Leaked UK Memo Indicts Blair’s Iraq Folly

As if there wasn’t already enough damming reports floating around that prove President Bush and the neo-cons were hell-bent on invading Iraq — now this. On Sunday, May 1, the Independent in the UK released a report that cites an internal memo released in July of 2002, which exposes that Prime Minister Tony Blair, after meeting with his top government officials, had already committed to overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

The council of war meeting took place weeks before Blair flew to Crawford, Texas where he traveled to discuss the Iraq conflict with President Bush. As the Independent reports:

“Tony Blair had resolved to send British troops into action alongside US forces eight months before the Iraq War began, despite a clear warning from the Foreign Office that the conflict could be illegal.

A damning minute leaked to a Sunday newspaper reveals that in July 2002, a few weeks after meeting George Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Blair summoned his closest aides for what amounted to a council of war. The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, adding that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy’…

It concluded: ‘We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any further decisions.’

The minute records that the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, had warned that the case against Saddam was ‘thin’. He suggested that the Iraqi dictator should be forced into a corner by demanding the return of the UN weapons inspectors: if he refused, or the inspectors found WMD, there would be good cause for war.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith–who took part in the meeting–warned then that ‘the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action’. But the Prime Minister countered that ‘regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD’.”

The leaked memo confirms that Tony Blair would unconditionally back Bush’s war on Iraq, but that his government “needed a fuller picture of US planning before [they] could take any decisions.” The memo also indicates that Blair knew well in advance that the Iraq invasion was imminent, and confirms the speculation that the Bush administration had the green light to invade, despite the fact that the attack would likely be deemed illegal under international law. The memo ended by saying, “We must not ignore the legal issues … the Attorney General would consider legal advice.” It is now clear that Blair knew well in advance of the illegalities regarding the Iraq invasion.

The releasing of the memo couldn’t come at a worst time for Tony Blair and his struggling Labor Party, as they are only days away from a national election in the UK. Certainly, the memo is not likely to bode well for the Prime Minister who is already dealing with low standing public opinion.

As if there wasn’t already enough scandal to impeach President Bush of rushing into an illegal war, the memo could be the catalyst: Did Blair discuss the legalities of the Iraq war in Crawford with Bush? Did he raise any issues about the “thin” case against Saddam?

Unfortunately, the leaked memo in the UK is not likely to have any ripple effects here in the US, even though the memo indicts Bush of planning the overthrow of Saddam months before UN weapons inspectors completed their job in Iraq.

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be published by Common Courage Press. You can pre-order a copy at discounted rate at www.BrickBurner.org. Josh can be reached at: Joshua@BrickBurner.org.




JOSHUA FRANK is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He is the author of the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, published by Haymarket Books. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.