There has been much discussion, on my blog and others about the Downing Street Memo and its’ implications on the credibility of the Bush and Blair Administrations.
The Downing Street Memo is the basis of what I consider to be an inevitable impeachment process facing the Bush Administration.
Now, in a addition to this first memo, other memos and documents have been leaked to the UK media (and published in the London Times and Telegraph newspapers) giving more insight into the discussion and debate within Tony Blairs inner circle in 2002.
To use a very Canadian analogy, the memos have formed a “Group of Seven” of sorts. And together they paint a very clear picture of just how shaky the UK government was on the justifications and support for this war. And how it knew that the US would go ahead, with or without their support.
The six new memos shed light on different aspects of the build up and decision making process. They all seem to have been penned between the State of the Union Address in January 2002 and the Downing Street Memo on July 23rd of that same year.
Information Clearing House has provided the transcribed originals.
In rough, chronological order, they are
- March 8, 2002: The Iraq Options Paper
- March 14, 2002: Condi Rice Committed to Regime Change
- March 18, 2002: UK Ambassador to the US on discussions with Wolfowitz
- March 22, 2002: Political Director P. F. Ricketts Advice to Blair
- Late March, 2002 (before Blairs April 5 Crawford TX visit): Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Case for Iraq War>
- Undated, likely late March, 2002 (based on mention of May 13, 2002 deadline on UNSCR 1382): British Legal Background to Iraq War
By themselves, the 6 new memos are not massively incriminating. However, taken together, they show a clear picture of the UK trying to moderate the US Adminisrtations line by lending their support but also doing some serious worrying over the legalities of the War.
It is repeatedly stated, in multiple memos, that regime change was not itself a legal basis for war, nor was the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
The “Legal Background” memo gives the greatest detail of the intricacies of the Legal situation as it pertains to previous resolutions against Iraq, the No Fly Zones, and Operation Desert Fox and comes to the following observation.
In the UK?s view a violation of Iraq?s obligations which undermines the basis of the cease-fire in resolution 687 (1991) can revive the authorization to use force in resolution 678 (1990). As the cease-fire was proclaimed by the Council in resolution 687 (1991), it is for the Council to assess whether any such breach of those obligations has occurred. The US have a rather different view: they maintain that the assessment of breach is for individual member States. We are not aware of any other State which supports this view.
In other words, the notion that previous resolutions automatically authorize invasion is incorrect. Only the UNSC could assess whether there was a breach as was the case with Operation Desert Fox. In other memos though, it was revealed that Legal advisors to the Prime Minister had made it clear that there was no legal basis for an invasion without a fresh resolution and mandate.
Jack Straw had this opinion:
Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September.
1 A legal justification is a necessary but far from sufficient precondition for military action. We have also to answer the big question ? what will this action achieve?
There seems to be a larger hole in this than in anything. [No US Assessments have] satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better.
2 Iraq has NO history of democracy so no-one has this habit or experience.
And from the March 22 memo from Political Director Ricketts:
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 [sic] about our case. I am relieved that you decidedto postpone publication of the unclassified document.
One would assume that that “unclassified document” would be the famous “Dossier” that claimed Nuclear weapons and was proven to be fabricated and false.
As with the fight against UBL,
Bush would do well to de-personalise the objective- focus on elimination of WMD, and show that he is serious about UN Inspectors as the first choice means of achieving that (it is win/win for him: either Saddam against all odds allows Inspectors to operate freelyk[sic]- in which case we can further hobble his WMD programmes, or he blocks/hinders, and we are stronger ground for switching to other methods).
Emphasis added… Apparently Mr. Bush didn’t share the same opinion of a “win-win” situation.
And possibly the most comical observation was from the UK Ambassador after a dinner with Paul Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz said that it was absurd to deny the link between terrorism and Saddam. There might be doubt about the alleged meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11, and Iraqi intelligence (did we, he asked, know anything more about this meeting?). But there were other substantiated cases of Saddam giving comfort to terrorists, including someone involved in the first attack on the World Trade Center (the latest New Yorker apparently has a story about links between Saddam and Al Qaeda operating in Kurdistan).
Again, Emphasis added… Wolfowitz first suggests it is absurb to deny the link, then asks the Ambassador if he has more information?
And finally.. one of many similar observations that appear throughout the documents.
A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, none currently exists.
So. Do these memos add enough to the equation to finally break this story open? I don’t know, but perhaps it’s enough to get a critical mass of people talking.
Only time will tell.