New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq
LONDON — In March 2002, the Bush administration had just begun to publicly raise the possibility of confronting Iraq. But behind the scenes, officials already were deeply engaged in seeking ways to justify an invasion, newly revealed British memos indicate.
Foreshadowing developments in the year before the war started, British officials emphasized the importance of U.N. diplomacy, which they said might force Saddam Hussein into a misstep. They also suggested that confronting the Iraqi leader be cast as an effort to prevent him from using weapons of mass destruction or giving them to terrorists.
The documents help flesh out the background to the formerly top-secret "Downing Street memo" published in the Sunday Times of London last month, which said that top British officials were told eight months before the war began that military action was "seen as inevitable." President Bush and his main ally in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have long maintained that they had not made up their minds to go to war at that stage.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth," Bush said last week, responding to a question about the July 23, 2002, memo. "Both of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."
Published accounts, including those by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and former U.S. counter-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke, said that Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld began focusing on Iraq soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Richard Clarke said "[By] Wednesday [after Sept 11, 2001], Secretary Rumsfeld was tallking about broadening the objectives of our response and 'getting Iraq'" (p. 30, Ch. 1). The evening of Sept 12, according to Clarke, the President stopped him and said he wanted Clarke's team to go back over everything to see if Saddam was involved (p. 32). Clarke described Randy Beers telling him he thought he had to quit and "they wanna fuckin' invade Iraq again", in mid to late 2002 (p. 241, Ch. 10).
-- from Against All Enemies, by Richard A. Clarke, former counterterrorism czar for the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that 10 days after his (first) inauguration, President Bush's premise was that Iraq was destabilizing the middle east and America was "washing its hands of the conflict in Israel. Now, we'd focus on Iraq." (p. 71-75, Ch. 2). O'Neill also said that on Sept 12, 2001, Secretary Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq, and that "the Pentagon had been working for months on a military plan for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein", also citing the President's "intense interest" in Saddam. The weekend after 9/11, at Camp David, Wolfowitz turned the focus to Iraq. (p. 184-188, Ch. 5).
"Iraq", O'Neill said later, "was like changing the subject -- Iraq is not where bin Laden is and not where there's trouble". (p. 188)
-- from The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind.
The Downing Street Memo:
Minutes of Prime Minister's Meeting Held 23 July 2002.
The briefing paper provided preparatory to that meeting:
IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials)
The "New" Downing Street Memos:
- Iraq Options Paper: ods020308.pdf
- Iraq Legal Background: fcolegal020308.pdf
- David Manning to PM re Your Trip To Iraq: manning020314.pdf
- Political Director P.F. Rickets to PM re IRAQ: ADVICE FOR THE PRIME MINISTER: ricketts020322.pdf
- Jack Straw to PM re: CRAWFORD/IRAQ: straw020325.pdf
- Christopher Meyer/British Embassy to David Manning re IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: Conversation with Wolfowitz meyer020318.pdf
BBA | After Downing Street