Sunday, June 12, 2005

Another 2002 British memo on Iraq

Another 2002 memo written for Blair's inner circle has been leaked to the press detailing deliberations about the coming war with Iraq.

The London Times leads with this description of it, emphasizing that the Brits were trying to figure out a way to make the already-decided war legal when it clearly was not:

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.

...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.
Interestingly, the Washington Post is also running a piece on this very same memo that looks nothing like the Times' story. The Post's Walter Pincus, in contrast, decides to play up the parts about the Brits being alarmed that the US was not planning for the aftermath of the war:
A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

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.
It's amazing that this is what Pincus felt was worth highlighting. As he notes in the piece, everyone already knows that the Bushies rushed into war with no plan after trashing the State Dept's "Future of Iraq" project. Leading with that bit about the memo adds nothing of value to public discourse about the war.

Although Pincus goes on to flesh out the story a bit and link it to some of the issues raised by the DSM in the last 'graphs, he doesn't do justice to the meat of this story. To make things worse, his report is starting to pop up in wire stories and they're only mentioning the 'lack of a plan' part of the memo.

Read the Times and Post stories in their entirety, but make sure you read the memo. There's plenty more in there that's not covered in either piece. My favorite excerpt, for example, is this:
Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein. There would also need to be a substantial effort to secure the support of Parliament. An information campaign will be needed which has to be closely related to an overseas information campaign designed to influence Saddam Hussein, the Islamic World and the wider international community. This will need to give full coverage to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD, and the legal justification for action.
In other words, warm up the propaganda machine!

This is all pretty damning, on multiple levels. For Bush and Blair, obviously. For the Post, you betcha. You'd think that after dropping the ball completely on the Downing Street Memo, American media organs would try to rectify things in this case. Doesn't look that way, though.

Hopefully the American media can finally get on the ball and start demanding answers. To help out, perhaps somebody with a conscience in or around the administration will start leaking American memos.