More British Leaks About Bush's Intent to Attack Iraq

In a case of yet another leaked memo in Britain, one of the United Kingdom’s top international lawyers quotes minutes from a January 31, 2003 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush in an updated version of his book, “Lawless World”, where it appears the two men made the decision to go to war regardless of what the United Nations decided about passing a second resolution that would have allowed the start of the war.

Britain’s Channel Four TV network, which says it has seen the minutes of the meeting, reports that during the meeting, Mr. Bush raised the idea of painting US U-2 spy planes in the colors of the United Nations, in the hope that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would fire on the planes, and thus give the US and Britain a legal basis to attack Iraq. Bush also supposedly said the war against Iraq would start on March 10, 2003. It actually started 10 days later.

In his book, “Lawless World,” author Philippe Sands writes that the purpose of the meeting was focused on the need to “identify evidence that Saddam had committed a material breach of his obligations under the existing UN Resolution 1441.”

“I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy-planes to review what is going on would be considered. What is surprising is the idea that they would be used painted in the colours of the United Nations in order to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach. Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law.”

The BBC reports that the minutes of the meeting show that President Bush thought it unlikely that there would be any internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups. Mr. Sands’ book says the minutes of the meeting were prepared by one of its participants.

Present at the meeting were President Bush’s then-National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice (now Secretary of State) and her deputy Daniel Fried, and Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card. Mr. Blair’s group included then-security adviser Sir David Manning, his foreign policy aide Matthew Rycroft, and Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.

…it appears the two men made the decision to go to war regardless of what the United Nations decided about passing a second resolution that would have allowed the start of the war.

At the risk of sounding condescending…what’s so objectionable about this? The world demanded that the U.S. submit the Iraq question to the UN, and Bush did so. The result was a unanimous 14-0 decision on Resolution 1441.

It was only after France and Russia decided that 1441’s “serious consequences” would never include military force (“under any circumstances,” to use Chirac’s phrasing) that talk began about a second resolution specifically authorizing military force.

Britain and the U.S. knew full well that a second resolution wouldn’t pass. (Actually, it would pass by an overwhelming majority, but would be vetoed by France.) Thus a second resolution was meaningless…the UK and U.S. submitted it so that they could say they had tried. Nothing more.

All it means is that the United Nations – by which I mean France and Russia – set up the “second resolution” as a transparent gambit to isolate the U.S. in exactly the way Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted in 1998.

In other words…so what?

If we’re going to just ignore the UN because we can’t win playing by the rules then we should just pull out and be done with it. Like it or not Russia and France are part of the same UN we are. We can and do play games with and veto the crap out of Security Council resolutions we don’t like ourselves. Israel is one stunning beneficiary of that tactic. But when somebody else does it, well, screw the process? Nice reasoning. Sharp as a tack.

Painting U2 planes in UN colors to provoke a war doesn’t seem the least bit fucked up to you, Daniel?

By all reasonable standards this was an illegal war and it certainly seems it was sold to the public and congress under false pretenses. This wasn’t cute three years ago and it still isn’t cute now.

I think you are painting the issue in black and white terms and ignoring some very important shades of gray. It’s quite possible for a nation to be a member of the U.N. without needing U.N. rubber stamp approval for everything the nation does.

Nick? This:

This is dishonest rhetoric. That’s the bad kind of grey.

Hey, my name’s Nick too!

Like it or not Russia and France are part of the same UN we are.

We should all agree that UN consensus is a notoriously useless metric for determining what is “right,” “wrong,” or “illegal.” An example might be NATO’s “illegal” 1999 Kosovo war – where the prospect of a Russian veto in the UN Security Council forced NATO to act without a UN resolution. How many current critics of the “illegal” Iraq intervention, basing their complaint on the UN process of early 2003, would honestly have preferred the world stood aside as the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Muslims went unabated – chalking it up to the fact that Russia was “part of the same UN we are”?

By all reasonable standards this was an illegal war…

How’s this for a reasonable standard — three European governments opposed the intervention, whereas 18 other European governments supported the intervention. (For this temerity, the ten Eastern European countries earned Chirac’s classic contemptuous remark: “It is not well brought up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet”.) Tell me…is an 18-3 score in Europe a reasonable standard?

International law must remain relevant or else it is meaningless, Brian, as you must know, having studied the history of the League of Nations. Fat lot of good the Kellogg-Briand Pact – which outlawed war, and was signed and ratified by every nation on earth – accomplished when the League met its first tests in Vilna and the Ruhr, to speak nothing of Manchuria.

If we’re going to just ignore the UN because we can’t win playing by the rules then we should just pull out and be done with it.

This is exactly the policy favored by many of Bush’s foreign-policy advisors, including our current ambassador to the United Nations!

Personally, I’m not ready to give up on the ideals of the UN. But it needs to stand for something other than a kangaroo court for veto-holding European politicians eager to prove their indie bona-fides to their domestic voters.

Let’s say the UN isn’t an absolute arbiter in the real world. That nations will sometimes have to work outside its parameter for the greater good. Personally all this tells me is that we have a flawed institution and should focus our efforts on making it more effectively live up to the intentions of its founders (not the neocons or American nationalists but the original founders). And be willing to compromise on issues that are popular worldwide ourselves. Climate change, international law and criminal courts, fair international trade, energy issues, developing world potable water, famine and disease problems, debt relief, and so forth. Instead we seem to be primarily interested in shoving as many sticks in as many eyes as possible or doling out wild platitudes with little backing it up.

If the UN isn’t an absolute arbiter it can be a pretty damned useful reality check. No nation in the world outside of England, Poland and Israel, in terms of domestic public opinion, thus real political support, thought invading Iraq was a good idea. In fact polling from back then (as now) saw Bush as a greater threat to world peace than Bin Ladin. I documented many, many, stories showing how the U.S. strongarmed, spied on and bribed various nations and individuals into getting what lukewarm support it had in the Security Council. There was no moral international mandate for what we did.

Kosovo is a different story. It was clear for a VERY long time what the Serbs were up to. I remember listening to harrowing reports for a year during Bush I about the horrors going on there and how nobody was doing anything about it including us. The Europeans were mess and indecisive. The UN Security Council was a dead end. Yet popular worldwide sentiment was for intervention. So NATO finally got together, with our boot firmly in its backside, and did something. But only because it was obvious to everyone and his brother that this could not be tolerated.

Iraq is a much, much, greyer spot. And the absolutely over-the-top distortions, and looney toons evangelical speechifying, we were fed going in coupled with all the warnings from various sources cautioning against assuming links between Iraq and Bin Ladin or the presence of WMD made for a bad omen. The biggest worldwide protests in history, biggest worldwide protests in human history, happened before this war.

The charade was obvious to me, hell, to Jon Stewart even. It is absolutely no parallel to what went on with Kosovo.

Dishonest? I do not think this means what you think it means.

I’m kind of surprised that nobody is talking about this, which came out at roughly the same time.

PRESIDENT BUSH had plans to lure Saddam Hussein into war by flying an aircraft over Iraq painted in UN colours in the hope he would shoot it down, a book reveals.

Mr Bush told Tony Blair of the extraordinary plan during a meeting in the White House on January 31, 2003, six weeks before the war started, according to an updated version of Lawless World by Philippe Sands, a human rights lawyer. He says the President made it clear that he had already decided to go to war, despite still pressing for a UN resolution.

“The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach,” the book reports Mr Bush telling Mr Blair at the meeting.

They lied and said they actually cared about the process? They pretended they were honestly trying to solve the WMD problem, not trick Saddam into giving them a pretext to invade?

Actually only 4 countries of the 15 in the security council supported the second resolution, and this is why it never went before the UN. In addition France and Russia both said that they would veto any military action, and China probably would have as well.

According to IPS those supporting governments were coercerd rather than cooperative. This isn’t surprising given that so many democratic governments went against the strongly held views of their populations. While the majority of European governments supported the US position, the vast majority of the European population were against it. So much for democracy.

Some of the coercion tactics by the Bush administration included:

  • Promises of aid and loan guarantees to nations who support the U.S.
  • Promises of military assistance to nations who support the U.S.
  • Threats to veto NATO membership applications for countries who don’t do what the U.S. asks
  • Leveraging the size of the U.S. export market and the U.S. influence over financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
  • Deciding which countries receive trade benefits under such laws as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which, as one of its conditions for eligibility for such benefits, requires that a country does “not engage in activities that undermine United States national security interests”.
  • Deciding what countries it should buy oil from in stocking its strategic reserves. The U.S. has exerted such pressure on several oil-exporting nations, such as Mexico.

(thanks to wikipedia for the link)

While strategically you can’t argue with that kind of maneuvering, it does negate the use of majority governmental support as a moral guage of the actions undertaken.

I also find your 18-3 European states figure extremely contentious. First of all there are more than 21 countries in Europe, and 25 in the EU alone. Just looking at the EU countries that supported the war, we only have 13 of the 25. The following EU countries openly declared their opposition to the war, either before or after the invasion: France, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus and Finland. Ireland declared itself neutral, but supported the UN.

Since then a number of high profile members of the coalition of the shilling have withdrawn their support, universally in response to public anger (democracy be praised), including most dramatically Spain. Other nations, such as Britain and Italy, face growing anger from its populations over continued support for the occupation. Blair marginally survived an election which, without the war in Iraq, he would have expected to have won by a landslide.

Don’t do that.

why would painting a plane blue, that operates at 70,000 feet, be ridiculous?

Why not? I thought it was a perfect response to your post. You may have a valid point in there somewhere but you certainly haven’t communicated it.

It was dishonest to muddy things up by making out like invading a country (any country) is perhaps a minor issue or a private matter best left up to individual members of the UN. In the same breath as scolding somebody for seeing things too simplistically, creating confusion like this is pretty low. Now that that’s out, all credit for your measured response. Sometimes when you don’t understand what somebody is getting at or when they don’t come right out with a clear explanation for why they said it, it’s really easy to assume they’re taking potshots. And you didn’t. So yay you.

Yeah, that’s my complaint. The decision to go to war was made before the debate ever started and it clearly wasn’t about WMDs. Clinton lied about a blowjob but Bush lied about the entire genesis of a war that has resulted in thousands of American deaths. Which one is the big lie?

Clearly the blowjob lie. I mean, you could get impeached for that.

LONDON — In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush’s public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. 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, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair’s top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

“Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning,” David Manning, Mr. Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

“The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March,” Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. “This was when the bombing would begin.”

The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.

Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq — which they failed to obtain — the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.

Stamped “extremely sensitive,” the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair’s most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book “Lawless World,” which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.

Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president’s sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.

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, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Those proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush’s extemporaneous suggestions, or were elements of the government’s plan.