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet ministers eight months before the invasion of Iraq that Blair had already committed Britain to supporting an American-led attack and that "they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal."
The leak of the document gives unprecedented publicity to the arguments made by skeptics of U.S. policy in Blair's inner circle. The documents openly question the use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the legal basis for the decision to go to war.
"The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war," Smith wrote.
• More British memos on pre-Iraq war concerns
MSNBC, June 13, 2005
(video of NBC Nightly News segment available at this link also)
It started during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's re-election campaign last month, when details leaked about a top-secret memo, written in July 2002 eight months before the Iraq war. In the memo, British officials just back from Washington reported that prewar "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" to invade Iraq.[...]
But now, war critics have come up with seven more memos, verified by NBC News.
One, also from July 2002, says U.S. military planners had given "little thought" to postwar Iraq.
“The memos are startlingly clear that the British saw that there was inadequate planning, little planning for the aftermath,” says Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And there's more. To prepare Blair for a meeting at the president's ranch in April 2002, a year before the war, four other British memos raised more questions.[...]
In fact, current and former diplomats tell NBC News they understood from the beginning the Bush policy to be that Saddam had to be removed one way or the other. The only question was when and how.
• Public starts to get a fix on 'fixing' intelligence
Philadelphia Inquirer, June 12, 2005
Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who is now a war analyst at Boston University, said: "The memo is significant because it was written by our closest ally, and when it comes to writing minutes on foreign policy and security matters, the British are professionals. We can conclude that the memo means precisely what it says. It says that Bush had already made the decision for war even while he was insisting publicly, and for many months thereafter, that war was the last resort.
"This is no longer a suspicion or accusation. The memo is an authoritative piece of information, at the highest level."
[British Foreign Secretary Jack] Straw... suggested, according to the memo, that Bush needed "help with the legal justification for the use of force." Blair's idea was that Bush should go to the United Nations; this was a "political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."
But, in the view of many Iraq experts, the memo shows that Bush went to the United Nations not as a means to avoid war (his public stance) but as a way to gain more political support for the war he intended to wage.
• Ministers Were Told of Need for Gulf War 'Excuse'
The Sunday Times, June 12, 2005
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper... said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.
The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war.
• Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Postwar Iraq Plan
Washington Post, June 12, 2005
The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.
The memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."
The British, however, had begun focusing on doubts about a postwar Iraq in early 2002, according to internal memos.
A March 14 memo to Blair from David Manning, then the prime minister's foreign policy adviser and now British ambassador in Washington, reported on talks with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Among the "big questions" coming out of his sessions, Manning reported, was that the president "has yet to find the answers . . . [and] what happens on the morning after."
• Washington confronts 'memogate'
London Sunday Times, June 9, 2005
President George W. Bush has finally responded to a question that much of America has been asking: did a secret memo prove that Washington was gearing for war in Iraq months earlier than the White House has admitted?
The Downing Street memo on US preparations for war in Iraq was revealed in The Sunday Times five weeks ago. But it wasn't until Tony Blair's visit to the White House this week that the resulting controversy made waves in Washington, and revived a long-dormant American debate about President Bush’s march to war from the summer of 2002.
It has also provoked embarrassed questions in the US media as to why so many newspapers and broadcast outlets here ignored the story for so long. [...]
• "Downing Street" memo indicates Bush made intelligence fit Iraq policy
Knight Ridder, June 5, 2005
A highly classified British memo... indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.
No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. [...]
The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Saddam's regime.
A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents.
In July 2002, and well afterward, top Bush administration foreign policy advisers were insisting that "there are no plans to attack Iraq on the president's desk."
But the memo quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a close colleague of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as saying that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action." Straw is quoted as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat. [...]
Powell in August 2002 persuaded Bush to make the case against Saddam at the United Nations and to push for renewed weapons inspections.
• The war before the war
The New Statesman, May 30, 2005
What most people will not have realised until now, however, was that Britain and the US waged a secret war against Iraq for months before the tanks rolled over the border in March 2003. Documentary evidence and ministerial answers in parliament reveal the existence of a clandestine bombing campaign designed largely to provoke Iraq into taking action that could be used to justify the start of the war.
[In May 2002] Donald Rumsfeld had ordered a more aggressive approach, authorising allied aircraft to attack Iraqi command and control centres as well as actual air defences. The US defence secretary later said this was simply to prevent the Iraqis attacking allied aircraft, but Hoon's remark gives the game away. In reality, as he explained, the "spikes of activity" were designed "to put pressure on the regime".
...it would have been extremely convenient for Bush and Rumsfeld if Saddam had retaliated against the bombing offensive, thus giving London and Washington the chance to cry, "He started it!"
• Blair faces US probe over secret Iraq invasion plan,
The Sunday Times, May 22, 2005
SENIOR American congressmen are considering sending a delegation to London to investigate Britain's role in preparations for the war in Iraq.
The Democrat letter, drafted by Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, said that the memo raised “troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own administration”.
"They (the Republicans) are trying desperately to wait it out and hope that nobody will bring this up," Conyers said. "But this thing will not be snuffed out."
"There are members saying that if they knew then what they know now they wouldn’t have given him those powers (to wage war)," Conyers said.
By sending investigators to London, Conyers hopes to stir the US media into re-examining a story largely ignored in America since Bush's re-election victory in November.
"We have The Sunday Times to thank for this very important activity. It reminds me of Watergate, which started off as a tiny little incident reported in The Washington Post. I think that the interest of many citizens is picking up."
• British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics
The New York Times, May 20, 2005
More than two weeks after its publication in London, a previously secret British government memorandum that reported in July 2002 that President Bush had decided to "remove Saddam, through military action" is still creating a stir among administration critics. [...]
Eighty-nine House Democrats wrote to the White House to ask whether the memorandum, first disclosed by The Sunday Times on May 1, accurately reported the administration’s thinking at the time, eight months before the American-led invasion. [...]
Among other things, the memorandum reported that Sir Richard Dearlove, the chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, reporting back from talks in Washington, had told other senior British officials that President Bush "wanted to remove" Mr. Hussein, "through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and W.M.D.," or weapons of mass destruction. "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," Sir Richard was reported in the memorandum to have told his colleagues. [...]
The British government has not disputed the authenticity of the British memorandum, written by Matthew Rycroft, a top foreign policy aide to Mr. Blair. [...]
The primary observations were those offered by Sir Richard, who had met in Washington with senior American officials, including George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence. In the memorandum, Sir Richard is identified only as "C," the letter traditionally used to refer to the chief of British intelligence. [...]
• White House challenges UK Iraq memo
CNN, May 17, 2005
Claims in a recently uncovered British memo that intelligence was "being fixed" to support the Iraq war as early as mid-2002 are "flat out wrong," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday. [...]
However, McClellan also said he had not seen the "specific memo," only reports of what it contained.
Earlier this month, the Times of London published the minutes of a meeting of top British officials in mid-2002, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest ally in the Iraq war. [...]
The memo also quoted British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that the final push to war would likely begin a month before the U.S. congressional elections in November 2002, with an actual attack coming in January 2003.
President Bush did begin trying to build public support for military action against Iraq during the mid-term election, which saw Republicans pick up seats in both the House and Senate. The invasion came four months later, in March 2003.
British officials have not disputed the authenticity of the memo published by the Times.
After the minutes of the meeting became public, 89 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Bush asking for an explanation.
The memo "raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war, as well as the integrity of your administration," the letter said.
• British Intelligence Warned of Iraq War
Washington Post, May 13, 2005
Seven months before the invasion of Iraq, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that in Washington intelligence was "being fixed around the policy," according to notes of a July 23, 2002, meeting with Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.
"Military action was now seen as inevitable," said the notes, summarizing a report by Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, British intelligence, who had just returned from consultations in Washington along with other senior British officials. Dearlove went on, "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."
"The case was thin," summarized the notes taken by a British national security aide at the meeting. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
The notes were first disclosed last week by the Sunday Times of London, triggering criticism of Blair on the eve of the May 5 British parliamentary elections that he had decided to support an invasion of Iraq well before informing the public of his views.
The notes of the Blair meeting, attended by the prime minister's senior national security team, also disclose for the first time that Britain's intelligence boss believed that Bush had decided to go to war in mid-2002, and that he believed U.S. policymakers were trying to use the limited intelligence they had to make the Iraqi leader appear to be a bigger threat than was supported by known facts...
• Bush asked to explain UK war memo
CNN, May 12, 2005
Eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress last week sent President George W. Bush a letter asking for explanation of a secret British memo that said "intelligence and facts were being fixed" to support the Iraq war in mid-2002.
The timing of the memo was well before the President brought the issue to Congress for approval. [...]
The White House has not yet responded to queries about the congressional letter, which was released on May 6.
• Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents
LA Times, May 12, 2005
[I]n the United States, where the reports at first received scant attention, there has been growing indignation among critics of the Bush White House, who say the documents help prove that the leaders made a secret decision to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein nearly a year before launching their attack, shaped intelligence to that aim and never seriously intended to avert the war through diplomacy.
• Memo: Bush manipulated Iraq intel
NY Newsday, May 9, 2005
A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President George W. Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.
The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war. [...]
"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," or weapons of mass destruction. [...]
No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.
A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity. [...]
The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Hussein's regime.
• A New Memo-gate? Knight Ridder Covers
Leaked British Document That Disputes Bush Claims on Iraq
Editor & Publisher, May 6, 2005
Among other things, [Rep. Conyers] wants to know: "Did the Administration lie to the American people about its intentions with respect to Iraq? Did the Administration deliberately manipulate intelligence to deceive the American people about the strength of its case for war?"
Strobel and Wolcott noted that the White House has repeatedly denied accusations by top foreign officials that intelligence estimates were manipulated.
But they report that a former senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during Dearlove's visit to Washington.
• British memo indicates Bush made intelligence fit Iraq policy
Knight Ridder, May 5, 2005
A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.
The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.
The visit took place while the Bush Administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.
The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. [...]
A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
In July 2002 and well afterward, top Bush Administration foreign policy advisers were insisting that "there are no plans to attack Iraq on the president's desk."
But the memo quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a close colleague of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as saying that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action."
Straw is quoted as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat.
"But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran," the memo reported he said.
• Blair backed war before invasion
The Age, May 2, 2005
The memo also shows that Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair eight months before the invasion that finding a legal justification for war would be difficult and "the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action".
• Papers reveal commitment to war
The Guardian, May 2, 2005
The documents show how Mr Blair was told how Britain and the US could ‘create the conditions’ for an invasion, partly, in the words of Jack Straw, to ‘work up’ an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein even though, in the foreign secretary's own words, ‘the case was thin’.
The officials said "certain conditions" should be met and that efforts should be made to "shape public opinion." Before and after his Texas meeting, Mr Blair insisted to MPs that no decision had been taken on military action.
• Blair planned Iraq war from start
The Sunday Times, May 1, 2005
The Americans had been trying to link Saddam to the 9/11 attacks; but the British knew the evidence was flimsy or non-existent. Dearlove warned the meeting that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".
It was clear from Dearlove’s brief visit that the US administration’s attitude would compound the legal difficulties for Britain. The US had no patience with the United Nations and little inclination to ensure an invasion was backed by the security council, he said.
Nor did the Americans seem very interested in what might happen in the aftermath of military action. Yet, as Boyce then reported, events were already moving swiftly.
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