The Real Memogate
By 2002, the fix was in on U.S.
and U.K. plans for war
by Solomon Hughes
In These Times magazine, June
President Bush gratefully received Tony
Blair's support for the invasion of Iraq, but that relationship
may now be turning sour. As antiwar feeling runs high in Britain,
recently leaked secret official documents show both the U.S. and
U.K. governments conspired to cook up a case for a preplanned
Days before the British general election,
the Sunday Times published a "Secret and Strictly Personal-UK
Eyes Only" document written in July 2002 by one of Blair's
aides revealing US. and UK. war plans.
The memo details a meeting between Blair
and his top officials, during which "C reported on his recent
talks in Washington" "C" is the code name for the
Chief of M16, Britain's Intelligence service. "C", also
known as Sir David Spedding, said, "There was a perceptible
shift in attitude among America's political leaders . ... Military
action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam
thorough military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism
and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts are being fixed around
The memo sparked front page news in the
United Kingdom. The US. press was slow to pick up the story, but
88 members of Congress co-signed a letter to Bush written by Rep.
John Conyers (D-Mich.) demanding an inquiry into the document's
At the 2002 meeting, the memo reveals
that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "It seemed
clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action:'
However, Straw was also not convinced by the WMD argument, saying,
"Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability
was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." In public,
Straw supported the official claim that Iraq's WMDs posed a threat
that justified war.
The memo also shows that planning for
postwar Iraq was woefully inadequate and the legal case for war
was dubious. The British Intelligence chief reported," There
was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military
action" Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, the British Government's
top legal officer warned meeting attendees, "The desire for
regime change was not a legal base for military action" Subsequent
leaks show Goldsmith turned around and gave a legal thumbs-up
for war, but only after a gruelling February 2003 session with
then-presidential legal adviser Alberto Gonzales.
This is the latest in a flood of leaks
undermining the war's justification, including the 2003 revelations
by British weapons inspector David Kelly that the Iraqi mobile
bio-war labs highlighted by Cohn Powell were really military weather
balloon inflators, and by intelligence translator Katherine Gun,
who revealed that GCHQ, Britain's surveillance center, was spying
on delegations to the UN. Security Council at the request of the
U. S. National Security Agency in an attempt to win U.N. support
In September 2004, other secret documents
revealing shared war planning were passed to the Telegraph. A
March 2002 memo to Blair from his top aide, Sir David Manning,
reported that he dined with Condoleezza Rice, and told her that
Blair "would not budge in [his] support for regime change"
at a time when Blair was about to "visit the ranch"
for talks with Bush.
In a March 2002 memo, UK. ambassador to
Washington Sir Christopher Meyer recounts to David Manning another
dinner date-this time with Paul Wolfowitz. The after-dinner conversation
shows that the plan for war was fixed and only the "selling"
of the issue remained: "We backed regime ' change but the
plan had to be clever [because] it would be a tough sell for us
domestically and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe."
These leaks occured against a background
of anti-war demonstrations throughout the United Kingdom, and
Iraq and the lies about WMD were a major issue in Britain's recent
general election. Labour lost votes as the Liberal Democrats promoted
a left-tinged antiwar ticket. Nationally, Labour tried to avoid
Iraq, a stance mocked as "don't mention the war:' George
Galloway, expelled from the Labour Party because of his position
on Iraq, was re-elected to Parliament as a representative of the
newly formed, antiwar Respect Coalition.
On May 17, Galloway testified before the
US. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In response
to a question from the chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman (RMinn.), Galloway
"Senator, in everything I said about
Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong
and 100,000 people paid with their lives . ... If the world had
listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world
had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some
kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the
antiwar movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that
we are in today. "
SOLOMON HUGHES, a freelance journalist,
has written on the Iraq War and its aftermath for the Observer
and Independent on Sunday of London.
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