Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Iraq build-up memo

The Times of London is reporting a memo dated 7/23/02 summarizing a meeting with the Prime Minister several months before the Iraq invasion. The memo's purportedly from Matthew Rycroft, a British ambassador. The memo suggests the Bush administration intentionally manipulated intelligence to match its policy goals:

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.
. . .
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.
Now, this is a British memo relaying a British diplomat's interpretation of a meeting with people who'd met with U.S. officials, so I disagree with a number of bloggers who call it a "smoking gun": it's too far removed from the source to be that. However, it suggests that more investigation could stand to happen in the U.S. It might be a good starting point for a Freedom of Information Act request.

It's also interesting that the memo hasn't gotten more air play through the mainstream U.S. media.

Clarification: According to Mr. Rycroft's bio, he was "Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Tony Blair, for Foreign Affairs" on 7/23/02. He became an ambassador in 2005.

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