Secret British Memo Shows Bush Tampered with Iraq
A top secret British memorandum dated 23 July 2002 was
leaked in the run-up to yesterday's parliamentary
elections in the UK (which Blair won, though his
Labour Party was much weakened by public disgust with
such shenanigans as the below). I mirror the memo
below, from the Times Online site. It summarizes a
report to Blair and others in the British government
by Sir Brian Dearlove (This is the press release when
he was appointed in 1999). The head of MI6, or the
foreign intelligence service of the UK, is known as
Here is the smoking gun:
"C [Dearlove] 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
It is not surprising on the face of it that Bush had
decided on the Iraq war by summer of 2002. It it is
notable that Dearlove noticed a change in views on the
subject from earlier visits. By summer of 2002, the
Afghanistan war had wound down and al-Qaeda was on the
run, so Bush no longer felt vulnerable and was ready
to go forward with his long-cherished project of an
Iraq War. What is notable is that all this was not
what Bush was telling us.
Bush was lying to the American people at the time and
saying that no final decision had been made on the
Godfrey Sperling of the Christian Science Monitor
could write on August 27, 2002, "Indeed, Bush has said
he welcomes a 'debate' on Iraq from those in Congress
and from the public. But he has made it clear that he
will make his decision based on what his intelligence
people are telling him."
But Dearlove's report makes it clear that Bush had
already decided absolutely on a war already the
previous month, and that he had managed to give
British intelligence the firm impression that he
intended to shape the intelligence to support such a
war. So poor Sperling was lied to twice. Any "debate"
was meaningless if the president had already decided.
And he wasn't waiting to make his decision in the
light of the intelligence. He was going to tell the
intelligence professionals to what conclusion they had
to come. "But the intelligence and facts were being
fixed around the policy."
Why would it even be necessary to turn the
intelligence analysts into "weasels" who would have to
tell Bush what he wanted to hear?
It was necessary because the "justification" of the
"conjunction" of Weapons of Mass Destruction and
terrorism was virtually non-existent.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw admitted it at
the meeting: "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."
So the "justification" would have to be provided by
"fixing" the intelligence around the policy. Bush was
just going to make things up, since the realities did
not actually justify his planned war! The British
cabinet sat around and admitted to themselves that a)
there was no justification for the war into which they
were allowing themselves to be dragged and b) that the
war would be gotten up through Goebbels-like
It is even worse. British Attorney-General Lord
Goldsmith was at the meeting. He had to think up a
justification for the war in international law.
Britain is in Europe, and Europe takes international
law seriously. You could have war crimes trials.
(Remember that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
almost got tried in Spain for killing 5000 people in
Goldsmith was as nervous as a cat in a roomful of
rocking chairs: "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
The driness of the wit is unbearable. "The desire for
regime change was not a legal base for military
action"! Naked aggression is illegal, he could have
said. Then he reviews the three possible grounds for a
war. You could have a war if Iraq attacked you. Iraq
had not attacked the US. Or you could have a war if it
was a humanitarian intervention (e.g. under the
genocide convention). But Saddam's major campaigns of
death had been a decade before. Or you could get a
United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing
the war, in accordance with the UN charter. But
Goldsmith makes it clear he thought you would need a
new resolution, that the old ones wouldn't work for
The Attorney General of the United Kingdom thought the
reports Dearlove and Straw were bringing back from
Washington reeked of an illegal war. People who plan
out illegal wars are war criminals. He knew this. He
was stuck, however. They were all stuck.
The man from Connecticut with the Crawford ranch had
decided to cut down some trees. And they were all
hostages in his guest house and he was going to put
chain saws in their hands and make them help, whether
they liked it or not. Goldsmith's hands trembled as he
reached out for the chainsaw rig. He saw himself and
the others sitting in the Hague, one day, facing the
same judges that Milosevic harangued. Charged.
But it is a long way from Crawford to the Hague. The
man from Connecticut with the cowboy boots and the
fake twang would get away with it. They would all get
away with it.
But people would know they had lied.
Proof the Fix Was In
by Ray McGovern
"Intelligence and facts are being fixed around the
Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see
those words in black and white – and beneath a SECRET
stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran
Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been
saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6,
were ordered by their countries' leaders to "fix
facts" to "justify" an unprovoked war on Iraq. More
often than not, we have been greeted with stares of
Warren Strobel and John Walcott.
SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY
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
(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in
(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.
(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
(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
(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
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)