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The memo, dated July 23, 2002, and was sent by Matthew Rycroft, then a British foreign policy adviser, to David Manning, Britain's ambassador to the U.S.


The Memo of July 21, 2002 - click here"..... Aside from the existence of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation: justification/legal base; an international coalition; a quiescent Israel/Palestine; a positive risk/benefit assessment; and the preparation of domestic opinion. ..."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1928634,00.html
 
Now we know what we know, why is Blair still in office?

As more evidence of his role in the Iraq debacle emerges, it beggars belief that the Prime Minister hasn't been impeached

Henry Porter
Sunday October 22, 2006
The Observer


Over the course of little more than a week, we have learned that civilian casualties so far in the Iraq war may be more than 600,000; that Britain's Chief of the General Staff believes the conflict could break the army apart; that a federal solution to the growing chaos involving the effective dismemberment of the country is being openly discussed in America; that the US Iraq Study Group, headed by Republican grandee James Baker, is recommending that the US military withdraws to bases outside Iraq and seeks Iranian and Syrian help; and that Britain is now the number one al-Qaeda target, partly, it seems clear, as a consequence of events in Iraq.

There should be at least one universal response to this in Britain. Why is Tony Blair still Prime Minister after leading his country into such a disastrous war? Any large company would by now have got rid of a managing director guilty of a mistake on that scale. Any institution you care to name would have done the same. Why is Blair immune from the normal requirements of high office?

Why, instead of being allowed by the cabinet to establish six new policy committees designed to entrench his legacy, has he not been impeached and thrown out of office? Even if his Iraq policy was formed in good faith, the scale of the error surely requires us to ask him and all those concerned with this disaster to leave.

It doesn't matter now whether you were pro-war, strongly opposed to it or somewhere in between, the policy in the Middle East has been an unmitigated failure, an outcome that was built into the earliest planning for the enterprise. People's views four years ago don't count now because Britain is at the heart of a world-changing catastrophe and as far as our interests go, there has not been a single advantage, not even the one of keeping the special relationship alive.

How did we get here? The answer is still not entirely clear. We think we know that Blair manipulated the situation, but we still don't have all the evidence. What is needed is for people to come forward and for the past to be examined more intensively than before.

For instance, it is well worth returning to a memo written by a young diplomat named Matthew Rycroft, which is still significantly undervalued as evidence of the Prime Minister's drive to war and of the innate negligence of American planning for the period after the invasion.

Rycroft is now safely tucked away in Sarajevo as British ambassador to Bosnia. But in the summer of 2002, aged 34, he was Tony Blair's private secretary for foreign affairs. In this capacity, he attended a secret meeting at Downing Street which included Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, and Blair's military chiefs and the sofa cabinet - Alastair Campbell, Sally Morgan and Jonathan Powell. He then wrote a memo to his boss, Sir David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser.

It is really a minute of the meeting. The crucial passage reads: 'C [Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. 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 WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [the US National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.'

The Downing Street Memo, as it became known, was published in the Sunday Times on 1 May 2005, five days before the general election. It certainly made an impact but by the end of that week, it had been washed away with the rest of the pre-election clamour. Blair had won a third term and his mysterious hold over the British electorate managed even to vanquish these revelations about British and American thinking eight months before the war.

It took a while for it to surface in the press in the US although its consequence was immediately grasped in the blogosphere. In Britain, the memo became part of the inconclusive miasma of the Hutton report into David Kelly's death and of the Butler review of intelligence on WMD; and it decomposed in the public's understanding at roughly the same rate. Indeed, one often wonders if Blair has been saved by the amount of material produced by public inquiries (Hutton is 740 pages; Butler 192). The more that is published, the more the issues blur.

But the memo is the goods. It establishes Bush's resolve to find a pretext for war, regardless of the facts on WMD and Saddam's links to terrorism. It further makes plain that there was little or no thinking about the postwar period, an error that now must be regarded as equal to or greater than the invasion. No surprise is expressed in Rycroft's account of the meeting about what was going on in America, which leads one to assume that among a very small group, the idea of invasion was a fully fledged possibility, even though Blair was assuring the public and cabinet colleagues outside the inner circle that nothing had been decided.

There was much more in the original Sunday Times report on the meeting. Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith had doubts about the legal case for war, while Blair was committed from the outset to supporting US plans for regime change. At the time, no one seems to have remembered what Tony Blair had said in his evidence to Lord Butler's report into the intelligence on WMD, published eight months before the memo came to light. Blair said: 'I remember that during the course of July and August, I was increasingly getting messages saying, "Are you about to go to war?" and I was thinking, "This is ridiculous" and so I remember towards the end of the holiday actually phoning Bush and saying we have got to put this right straight away... we've not decided on military action.'

If not a direct lie, it is hardly the truth.

On the September dossier, Tony Blair said: 'The purpose of the dossier was simply to say, "This is why we think there is intelligence that means that this is not fanciful view on our part."'

It is clear now that he knew the Americans were fixing their intelligence for war and that he had to get his act together. In all the emails that emerged during Lord Hutton's inquiry, the pressure to make this case is clear. Here is one from young Rycroft: 'Part of the answer of "why now?" is that the threat will only get worse if we don't act now - the threat that Saddam will use WMD, but also the threat that Iraq's WMD will somehow get into the hands of terrorists.' Rycroft was helping to build the dishonest case he knew was being forged on the other side of the Atlantic.

There is a lot still to be discovered. I believe we need to know exactly what happened in 2002 in order to decide what we are going to do now. The collapse of allied purpose is clear, Iraq is in free fall, yet we still have not found out exactly how a small group of politicians and officials hijacked policy and took us to war against the clear wishes of the nation.

As the situation deteriorates in Iraq, Britain's need to distance itself from Blair's policy increases by the day. We need more answers. The call on the political establishment outside Number 10 is urgent. The House of Commons must show it is not been entirely debauched by party politics and bring the government to account and that includes Labour members.

In the meantime, my mailbox is open all hours for the slightest information that may cast light on the path to war.

henry.porter@observer.co.uk


18 November 2005 ~ Official Secrets Act used to charge memo whistleblowers Ex-civil servant David Keogh and former MP's researcher Leo O'Connor, both from Northampton, will appear before Bow Street magistrates on 29 November. The BBC says they have received police bail.


August 14 2005 - Sunday Times

No 10 refuses to reveal Iraq war e-mails

Senior government sources suspect that the e-mails contain a summary of the arguments that No 10 was privately making to Goldsmith .... read in full

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N16165573.htm

What's in the Downing Street Memo?

16 Jun 2005 17:54:25 GMT

Source: Reuters

LONDON, June 16 (Reuters) - The Downing Street memo produced for British Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 2002 portrayed President George W. Bush as inevitably invading Iraq and said "intelligence and facts" were being fixed eight months before the March 2003 invasion. Bush and Blair dismissed this.

Here are some key facts on the Memo:

** Blair's staff produced the eight-page July 21, 2002, memo in preparation for the prime minister's meeting with his national security staff two days later at Downing Street.

** Britain's spy chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, had concluded that war was "inevitable" because "(President) Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action," and "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

** According to the minutes, Blair spoke to his cabinet explicitly in terms of toppling Saddam - "If the political context were right, people would support regime change," Blair is recorded as saying. "The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

** Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the case for war was "thin" because "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD (weapons of mass destruction) capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

Straw proposed giving Saddam an ultimatum to allow in U.N. weapons inspectors, provoking a confrontation that would "help with the legal justification for the use of force."

** Blair ordered his chief of defense staff, Sir Michael Boyce, to present him with war plans later that week.


The MEMO  originally reported in the The Times, May 1, 2005


SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY

DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell

IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY

Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam's regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. 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 WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) 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 firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT

(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)

[emphasis added]


Major Players:
the officials present at the secret meeting

Below is a breakdown of the various individuals mentioned in the memo - all of whom were present during the meeting with the Prime Minister and subsequently received copies of these minutes.

 Foreign Policy Advisor - David Manning
 Matthew Rycroft - aide to Manning, wrote up the minutes of the meeting.
 Defence Secretary - Geoff Hoon
 Foreign Secretary - Jack Straw
 Attorney-General - Lord Goldsmith
 Cabinet Secretary - Sir Richard Wilson
 Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee - John Scarlett
 Director of GCHQ - Francis Richards, head of the UK's "signals
   intelligence establishment", an intelligence agency, which reports
   to the Foreign Secretary
 Director of SIS (aka MI6) - Sir Richard Dearlove, identified as 'C' in the
   meeting minutes, heads the UK's foreign intelligence service
 Chief of the Defence Staff - Admiral Sir Michael Boyce
 Chief of Staff - Jonathan Powell
 Head of Strategy - Alastair Campbell
 Director of Political & Govt Relations - Sally Morgan

 

 

 

Go here for table of US equivalents for reference, photos and links

Though it is sometimes difficult to equate a given official to his or her US counterpart, it's clear that this was a meeting at the highest level within the UK government.

Attendees included three members of the Cabinet (Prime Minister Blair, the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary), the nation's most senior bureaucrat (the Cabinet Secretary), three out of the four top people from the UK intelligence community (the JIC Chair and the heads of MI6 and GCHQ), the head of the armed forces and four of the innermost circle of the PM's political advisors.

Note: The relatively junior level of Rycroft bears no relevance to the contents of the minutes, which summarize what the principals said at the meeting to each other.

Go to top of page link


Quotes regarding the document's credibility:

"The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. The British Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents..."

 Memo: Bush manipulated Iraq intel,
Newsday (moved to paid archive), May 9, 2005
Read an excerpt on our News & Media page


"British officials did not dispute the document's authenticity..."

 Bush asked to explain UK war memo,
CNN, May 12, 2005


"Since Smith's report was published May 1, Blair's Downing Street office has not disputed the document's authenticity. Asked about them Wednesday, a Blair spokesman said the report added nothing significant..."

 Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents,
LA Times, May 12, 2005


Counterpunch July 1-3 http://www.counterpunch.org/model07022005.html

The Downing Street Memo

By DAVID MODEL

After the leak of the Downing Street memo, the smoke has been wafting through the air from the barrel of the proverbial incriminating gun obliterating any remaining doubts that President Bush committed premeditated murder. The contents of the Downing Street memo should squelch all doubts about whether President Bush was determined to go to war against Iraq now that the highest members of the British government have acknowledged the authenticity of the memo although the debate over its content rages on. There is nothing shocking or surprising about the contents of the "Downing Street memo". That is not to say that it doesn't reveal that President Bush was planning to execute a plan for regime change long before his administration undertook any thoughtful analysis based on accurate intelligence. My contention is that President Bush's conduct is not an aberration but part of a foreign policy paradigm which applies to the conduct of all presidents at least since World War II

First of all, the accusations about the decision to bomb Iraq with no concern for legitimate grounds for such an attack followed by a campaign to invent a rationale for the attack and to manipulate the public into supporting the war are without a doubt true. In the memo, Sir Richard Dearlove, the Director of SIS (aka MI6) reports that "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 Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, claims that "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided."

That the Bush and Blair governments went on a fishing expedition in the hope of catching any excuse to justify the war is undeniable. In the memo, Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, stated "that the desire for regime change was not a legal basis for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorization. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult." UNSCR 1205 demands "full and immediate compliance by Iraq with its obligations under Resolution 687..." In other words, we are definitely attacking Iraq and we need a justification which at the moment seems problematic.

All of these revealing comments in the memo simply reaffirm that the United States is an Empire which does not accept boundaries including the American Constitution, the United Nations Charter, international law, or world opinion. President Bush is simply the current Emperor of the American Empire whose conduct is no different than any other American Emperor. When a candidate becomes president he accepts the role of emperor of the realm.

For example, President Eisenhower accepted the same imperatives of empire as George W. when he planned the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala. The decision to remove Jacobo Arbenz from power was made during the Truman administration and was based on the fear that the new government would implement progressive reforms that were inimical to American corporate interests and on the fact that the United Fruit Company had some idle land confiscated by the Guatemalan government for redistribution to landless peasants. Needing a rationale for intervening in the affairs of a sovereign state, Eisenhower invoked the fear off communism and the threat to the national security of the United States. Sound familiar. Eisenhower and his administration then spewed out a prodigious amount of propaganda condemning Guatemala as a threat to Guatemalans, the region, and to the United States. The pattern is the same. Decide on an action to preserve or expand the empire; lie about the rationale for those actions; then persuade the public to support your actions.

When President Johnson inherited the empire, his decisions were also designed to save it from the evil communists. The decision to preserve South Vietnam as an ostensibly free and democratic country independent of North Vietnam was decreed by previous emperors. The conundrum of winning the war in South Vietnam without committing more soldiers or resources was solved when a North Vietnamese ship purportedly fired on an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson sent his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, to lie about the incident to Congress who then passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the President to make decisions about the war without consulting Congress. Again propaganda designed to "manufacture consent" filled the air waves and newspapers. The justification was that we had to stop the communist North from overtaking the South thereby threatening a strong communist presence in Southeast Asia. This analysis lacks the proverbial lower limb to support itself. There were no democracies in Southeast Asia. The Geneva Conventions of 1954 called for the reunification of North and South Vietnam followed by a vote but the Treaty was not signed by the Americans or their puppets in the South. The most grandiose lie was the myth that Americans and South Vietnamese were fighting the North. The original war was against the peasants in the South who were disillusioned with the brutal and corrupt Diem Regime. The same pattern repeated itself: decide on an action to maintain the empire; invent a justification; then persuade the public to support your decision.

President Reagan quickly donned the crown of emperor in 1981 and decided to overthrow the democratically elected government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Ortega was also implementing progressive reforms and refused to conform to the American economic model. There were no debates, careful analysis or investigations all of which would interfere with the preordained mission to save Nicaragua from the evil, communist Sandinistas. One attempt to provide a purportedly independent analysis involved the creation of a commission headed by Henry Kissinger who "surprisingly" discovered that Nicaragua was a threat to the region and the United States. As part of the ongoing propaganda campaign, President Reagan warned that Nicaragua was only a two day march to Brownsville Texas. If you think that Bush's lies are outrageous, think about Reagan's. Again, the plans were made without any real justification, then a rationale was devised to support Reagan's Contra strategy, and finally a propaganda campaign consisting of the most outrageous lies drowned the airwaves.

President W. H. Bush learned his lessons well as head of the CIA and as Vice President under Reagan. The decision to bomb Iraq in 1991 was planned as a decision of empire without any legitimate cause. Bush engineered a cause by first encouraging Kuwait to increase its oil output driving down the price and then demanding that its $30 billion loan to Iraq be repaid immediately. Iraq was already in dire financial straits from its eight year war with Iran and couldn't afford the drop in oil prices. Now that Iraq had a serious grievance against Kuwait, all it needed was a guarantee that the United States would not intervene. Saddam Hussein called a meeting with the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, who told Saddam that the United States was not interested in Arab-Arab conflicts. No sooner had Iraqi soldiers stepped foot on Kuwaiti soil than American threats bellowed across the Mediterranean warning Saddam to pull out of Kuwait. The propaganda campaign was very effective much of which was conducted by public relation firms. A fairytale surfaced about Iraqi soldiers grabbing babies from incubators in Kuwait and throwing them on the cold concrete floor. Then President Bush rebuffed all international attempts to negotiate with Iraq despite the fact that Iraq's final offer was to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait and to negotiate any outstanding issues. The pattern repeats itself. Decide to declare war on a country, fabricate the basis of your decision and then flood the American people with lies to win their support.

Clinton conforms completely to the paradigm. He decided along with NATO to dismantle the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, convince the public that Serbia had perpetrated ethnic cleansing against Bosnia and was now threatening the same in Kosovo, then bomb Serbia. As in other cases, Clinton refused any real negotiations and instead tabled an agreement that no sovereign country could possibly accept.

As is evident from the above examples, President W. Bush has acted no differently than other presidents. One major difference is that he has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar before he left office during a time when the military occupation of Iraq is becoming increasingly unpopular. I will reserve my sympathy for the more than 1600 Americans and over 100,000 Iraqis who have died since George W. bombed Iraq in 2003. Of course we could factor into the equation the 100,000 Iraqis who died in 1991 and the million or so who died from the sanctions and depleted uranium weapons.

All these presidents are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and maintaining the empire without concern for the cost in human life, human suffering and destruction of non-military targets.

By flagrantly flaunting international laws and international institutions, American presidents are eroding the international system for resolving disputes, maintaining peace and order, and civilizing human conduct during conflicts. As the Downing Street memo reveals, President Bush exploited the United Nations to suit his own purposes and undermined the credibility of the Security Council. His legal advisors have interpreted international law to excuse illegal behaviour. Their interpretation of defence in clause 51 in the UN Charter has no legal validity. The invention of new terms such as "preemptive strike" and "unlawful combatant" to redefine international law on the run has only served to undermine international law. Either the laws are amended through legitimate mechanisms or they remain in force. George W Bush and the other presidents are nothing more than vigilantes.

David Model teaches political science and economics at Seneca College in Toronto. He is the author of People Before Profits: Reversing the Corporate Agenda (1997) with Captus Press; and Corporate Rule: Understanding and Challenging the New World Order (2002) with Black Rose Books. His new book Lying for Empire: How to commit war crimes with a straight face will be published by Common Courage Press in August. He can be reached at: David.Model@senecac.on.ca



http://www.newstarget.com/009414.html

The Downing Street Memos: piecing together the political puzzle

Posted Jul 11, 2005 PT by Dani Veracity

"It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam," Peter Rickets, political director of the British foreign office, told Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in the March 22, 2002 Downing Street memo. Though many British and American anti-war groups have questioned the war against Iraq and the search for Osama bin Laden from the beginning, the now-famous Downing Street memos may be the catalyst that sparks their grumbling into a decisive roar. For the British, the first Downing Street memo -- a minute-by-minute record of a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Straw and other top officials -- reinforced the prevailing anti-war sentiment among the British populace. Over a million Britons took to the streets to protest British involvement in the war at its start, and they still want no part of it now. "The assumption is that Britons delivered their verdict on Iraq by cutting Labour's majority," writes Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian article. "Yes, they did lie to us."
 
Americans have been even more divided about the war in Iraq. Freedland writes that the United States "sleepwalked into battle." While I personally would argue against such an expression, many Americans did unquestioningly accept the U.S. government's assertion that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida were an evil partnership that carried out the September 11 attacks in unison. Accordingly, there currently are many Americans who continue to believe in the righteousness of American and British military actions in the Middle East, regardless of mounting evidence that the war was unjustified on legal (if not ethical) grounds. There are also many Americans who starkly oppose the events occurring in the Middle East. For such Americans, the Downing Street memos may prove to be the validation they've been hoping for.
 
The Downing Street Memos: The Basic Facts
 
The Downing Street memos have become the subject of immense controversy. Not everyone is convinced of their relevance or even of their validity. So before we dive any deeper into the dark waters of this controversy, let's review the facts concerning the Downing Street memos.
 
In the May 1, 2005 online edition of London's Sunday Times, reporter Michael Smith published a memo sent from Matthew Rycroft, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy aide, to a group of British officials. In that memo, Rycroft summarized the Prime Minister's July 23, 2002 meeting on Iraq. You can read the full text of the memo, now known as the Downing Street Memo (DSM), for yourself in the Times Online http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html
. We'll go over some of the thought-provoking details later on in this article.
 
Then, on June 12, 2005, the Sunday Times published a second memo, now commonly referred to as "DSM II." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1648758,00.html
On July 21, 2002, the memo was originally sent to Prime Minister Blair and his top advisers to brief them for the July 23 meeting that was detailed in the first Downing Street memo. Again, DSM II contains information that we'll explore later on.
 
The two Downing Street memos have also recently created interest in two Daily Telegraph articles ("Failure isn't an option, but it doesn't mean they will avoid it" http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/18/nwar118.xml
 and "Secret papers show that Blair was warned of Iraq chaos") http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/18/nwar18.xml
. These articles were published by Smith on September 18, 2004 and were also based on six other Downing Street memos. Immediately upon publication, Smith's articles were widely quoted throughout the British press.
 
On October 5, 2004, University of Cambridge professor Michael Lewis made facsimiles of Smith's typed transcripts available online; however, the majority of the American public was unaware of these articles. In fact, on June 15, 2005, following the Sunday Times publication of DSM II in London, the Los Angeles Times published an article, referring to the six memos as "new" -- only to Americans, of course. The Los Angeles Times article states, "Michael Smith, the defense writer for the Times of London who revealed the Downing Street minutes in a story May 1, provided a full text of the six new documents to the Los Angeles Times." With the American populace largely unaware of these documents during the recent presidential election, one may question how the results of the November 2, 2004 election might have been effected.
 
Are They Authentic Government Memos?
 
A key fact that you should be aware of before reading the memos' contents is that the published memos were transcribed from photocopies of the original documents. This means that Smith is unable to provide original source material as proof of the memos' validity. In response to questions about the accuracy of his sources, Smith explained his actions to an online news site, Raw Story http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Backstory_Confirming_the_Downing_Street_0614.html
: I was given [the memos] last September while still on the [Daily Telegraph]. I was given very strict orders from the lawyers as to how to handle them. I first photocopied them to ensure they were on our paper and returned the originals, which were on government paper and therefore government property, to the source. It was these photocopies that I worked on, destroying them shortly before we went to press on Sept. 17, 2004. Before we destroyed them, the legal desk secretary typed the text up on an old-fashioned typewriter. Smith also told Raw Story that he destroyed the photocopies because they might have marks on them that would identify the person who provided him the documents.
 
In addition to Smith's own explanations about the memos' validity, some British governmental organizations do not deny the authenticity of the documents in question. For example, in a June 7, 2005 press conference, Prime Minister Blair apparently confirmed the authenticity of the first Downing Street memo in stating, "That memorandum was written before we went to the United Nations." The British Foreign Office "acknowledged the documents were genuine but stressed they were only a snapshot of thinking at a particular time," according to a Septmber 20, 2004 article in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,,1308223,00.html
.
 
 The U.S. government has given less of a response to the press concerning the Downing Street memos. According to the Wikipedia entry on the Downing Street Memo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_Street_memo
, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and White House spokesman Scott McClellan neither denied nor confirmed their legitimacy as genuine government documents. President Bush http://www.newstarget.com/003345.html
, the British Embassy in Washington and an unnamed White House official have also yet to comment specifically on the memos' authenticity as governmental documents. The single exception to this tight-lipped policy occurred when Vice President Dick Cheney called the first Downing Street memo a "supposed memo," in his June 23, 2005 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/06/20050623-8.html
. By all assessments, the Downing Street memos are authentic documents issued from within the British government.
 
U.S. Congressional Response
 
Many citizen groups, such as the Progressive Democrats http://www.newstarget.com/006908.html
 of America, Veterans for Peace, Gold Star Families for Peace, Velvet Revolution, Democratic Underground, Global Exchange, Code Pink, Democracy Rising and 911Citizens Watch, also believe in the authenticity of the Downing Street memos and perceive them as a call to action  and they're not the only ones. The U.S. Congress has the power to take this issue to the next level, and a small group of its members are pushing for that to happen.
 
In his widely published article, "Just hearsay, or the new Watergate tapes?" http://www.guardian.co.uk/salon/story/0,14752,1509059,00.html
, David Paul Kuhn explains Democratic Rep. John Conyers' fight to call a congressional inquiry of the Downing Street memos. Though they were prevented from holding an official hearing, on June 16, 2005, Conyers and about three dozen other Democrats held a forum about the Downing Street memos in the basement -- yes, the basement -- of the Capitol building. That's where they were consigned to hold their forum; moreover, they had to juggle the meeting with attending 11 votes on the House floor that were scheduled at the same time as the forum. Many believe that the timing of those 11 votes and the location to which the group of Congressmen were delegated to hold their forum were no accident.
 
Despite these obstructions, Kuhn reports that Rep. Conyers still had an attentive audience when he declared that the first Downing Street memo was the first "'primary source" document to report that prewar intelligence http://www.newstarget.com/004354.html
 was intentionally manipulated in order to make a case for invading Iraq. Kuhn further writes, "The Democratic representatives attending the forum said they believed that if such information had gone out prior to the war, neither the House nor the Senate would have supported the Oct. 11, 2002 congressional vote giving the president the power to order the invasion."
 
Many of the attending Democrats likened the first Downing Street memo to Watergate, although no one specifically raised the possibility of impeachment. On the other hand, New York representative Charles B. Rangel asked a question that was on the minds of many Democrats: "Has the president misled, or deliberately misled, the Congress?" As Kuhn points out, deliberately misleading the Congress is indeed grounds for impeachment. The forum did get some mainstream media coverage and on May 5, 2005, 89 members of Congress sent President Bush a letter containing questions about the Downing Street memos. They have yet to receive a response, so Rep. Conyers is now running an internet petition to collect private citizens' signatures. You can take part on Rep. Conyers' web site.  http://www.johnconyers.campaignoffice.com/index.asp?Type=SUPERFORMS&SEC={785B7379-E26F-4A13-945D-1D32BDCE46B8}
 
The Downing Street Memos Speak for Themselves
 
You might be wondering why so many people are so concerned about the Downing Street memos. The cause of their concern is evident in the text of the memos. According to downingstreetmemo.com, http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/whycare.html
 the contents of the memos contradict the Bush and Blair administrations' public statements about the war.
 
The first Downing Street memo has received the most media coverage; it contains the greatest number of potentially inflammatory details. For example, the memo reads, "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. 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 http://www.newstarget.com/009335.html
 and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." "C" refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, who was chief of the MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service.
 
The statement that "military action was now seen as inevitable" seems harmless enough -- until you consider that the memo was dated July 2002. In his Mar. 8, 2003 radio address, President Bush had stated, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq." Another statement found in DSM contradicts the president's message: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided." The most potentially inflammatory statement of all reads, "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
 
Such a statement does not at all reflect how a proper government should be run, by any means. It's also quite clearly not the message that the American public was given. Blitzer presented this issue to Vice President Cheney in their interview, stating, "The criticism though that's been leveled at you, in effect, pressured the intelligence community to come up with this assessment" The vice president then interrupted Blitzer at that moment, but he eventually responded, "It's (the assessment) not true. And anybody who's looked at it, and several people have, has found it's not true  There's nothing to support it. There never was because it never happened."
 
 In Vice President Cheney's assessment, either the Downing Street memo is a fake or many people's interpretations of it are wrong. But Prime Minister Blair apparently has validated the memo as a genuine document originating from his government. With that in consideration, can the Vice President truly be right and thus negate our interpretations of the text as wrong? Is there really another way to interpret Sir Richard's comment that "the intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy?" Those are the questions we must ask ourselves regarding the first Downing Street memo.
 
The second Downing Street memo focuses on the Blair administration's need to justify entering war with Iraq. DSM II states: "Ministers are invited to  engage the U.S. on the need to set military plans within a realistic military strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action." The key phrase is, "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action." Again, as far as any informed citizen is concerned, a proper government doesn't create the requisite conditions necessary to justify a war; rather, a proper government responds to such conditions, should they arise of their own accord.
 
Let's review the six other Downing Street memos; the documents that Smith based his September 2004 articles on. In UK Foreign Office Political Director Peter Ricketts' memo to UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dated March 22, 2002, Ricketts wrote, "Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD  http://www.newstarget.com/000761.html
programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: The programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."
 
Much like the statements contained in DSM, this statement seems innocuous enough on its own. However, let's place it into its proper context and examine it in light of President Bush's and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's statements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In his September 12, 2002 speech to the UN General Assembly, President Bush stated: "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons." On March 20, 2003, Rumsfeld told American troops that Hussein is advancing his weapons of mass destruction daily: "With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."
 
One could argue that from March 22 to September 12, 2002 Hussein may indeed have stepped up his production of weapons of mass destruction. If such an argument could be validated, it would support both the memo from Ricketts and the statements from President Bush and Rumsfeld. But the question remains: Where are the WMDs? If Hussein was advancing his weapons of mass destruction "with each passing day" as Rumsfeld suggests, by now these weapons would have become so numerous as to render their full concealment impossible. So just where are these weapons?
 
Ricketts' memo expresses doubt on another valuable point relating to the so-called "evil alliance" between Iraq and Al Qaida. The memo says, "[The] U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending out troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are close to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)." Ricketts boils down the whole situation to a rather striking conclusion: "It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."
 
According to a memo dated March 25, 2002, Straw, the recipient of Ricketts' March 22 memo, believed in Ricketts' assessment enough to relay the information to Prime Minister Blair. Straw stated: "If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the U.S. would not be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnessed (sic) on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate."
 
Based on these two memos, it is clearly evident that top-ranking British officials seriously doubted the justifications presented by the United States in preparation for a war against Iraq. Despite the doubts that existed at the highest levels of the British government, it is engaged along with the United States in a war that has no timetable and no end in sight.
 
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Initial Response to the Memos
 
After reading the Downing Street memos, one cannot help but to wonder what precisely Prime Minister Blair thought about them initially. After all, the controversial memos were written by his officials. In a June 7, 2005 interview with Blair -- almost a week before the American press at large commented on the issue -- Online News Hour reporter Gwen Ifill confronted Blair about the first Downing Street memo. Blair responded, "Basically, the case that people are making, that somehow we'd taken the decision to invade, you know, irrespective of what Iraq did, it's simply not correct  And so when people -- you know, they take bits out here of this memo or that memo, or something someone's supposed to have said at the time, and what people ignore is we went through a very open, obvious process through the United Nations and the issue was how did you -- because the view I took, as the president did, was we had to enforce United Nations resolutions against countries that were developing and proliferating WMD, that after September the 11 the world had changed, we had to take a definitive stance."
 
In this initial confrontation, Prime Minister Blair took a stance resembling that of Vice President Cheney's: that the Downing Street memos were being interpreted wrongly. That indeed would be a fair rebuttal if, as Blair suggests, people were just reading "bits" of the memo taken out of context. That, however, is not the case at all; the full text of the memos is readily available online. Every person with internet access is able to read the memos in their entirety and interpret the text in its proper context. Many people have already done just that. So the question is: "Can so many people be wrong?" Apparently Prime Minister Blair does not think so, because he later validated the authenticity of the memos in a June 7, 2005 press conference, as noted earlier in this article.
 
 U.S. Press Coverage (or Lack Thereof) of the Memos
 
The British press certainly did not ignore the Downing Street memos. The U.S. mainstream press, by many standards, did. As Terry Neal of the Washington Post writes, "While the European media have covered the memo extensively, it has received scant attention by the mainstream media in America." It took nearly two weeks for the American mainstream media to catch on, and it may have never covered the story if it hadn't been for internet bloggers. According to BBC News, "Bloggers, keen to keep the pressure on the Bush and Blair governments, have tried to keep the memos in the limelight and put pressure on the mainstream media." That doesn't mean that the Downing Street memos have been well received by the American mainstream media; there seems to be an overwhelming desire to discredit them.
 
In their essay, "Smoking Signposts to Nowhere," http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=6366
Tom Engelhardt and Mark Danner compare the radically different treatment of the memos displayed by the British and American mainstream press. In Britain, the memos were front-page material; in the United States, they're mostly confined to the editorial pages -- if written about at all.
 
Of course, the American mainstream press does have its reasons. In the Washington Post June 15, 2005 editorial, "Iraq, Then and Now," http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401383.html
, the editors argue that the mainstream press hasn't been covering the memos because they simply offer no "news": "War opponents have been trumpeting several British government memos from July 2002, which describe the Bush administration's preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President Bush's deceptions about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why 'the mainstream media' have not paid more attention to them. Though we can't speak for The Post's news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002."
 
Do the memos truly tell us nothing new? Was it, then, common knowledge to the public that the British government had felt that a war with Iraq was more than anything owing to "a grudge between Bush and Saddam?" By all accounts, the public knew of no such thing until the Downing Street memos finally enlightened us.
 
Can We Really Afford to Ignore the Downing Street Memos?
 
The American mainstream press has its own interests for not crediting the Downing Street memos as "newsworthy." American citizens, however, must seriously think about the relevant implications. For example, what if the Pentagon Papers http://www.newstarget.com/000760.html
or the Watergate scandal had not been considered newsworthy? In their essay, Engelhard and Danner explore this issue: "Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press -- no, not in the New York Times http://www.newstarget.com/007185.html
 or the Washington Post but in newspapers in Australia http://www.newstarget.com/008599.html
 or Canada -- and that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn. This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos."
 
When the American press first covered the Pentagon papers, it didn't know for certain that it would impact our nation's government and history in such a lasting way. Similarly, the Downing Street memos could be something just too big to ignore -- that is already what many Britons and Americans believe. As Freedland writes in the Guardian, "The trouble is, it is not behind us. The occupation continues and people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers."
 
In a New York Review of Books essay entitled "Why the Memo Matters" http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=6366
, Mark Danner expresses a similar sentiment: "We might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become more important, not less  As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: For most citizens, 1,700 Americans dead later -- tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later -- the war's beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending." Danner followed with the question "How much longer?" When relayed this question, Prime Minister Blair's response was: "I don't know."
 
The World Speaks on the Downing Street memos (in order of appearance in this article):
 
The second problem is the END STATE. Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Kosovo, it was: Serbs out, Kosovars back, peace-keepers in. For Afghanistan, destroying the Taleban and Al Qaida military capability. For Iraq, "regime change" does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.
a memo dated March 22, 2002 from Peter Ricketts, British foreign office political director, to Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on advice given on Iraq to Blair
 
Now try to work this one out. Before the war on Iraq http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
, Britain witnessed a ferocious debate over whether the case for conflict was legal and honest. It culminated in the largest demonstration in the country's history, as a million or more took to the streets to stop the war. At the same time, the US sleepwalked into battle. Its press subjected George Bush to a fraction of the scrutiny endured by Tony Blair: the president's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida were barely challenged. While Blair had to cajole and persuade his MPs to back him, Bush counted on the easy loyalty of his fellow Republicans http://www.newstarget.com/008864.html
 - and of most leading Democrats.
 
The election itself has played a role too. The assumption is that Britons delivered their verdict on Iraq by cutting Labour's majority and therefore the reckoning has, at least partially, happened. That is certainly how the government likes to play it: privately, ministers will hint that the whole Iraq business was a bit of a nightmare but it's behind us now and we can all move on." "Yes, they did lie to us" http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1511720,00.html#article_continue
 by Jonathan Freedland
 
 "The Downing Street memos: The Basic Facts"
 
The secret Downing Street memo
 
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY
 
DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
 
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER'S MEETING, 23 JULY
 
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
 
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents. heading of the first Downing Street memo (DSM)
 
Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action
 
The paper, produced by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002, is incomplete because the last page is missing. The following is a transcript rather than the original document in order to protect the source.
 
PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY
 
IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials) heading of the second Downing Street memo (DSM II) with explanation from the Sunday Times   http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1648758,00.html
 
 
The Prime Minister knew the US President was determined to complete what one senior British official had already described as the unfinished business from his father's war against Saddam Hussein.
 
There was no way of stopping the Americans invading Iraq and they would expect Britain, their most loyal ally, to join them. If they didn't, the transatlantic relationship would be in tatters. But there were serious problems.
 
A Secret UK Eyes Only briefing paper was warning that there was no legal justification for war. So Mr Blair was advised that a strategy would have to be put in place which would provide a legal basis for war. It was also vital that the Prime Minister should be able to persuade the public that war was justified and, just as importantly, convince those among his backbench MPs who were becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to another US-led war.
"Failure isn't an option, but it doesn't mean they will avoid it" by Michael Smith  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/18/nwar118.xml
 
 
Tony Blair was warned a year before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for "many years", secret government papers reveal.
 
The documents, seen by The Telegraph, show more clearly than ever the grave reservations expressed by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, over the consequences of a second Gulf war and how prescient his Foreign Office officials were in predicting the ensuing chaos
"Secret papers show that Blair was warned of Iraq chaos" by Michael Smith. 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/09/18/nwar18.xml
  Michael Smith, the defense writer for the Times of London who revealed the Downing Street minutes in a story May 1, provided a full text of the six new documents to the Los Angeles Times.
 
Portions of the new documents, all labeled "secret" or "confidential," have appeared previously in two British newspapers, the Times of London and the Telegraph. Blair's government has not challenged their authenticity.
"New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq" by John Daniszewski
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-britmemos15jun15,0,7241602,full.story
 
"Are They Authentic Government Memos?"
 
I was given them last September while still on the [Daily] Telegraph, Smith, who now works for the London Sunday Times, told RAW STORY. I was given very strict orders from the lawyers as to how to handle them.
 
I first photocopied them to ensure they were on our paper and returned the originals, which were on government paper and therefore government property, to the source, he added. The Butler Committee, a UK commission looking into WMD, has quoted the documents and accepted their authenticity, along with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Smith said all originals were destroyed in order to both protect the source and the journalist alike.
 
It was these photocopies that I worked on, destroying them shortly before we went to press on Sept 17, 2004, he added. Before we destroyed them the legal desk secretary typed the text up on an old fashioned typewriter. The copying and re-typing were necessary because markings on the originals might have identified his source, Smith said. The documents below were leaked last September, prior to the US election. The document known as DSM was published after the below documents.
 
The situation in Britain is very difficult but with regard to leaked documents the police Special Branch are obliged to investigate such leaks and would have come to the newspaper's office and or my home to confiscate them, he explained. We did destroy them because the Police Special Branch were ordered to investigate.
"Confirming the Downing Street documents" by Larisa Alexandrovna  http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Backstory_Confirming_the_Downing_Street_0614.html
 
BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations.
"Text of Bush, Blair News Conference" by the Associated Press  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/07/national/w152752D27.DTL
 
 
The Foreign Office yesterday acknowledged the documents were genuine but stressed they were only a snapshot of thinking at a particular time. Nor did they reflect the changes that took place over the following 12 months, in particular referring the issue to the UN, which the White House did at Mr Blair's behest, though it failed to get a second security council resolution authorising war.
"Leaks cast doubt on PM's motive" by Ewen MacAskill and Michael White http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,,1308223,00.html
 
 
 White House spokesman Scott McClellan, when questioned about the document's accuracy, did not confirm or deny its accuracy. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, when questioned about the document's accuracy, did not confirm or deny its accuracy. George W. Bush has not responded to questions from Congress regarding the memo's accuracy. The British Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment. A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents. The reporter, Michael Smith, who first reported this story has admitted the memo is a copy, typed by one of his secretaries on a manual typewriter. He returned the originals to his confidential source.
Wikipedia entry: "Downing Street memo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_Street_memo 
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, and remember -- remember what happened after that supposed memo was written.
We went to the United Nations. We got a unanimous vote out of the Security Council for a resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to come clean and comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution. We did everything we could to resolve this without having to use military force. We gave him one last chance even in asking him to step down before we launched military operations. The memo is just wrong. In fact the President of the United States took advantage of every possibility to try to resolve this without having to use military force. It wasn't possible in this case. But I'm convinced we did absolutely the right thing. I'm convinced that history will bear that out and that the -- any notion or controversy or poll connected with that in no way should be taken as justification for challenging the policy.
Interview of the Vice President by Wolf Blitzer, CNN  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/06/20050623-8.html
 
 
"U.S. Congressional Response"
 
Among the citizen groups are:
 
Veterans for Peace
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)
911Citizens Watch
Democracy Rising
Code Pink
Global Exchange
Democrats.com
Democratic Underground
Velvet Revolution, and
Gold Star Families for Peace
Wikipedia entry: "Downing Street memo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_Street_memo
 
 
Forced to the basement of the US Capitol and prevented from holding an official hearing, Michigan representative John Conyers defied Republicans and held a forum on Thursday calling for a congressional inquiry into the infamous British document known as the "Downing Street memo".
 
Three dozen Democratic representatives shuffled in and out of a small room to join Mr Conyers in declaring that the Downing Street memo was the first "primary source" document to report that prewar intelligence was intentionally manipulated in order make a case for invading Iraq.
 
Not only did Republican leaders consign the Democrats to the basement, but Democrats also claimed that the House scheduled 11 votes concurrent with the forum to maximise the difficulty of attending it. Because the forum wasn't an official hearing, it won't become a part of the Congressional record - but members worked to make sure that the attending media and activists captured their words for posterity.
 
The Downing Street memo, so far disputed by Washington and London in some of its details, but not its authenticity, reports on minutes of a meeting between the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and his national security team http://www.newstarget.com/002042.html
 on July 23 2002.
 
First reported by the London Sunday Times on May 1 this year, the internal memo states that, in the opinion of "C" (Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British secret intelligence service), "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush administration's] policy". The author of the memo added that it "seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action".
 
Since then, several other British government memos have become public that also make the case that the White House was planning the war long before it admitted to doing so. The Democratic representatives attending the forum said they believed that if such information had got out prior to the war, neither the House nor the Senate would have supported the October 11 2002 congressional vote giving the president the power to order the invasion.
 
To the Democrats taking turns to speak at the forum on Thursday, the memo was tantamount to the first word of tapes in the Nixon White House during the Watergate scandal. Impeachment was on these representatives' minds as four long-time critics of the war in Iraq, including the former ambassador Joe Wilson, repeatedly urged Congress to hold an official inquiry into the validity and origins of the Downing Street memo.
 
Speaking on the question of impeachment, representative Charles B Rangel, D-NY, asked, point blank: "Has the president misled, or deliberately misled, the Congress?"
 
The answer is at the heart of Mr Conyers' push for further investigation. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offence, and Mr Conyers' petition for an inquiry into the memo seemed a first step in that direction - though no one made that call outright.
"Just hearsay, or the new Watergate tapes?" by David Paul Kuhn,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/salon/story/0,14752,1509059,00.html
originally published in Salon  http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/2005/06/17/forum/index_np.html
 
 
As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:
 
1)Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?
 
 These are the same questions 89 Members of Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., submitted to you on May 5, 2005. As citizens and taxpayers, we believe it is imperative that our people be able to trust our government and our commander in chief when you make representations and statements regarding our nation engaging in war. As a result, we would ask that you publicly respond to these questions as promptly as possible.
Letter to the President by John Conyers, Jr. http://www.johnconyers.campaignoffice.com/index.asp?Type=SUPERFORMS&SEC={785B7379-E26F-4A13-945D-1D32BDCE46B8}
 
 
"The Downing Street Memos Speak for Themselves"
 
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. 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 WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
text of the first Downing Street memo (DSM) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html
 
 
"C" refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain's intelligence service.
"Excerpts From the Downing Street Memos" http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 
 
We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force
- George W. Bush,
Mar. 8, 2003 Radio Address
The Downing Street Memos: Why Care?
 
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's not true. And anybody who's looked at it, and several people have, has found it's not true. The WMD commission looked at that very carefully and found not a shred of evidence to support it. The Senate Intelligence Committee which did a complete and thorough study before the WMD commission and questioned hundreds of intelligence analysts found there was absolutely no truth. They couldn't find one single individual who would validate that comment you just made. There's nothing to support it. There never was because it never happened.
Interview of the Vice President by Wolf Blitzer, CNN  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/06/20050623-8.html
 
 
Ministers are invited to:
 
(1) Note the latest position on US military planning and timescales for possible action.
 
(2) Agree that the objective of any military action should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD.
 
(3) Agree to engage the US on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. This should include a call from the Prime Minister to President Bush ahead of the briefing of US military plans to the President on 4 August.
the second Downing Street memo (DSM II) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1648758,00.html
 
 
The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September. This is not something we need to be defensive about, but attempts to claim otherwise publicly will increase scepticism about our case. I am relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there is more work to do to ensure that the figures are accurate and consistent with those of the US. But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapon) fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up.
a memo dated March 22, 2002   http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 from Peter Ricketts, British foreign office political director, to Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on advice given on Iraq to Blair
 
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
 
George W. Bush, President
9/12/2002
Speech to UN General Assembly
The Downing Street Memos: Why Care?  http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/whycare.html
 
 
"With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."
 
Donald Rumsfeld
3/20/2003
Remarks to American Troops, Defense Department
The Downing Street Memos: Why Care?  http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/whycare.html
 
 
US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending out troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).
a memo dated March 22, 2002 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 
 from Peter Ricketts, British foreign office political director, to Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on advice given on Iraq to Blair
 
If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnesses sic on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.
a memo dated March 25, 2002
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Prime Minister Blair
 
 
. "British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Response to the Memos"
 
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Basically, the case that people are making, that somehow we'd taken the decision to invade, you know, irrespective of what Iraq did, it's simply not correct. The whole reason we went to the United Nations back in, originally in September 2002, then with the resolution in November 2002, was precisely in order to see if there was a way of giving Iraq a last chance to come into compliance with the United Nations resolutions and avoid conflict. But they didn't.
 
And so when people -- you know, they take bits out here of this memo or that memo, or something someone's supposed to have said at the time, and what people ignore is we went through a very open, obvious process through the United Nations and the issue was how did you -- because the view I took, as the president did, was we had to enforce United Nations resolutions against countries that were developing and proliferating WMD, that after September the 11 the world had changed, we had to take a definitive stance.
Gwen Ifill's Interview of Prime Minister Blair
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/jan-june05/blair_6-07.html
 
 
"The American Press's Coverage (or Lack Thereof) of the Memos"
 
Bloggers, keen to keep the pressure on the Bush and Blair governments, have tried to keep the memos in the limelight and put pressure on the mainstream media.
 
"While the European media have covered the memo extensively, it has received scant attention by the mainstream media in America," wrote Terry Neal of the Washington Post this week.
BBC NEWS: "Bloggers' 'victory' over Iraq war memos"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4099120.stm
by Kevin Anderson
 
This is, of course, something like the crude pattern that coverage in the American press has followed on the Downing Street memo, then memos. As of late last week, four of our five major papers (the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and USA Today) hadn't even commented on them in their editorial pages. In my hometown paper, the New York Times, complete lack of interest was followed last Monday by a page 11 David Sanger piece ("Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made") that focused on the second of the Downing Street memos, a briefing paper for Tony Blair's "inner circle," and began: "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made 'no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced."
 
Compare that to the front-page lead written a day earlier by Michael Smith of the British Sunday Times, who revealed the existence of the document and has been the Woodstein of England on this issue ("Ministers Were Told of Need for Gulf War 'Excuse'"):
"Smoking Signposts to Nowhere"  http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=6366
by Tom Engelhardt and Mark Danner
 
 
George W. Bush, President
9/12/2002
Speech to UN General Assembly
The Downing Street Memos: Why Care? http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/whycare.html
 
 
"With each passing day, Saddam Hussein advances his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and could pass them along to terrorists. If he is allowed to do so, the result could be the deaths not of 3,000 people, as on September 11th, but of 30,000 or 300,000 or more innocent people."
 
Donald Rumsfeld
3/20/2003
Remarks to American Troops, Defense Department
The Downing Street Memos: Why Care? http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/whycare.html
 
 
US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending out troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).
a memo dated March 22, 2002 from Peter Ricketts, British foreign office political director, to Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, on advice given on Iraq to Blair http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 
 
If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and Al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has however changed is the tolerance of the international community (especially that of the US), the world having witnesses sic on September 11 just what determined evil people can these days perpetuate.
a memo dated March 25, 2002 from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to Prime Minister Blair  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2005/06/18/international/i104303D72.DTL
 
 
 AFTER LAGGING for months, debate on Iraq in Washington is picking up again. That's a needed and welcome development, but much of the discussion is being diverted to the wrong subject.
 
War opponents have been trumpeting several British government memos from July 2002, which describe the Bush administration's preparations for invasion, as revelatory of President Bush's deceptions about Iraq. Bloggers have demanded to know why "the mainstream media" have not paid more attention to them. Though we can't speak for The Post's news department, the answer appears obvious: The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002.
"Iraq, Then and Now"(Editorial) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401383.html
 
 
"Can We Really Afford to Ignore the Downing Street memos?"
 
Imagine that the Pentagon Papers or the Watergate scandal had broken out all over the press  no, not in the New York Times or the Washington Post, but in newspapers in Australia or Canada. And that, facing their own terrible record of reportage, of years of being cowed by the Nixon administration, major American papers had decided that this was not a story worthy of being covered. Imagine that, initially, they dismissed the revelatory documents and information that came out of the heart of administration policy-making; then almost willfully misread them, insisting that evidence of Pentagon planning for escalation in Vietnam or of Nixon administration planning to destroy its opponents was at best ambiguous or even nonexistent; finally, when they found that the documents wouldn't go away, they acknowledged them more formally with a tired ho-hum, a knowing nod on editorial pages or in news stories. Actually, they claimed, these documents didn't add up to much because they had run stories just like this back then themselves. Yawn.
"Smoking Signposts to Nowhere"
http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=6366
by Tom Engelhardt and Mark Danner
 
The trouble is, it is not behind us. The occupation continues and people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers. In the US the realisation seems to be dawning that this episode represents, at the very least, a case of maladministration, of desperately poor governance. That failure should be investigated, by Commons committees as much as by congressional ones, not because some of us cannot let go of the past - but because there is no other way to ensure such folly never happens again.
"Yes, they did lie to us"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1511720,00.html#article_continue
 by Jonathan Freedland
 
We might believe that we are past such matters now. Alas, as Americans go on dying in Iraq and their fellow citizens grow ever more impatient with the war, the story of its beginning, clouded with propaganda and controversy as it is, will become more important, not less. Consider the strong warning put forward in a recently released British Cabinet document dated two days before the Downing Street memo (and eight months before the war), that "the military occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." On this point, as the British document prophetically observes, "U.S. military plans are virtually silent." So too were America's leaders, and we live with the consequences of that silence. As support for the war collapses, the cost will become clear: for most citizens, 1,700 American dead later  tens of thousands of Iraqi dead later  the war's beginning remains as murky and indistinct as its ending.
"Why the Memo Matters" http://www.antiwar.com/engelhardt/?articleid=6366
by Mark Danner
 
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Yes. I think it's been more difficult than we expected because I think what has happened in Iraq is -- the will of the Iraqi people is clear. Millions of them went and voted. They want a democratic government. They want a decent future for their country.
 
But what's happened is that those who are opposed to us, the terrorist groups that want to start this sort of jihad between the Muslim world and the Christian world, between Arabs and the Western world, those people have gone into Iraq, linked up with some of the people who are insurgents there, and what they're trying to do is to destabilize that democracy in order to defeat not just the Iraqi people and their will but also our ability to show the world that what we actually want is democratic freedom for people, not occupation, not making satellite states of these countries.
 
And so that what's at stake is very, very big indeed, if we stabilize Iraq and deliver democracy, as I believe we will, the benefits will be felt, you know, not just in the region but right round the world. And so what is at stake here is huge for us.
 
GWEN IFILL: But how much longer?
 
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I don't know.
Gwen Ifill's Interview of Prime Minister Blair
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/jan-june05/blair_6-07.html
 


Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action

The paper, produced by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002, is incomplete because the last page is missing. The following is a transcript rather than the original document in order to protect the source.

PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials)

Summary

Ministers are invited to:

(1) Note the latest position on US military planning and timescales for possible action.

(2) Agree that the objective of any military action should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD.

(3) Agree to engage the US on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. This should include a call from the Prime Minister to President Bush ahead of the briefing of US military plans to the President on 4 August.

(4) Note the potentially long lead times involved in equipping UK Armed Forces to undertake operations in the Iraqi theatre and agree that the MOD should bring forward proposals for the procurement of Urgent Operational Requirements under cover of the lessons learned from Afghanistan and the outcome of SR2002.

(5) Agree to the establishment of an ad hoc group of officials under Cabinet Office Chairmanship to consider the development of an information campaign to be agreed with the US.

Introduction

1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action. Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support.

4. In order to fulfil the conditions set out by the Prime Minister for UK support for military action against Iraq, certain preparations need to be made, and other considerations taken into account. This note sets them out in a form which can be adapted for use with the US Government. Depending on US intentions, a decision in principle may be needed soon on whether and in what form the UK takes part in military action.

The Goal

5. Our objective should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or to international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD. It seems unlikely that this could be achieved while the current Iraqi regime remains in power. US military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination if Iraqi WMD. It is however, by no means certain, in the view of UK officials, that one would necessarily follow from the other. Even if regime change is a necessary condition for controlling Iraqi WMD, it is certainly not a sufficient one.

US Military Planning

6. Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq. In a 'Running Start', military action could begin as early as November of this year, with no overt military build-up. Air strikes and support for opposition groups in Iraq would lead initially to small-scale land operations, with further land forces deploying sequentially, ultimately overwhelming Iraqi forces and leading to the collapse of the Iraqi regime. A 'Generated Start' would involve a longer build-up before any military action were taken, as early as January 2003. US military plans include no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign. Currently the preference appears to be for the 'Running Start'. CDS will be ready to brief Ministers in more detail.

7. US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia. This means that legal base issues would arise virtually whatever option Ministers choose with regard to UK participation.

The Viability of the Plans

8. The Chiefs of Staff have discussed the viability of US military plans. Their initial view is that there are a number of questions which would have to be answered before they could assess whether the plans are sound. Notably these include the realism of the 'Running Start', the extent to which the plans are proof against Iraqi counter-attack using chemical or biological weapons and the robustness of US assumptions about the bases and about Iraqi (un)willingness to fight.

UK Military Contribution

9. The UK's ability to contribute forces depends on the details of the US military planning and the time available to prepare and deploy them. The MOD is examining how the UK might contribute to US-led action. The options range from deployment of a Division (ie Gulf War sized contribution plus naval and air forces) to making available bases. It is already clear that the UK could not generate a Division in time for an operation in January 2003, unless publicly visible decisions were taken very soon. Maritime and air forces could be deployed in time, provided adequate basing arrangements could be made. The lead times involved in preparing for UK military involvement include the procurement of Urgent Operational Requirements, for which there is no financial provision.

The Conditions Necessary for Military Action

10. Aside from the existence of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation: justification/legal base; an international coalition; a quiescent Israel/Palestine; a positive risk/benefit assessment; and the preparation of domestic opinion.

Justification

11. US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law. But regime change could result from action that is otherwise lawful. We would regard the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised by the UN Security Council. A detailed consideration of the legal issues, prepared earlier this year, is at Annex A. The legal position would depend on the precise circumstances at the time. Legal bases for an invasion of Iraq are in principle conceivable in both the first two instances but would be difficult to establish because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and proportionality. Further legal advice would be needed on this point.

12. This leaves the route under the UNSC resolutions on weapons inspectors. Kofi Annan has held three rounds of meetings with Iraq in an attempt to persuade them to admit the UN weapons inspectors. These have made no substantive progress; the Iraqis are deliberately obfuscating. Annan has downgraded the dialogue but more pointless talks are possible. We need to persuade the UN and the international community that this situation cannot be allowed to continue ad infinitum. We need to set a deadline, leading to an ultimatum. It would be preferable to obtain backing of a UNSCR for any ultimatum and early work would be necessary to explore with Kofi Annan and the Russians, in particular, the scope for achieving this.

13. In practice, facing pressure of military action, Saddam is likely to admit weapons inspectors as a means of forestalling it. But once admitted, he would not allow them to operate freely. UNMOVIC (the successor to UNSCOM) will take at least six months after entering Iraq to establish the monitoring and verification system under Resolution 1284 necessary to assess whether Iraq is meeting its obligations. Hence, even if UN inspectors gained access today, by January 2003 they would at best only just be completing setting up. It is possible that they will encounter Iraqi obstruction during this period, but this more likely when they are fully operational.

14. It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject (because he is unwilling to accept unfettered access) and which would not be regarded as unreasonable by the international community. However, failing that (or an Iraqi attack) we would be most unlikely to achieve a legal base for military action by January 2003.

An International Coalition

15. An international coalition is necessary to provide a military platform and desirable for political purposes.

16. US military planning assumes that the US would be allowed to use bases in Kuwait (air and ground forces), Jordan, in the Gulf (air and naval forces) and UK territory (Diego Garcia and our bases in Cyprus). The plans assume that Saudi Arabia would withhold co-operation except granting military over-flights. On the assumption that military action would involve operations in the Kurdish area in the North of Iraq, the use of bases in Turkey would also be necessary.

17. In the absence of UN authorisation, there will be problems in securing the support of NATO and EU partners. Australia would be likely to participate on the same basis as the UK. France might be prepared to take part if she saw military action as inevitable. Russia and China, seeking to improve their US relations, might set aside their misgivings if sufficient attention were paid to their legal and economic concerns. Probably the best we could expect from the region would be neutrality. The US is likely to restrain Israel from taking part in military action. In practice, much of the international community would find it difficult to stand in the way of the determined course of the US hegemon. However, the greater the international support, the greater the prospects of success.

A Quiescent Israel-Palestine

18. The Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank has dampened Palestinian violence for the time being but is unsustainable in the long-term and stoking more trouble for the future. The Bush speech was at best a half step forward. We are using the Palestinian reform agenda to make progress, including a resumption of political negotiations. The Americans are talking of a ministerial conference in November or later. Real progress towards a viable Palestinian state is the best way to undercut Palestinian extremists and reduce Arab antipathy to military action against Saddam Hussein. However, another upsurge of Palestinian/Israeli violence is highly likely. The co-incidence of such an upsurge with the preparations for military action against Iraq cannot be ruled out. Indeed Saddam would use continuing violence in the Occupied Territories to bolster popular Arab support for his regime.

Benefits/Risks

19. Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. In particular, we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective as set out in paragraph 5 above. A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the US military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired endstate would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor. We must also consider in greater detail the impact of military action on other UK interests in the region.

Domestic Opinion

20. 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.

Timescales

21. Although the US military could act against Iraq as soon as November, we judge that a military campaign is unlikely to start until January 2003, if only because of the time it will take to reach consensus in Washington. That said, we judge that for climactic reasons, military action would need to start by January 2003, unless action were deferred until the following autumn.

22. As this paper makes clear, even this timescale would present problems. This means that:

(a) We need to influence US consideration of the military plans before President Bush is briefed on 4 August, through contacts betweens the Prime Minister and the President and at other levels;


http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1511720,00.html#article_continue

 
 
Comment

Yes, they did lie to us

In the US the latest leaked memos are seen as a smoking gun on Iraq, but in Britain we are struggling to keep up

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday June 22, 2005
The Guardian
 
Now try to work this one out. Before the war on Iraq, Britain witnessed a ferocious debate over whether the case for conflict was legal and honest. It culminated in the largest demonstration in the country's history, as a million or more took to the streets to stop the war. At the same time, the US sleepwalked into battle. Its press subjected George Bush to a fraction of the scrutiny endured by Tony Blair: the president's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaida were barely challenged. While Blair had to cajole and persuade his MPs to back him, Bush counted on the easy loyalty of his fellow Republicans - and of most leading Democrats.
 
Yet now the picture has reversed. In Washington Iraq remains close to the centre of politics while in Britain it has all but vanished. So the big news on Capitol Hill is the Democrats' refusal to confirm John Bolton, the man Bush wants to serve as US ambassador to the UN, in part because of suspicions arising from the lead-up to war. Meanwhile, RAF planes were involved last weekend in bombing raids in north-west Iraq - a marked escalation of their role - and British politics barely stirs. America has woken up; we are aslumber.
 
The best illustration of this strange reversal is the curious fate of the Downing Street memo. Leaked to the Sunday Times just before the election, it contained a slew of striking revelations. It minuted a meeting of Blair, Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon and a clutch of top officials back on July 23 2002 - when both Bush and Blair were adamant that no decision had been taken - and confirms that, on the contrary, Washington had resolved to go to war. Despite Straw's insistence that the case against Saddam was "thin", the course was set. According to the memo, Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, explained that "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."
 
As if that were not devastating enough - vindicating one of the anti-war camp's key charges, that the decision for war came first and the evidence was "fixed" to fit - the leaks have kept coming. In the past fortnight, six more documents have surfaced, their authenticity not challenged. One shows that Britain and the US heavily increased bombing raids on Iraq in the summer of 2002 - when London and Washington were still insisting that war was a last resort - even though the Foreign Office's own lawyers had advised that such action was illegal. These "spikes of activity" were aimed at provoking Saddam into action that might justify war. Other documents confirm that Blair had agreed to back regime change in the spring of 2002, that he was warned it was illegal and that ministers were told to "create the conditions" that would make it legal. Other gems include the admission that the threat from Saddam and WMD had not increased and that US attempts to link Baghdad to al-Qaida were "frankly unconvincing".
 
Taken together, these papers amount to an indictment of the way the British and American peoples were led to war. In Britain they have scarcely made a dent, but in America they have developed an unexpected momentum. Initially circulated on left-leaning websites, they have now broken out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream. The big newspapers have editorialised on the topic; last week Democratic congressmen held unofficial hearings into the memos; whole campaigns have formed solely to publicise their existence. (Now downingstreetmemo.com is there as an alternative to thankyoutony.com, where Americans are invited to signal their gratitude to their staunchest ally.) The memos have earned the two definitive accolades of a hot political issue: their own abbreviation - the DSM - and a customised line of T-shirts. ("Read the memo or die" is available in extra-large.)
 
The administration has been put on the defensive, lamely insisting that the decision for war was only taken in February 2003. Some Democrats believe the distance between that claim and these memos supplies the vital element of any scandal: proof that the president lied. They argue that if a fib about a dalliance with an intern was enough to see Bill Clinton impeached, lies that led to the deaths of 1,600 US troops and hundreds of thousands of uncounted and unnamed Iraqi civilians deserve at least the same treatment.
 
That's not going to happen - at least not while Republicans control both the House and Senate, chairing the committees that are meant to investigate such matters. It's also true that, while the mainstream US press has given space to the DSM issue, much of the coverage has sought to play down the documents' importance. (Having failed to expose the holes in the administration's case before the war, the American media is perhaps embarrassed to show how gaping those holes were.) One senior Democrat I spoke to yesterday suggested that the lead-up to war will never become a pivotal question because "it's not in Americans' nature to look backward". The focus now, he says, even among opponents of the war, is on "how to get out of this mess - not how we got into it".
 
For all that, the awkward questions linger. Last week Harry Reid, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, explained his opposition to Bolton's nomination partly in terms of the Downing Street memo: that document had established that "hyping intelligence" happened and he wanted to know if Bolton had ever been involved in similar exercises.
 
Even when the past is put to one side, Iraq continues to have a salience in the US that it lacks here. Coverage of the daily cost of the occupation remains intense, with a constant gaze on the insurgency that refuses to fade away.
 
What explains this contrast? Part of it is bad timing. The first memo was leaked in the dog days of a British election campaign after a week dominated by the publication of the attorney general's famed advice. Journalists decided that voters were Iraq-ed out and so gave the memo much less coverage than it deserved. The election itself has played a role too. The assumption is that Britons delivered their verdict on Iraq by cutting Labour's majority and therefore the reckoning has, at least partially, happened. That is certainly how the government likes to play it: privately, ministers will hint that the whole Iraq business was a bit of a nightmare but it's behind us now and we can all move on.
 
The trouble is, it is not behind us. The occupation continues and people are still dying, daily, in substantial numbers. In the US the realisation seems to be dawning that this episode represents, at the very least, a case of maladministration, of desperately poor governance. That failure should be investigated, by Commons committees as much as by congressional ones, not because some of us cannot let go of the past - but because there is no other way to ensure such folly never happens again.
 
7 freedland@guardian.co.uk