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BUSH PAPER TRAIL GROWS

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    BUSH PAPER TRAIL GROWS John Prados April 03, 2006 http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/04/03/bushs_paper_trail_grows.php On March 27, The New York Times
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2006
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      BUSH PAPER TRAIL GROWS
      John Prados
      April 03, 2006
      http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/04/03/bushs_paper_trail_grows.php


      On March 27, The New York Times published an article based on access
      to the full British record of the Iraq policy conversation that
      President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair held on January
      31, 2003, as recorded by Blair's then-national security adviser David
      Manning. British legal scholar Philippe Sands had already revealed
      this discussion in his book Lawless World , and the British television
      network Channel 4 had—two months ago—printed many of the same
      excerpts of Manning's memo, but the Times coverage focused new
      attention on the memo, previously ignored by the U.S. media.

      The memo reveals that the two leaders agreed that military action
      against Iraq would begin on a stipulated date in March 2003—despite
      the fact that no weapons of mass destruction had been found there. The
      memo reveals how the two leaders mulled over ways to supply legal
      justification for the invasion. Indeed this record supplies additional
      evidence for the view that Bush planned all along to unleash this war.

      Suddenly, the media descended upon the Bush White House demanding
      explanations. Spokesman Scott McClellan answered that "we were
      preparing in case it was necessary, but we were continuing to pursue a
      diplomatic solution." McClellan tried to turn the question around by
      insisting that the press had been covering Bush at the time chronicled
      in the memo, implying that if the truth were different the press
      should have known better. He referred repeatedly to a December report
      from U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to back his assertion that Iraq
      had failed to cooperate with the inspections. Evidently that cowed the
      reporters, for there has been little follow-up. But White House damage
      control should not be allowed to cover up this evidence that the
      president knew his case for war was based on faulty evidence.

      First, the evidence is overwhelming that Bush hosted the January 31
      meeting to manage his move to war, not as an occasion to review
      progress toward disarming Iraq. The record of the session shows
      this—with talk of the war plan, the starting date, the justification
      and the securing of a second U.N. resolution as a legal cover, but
      there is more than that. Consider the context: the day the memo was
      taken U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell began the extensive
      review at the CIA of the allegations he would use to make his Security
      Council "briefing"—already scheduled—supposedly "bulletproof." It was
      also that same day that the codebreaking National Security Agency
      issued a directive to spy on the friendly nations who were members of
      the U.N. Security Council to divine their attitudes on the move to war.

      The day before, according to Bob Woodward's account, Bush had told
      Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, "We will kick ass." By his
      account, Berlusconi tried to dissuade Bush from war. Woodward duly
      notes the president resorting to his standard line that no decision
      had yet been made on military action. The Manning memo suggests
      otherwise, with Bush revealing March 10 as the projected date for
      beginning bombing—a campaign to hit 1,500 targets in four days, the
      "shock and awe" which U.S. officials bragged about at the time.
      Moreover, on January 24, the U.S. military commander, General Tommy
      Franks, had sent his final war plan up through Rumsfeld to the
      president. Bush's comment to Blair on January 31, that "he was not
      itching to go to war," is belied by the entire surrounding structure
      of events.

      The other significant finding in the Manning memo concerns Tony
      Blair's intentions. The press reporting at the time—regardless of what
      Scott McClellan says today—was that the purpose of the Blair-Bush
      meeting was to decide whether there needed to be a second U.N.
      resolution. Postwar investigations in London show that in late January
      Blair received official advice from his attorney general Lord
      Goldsmith that such a resolution was necessary to fulfill the terms of
      the existing resolution 1441. At the meeting with Bush, however, the
      record shows Blair presented the project as a convenience. "If
      anything goes wrong . . . a second resolution would give us
      international cover, especially with the Arabs," Blair said, according
      to Manning's memo.

      Bush went along with Blair's talk of a resolution, but his own
      propositions on justifications for war revealed his true lack of
      interest in U.N. action. Bush speculated about deceiving Saddam into
      shooting at U.S. aircraft phonied up to look like U.N. planes, or
      getting an Iraqi scientist to assert that WMD were being concealed.
      The most widely reported aspect of the Bush-Blair meeting was these
      speculations (talk of a Saddam assassination was less justification
      than opportunity).

      Bush told Blair he would "twist arms" to get a U.N. resolution,
      corresponding exactly to the NSA spy directive, which would track the
      success of Bush arm-twisting through U.N. members' own communications.
      Regardless of the outcome, Bush told Blair, "military action would
      follow anyway." Blair's assurance at that point that Britain stood
      with the U.S. put him squarely in the box with Bush of seeking to
      initiate an aggressive war.

      Finally, on the matter of U.N. inspections, David Manning appears to
      have engaged in some policy advocacy, as opposed to strictly confining
      himself to recording the proceedings of this meeting in his memorandum
      to Tony Blair. Manning's paper notes the conversation among the
      leaders on the urgency of action if Bush's timeline was to be met.
      Blair's adviser argued that, "We therefore need to stay closely
      alongside Blix, [and] do all we can to help the inspectors make a
      significant find." But Manning's view did not reflect the realities
      of—at least—U.S. intelligence cooperation with the inspections.
      Rather, the CIA had been parsimonious in its help, taking weeks to
      begin providing tips, and then holding back many of its target
      folders, while national security adviser Condi Rice had put pressure
      on Blix to declare Iraq in violation.

      Immediately upon finishing their talk, at 4:12 p.m. Bush and Blair
      appeared before newsmen, where Bush declared, "Saddam Hussein is not
      disarming. He is a danger to the world." Bush then added archly, "This
      issue will come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months," an almost
      exact repetition of Blair's comment at their secret meeting, as
      recorded by Manning, that "we should be saying that the crisis must be
      resolved in weeks, not months."

      President Bush asserted, inaccurately, that Resolution 1441 "gives us
      the authority to move without any second resolution," a position the
      Attorney General of Great Britain had rejected only days before. Blair
      followed up, insisting that Dr. Blix had told the Security Council
      that Saddam was not cooperating with UN inspectors. In fact, what Blix
      had said when he reported to the U.N. on January 27 was that there had
      been difficulties with the Iraqi government but the situation was
      improving, and he added that his inspectors had made 300 visits to 230
      different sites without finding any evidence of WMD. Nuclear inspector
      Mohammed ElBaradei had agreed, "We have to date found no evidence that
      Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program." Hans Blix's own take on
      the Bush-Blair conversation rings true: "The U.S. government did not
      want to raise the hope that there was any way out but war."

      On balance the newly revealed record of President Bush's secret
      meeting of January 31, 2003, confirms that by that date Bush's Iraq
      war was certain. The Manning memo supplies an explicit picture of Bush
      not merely cherrypicking only the intelligence he wanted to use, but
      scheming to overcome the consequences of not finding weapons of mass
      destruction in Iraq.

      In all likelihood the debate over the Iraq war will come to center on
      the question of how much sooner than January 2003 was Bush's war
      policy cast in stone. Was it September 2002, when Bush blurted out "I
      don't know what more evidence we need" and set up the White House Iraq
      Group to sell the war? Was it April at a previous Bush-Blair summit in
      Crawford or December 2001 when General Franks presented the first war
      plan to the president? Was it on or immediately after 9/11 or was it
      the day George W. Bush took the oath of office as President of the
      United States?


      John Prados is a senior fellow of the National Security Archive in
      Washington, D.C., and author of Hoodwinked: The Documents that Reveal
      How Bush Sold Us a War (The New Press).

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