Advisers to Blair Predicted Instability
Sunday, June 12, 2005; A01
The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.
introduction, the memo "
The July 21
memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a meeting with his
national security team two days later that has become controversial on both
sides of the
In those meeting minutes -- which have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo -- British officials who had just returned from Washington said Bush and his aides believed war was inevitable and were determined to use intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his relations with terrorists to justify invasion of Iraq.
"intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," said the memo -- an
assertion attributed to the then-chief of British intelligence, and denied by
of the memo written in advance of that meeting -- and other British documents
recently made public -- show that Blair's aides were not just concerned about
In a section titled "Benefits/Risks," the July 21 memo states, "Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks."
Saying that "we
need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our
objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of
That memo and other internal British government documents were originally obtained by Michael Smith, who writes for the London Sunday Times. Excerpts were made available to The Washington Post, and the material was confirmed as authentic by British sources who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.
The Bush administration's failure to plan adequately for the postwar period has been well documented. The Pentagon, for example, ignored extensive State Department studies of how to achieve stability after an invasion, administer a postwar government and rebuild the country. And administration officials have acknowledged the mistake of dismantling the Iraqi army and canceling pensions to its veteran officers -- which many say hindered security, enhanced anti-U.S. feeling and aided what would later become a violent insurgency.
then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects
however, had begun focusing on doubts about a postwar
A March 14 memo
to Blair from David Manning, then the prime minister's foreign policy adviser
and now British ambassador in
About 10 days
later, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote a memo to prepare Blair for a meeting
Straw said the
Later in the
summer, the postwar doubts would be raised again, at the July 23 meeting
memorialized in the Downing Street Memo. Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, the
British intelligence service, reported on his meetings with senior Bush
officials. At one point, Dearlove said, "There was little discussion in
Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman, appearing June 5 on "Meet the Press," disagreed with Dearlove's remark. "I think that there was clearly planning that occurred."
The Blair government, unlike its
The Downing Street Memo has been the subject of debate since the London Sunday Times first published it May 1. Opponents of the war say it proved the Bush administration was determined to invade months before the president said he made that decision.
Neither Bush nor Blair has publicly challenged the authenticity of the July 23 memo, nor has Dearlove spoken publicly about it. One British diplomat said there are different interpretations.
Last week, it was the subject of questions
posed to Blair and Bush during the former's visit to
Dearlove being quoted as saying that in the
Bush said he had read "characterizations of the memo," pointing out that it was released in the middle of Blair's reelection campaign, and that the United States and Britain went to the United Nations to exhaust diplomatic options before the invasion.
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