Was it a mistake?

Posted by Tim Ireland at March 28, 2006

Category: It's War! It's Legal! It's Lovely!

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
9:32 am and is filed
under It’s War! It’s Legal! It’s Lovely!.

Was it a mistake, or was it part of the plan? I’m going to ask that question again in a few moments, but first, this:

Blair and Howard are using their wagons to form a very small circle; “We must stand firm on Iraq.”

Jack Straw contributes with a new strategy document due for release today, which will maintain that the No. 1 threat we face is international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

So not the current culture of torture, abuse and corruption that fuels and/or enables international terrorism, then?

Independent – Britain ‘complicit’ in human rights abuses at Camp Delta: All the detainees in the report consistently testified that UK authorities were aware of their plight and unwilling to intervene despite the knowledge that they were either at risk of torture or said they had been tortured. There is no suggestion British authorities played any part in torturing the detainees but the report does argue consistent co-operation between the US and UK has led to an “international chain of abuse” that flies in the face of the British government projecting itself as a leader in the field of human rights.

That report is here.

As for weapons of mass destruction… well, again, you’ll just have to wait for the question… and, again, we have a minor ‘distraction’ to get past first:

Y’see, the New York Times has more on the 2003 memo

NYT – Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says: During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons… The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was “unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.” Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment. The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation… “The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” It also described the president as saying, “The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam’s W.M.D,” referring to weapons of mass destruction. A brief clause in the memo refers to a third possibility, mentioned by Mr. Bush, a proposal to assassinate Saddam Hussein. The memo does not indicate how Mr. Blair responded to the idea.

Kevin Drum puts the latter points in perspective here; “Yes, that’s the president of the United States talking about deliberately faking a UN overflight in order to provoke a phony confrontation with Saddam – or if that didn’t work, trotting out a defector to lie about Iraqi WMD. Honor and dignity, baby, honor and dignity.”

There’s also Bush and Blair agreeing that it was “unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups” to deal with. I’ll give you a moment to reflect on that and Blair’s clearly stated position that he would do the same thing again if faced with the same circumstances.


All done? Good.

Me, I want to backtrack to this: The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq.

And if they couldn’t find any in time, they would simply get a defector to lie about their existence.

It casts new light on this, does it not?

Guardian – Blair caught in Iraqi arms row (Feb 5 2004): Tony Blair’s credibility over his use of intelligence before the Iraq invasion came under fresh assault yesterday when he said that at the time of the war he was personally unaware that Saddam Hussein did not have the ability to fire long-range chemical and biological weapons… Mr Blair made clear that at the start of the war he had had no knowledge of the fact that the government’s infamous claim that Iraq could mobilise its banned weapons within 45 minutes of an order referred only to battlefield, as opposed to long-range, arms.

Remember what the Sun – the mouthpiece of Downing St – sold the public? That the weapons referred to in the carefully-massaged dossier could be launched on our troops in Cyprus. In 45 minutes. Amazingly, Geoff Hoon claimed that he had known the intelligence only referred to battlefield weapons but did nothing to correct media reports at the time because he was out of the country and therefore unaware of what Downing Street’s primary propaganda rag was printing.

So now it’s finally time for a repeat of that question:

Was it a mistake, or was it part of the plan?

To put it another way; was Blair incredibly incompetent or did he deliberately mislead Parliament?

A full and independent inquiry might finally provide an answer, but neither is a good one.


  1. goatchurch says

    This is all pretty well known. Remember back in the good old days:http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/tran…Blair: "Yes. What that then did was — you already have this extraordinarily serious allegation which, if it were true, would mean we had behaved in the most disgraceful way and I would have to resign as Prime Minister."Roll forward three years to today. We have much more damning documents which completely rules out Blair being "incredibly incompetent" — the only people that description applies to is Parliament, the press, and the entirety of the civil service who were in on this one, with the exception of Katherine Gun.Perhaps Alastair Campbell's rule that once you have weathered the first two weeks of a scandal you're safe *no matter what it is!*Truly, the things we were making a fuss over in the summer of 2003 are like nothing we have now. What Has Changed?

  2. Garry says

    On the U2 spyplane thing, a quick what happened next.Early February 2003 – UN officials ask for permission to allow U2 flyovers, nominally under UN control.Late February 2003 – Disappointingly, Saddam says OK and the US military are able to conduct U2 flights over Iraq (again nominally under UN control). Even more unsportingly, no attempt is made to shoot them down. Drat.

  3. irritant says

    Nice item Tim.

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