June 12, 2005
The Sunday Times

Ministers Were Told of Need For Gulf War 'Excuse'

by Michael Smith

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

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, for participants at a meeting of Blair's inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

"US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia," the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality "would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation".

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

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. . . .


John Bonifaz, "Warrior King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush, Nation Books (December 10, 2003)

"Iraq War Was Illegal: Iraq Eliminated WMDs in 90's," The Wisdom Fund, February 2, 2004

Scott Ritter, "The inspection process was rigged to create uncertainty over WMD to bolster the US and UK's case for war," Independent, October 10, 2004

[Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.--"The secret Downing Street memo," Sunday Times, May 1, 2005]

Jeremy Scahill, "The Other Bomb Drops," The National, June 1, 2005

"'USA Today' Defends Lack of Coverage for Downing Street Memo," Editor & Publisher, June 8, 2005

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, "From Downing Street to Capitol Hill: New leaked memos are raising further questions about whether the Bush administration 'fixed' its intel to justify the Iraq war," Newsweek, June 15, 2005

Ruby L. Bailey and Ely Portillo, "Bush pressed to answer 'Downing Street Memo' questions," Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 16, 2005

Kevin Zeese, "The Bush Administration's Psy-Ops on the US Public," CounterPunch, June 22, 2005

[Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.

The way in which the intelligence was "fixed" to justify war is old news.--Michael Smith, "The Real News in the Downing Street Memos," Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2005]

[The intelligence services of everyone else were not proclaiming Iraq to be in possession of WMD. Rather, the intelligence services of France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain and Israel were noting that Iraq had failed to properly account for the totality of its past proscribed weapons programs, and in doing so left open the possibility that Iraq might retain an undetermined amount of WMD. There is a huge difference in substance and nuance between such assessments and the hyped-up assertions by the Bush administration concerning active programs dedicated to the reconstitution of WMD, as well as the existence of massive stockpiles of forbidden weaponry.--Scott Ritter, "What Happened to Iraq's WMD," San Francisco Chronicle, December 4, 2005]

[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.--"Bush, Blair made war 'deal'," Herald Sun, February 3, 2006]

[Vice President Dick Cheney went to inordinate lengths, including 10 visits to CIA headquarters, to ensure that that crucial NIE on weapons of mass destruction was alarmist enough to scare Congress into authorizing war.--Ray McGovern, "Blowing Cheney's Cover,", April 11, 2006]

David Hencke, "Intelligence made it clear Saddam was not a threat, diplomat tells MPs," Guardian, March 20, 2009

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