Friday, May 06, 2005

A TOP-SECRET MEMO written by a British foreign policy aide and just leaked to the press says what everyone who's paying attention should know by now anyway: Pres. Bush had ironclad plans to invade Iraq by the summer of 2002. His mind was made up; nothing was going to change it; and he wanted the intelligence that would give him the political support to do what he fully intended to do anyway.

The memo, in which British foreign-policy aide Matthew Rycroft summarized a July 23, 2002, meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair with top security advisers, reports on a U.S. visit by Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was declaring to Americans that no decision had been made to go to war. While the memo makes observations about U.S. intentions toward Iraq, the document does not specify which Bush administration officials met with Dearlove.

The MI-6 chief's account of his U.S. visit was paraphrased by the memo: "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Of course no one discussed the aftermath of military action. No one cared about that. Bush was absolutely determined to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Thinking about and discussing the aftermath might have led to conclusions that would cast doubt on the wisdom of invading Iraq, and such doubts were unthinkable, literally. The policy was formulated, and the "facts" found to justify that policy. The policy drove the intelligence, not the other way around.

Now everyone knows the actual facts:

  • Bush had reached an irreversible decision to invade Iraq almost a year before the invasion, at a time when he and his aides were telling the American public that there were no plans to invade Iraq. Bush lied.
  • Bush made it clear to everyone involved that he wanted to be presented with the intelligence that would "prove" Saddam Hussein was a serious and imminent threat -- which doesn't necessarily mean Bush actually thought Hussein was a threat. He just knew that was the best way to get the American people and Congress behind him.
  • There was no compelling or convincing evidence that Saddam Hussein was any kind of a serious threat. Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary, found the evidence "thin." He said, in the memo, "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
  • If it had been up to Bush and Condoleezza Rice, there would have been no demands from the White House that Iraq agree to new weapons inspections. He would have invaded without giving Iraq that chance to avoid war. It was Jack Straw who came up with the idea of asking for new inspections, and Colin Powell who persuaded Bush to ask for them -- over the vehement objections of Condoleezza Rice. Bush is not a fair-minded man. He wanted war -- his claims that he was being forced into war were lies.
  • When the truth came out, after the invasion, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the prewar intelligence was fraudulent or flawed, Pres. Bush scapegoated the C.I.A., saying that agency and the Senate Intelligence Committee had seriously misjudged the evidence. Bush is a coward, without the personal integrity to take responsibility for his own failures.
Juan Cole has some excellent commentary on the news; he mirrors the entire memo from the Times Online site.

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