US Government archives release: The Iraq War

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  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    THE IRAQ WAR -- PART I: The U.S. Prepares for Conflict, 2001

    U.S. Sets "Decapitation of Government" As Early Goal of Combat

    Talking Points for Rumsfeld-Franks Meeting in November 2001 Outline Policy Makers’ Aims for the Conflict and Postwar Rule of Iraq

    Declassified Documents Show Bush Administration Diverting Attention and Resources to Iraq Less than Two Months after Launch of Afghanistan War

    National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 326


    Washington, D.C., September 22, 2010 – Following instructions from President George W. Bush to develop an updated war plan for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks in November 2001 to initiate planning for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government and the empowerment of a “Provisional Government” to take its place.

    Talking points for the Rumsfeld-Franks meeting on November 27, 2001, released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), confirm that policy makers were already looking for ways to justify invading Iraq – as indicated by Rumsfeld’s first point, “Focus on WMD.”

    This document shows that Pentagon policy makers cited early U.S. experience in Afghanistan to justify planning for Iraq’s post-invasion governance in order to achieve their strategic objectives: “Unlike in Afghanistan, important to have ideas in advance about who would rule afterwards.”

    Rumsfeld’s notes were prepared in close consultation with senior DOD officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. Among other insights, the materials posted today by the National Security Archive shed light on the intense focus on Iraq by high-level Bush administration officials long before the attacks of 9/11, and Washington’s confidence in perception management as a successful strategy for overcoming public and allied resistance to its plans.

    This compilation further shows:

    * The preliminary strategy Rumsfeld imparted to Franks while directing him to develop a new war plan for Iraq
    * Secretary of State Powell’s awareness, three days into a new administration, that Iraq “regime change” would be a principal focus of the Bush presidency
    * Administration determination to exploit the perceived propaganda value of intercepted aluminum tubes – falsely identified as nuclear related – before completion of even a preliminary determination of their end use
    * The difficulty of winning European support for attacking Iraq (except that of British Prime Minister Tony Blair) without real evidence that Baghdad was implicated in 9/11

    * The State Department’s analytical unit observing that a decision by Tony Blair to join a U.S. war on Iraq “could bring a radicalization of British Muslims, the great majority of whom opposed the September 11 attacks but are increasingly restive about what they see as an anti-Islamic campaign”
    * Pentagon interest in the perception of an Iraq invasion as a “just war” and State Department insights into the improbability of that outcome

    Rumsfeld’s instructions to Franks included the establishment and funding of a provisional government as a significant element of U.S. invasion strategy. In the end the Pentagon changed course and instead ruled post-invasion Iraq directly, first through the short-lived Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and then through Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    Today’s posting is the first of a three-part series of electronic briefing books detailing the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. This edition covers the critical first year of George W. Bush’s presidency. The following two – featuring newly available British government documents – will treat the question of whether the Bush administration ever seriously considered alternative strategies for Iraq and how the U.S. and Great Britain attempted to sell the war strategy to the world.

    In addition to an analytical essay and the documents, today’s EBB includes two research aids – a detailed timeline and an illuminating collection of quotations from key individuals and government documents.

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    THE IRAQ WAR -- PART I: The U.S. Prepares for Conflict, 2001
    By Joyce Battle


    More than seven years after the U.S. invaded Iraq the reasons for the war remain in dispute and many questions remain unanswered. Documents released through Britain’s Chilcot inquiry have provided some insights about that country’s participation in the conflict, but from the U.S. side much remains to be discovered. In time, the narrative of the war will be clarified as more insiders write their personal accounts and as more documents enter the public domain.

    Several recently declassified documents compiled here, dating mostly from the first year of the Bush administration, provide new insights into the lead-up to the war. One in particular, comprised of notes used by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in late November 2001 during his first face-to-face meeting with Gen. Tommy Franks after sending him the order to start planning seriously for combat, demonstrates again -- as so much reporting has done -- the influence of the long neoconservative campaign against Saddam Hussein as a primary factor driving George Bush’s Iraq policy.

    Other documents reflect the high level of attention paid to Iraq well before the 9/11 attacks, as well as some of the problems that the administration faced as it began strategizing seriously for war – how to justify an unprovoked attack given the dearth of any real evidence that Iraq was a threat to the U.S., how to win over partners that would be willing to join in the U.S. invasion, how to generate positive spin to sell the administration’s controversial choices?

    This briefing book includes a Timeline and a collection of Quotes to provide additional historical background and to convey a sense of the tone of the rancorous discourse that led up to the Iraq war.

    Background

    When the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991 the U.N. imposed sanctions on Iraq in order to prevent it from maintaining or reviving its nonconventional weapons programs. Sanctions were controversial from the outset and became increasingly more so over the years as Iraq’s economy and social fabric disintegrated (and as the financial fallout affecting Iraq’s neighbors, close U.S. allies Turkey and Jordan, increased.) To the disappointment of the U.S. the sanctions did not achieve what was probably their principal aim – provoking an internal coup that would oust Saddam Hussein from power.

    In time, concern that sanctions were breaking down energized neoconservatives in the U.S. who had long been fixated on Iraq – especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, their former bête noir. In the late 1990s a campaign they had begun soon after the Gulf war to persuade the Clinton administration to pursue a more aggressive policy toward Iraq became more vociferous. Over time the neoconservative strategy came to focus largely on regime change achieved through support for one of many Iraqi opposition groups, the CIA-funded Iraqi National Congress (INC), and its head, Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi expatriate and convicted embezzler (Note 1) with close ties to Iran -- and an impressive command of American public relations techniques.

    In late 1993 Chalabi had begun promoting a plan for regime change in Iraq that he called “The End Game”. It envisioned a revolt by Iraqi National Congress-led Shi’ites in southern Iraq and Kurds in the north that would inspire a military uprising and lead to the installation of an INC-dominated regime friendly to the U.S. (and Israel.) He also began to use some of his CIA funding to build an armed militia. (Note 2) Later, retired General Wayne Downing and former CIA officer (and Iran-Contra figure) Duane "Dewey" Clarridge became military consultants to the INC, and Downing developed a variation of Chalabi’s “End Game”. In his version (the “Iraq Liberation Strategy”) INC troops backed by former U.S. Special Forces would incite Iraqi military defections. The U.S. would recognize the INC as Iraq’s provisional government, give it Iraq’s U.N. seat; create INC-controlled "liberated zones" freed of sanctions, give the INC frozen Iraqi assets under U.S. control, launch air attacks, and have equipment prepositioned in the region in case U.S. ground forces were activated. (Note 3) (Under what authority the U.S. was to implement these measures is not clear.) In April 1998 Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had Downing brief a bipartisan group of senators at a closed meeting on the plan. (Note 4) As will be seen, Donald Rumsfeld recycled elements of this approach when he ordered the commencement of serious planning for an invasion of Iraq.

    Iraq Liberation Act

    After several covert operations against Iraq in the mid-1990s failed, increasingly fraught anti-Iraq rhetoric, endorsed by hawkish Democrats as well as Republicans, culminated in President Bill Clinton’s 1998 signing of the Iraq Liberation Act, which partially endorsed the neoconservative agenda. [Doc. 2] The act established regime change as official U.S. policy and provided funds for opposition groups and propaganda operations, but did not call for direct U.S. military action. The Clinton administration still did not view Iraq as a high priority, however, and neoconservatives were disappointed by the government’s lack of follow-up after the act was signed.

    Their cause clearly entered a new era when George W. Bush was elected president. Two prominent neoconservatives with a long history of regime-change advocacy, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, had served on candidate Bush’s political advisory team; after he took office he appointed a remarkable number of Iraq hawks to positions of power, including his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld; deputy secretary Wolfowitz; under secretary for policy, Douglas Feith; and Perle (an advisory role to Rumsfeld.) Many had a long-established relationship with Ahmad Chalabi through academic circles or activities sponsored by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, including Wolfowitz, Perle, and Rumsfeld, as well as Vice President Cheney. Cheney, before the inauguration, had asked the outgoing defense secretary to provide Bush with a policy briefing, and identified Iraq as topic A. (Note 5)

    “Regime Change”

    Chalabi’s comment from the time seems apt: “I think the initial statements of the new appointees are very useful for us …" (Note 6) Outside observers hoped that the incoming secretary of state, Colin Powell, who unlike the neoconservative faction had genuine military experience and a more nuanced view of the Middle East, might counterbalance a predictable anti-Iraq juggernaut in the new administration. In presumed response to the political environment he had entered, however, Powell asked his staff for background on Iraq regime change policy – three days after Bush’s inauguration [Doc. 3].

    When the new administration’s principals (agency heads) met for the first time at the end of January it was to discuss the Middle East, including Bush’s planned disengagement from efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the issue of “How Iraq is destabilizing the region.” Bush directed the Pentagon to look into military options for Iraq and the CIA to improve intelligence on the country. (Note 7) At a February 1 principals meeting Paul Wolfowitz lobbied for arming the Iraqi opposition. (Note 8) When the deputies (agency seconds-in-command) committee met in April for its first discussion of terrorism since the president took office and counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke attempted to focus on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban – five months before 9/11 -- Wolfowitz tried to change the subject to Iraq. (Note 9)

    Aluminum Tubes

    At around this time, the U.S. learned that Iraq was interested in buying 60,000 aluminum tubes (advertisements appeared on the internet). A CIA analyst who was not a nuclear weapons specialist became convinced that the high-strength alloy tubes could only be intended for uranium enrichment centrifuges to manufacture nuclear weapons. The CIA endorsed his opinion and passed it on to Bush in a President’s Daily Brief. An April 10 follow-up report was circulated among national security officials and the CIA analysis was immediately questioned by nuclear weapons experts. On April 11 scientists led by the chief of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Advanced Technology Division reported that the diameter of the tubes was off by 50 percent (compared to a centrifuge that Iraq tested in 1990), among other discrepancies. The Oak Ridge team concluded the tubes were probably not intended for centrifuges.

    On May 9 the Energy Department reported in a Daily Intelligence Highlight, published on a website used by the White House and the intelligence community, that the intercepted tubes were quite similar to ones that Iraq used to build conventional rocket launchers. In June the U.S. got direct access to the intercepted shipment. The CIA analyst admitted they were the wrong size for standard centrifuges, but said they matched the dimensions of those used for a centrifuge designed in the 1950s by a German scientist. The scientist told him they weren’t even close.

    This direct access to the tubes was met with the highest possible level of interest within the administration. The State Department alerted Secretary Powell, and arranged for a sample to be shown to President Bush immediately -- before even a preliminary determination had been made as to the tubes’ likely end use. (U.N. arms inspectors, on the other hand, planned to “analyze samples before drawing conclusions.”) What did get priority was planning for “publicizing the interdiction to our advantage,” and “Getting the right story out.” [Doc. 4]

    For its part, the CIA notified Congress of the development immediately -- without prior coordination with the State Department. [Doc. 5] The agency produced at least nine reports throughout the summer of 2002 that said that the tubes proved that Iraq had restarted a nuclear weapons program, documents that were given to Bush and other high-level officials. Energy Department and State Department Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts, who assumed that the claim had long since been put to rest, did not see the reports. (Note 10)

    More than a year after the interdiction, on September 8, 2002, the New York Times reported that “American officials” believed that the tubes were meant for use in centrifuges. (Note 11) The report was based on documents deliberately leaked by the White House. Cheney, Powell, and Condoleezza Rice appeared on Sunday talk shows the same day to draw attention to the report. Rice said that the tubes were only suitable for nuclear weapons programs, and warned, most famously, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” (Note 12)

    Strategizing

    On July 13, 2001 the deputies committee met to discuss Iraq and Wolfowitz said again that to achieve “regime change” the U.S. should provide more support for Iraqi opposition groups, recognize a provisional government, and create an enclave in the south that, along with U.S.-protected Kurdistan, would be called “Free Iraq” (the southern enclave strategy was meant to mollify a Turkey made nervous by hints of increasing autonomy for the Kurds in northern Iraq.) The U.S. would then give “Free Iraq” frozen Iraqi assets. The protected zone would be expanded to expropriate Iraq’s oil fields and their revenues. Powell thought Wolfowitz’s strategy was ludicrous, but Rumsfeld said he wanted Bush’s opinion, (Note 13) and asked Rice to schedule a principals committee meeting leading to an NSC discussion with the president.

    In a July 27 memo to Rice, Rumsfeld recommended scheduling the meetings, because sanctions were failing and Iraq’s air defenses seemed to be improving – he was particularly disturbed by Iraq’s increased use of fiber optics. He outlined a range of policy options and said definitively, “Within a few years the U.S. will undoubtedly have to confront a Saddam armed with nuclear weapons” (and also that Iran will “almost certainly” have nuclear weapons by 2006.) He concluded, “If Saddam’s regime were ousted, we would have a much-improved position in the region and elsewhere,” and, “A major success in Iraq would enhance U.S. credibility and influence throughout the region.” [Doc. 6]

    During the summer of 2001 a career Pentagon planning official tried to evaluate the premises of the Chalabi/Downing strategy for Iraq: that is, that the INC could play a major role in ousting Saddam Hussein and Iraqis would welcome Ahmad Chalabi as a hero. His analysis would have focused on what could go wrong, what if INC operations failed, what if Chalabi’s supposed popularity were overblown? But he learned that the Pentagon’s focus was “not on what could go wrong but on what would go right.” (Note 14) On August 1 the deputies gave a top secret paper on Iraq to the principals with the title of Downing’s plan for regime change, “A Liberation Strategy”, discussing CIA and other U.S. support for Iraqi opposition groups and possible direct U.S. military action. Wolfowitz said his enclave strategy would easily succeed. Powell tried to warn Bush, telling him, “This is not as easy as it is being presented.” In Bush’s view, it was “good contingency planning.” (Note 15)

    By early August the CIA had selected the Cuban-American son of a Bay of Pigs veteran to be chief of its covert Iraqi Operations Group. “Saul” evaluated U.S. plans and concluded that a coup in Iraq, which the U.S. for a decade had hoped could be brought about through a combination of sanctions and covert operations, would fail. To achieve regime change, a full-scale military invasion of Iraq with CIA support would be necessary. (Note 16)

    9/11

    On September 11 al-Qaeda struck and George Bush immediately assumed that Saddam Hussein was involved. [Doc. 14, p. 334] The same held true for Donald Rumsfeld; famously, within hours of the attacks he directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to look for evidence to justify attacking Saddam Hussein as well as Osama bin Laden. He instructed Pentagon lawyer Jim Haynes to talk to “PW” (Paul Wolfowitz) to get information establishing a link between the two. [Doc. 7]

    National security staff met at the White House on September 12 and, despite the CIA’s determination “that al Qaeda was guilty of the attacks,” Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz again argued for attacking Iraq. (Wolfowitz thought that a state sponsor had to be involved; Rumsfeld said that Iraq had better targets than Afghanistan.) Bush endorsed the strategy of overthrowing Iraq’s government. According to Richard Clarke, when he told Bush that al-Qaeda was definitely responsible and that past efforts had not found any real evidence connecting it with Iraq, Bush seemed irritated, (Note 17) and at a September 13 NSC meeting Bush asked again that the CIA look for possible Iraqi involvement. At that meeting Rumsfeld said that attacking Iraq “could inflict…costly damage” and make terrorist-supporting regimes think twice about confronting the U.S. Bush told the Pentagon to give him plans and a cost estimate for an Iraq war. (Note 18) Clarke began a special project to look again for a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. (Note 19)

    At a September 17 NSC meeting Bush again directed that contingency plans for attacking Iraq be prepared, including a plan to seize its oilfields. He reportedly signed a top secret order directing the Pentagon to begin planning for war with Afghanistan -- and an invasion of Iraq. (Note 20)

    On September 18 Clarke’s office reported the results of its intelligence survey. It noted the wide ideological gap between Iraq’s then leadership and al-Qaeda and concluded that only weak anecdotal evidence linked the two. Clarke later told 60 Minutes that the NSC sent back the first draft of the memo because it did not like its conclusions. (Note 21)

    A September 21 President’s Daily Brief prepared by the CIA repeated that the intelligence community had no evidence of an Iraq link to 9/11 or of any significant collaborative ties with al-Qaeda, and that the few credible reports of Iraq/al-Qaeda contacts involved attempts by Iraq to monitor the group. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Stephen Hadley, Rumsfeld, Powell, under secretaries at the State and Defense Departments, and other senior administration officials received the paper. (Note 22)

    On September 29 Rumsfeld asked the JCS to begin preparing Iraq war options with two objectives: finding WMD and regime change. For the second goal Rumsfeld wanted a plan taking one or two months and the deployment of 250,000 troops. (Note 23)

    On October 7 the U.S. war with Afghanistan began.

    On November 8 Feith drafted a paper at Rumsfeld’s request reviewing Iraq strategy, including what was essentially the Chalabi/Downing plan: use of Iraqi opposition groups to seek collaborators to rebel against the government, build up enclaves in the north and south, and support the Iraqi National Congress. (Note 24) At a November 17 NSC meeting Bush directed the Defense Department “to be ready to deal with Iraq if Baghdad acted against U.S. interests, with plans to include possibly occupying Iraqi oil fields.” (Note 25) On November 21 Bush told Rumsfeld to start updating contingency plans for war with Iraq but keep it secret. (Note 26) At around the same time the JCS briefed Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others on the military’s current Iraq contingency war plan, which called for a deployment taking some seven months and around 500,000 troops. Rumsfeld rejected the force levels as too high and the timing for deployment as too long. (Note 27)

    Briefing Franks

    On November 27, 2001 Rumsfeld flew to Tampa to meet alone with Tommy Franks. He told him to question everything in the existing contingency plan for an Iraq war (Oplan 1003). He brought talking points drafted with Wolfowitz and Feith that largely corresponded to the Chalabi/Downing strategy: find a rationale to start a war with Iraq – that is, in response to a move by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds, or U.S. discovery of an Iraqi connection to 9/11 or to recent anthrax attacks, or a dispute over WMD inspections. The document advises, “start now thinking about inspection demands” (perhaps implying that a dispute could be provoked), and recommends recognition of a provisional government (“Unlike in Afghanistan, important to have ideas in advance about who would rule afterwards” – this inserted by Feith), (Note 28) giving said provisional government revenues from “liberated” oil fields, the concept of a running start: “Start military forces before all required for worst case – larger forces flow in behind”, and recommended war crimes indictments for ousted officials – among other measures. Anticipating administration Iraq policy to come, the paper also called for an “Influence campaign” to prepare the way for war. [Doc. 8] (Note 29)

    The notes were headed “Focus on WMD”, and the administration certainly took Iraqi WMD seriously – the U.S. was acquainted with Iraq’s chemical weapons use during its war with Iran in the 1980s, when Iraq routinely deployed CW against Iran and against Iraqi Kurds cooperating with Iran. When the 2003 war started invasion forces were equipped with protective gear. It may also be true that the administration had already decided upon WMD as its principal official rationalization for war (Note 30) (while at the same time regularly implying an Iraqi connection with 9/11.)

    “Surprise, speed, shock and risk” reflect Rumsfeld’s own goal for an Iraq invasion – fight the war the U.S. wanted to fight, emphasizing mobility, flexibility, and reliance on high-tech weapons, and demonstrate that the reforms the defense secretary was then attempting to implement in the Pentagon would prepare the U.S. military for dominance in the 21st century. What better adversary as a pilot project than an Iraq with a collapsed economy, deep internal divisions, an easily demonized head of state, and a military, never considered particularly effective by U.S. defense analysts, now reduced to a shadow of its former self by two decades of war and sanctions?

    The notes also refer to “Decapitation of government,” which the U.S. military indeed attempted to execute at the outset of the Iraq war, destroying communication networks and also, quite literally, targeting Saddam Hussein, with missile attacks on the Dora Farms compound where it thought, on the basis of false intelligence, he was located on the eve of the invasion. In reality, the attacks on the communications system contributed to the social collapse that followed the invasion, while U.S. strikes on Saddam and other high-level leaders were apparently unsuccessful, killing civilians rather than their intended targets. (Note 31)

    “Just War”

    The “influence campaign” mentioned in an annotation on Rumsfeld’s notes was revved up in the fall of 2001 and continues apace till this day. Part of the effort surely included the administration’s selling of its preemptive invasion of Iraq as a “just war” (like the Obama administration’s defense of its deeply unpopular campaign in Afghanistan). A Pentagon official alerted Douglas Feith to an upcoming op-ed by a conservative Catholic theologian who said what the Bush administration wanted to hear: “how pre-emptive action against Iraq fits into the just-war tradition.” [Doc. 9] Any such claim, however, would seem to have been demolished in a somewhat later State Department intelligence assessment, “Problems and Prospects of ‘Justifying’ War with Iraq,” which examined the seven principles of just war theory one by one and found that they were not met by the Iraq invasion, in planning or in execution. [Doc. 11]

    Allies


    The unlikelihood of objective analysis reaching the conclusion that the Iraq invasion could be considered just or necessary complicated hopes for coalition building as serious war planning moved forward. A December 18 INR intelligence assessment warned of likely difficulties in attracting international support: the lack of evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 that was a matter of little or no consequence to the Bush administration would be less easy to dismiss as the U.S. reached out to potential collaborators. Its major European allies, Britain, France, and Germany, the INR concluded, could all be expected to find a U.S. decision to attack Iraq problematic “absent incontrovertible evidence of links to the September 11 attacks.” Only Tony Blair, “at substantial political cost,” could be expected to support a U.S.-led campaign. This would be true despite the fact that all three countries shared, according to the assessment, the Bush administration’s view that Iraq’s WMD capabilities were a threat – evidently on the basis of intelligence that “Washington has shared” (emphasis added.) For the British, a Blair decision to join in a U.S. war on Iraq would be exceptionally divisive and “could bring a radicalization of British Muslims, the great majority of whom opposed the September 11 attacks but are increasingly restive about what they see as an anti-Islamic campaign.” [Doc. 10]

    Free Iraqi Forces

    The Chalabi/Downing plan for regime change envisioned a central combat role for volunteers from the INC with U.S. paramilitary training. From the neoconservative perspective, this was to give an Iraqi face to the war and justify a post-invasion INC assumption of power. Though in the end the Iraqi irregulars’ role was minimal – serving as interpreters, for instance -- the Pentagon’s policy office did order that a program for what it called the “Free Iraqi Forces” be organized and funded, and it had the Army set up a training operation in Hungary -- met by popular resistance in the host country. After the Iraq invasion the U.S. embassy in Budapest asked for “positive images” to counter the initial criticism and to convey the impression of a mission accomplished. The embassy planned to use the images “to remind the Hungarian public—and the world—about the success of the FIF volunteers and the singular contribution they are making in this conflict.” [Doc. 12]

    Positive images were evidently not easy to come by. The participation of the INC and the Free Iraqi Forces it sponsored in the invasion did not go as the neoconservatives had hoped. Tommy Franks was an obstacle; he had little use for Iraqi exile groups and did not want them interfering with his war plan. Chalabi had assured his backers that he could rally an impressive force of anti-Saddam volunteers who would make a significant contribution to the fighting -- that is, they, not a foreign force, would be leading the “liberation” of Iraq. In reality, according to the Gordon/Trainor book Cobra II, opposition groups submitted 6,000 names of potential recruits, 622 were vetted by the U.S., 500 were invited to join the force, 95 showed up in Hungary for training, and 73 completed the four-week training program. The operation was budgeted at $63.5 million. (Note 32) According to a May 21, 2003 Army memo reporting on lessons learned from the Free Iraqi Forces experience, “Funds necessary for mission preparation, forming and deploying....and sustaining the training task force were not provided at the start of operations,” so the Army had to reallocate funds from critical training needs. In addition, the training mission faced a “Lack of guidance initially as to what tasks the FIF required training on....When the number of FIF volunteers did not materialize as originally forecasted, and no further volunteers were forthcoming,” it was not clear whether the Army was authorized to stop training, nor did it know what to do with the training force. Regarding foreign training missions, it observed, “unforecasted expenditures severely impact the training base.” [Doc. 13]

    The Bush Agenda


    As available documentation and a review of the literature show, the Bush administration was well along the path to war before the 9/11 attacks, and certainly well before the protracted 2002-2003 debates over the re-admission of weapons inspectors to Iraq and a U.N. resolution to legitimize the targeting of Baghdad. At this point, the weight of evidence supports an observation made in April 2002 by members of the covert Iraq Operations Group – Iraq “regime change” was already on Bush’s agenda when he took office in January 2001. (Note 33) September 11 was not the motivation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq – it was a distraction from it.

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    Read actual declassified documents at the National Security Archives below
    Read the Documents -Part I
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2010
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    THE IRAQ WAR -- PART II: Was There Even a Decision?

    U.S. and British Documents Give No Indication Alternatives Were Seriously Considered

    National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 328


    Washington, D.C., October 1, 2010 – Contrary to statements by President George W. Bush or Prime Minister Tony Blair, declassified records from both governments posted on the Web today reflect an early and focused push to prepare war plans and enlist allies regardless of conflicting intelligence about Iraq’s threat and the evident difficulties in garnering global support.

    Perhaps most revealing about today’s posting on the National Security Archive’s Web site is what is missing—any indication whatsoever from the declassified record to date that top Bush administration officials seriously considered an alternative to war. In contrast there is an extensive record of efforts to energize military planning, revise existing contingency plans, and create a new, streamlined war plan.

    This electronic briefing book is the second of three to be posted by the National Security Archive that re-examine several aspects of the run-up to the war. The previous EBB covered the development of President Bush’s thinking during the first year of his presidency. This posting focuses on U.S. planning and preparations for action, and British deliberations over how to respond to the Bush administration, during 2002. It is accompanied by a separate analysis by Archive Senior Fellow John Prados and journalist Christopher Ames that reframes this critical period. The third part of this set will address a parallel effort to create political conditions conducive to carrying out an invasion of Iraq.

    Among other findings from the documents, the posting’s editors conclude that the Bush administration sought to avoid the emergence of opposition to its actions by means of secrecy and deception, holding the war plan as a “compartmented concept,” restricting information even from allies like the United Kingdom, and pretending that no war plans were being reviewed by the president.

    President Bush and his senior advisers were so intent on pursuing their project for war, the documents show, that they refused to be deterred by early and repeated refusals of cooperation from regional allies like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt; or from traditional allies such as France and Germany.

    Bush administration disdain for a diplomatic solution to the issue of Iraq’s potential for developing weapons of mass destruction is further evidenced, the editors conclude, in early resistance to a multilateral solution through the United Nations (UN), in a preference to substitute direct U.S. control for a UN monitoring regime, and in the difficulty encountered by both America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S. State Department, in inducing President Bush to agree to try a UN initiative.
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    Analysis: Was There Even a Decision?
    By John Prados and Christopher Ames


    Available documentary records, recollections of Bush administration officials, and the growing body of testimony and materials assembled by the British Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Panel), support the thesis that the United States went to war in Iraq without clear consideration of whether war was a proper recourse. One of a series of electronic briefing books (EBB) re-examining several aspects of the run up to the war, this posting focuses on planning and preparations for action during 2002. (The first EBB covered the beginning of the Bush administration; the third will address a parallel effort to craft propaganda in favor of a military conflict, in the guise of intelligence reporting.) The net effect of these activities was to foreclose diplomatic options that would have prevented war.

    President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, the record suggests, made their real decision privately and restricted knowledge to a very few individuals. Information from participants, especially on the British side, also increasingly suggests that even between the U.S. and British governments, and within the Bush administration itself, subordinate officials were kept in ignorance of leaders’ real intentions. Evidence indicates the decision was made very early, long before ultimatums to Iraq or other diplomatic action. An alternative view, that leaders ordered up contingency plans for war and then simply implemented them without further consideration based on the mechanics of military and alliance planning, offers an equally bleak picture of the disastrous Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    General Tommy Franks, commander-in-chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), the responsible U.S. military authority, makes clear in a memoir that from December 28, 2001, when he presented President Bush with a concept for an invasion of Iraq, subsequent efforts were entirely aimed at refining the operational plan, identifying and preparing the required forces, and making the necessary supply and basing arrangements. Before and after, Franks was constantly prodded for progress by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Note 1) President Bush instructed Franks to continue elaborating his plan and told Secretary Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell to work together to secure the support of Middle Eastern nations and enlist allies for the invasion option. (Note 2) President Bush wrapped up the meeting, a videoconference with participants all over the country, by encouraging all his senior officials to believe that Iraq could, in fact, be deprived of the weapons of mass destruction that all of them assumed were hidden there. “We should remain optimistic that a combination of diplomacy and international pressure will succeed in disarming the regime,” Bush declared, “But if this approach isn’t successful we have to have other options.” (Note 3)

    Documenting the origins of the Iraq war are an increasing array of declassified documents, a public record of the time, and a growing body of reflections, recollections, and memoirs. This material sustains the narrative of a drive toward war but not one of conflict resolution. Such diplomacy as took place was designed to recruit allies for an invasion or to coerce the Saddam government into admitting international teams of weapons inspectors—not to disarm Iraq but to justify invasion.

    At the very beginning of 2002 (see National Security Archive EBB No. 326) the American distaste for disarmament measures was apparent in the reception that chief United Nations (UN) weapons inspector Hans Blix received when he visited Washington early in the new year. During 2001 Secretary Powell had promoted “smart sanctions” to encourage Iraqi disarmament but the events of 9/11 had effectively killed that policy. Now a succession of Bush administration officials voiced doubts or made veiled threats. Colin Powell expected Iraq would never comply with UN measures while his undersecretary for arms control, John Bolton, remarked that any UN effort would need the help of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—of whom the U.S. was one. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice told Blix of her fears Saddam Hussein would use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or give them to terrorists. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith worried that UN inspectors visiting Iraq would simply learn how to conceal WMDs in their own countries. (Note 4) His colleague Paul Wolfowitz asked the CIA to investigate whether Hans Blix himself was a security risk. (The agency found no evidence of that. (Note 5)) Meanwhile, ahead of Blix’s visit, CIA chief George Tenet and senior clandestine service officers met with Vice President Richard Cheney at the White House to discuss covert operations in Iraq.

    On January 29, 2002, in the first open expression of U.S. hostility toward Iraq, President Bush named that country in his State of the Union address as a member of a group he called the “Axis of Evil.” On February 1 General Franks briefed Secretary Rumsfeld on the latest version of his CENTCOM invasion plan and that same day CIA officers presented their covert action scheme—considered an integral part of CENTCOM’s proposal. Franks repeated this briefing for the President on February 7. Going through his slides the general reported that the time period from December through March or April would be best, when climate conditions were optimal for military operations, but he responded affirmatively when Rumsfeld pressed on whether CENTCOM could be ready to go sooner than that. General Franks added that he had trips scheduled to meet senior commanders in the region, “But Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld will have to orchestrate the diplomatic heavy lifting.” (Note 6)

    On February 12 Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate committee that regime change in Iraq was a longstanding U.S. policy and in the best interests of the Iraqi people.(Note 7) Powell hastened to add that President Bush had no invasion plan on his desk, which was accurate only because the project was not actually on his desk (Franks had presented his latest concept to Bush five days earlier). “I will reserve whatever options I have, I’ll keep them close to my vest,” President Bush said at a February 13 news conference. (Note 8) Several days later he signed a new presidential finding authorizing covert operations against Iraq, and CIA advance teams visited the Kurdish region of that country within days. During all of this no U.S. diplomatic initiative was underway to encourage the Saddam regime to show the real state of its armaments programs.

    Instead American diplomacy sought to build the foundation for war. In testimony to the Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Committee), British politicians and officials from the time were contradictory about when, exactly, the Blair government learned that U.S. policy on Iraq had changed to one of securing regime change through the use of force. Sir Peter Ricketts, political director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British equivalent to the State Department, recalls: “I don’t feel that there was a particular point . . . where it was unmistakably clear that there had been a change of US policy.” (Note 9) On the other hand, Ricketts reports, in late November 2001 “one began to hear talk of a phase two of the War on Terror from Washington.” Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Colin Powell’s counterpart in the Blair Cabinet, testified that, “I don’t recall, in the late part of 2001 and the early part of 2002, getting much advice from ambassadors about a change of policy in respect of the Americans.” (Note 10) But Straw contradicted himself where he added that after 9/11 he learned of “sections” of the Bush administration and of the Republican Party “talking up the possibility of military action against Iraq.” (Note 11)

    Both British officials also gave contradictory testimony regarding the Blair government’s response to this development. Asked whether officials were requested to project “where this might be going,” Ricketts answered, “I don’t believe so, no. We certainly never put up any advice on that, as far as I recall.” But Straw recalled a visit to Washington in early December 2001 by Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Blair, focused on this issue. Straw reports he approved a briefing for Manning and Blair “on how we might influence this debate.” The paper, Straw noted, “reminded readers that the Joint Intelligence Committee . . . had concluded that Iraq had had no responsibility for the 11 September attacks and no significant links to Usama bin Laden . . . On WMD a number of proposals to strengthen the then-policy of containment were made; on the possibility of military action to deal with Iraq’s WMD, our advice was that a new [United Nations Security Council resolution] was almost certainly to be needed for this clearly to be lawful.” (Note 12) It appears that Britain—or the Foreign Office at least—was at this point trying to keep the focus on containment, rather than regime change. The same secretive approach the Bush administration had adopted in public it was also using privately—and effectively—with the United Kingdom, its closest ally.

    Manning says he visited Washington on January 22, 2002, with British intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove on what appears to have been a separate trip. When Manning met with Condoleezza Rice he told her that an Iraq policy should incorporate provisions for international disarmament inspections. Rice telephoned Manning on February 14, by his account, and confirmed that a U.S. policy review was underway, “but said there was absolutely no plan at this stage.” (Note 13) In London at the end of February, Blair told his Cabinet that “we were a long way off taking decisions” and, so far as the Americans were concerned, “Bush was in charge, not Rumsfeld.” (Note 14)

    The British did have their suspicions. Tony Blair’s government was very conscious of international perceptions that Iraq was a minor problem among global issues, and support for forceful action would have to be built through diplomacy leading to approval by the UN Security Council. London’s ambassador to the United States testified, “The one thing that ran all through 2002, in particular, was, if it came to war in Iraq, we would all be in much better shape for the war itself and for the aftermath if this was done within the framework of an international coalition blessed by the United Nations.” The ambassador, Christopher Meyer, went on, “You didn’t have to argue that with the State Department. You sure as hell had to argue it with the Vice President, with Rumsfeld, and, up to a point, with Condoleezza Rice.” (Note 15)

    Ambassador Meyer was entirely correct. In February, with President Bush examining attack plans and issuing action orders to the CIA, the State Department held a meeting of its Middle East chiefs-of-mission, chaired by William Burns, the assistant secretary for that region. The assembled diplomats worried that a war in Iraq would last at least five years and that there would be an insurgency after two at the most. “That’s exactly why we would never go at this alone,” Burns said. Solid international backing meant going through the UN. (Note 16) The British were not the only ones who needed to argue their point with the proponents of war.

    United Nations diplomacy meant international inspections of Iraq and these were important to British thinking. Inspections could establish the true status of Saddam’s arms programs, possibly complete the disarmament of Iraq, or create an international consensus that a war for disarmament against Iraq was in fact necessary. Securing UN approval for an inspection mission could become the vehicle to obtain the support London deemed necessary.

    On a trip to Australia, Prime Minister Blair said on television, “Iraq is in breach of all conditions of weapons inspectors. We know they are trying to accumulate weapons of mass destruction. How we deal with this is a matter we must discuss.” (Note 17) Jack Straw, similarly, told the Times of London in an interview published on March 5 that “Saddam was unique among the world’s tyrants in having both the ruthlessness and capability to employ weapons of mass destruction.” (Note 18)

    These statements reflected certain knowledge in London that the U.S. had moved toward the use of force—plus a belief that Britain must follow. Ambassador Meyer says that in March 2002 he received a rather “chunky set of instructions” from Manning to the effect that he should no longer advocate containment because British policy favored regime change. He recalled, “I think the attitude of Downing Street . . . was this: it was a fact that there was such a thing as the Iraq Liberation Act. It was a fact that 9/11 had happened and it was a complete waste of time, therefore, in those circumstances, if we were going to be able to work with the Americans, to come to them and say any longer—and bang away about regime change and say, ‘We can’t support it.”

    But the pace had quickened. On March 8 the Cabinet Office, the British equivalent to the National Security Council staff, promulgated the options paper which formed the basis for Prime Minister Blair’s position at the Crawford meeting. It noted that the U.S. had lost faith in containment. Alternatives ran from covert support to Iraqi opposition groups’ efforts to unseat Saddam Hussein, to an air campaign with the same purpose, to “a full-scale ground campaign,” with the conclusion that only the last would confidently result in regime change. But justification remained thin. British intelligence saw “no recent evidence of Iraqi complicity with international terrorism,” while legal experts found that with respect to authority, “none currently exists” (Document 1). The paper went through several drafts and was finally discussed with responsible officials—but not the cabinet—at a meeting held at the prime minister’s country estate of Chequers. On the British side that meant that officials who opposed resort to war, such as the minister for international development, Clare Short, were cut out of the loop. (Note 19)

    Meanwhile the first major U.S. diplomatic initiative concerned war preparations. In February, Vice- President Cheney made a a speech at the U.S. Marine base at El Toro, California, where he declared the United States would never allow “terror states” or their “terrorist allies” to threaten the world with weapons of mass destruction. (Note 20) The vice president characterized Iraq as a nation that harbored terrorists. Later, on March 3, General Franks met with President Bush to show how the war plan required the cooperation of states in the region, and Bush decided to send the vice president on a mission to solicit support. (Note 21) Cheney received a CENTCOM paper outlining the support needed from each of the Middle Eastern nations. General Franks briefed Cheney on what he wanted in terms of bases and assistance from Arab states on March 6. Vice-President Cheney then made an extended tour of Middle Eastern nations and the European states the Bush administration hoped to enlist.

    At the beginning of this trip Vice President Cheney stopped in London. According to Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, “Cheney was proposing to go and consult the Middle East leaders on what should be done in Iraq, to see what their tolerance would be for action.” Prime Minister Blair warned of the law of unintended consequences: “If you are going to deal with something like Iraq, you have to think ahead about what might happen . . . that you do not expect.” Powell recounts the conversations were definitely about regime change: “The action was about . . . replacing Saddam.” Toward the end, Cheney declared that a coalition “would be nice” but was “not essential.” (Note 22) The implicit threat was that the Bush administration would go it alone if necessary. The United Kingdom itself could be left out. Following the talks Cheney told the press he worried Saddam would give WMDs to terrorists. The U.S. and U.K. had the same option for war but the Bush administration was far ahead in its determination to employ it.

    Talking points prepared for the vice president’s meetings with Jordanian leaders on this trip (Document 3) show that Washington already hoped to enlist Jordan, paying lip service to multilateral approaches toward Iraq but warning “we will have to look to other ways to protect our interests,” in which case, “we will keep in mind Jordan’s concerns and vulnerability.” But only in Qatar and London was there any support for what Mr. Cheney advocated. Despite negative responses the Bush administration forged ahead. Vice President Cheney reported favorably on his trip to President Bush at a breakfast. Cheney himself convened the National Security Council Principals Committee to hear him report on the trip, the briefing memo for which noted one of its aims as “previewing next steps toward Iraq” (Document 4).

    Sir David Manning returned to Washington at this time to advance a planned April meeting between Blair and Bush at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Manning emphasized the necessity to build support through a multilateral approach and international inspections of Iraq. Manning characterized this visit as a “reconnaissance.” He had dinner with Condoleezza Rice on March 12, noting afterwards, “Condi’s enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed” (Document 5), and after a working session with Rice’s staff the next day where the Americans offered few solutions for several key problems, including persuading world public opinion, added, “I think that there is a real risk that the [Bush] Administration underestimates the difficulties.” Manning recounted this encounter to the Chilcot Committee later: “I said to Dr. Rice that if they [the U.S.] were going to construct a coalition, there were a number of issues they must think through, as far as we were concerned. One was: what role did they envisage for the UN inspectors? What were they going to do by way of explaining the threat that Saddam posed . . . . I also said that . . .the Israel/Palestine issue was critical; it was not an optional extra.” (Note 23) This last point reflected a British analysis that progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace was essential to rally the Arab Middle East behind a move against Saddam. London feared Bush administration obtuseness on this score. In fact, the private comment on the Cheney visit by Blair’s press chief, Alastair Campbell, was that “The Americans claimed to be conscious of the importance of the [Middle East Peace Plan] but we were not sure they really got it.” (Note 24)

    Ambassador Christopher Meyer accompanied Manning to many of his meetings with the Americans. Manning brought a “chunky” set of instructions with him, among which encouraging the U.S. to follow the UN route was among the most important. The ambassador had Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to lunch on March 18 (Document 5) and found him “viscerally hostile to the United Nations policy.” (Note 25) Meyer argued that if there were going to be an attack on Iraq the pathway to it had to be smoothed by clever actions, including UN diplomacy and also a public information policy that might feature official reports on the threat of Saddam Hussein—the first mention of what became the British and American white papers on Iraq (see EBB No. 254). The British were already preparing such a document but held off releasing it for the moment.

    While the Blair government tried to induce the Bush administration to adopt a more sophisticated diplomatic posture, U.S. war preparations moved steadily ahead. According to CENTCOM deputy commander General Michael DeLong, for 18 months until the war began—that is, beginning in October 2001—each time a military exercise was held in the region the U.S. sent more troops than required, then left some behind. (Note 26) By February special operations forces were already being diverted from the Afghan war to prepare for Iraqi operations—so many that General Franks complained to a senior senator that the practice was impinging on CENTCOM’s ongoing operations in Afghanistan. (Note 27) Successive briefings on the evolving war plan have been referred to already. Among these, spy chieftain George Tenet met with Kurdish leaders that month to assure them that America was, in fact, coming to Iraq. On March 21 Franks flew to Germany for the first full staff conference of the field command that would actually conduct the war, while two days later in Washington, the Joint Chiefs of Staff began a wargame to examine the feasibility of one version of the invasion plan. The Chiefs listened to Franks’ report on his German trip at the Pentagon on March 29. Orders to the 101st Airborne Division to prepare for deployment to the combat theater were issued in April and electrified the U.S. Army. (Note 28)

    On April 5, just prior to Tony Blair’s departure for the United States, President Bush gave a televised interview and rendered the judgment, “I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go.” (Note 29) The president’s subsequent assertions that he had no attack plans on his desk—repetitions of the formula Bush first used in February—are plainly misleading. This was the situation on the eve of the Crawford summit, which began on April 7. Blair has just published his memoirs, which include the first discussion by a principal of what happened at Crawford. In the book, Blair confesses that he traveled to the meeting “mob-handed”—with family—which made him lurch between being irritable and intense; in other words, not at his best. The memoir exhibits a similar tendency to lurch between strident polemic and defensive assertion. For example, the former prime minister insists that he talked to Bush throughout the year, and that “in those early and middle months of 2002” the President may have thought action at some point might become necessary, but that this did not become clear to Bush until much later.

    Yet Blair’s statement is at odds with President Bush’s own public comments even before the Crawford summit. Furthermore, Blair also affirms the United States made its decision after September 11 and that, by the time of Crawford, “I had resolved in my own mind that removing Saddam would do the world, and most particularly the Iraqi people, a service.” In short, both principals at Crawford were resolved to oust Saddam Hussein. But Blair writes, “I knew regime change could not be our policy,” presumably due to the international legal implications of such a course. That in turn made necessary the construction of a different framework of justification—hence his determination to seek United Nations approval for action. (Note 30) Securing that approval became Blair’s overriding aim, which entailed both inducing Bush’s cooperation and generating whatever public relations spin was required to drum up the enthusiasm of the British and American people. Blair writes he was clear about two things: that the United Kingdom had to stay shoulder to shoulder with the United States, and that Saddam had to be made to conform with previous UN resolutions—a considerably different construction than the prime minister’s affirmation of his goal of getting rid of Saddam, and another example of obfuscation in Blair’s latest presentation of these events.

    At Crawford Prime Minister Blair made it clear that UN diplomacy had to be a prerequisite of British participation in the Iraq invasion. Blair associate Jonathan Powell, who accompanied him to Crawford but was not in the room, put British aims this way: “We were trying to say to them, ‘Don’t rush into anything. Move at a deliberate pace, and, above all, build a coalition. Talk to people, go the UN route. Don’t just rush into unilateral action.” (Note 31) President Bush, anxious to craft that coalition, made compromises. So too did Blair. Two mysteries haunt the Crawford meeting: did Bush give a solid undertaking to take the UN route, and did Blair promise to actually go to war? Blair denies making any such commitment in his memoirs, even terming the claim a “myth,” but there was no possibility at all of the British leader achieving his professed goal of relieving the Iraqi people by overthrowing Saddam without war—and absent his commitment to Bush to participate in such a war. (Note 32) Either way it seems clear from the record that the American course for war had been set. In commenting on deliberations within Blair’s government before Crawford, Jack Straw noted that the policy of the United States “as it happened, was for regime change.” (Note 33) The British foreign secretary, for one, thus appreciated that the Bush administration intended to overthrow Saddam.

    The key conversations at Crawford took place between the two leaders alone. According to British journalist Con Coughlin, who interviewed Tony Blair in the early days of the war, the prime minister related that he wanted to speak mostly of Palestine while Bush relentlessly pushed for action on Iraq. Bush reportedly argued that the spring of 2003 would be the best time to attack Saddam, and showed him CIA estimates. (Note 34) Blair biographer Phillip Stevens conveys the more widely-held view that Blair agreed to the attack but insisted that an invasion had to be integrated within a broader approach that included UN diplomacy and efforts to broker a Palestinian accord. Stevens quotes an anonymous British official who maintained that “removal of the Iraqi dictator . . . had by now been ‘hardwired’ into the administration’s thinking,” and, tellingly, that “the ‘whiff of inevitability’ mingled with the smell of barbeque at the Bush ranch. (Note 35)

    Officials were very tight-lipped at the time. Condoleezza Rice, the senior Bush aide at Crawford, was not in the private sessions and has rendered no account of them. British officials who accompanied Blair were not present at the crucial discussions either. It is not yet possible to say from the documentary record what exactly took place at Crawford, although the British Foreign Office reporting cable (Document 7) gives some idea of what transpired. The Blair memoir describes the talks as “nuanced,” and says that he and Bush shared their analyses of the nature of the Iraqi state, the international risks it posed, and the wider regional problem. (Note 36) Blair aide Alastair Campbell, in his published diary, speaks only of atmospherics. (Note 37) Beyond that we have the observations of British officials to the Chilcot Inquiry. David Manning told investigators that President Bush reported to the larger group at breakfast the results of his private conversation with Blair. In that brief account Bush “told us there was no war plan for Iraq, but he had set up a small cell in Central Command in Florida and he had asked Central Command to do some planning and to think through the various options.” Blair privately told Manning that Bush had conceded that Saddam might permit UN inspections and, if so, the U.S. would adjust its thinking. (Note 38) Sir Jeremy Greenstock, British ambassador to the United Nations, recalled that “Crawford . . . made me realize that the UK was facing some very difficult decisions about where it placed itself in relation to US action on Iraq.” (Note 39)

    Questioned directly regarding his stance, Prime Minister Blair told the Chilcot committee that deposing Saddam was not an objective of his policy, “the absolutely key issue was the WMD issue”—a direct contradiction of the Blair memoir. According to Blair’s Chilcot testimony, “there was nothing actually decided” at Crawford and his aim there “was to get a real sense from the Americans as to what they wanted to do.” Blair saw himself as reinforcing his personal relationship with President Bush and encouraging the American leader to look at the myriad dimensions of the whole issue, including the Middle East and the UN inspections. As for President Bush, Blair recounts he expressed fear that “if we weren’t prepared to act in a really strong way, then we ran the risk of sending a disastrous signal.” Separately the prime minister observed that “the American view was regime change” (which contradicts the Blair memoirs in the opposite direction), though he also repeated David Manning’s point that Bush agreed to re-evaluate the situation if diplomatic action succeeded in implanting a new system of international inspections. (Note 40) Jonathan Powell recalls “there was no undertaking in blood to go to war on Iraq. There was no firm decision,” and recalled no discussion of military measures, but he agreed that one concrete outcome was that a British staff mission would go to CENTCOM headquarters to discuss force options. (Note 41) Blair also conceded to the Chilcot committee that the purpose of sending a British mission to CENTCOM was precisely to discuss war plans.

    Ambassador Meyer was “not entirely clear what degree of convergence was . . . signed in blood,” and recalls that despite Crawford President Bush did not accept the necessity of following the UN route until high summer, in August 2002. (Note 42) Meyer’s observation was the more complete one. At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan began talks with Iraq on renewed disarmament inspections four weeks before Crawford, with Hans Blix handling the details. Of Crawford, Blix writes, “It is tempting to think that President Bush had agreed with [Blair] that the inspection path must be tried,” (Note 43) but for many months the U.S. did nothing to further the initiative and, as noted, Bush officials remained highly suspicious of Blix himself. Looking ahead to UN conversations with Iraq that would be held at the end of May, Department of Defense memos declared that “we need to stay one step ahead of the negotiations” (Document 8). Officials asserted a clear preference that if there were to be inspections United States experts should be in charge of them, with unquestioned access and “Iraq to be informed that lack of cooperation will subject it to military action” (Document 9).

    In contrast with assertions of peaceful intent, the Americans moved ahead quickly on military preparations. Just before the Crawford summit President Bush received CENTCOM commanders once again for a briefing on war plans, and General Franks described an air campaign of four days’ duration to spearhead the invasion. Detailed operations plans by headquarters of the Third Army and the V Corps, the forces that would actually conduct the war, were in preparation from April 2002. (Note 44) On April 16 the Principals Committee of the NSC met to discuss funding combat training for Iraqi exiles prepared to act alongside the invaders (Document 10). Such a U.S. measure made no sense in the absence of an intention to topple Saddam.

    From the 19th through the 26th of April, General Franks followed up on Crawford and put in place a framework for military contingencies by means of a trip which took him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Kingdom. Redactions in the Franks trip report suggest that the CENTCOM commander at least mentioned Iraq plans with the chief of Saudi Royal Defense Forces, and the paper explicitly notes that the American told Deputy Prime Minister (and former defense chief) Prince Sultan of the creation of a U.S. command center and major air base in Qatar, necessary due to Saudi refusal to permit certain offensive air operations from bases in their country (see below). At Camp Doha in Kuwait Franks discussed “selected compartmented programs”—a euphemism for the Iraq invasion plans—with local U.S. commanders. In the UK General Franks met at Brize Norton, a Royal Air Force base, with British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon who specifically asked him about U.S. plans for Iraq. Franks separately saw Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of defense staff, with whom he discussed regional issues including Iraq. The British reported they had “put together a small cell” of planners for the purpose of “thinking strategically about Iraq.” Their cogitations centered upon “what courses of action are available to handle the [Saddam] regime” (Document 11).

    Hoon would later tell the Chilcot Panel that his advice to Prime Minister Blair in this period had been that while Iraq was important, from the United Kingdom’s point of view developments in Iran were actually more significant. Before Crawford, he noted, the defense ministry’s concern was to get some inkling of U.S. plans, but its main expectation was that Saddam might be disarmed by UN inspectors. Hoon made no mention of his specific conversation with General Franks. (Note 45) Admiral Boyce, who did tell the Chilcot Panel of his Iraq planning group, dated its inception to May 2002. He also remained silent about the Franks visit, and replied “we weren’t” when asked if the British were discussing Iraq matters with the U.S. military at that time. (Note 46)

    But telephone contacts between Minister Hoon and Secretary Rumsfeld continued throughout. Meanwhile President Bush received new briefings on war plans at Camp David on April 20 and again on May 11. The operations plan “POLO STEP” (see National Security Archive EBB No. 214), subject of the May 11 meeting, clearly shows the concrete nature of U.S. military planning. General Franks updated the president on developments in Qatar at the second of these briefings. Department of Defense money began to flow to Qatar and Kuwait to finance the expansion of bases and airfields that would support troop deployments.

    Most aggressive of all the U.S. measures would be what was done in the so-called “No-Fly Zones.” These had been established after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent Saddam from using air forces to further suppress revolts in Kurdistan and in southern Iraq. Under operations called Northern Watch (flying from Turkey) and Southern Watch (flying from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait), the U.S. and Britain, with France until 1994, patrolled Iraqi skies. When fired upon by Saddam’s air defenses they shot back. Legal justification for this aerial interdiction, weak to begin with, had eroded further with the evaporation of internal opposition to Saddam. Yet the Bush administration not only continued the aerial suppression but quietly converted it into a low intensity strategic bombing campaign, finally aiming at targets whose destruction would facilitate an invasion. The campaign, carried out from the south, would be dubbed “Southern Focus.” Military options for the campaign were developed early in 2002 and refined over a period of months. Saudi Arabia, informed of the plan, denied the use of its air bases for this purpose, necessitating a shift of U.S. strike aircraft to Qatar that was completed in May. The attacks began soon thereafter, following a hiatus of several months. By July the aircraft were attacking Iraqi communications systems, not merely air defense sites—targets that would be important to Baghdad in responding to an invasion. (Note 47)

    Despite all of these concrete developments, and belying Bush’s commitments to keep his British ally in the loop, the United States continued to hold its military planning very tightly. The testimony of British officers is very illuminating here. The chief of the British defense staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, recalled that “the Americans were keeping outsiders very clear.” (Note 48) General Sir John Keith was a British joint planner with a Defense Ministry unit attached to CENTCOM. He became a conduit for information to the Blair government because in the U.S. military system, where regional commands are directly responsible for operational planning, the British ministry could not get much directly from Washington. Keith never heard anything of Iraq plans from the outgoing British staff representative at CENTCOM and only finally learned of “rumors” in May 2002. (Note 49) Major General David Wilson was the British permanent representative starting in April. Wilson found “the Americans [were] doing discrete planning, compartmented, very compartmented planning for Iraq.” He could not find out anything. “Nothing,” General Wilson reported to the Chilcot Inquiry, “I didn’t find anything, because the shutters were firmly down. I and my people were in the foreign exclusion category.” (Note 50) That changed early in June, and Wilson telephoned Keith on the 4th or 5th to inform him that the Americans wanted them on board. This was two months after the Crawford summit where President Bush had promised to include the British. General Sir Anthony Pigott, the deputy chief of the defense staff, told the Chilcot Inquiry that after Crawford he set up a special team “to do some scoping work.” He insists the British military were merely considering options, “we were not talking about plans at that stage.” (Note 51) Sir Anthony visited CENTCOM at the end of June. His view was that getting rid of Iraqi WMD might require regime change; the American position was that regime change would lead to the elimination of WMDs. (Note 52) General Pigott joined Wilson. The Australian military were brought in at the same time. In July the British and Australians were asked to participate fully in a command conference on the invasion plans that would take place the following month. General Keith recalled the planning was “very dynamic,” that “it was like playing on a field where the goalposts were moving all the time but the field was changing shape as well.” (Note 53) The late enlistment of allies was a fault in the invasion planning and reflected President Bush’s reluctance to acknowledge that regime change in Iraq was his central goal.

    Apart from weaknesses in the U.S. war plans—including a failure to plan for the postwar occupation of Iraq, assumptions of Saudi cooperation, and of the possibility that an invasion force could be sent through Turkey—the Bush administration miscalculated international support for the overthrow of Saddam and miscalibrated its diplomacy. Part of the political error was based on intelligence: shortly after Crawford the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research reported that polls showed European publics backed action against Iraq (Document 12). But European publics favored diplomatic and United Nations “action,” not war. Support evaporated when it became apparent that Washington intended to unleash its military. In May Bush visited France and Germany, in each country repeating his formula that “I have no war plans on my desk.” (Note 54) Yet on June 1 at West Point President Bush delivered a speech in which he asserted a right to attack pre-emptively those countries that were becoming threats through the development of weapons of mass destruction.

    Around this time National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tasked White House operatives to take soundings in Congress to ascertain legislators’ support for military action. Secretary Rumsfeld, following up on Bush’s West Point speech at a NATO meeting in Brussels, declared that “absolute proof cannot be a precondition for action.” (Note 55) Rumsfeld also ordered that a force of Iraqi exiles be recruited and trained in a third country (Hungary) for participation in an invasion. Following another CENTCOM briefing on the Iraq operation, on June 30 President Bush signed a National Security Presidential Directive ordering the Joint Chiefs of Staff to execute the deployment of U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf in readiness to invade Iraq. The Pentagon set aside $750 million to pay for bases to accommodate these troops.

    On the diplomatic side the Bush administration ignored warning signs that its rosy evaluation of the spring Cheney trip had been mistaken. In late April there was another summit at Crawford, this time with President Bush meeting Saudi leaders. The Saudis wanted to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Bush seemed distracted and unfamiliar with Saudi concerns. It turned out that the Saudi position paper sent to the president in advance of the meeting had been diverted by Vice President Cheney’s office. (Note 56) Only on June 24—after his pre-emptive attack speech and just days ahead of his troop deployment order—did President Bush declare his willingness to work toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians (and it would be a full year before he advanced his “road map” plan to achieve progress in that area). By now the UN had already held several conversations with Iraqi negotiators on international inspections, and the first break had come when the Iraqi foreign minister offered to exchange inspections for security assurances, without the United States furnishing any support. In fact Secretary Rumsfeld said publicly that Iraqi concealment measures could make UN inspections useless. (Note 57) When Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz visited Turkey in July to obtain its cooperation with the U.S. invasion scheme, the Turks declined all appeals for their participation. Subsequently Eric Edelman, a senior aide to Cheney, was appointed ambassador to Turkey, but his demands were summarily rejected.

    In Washington early in July, Richard N. Haass, director of Colin Powell’s policy planning staff, had a session with Condi Rice. Haass and Rice were friends and colleagues from a previous administration and periodically met privately. In a disturbing exchange, when Haass worried that Iraq would come to dominate the administration’s foreign policy, Rice replied that, “the president had made up his mind.” (Note 58) Tellingly, at a meeting of Tony Blair’s cabinet on July 23, held to consider a paper on conditions for military action (Document 13), British intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove remarked that the “intelligence and the facts are being fixed around the policy” in order to justify war with Iraq. Defense Minister Hoon observed that the Americans were escalating air attacks to prepare an invasion (Document 14). But the Foreign Office legal annex to the policy paper, which was considered that day, warned of the shaky basis for Southern Watch air attacks and found no justification in law for an invasion, making a UN Security Council finding mandatory.

    A week later President Bush had a session with his own cabinet after leaks had appeared revealing military plans to attack Iraq. Speaking to a closed audience, Bush was willing to acknowledge the “stated mission is regime change” and that “success is removal of Saddam,” but he complained of leaks from “level four people” who had no idea what they were talking about, and repeated his mantra that “there are no war plans on my desk.” (Note 59) In guidance sent around the beginning of August to CENTCOM for distribution to press liaisons, public diplomacy and information warfare officers, senior Pentagon officials envisioned an ultimatum to Baghdad in due course. But the document, described as “an update of work done months ago,” warned that “we should aim to delay Saddam’s recognition of the imminence of his downfall for as long as possible” (Document 15). The CENTCOM war plan, in what may be regarded as its final form, was incorporated into a briefing on August 4 (Document 16). A full dress review of the plan took place at the White House the next day.

    By this point Washington was actively considering how to conduct an occupation of Iraq, something that would be nonsensical except given the proposition that the Bush administration intended to proceed with its invasion. On August 7 the CIA issued a study of the implications for Iraq of the post-World War II occupations of Germany and Japan (Document 17). In a yet-to-be-declassified document, the State Department matched this with an exactly parallel analysis of its own. On August 15th, when a further update of the CENTCOM operational plan was briefed, senior Bush officials were disputing the German occupation model. Officials seriously deliberated about who would lead Iraq into the post-Saddam era (Document 17). All of this was before President Bush had stepped beyond square one in exploring the diplomatic alternative of UN inspections.

    Despite Tony Blair’s contention in his memoirs that “none of this meant that war was certain,” (Note 60) the Blair government’s actions reveal its anxiety that President Bush was rushing into war. Toward the end of July Blair sent Bush a letter again insisting on progress on Middle East peace and application of UN diplomacy to put Iraq in the wrong in the world’s eye. Blair dispatched David Manning on another trip to Washington to reinforce the point, then made it directly in a telephone conversation. The British foreign secretary was also heavily involved. As Jack Straw put it in written evidence to the Chilcot Committee, “my preoccupation post-Crawford was to do everything I could to ensure that the United States agreed that central to their strategy as well as ours was a fresh mandate from the [Security Council].” (Note 61)

    On August 4, Brent Scowcroft, who had been national security adviser to the first President Bush, went on Sunday television to warn against attacking Saddam. Scowcroft’s counsel had no impact on Bush’s discussion of the war plan at the White House the next day, and Scowcroft reiterated his message in an op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal on August 15. (Note 62) Secretary of State Powell, who later thanked Scowcroft for giving him an opening, used the argument after presentation of the CENTCOM war plan to argue the United States could not afford to move ahead with a war policy without first trying the UN track. Upon the appearance of Scowcroft’s Wall Street Journal piece President Bush polled his senior officials and found widespread agreement on at least giving the appearance of trying the UN route.

    At that point Richard Cheney was preparing to give a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville on August 27. The vice president’s speech made many charges about Iraqi WMDs that turned out to be false and marked the beginning of a full-scale BushBlair effort to “sell” war with Iraq. Central elements in that sales campaign would be a pair of “white papers” purporting to document the Iraqi WMD threat that were issued, respectively, by the United States and British governments. The preparation of those white papers will be the subject of the Archive’s next Electronic Briefing Book.

    President Bush went to the United Nations on September 12 for a speech redolent with the specter of an Iraqi threat but conceding a willingness to await the results of UN inspections of Saddam’s military industrial complex. Diplomacy began to move ahead on implanting an international inspections regime. But, less visible to the public, the Southern Watch air forces redoubled their efforts, with almost twice as many strikes on Iraq in September as previously, including an unprecedented hundred-plane raid a week before the Bush speech, an unmistakable stick behind the carrot of diplomacy. Planes of the British Royal Air Force participated alongside the American. And CENTCOM began toestablish a forward headquarters from Tampa, Florida, to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, the day of the Bush UN speech.

    The evidence that is now available compels a review of the timing of the decision for war with Iraq. This choice surely originated in Washington but soon involved London also. Some Bush officials insist the war decision was made just before the March 2003 invasion. The evidence does not support that construction. Others believe no decision was ever made. Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell, observes, “Never to my knowledge, and I’m pretty sure I’m right on this, did the President ever sit around with his advisors and say, ‘Should we do this or not?’ He never did it.” (Note 63) George J. Tenet of the CIA agrees. He wrote, “There never was a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat.” And again, based on conversations with colleagues, “In none of the meetings can anyone remember a discussion of the central questions. Was it wise to go to war? Was it the right thing to do?” (Note 64)

    Some former officials come down in the middle—Richard N. Haass, for example, who believed the choice had been made in July 2002: “the president had reached the conclusion that it was both necessary and desirable that Saddam should be ousted, and that he was prepared to do what was necessary to bring it about.” (Note 65) Haass retailed his observation to Tenet, who notes it as well. (Note 66) British observers working from Tony Blair’s record often argue the decision came in April at Crawford. And there are Americans who maintain President Bush was determined to overthrow Saddam Hussein from the moment he took office in January 2001.

    Within the CIA, on the first day of August 2002, the agency’s new associate deputy director of operations for policy support was first introduced to the Iraq plans. According to his executive assistant, John Kiriakou, the Iraq Operations Group official doing the briefing told them, “It’s a done deal . . . The decision’s already been made . . . . the planning’s completed, everything’s in place.” (Note 67) George Tenet polled various agency officials once he left the CIA and finds their opinions instructive: “Those involved in assembling support for the U.S. military had the sense from early in the Bush administration that war was inevitable.” (Note 68) Paul Pillar, an analyst who played a major role in the compilation of the January 2003 intelligence community assessment on Iraq warning of the possible consequences of an invasion as well as the CIA white paper on Iraqi weapons programs (the subject of the next EBB), said “It was quite apparent from—certainly from, I would say, early 2002—if not that, mid-2002—that we were going to war, that the decision had been made.” (Note 69)

    In summary, we have a record of military planning which President George Bush demanded early on, pushed steadily, and repeatedly encouraged. The completion of the war plan by August 2002 and the even earlier initiation of an offensive air campaign against Iraq and preliminary force deployments to the theater do not track with the narrative that no decision had yet been made. The parallel record of Bush administration hostility to multilateral diplomacy (to verify Iraq’s status through international inspections) accords with the view that Bush was determined to move forward. The robust efforts at secrecy—extending even to allies—suggest an attempt to prevent interference with the administration’s course by limiting knowledge of its real actions. The Bush refrain that there were no war plans on his desk—repeated verbatim on occasion by Secretary Powell and security adviser Condoleezza Rice—is consistent with the interpretation that the president had already made his decision; or alternatively, with the view that this formed part of the secrecy program; or else with the deliberately narrow proposition that because the plans were at CENTCOM they were not technically “on” Bush’s desk.

    George Bush’s engagement with Tony Blair at Crawford suggests that if he made a conscious choice it was at or before that date. The evidence is also congruent with a Bush decision in 2001. Administration refusal to be deterred by the negative results of the March 2002 Cheney Middle East tour carries the same implication. Bush’s delay of at least four months in fulfilling his commitment to Blair to seek UN inspections, doing so only after the onset of public protest, plus renewed pressures from Blair as well as Powell, also indicate that war, not diplomacy, was the preferred course. This intense focus on achieving the conditions for war instead of solving an international problem led to critical faults in military planning and diplomatic action that made the Iraq war the mess it became.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Read actual declassified documents at the National Security Archives below
    Read the Documents - Part II
     
  4. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    THE IRAQ WAR -- PART III: Shaping the Debate

    U.S. and British Documents Show Transatlantic Propaganda Cooperation


    Washington, D.C., October 4, 2010 - For nearly a year before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the British government of Prime Minister Tony Blair collaborated closely with the George W. Bush administration to produce a far starker picture of the threat from Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) than was justified by intelligence at the time, according to British and American government documents posted today by the National Security Archive.

    With the aim of strengthening the political case for going to war, both governments regularly coordinated their assessments, the records show, occasionally downplaying and even eliminating points of disagreement over the available intelligence. The new materials, acquired largely through the U.K. Freedom of Information Act and often featuring less redacted versions of previously released records, also reveal that the Blair administration, far earlier than has been appreciated until now, utilized public relations specialists to help craft the formal intelligence “white papers” about Iraq’s WMD program.

    At one point, even though intelligence officials were skeptical, the British went so far as to incorporate in their white paper allegations about Saddam’s nuclear ambitions because they had been made publicly by President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

    The documents also show that:

    * From early 2002 both governments were seeking regime change, but Prime Minister Blair and his officials were very conscious of the need to make a case for war, based on claims about Iraqi WMDs.

    * From March 2002 – the very beginning of the process – the U.S. and U.K. administrations were concerned to achieve consistency in their claims about Iraqi weapons, often at the cost of accuracy. In the spring of 2002 the two countries began to produce in parallel the white papers on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that they published that fall. At least two drafts of the respective white papers were exchanged from either side in order to avoid providing grist for “opponents of action.”

    * Officials working on the parallel papers took part in a number of secure video conferences to avoid inconsistencies between the documents. Both sides accelerated the drafting of their white papers in September 2002 as part of a coordinated propaganda effort.

    * Officials re-drafting the U.K.’s white paper or “dossier” in September 2002 were told to ensure that it “complemented” rather than contradicted claims in the U.S. document. A draft of the U.K. dossier was brought to Washington by intelligence chief John Scarlett for U.S. input.

    * In addition, U.K. officials examined the draft U.S. white paper closely and sought to match its claims. The U.S. paper has been described by one of its authors as intended “to strengthen the case of going to war with the American public.”

    * The U.K. white paper was amended to incorporate a number of claims about Saddam’s alleged nuclear ambitions that intelligence officials found questionable but were included because President Bush and Vice President Cheney made public reference to them, for example the allegation that Iraq could obtain a nuclear weapon within a brief one- or two-year timeframe.

    * The U.S. paper, which had omitted the same claims from an early draft, also included them after the President and Vice President’s public references to them.

    * In addition, the U.K. dossier was heavily influenced by Blair advisers and public relations experts, including Alastair Campbell, Blair’s director of communications. Its drafters were also willing to change it to fit in with public statements from British government advisers, whether or not those statements were true.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Analysis: Shaping the Debate
    By John Prados and Christopher Ames*


    The documentation posted today by the National Security Archive shows that, apart from any intelligence errors that may have been made, the two governments co-ordinated efforts to present propagandistic charges as “intelligence.” While criticisms of the respective governments’ “white papers” have previously been made, no previous account has shown the degree to which the need jointly to make a persuasive case was permitted to infect intelligence processes on both sides of the Atlantic.

    From March 2002, officials from the two governments discussed the need for “information” to be produced in support of plans for regime change in Iraq, leading to parallel white papers in the fall of that year. While it was the British government that pushed hardest for efforts to manipulate political and public opinion – making this a condition of its participation in war – the Bush administration went furthest in making exaggerated claims about Iraqi WMD, which the British duly matched. But the process also worked the other way.

    This analysis is based on documents obtained on both sides of the Atlantic, through freedom of information releases, leaks and publications, plus official inquiries into the conflict, as well as testimony to the ongoing U.K. Iraq Inquiry under Sir John Chilcot. The collation and cross-referencing of this evidence shows for the first time the extent to which, in their public statements, the two countries “fixed the facts and the intelligence around the policy” of regime change.

    The evidence we present includes new and significant documents obtained under the U.K.’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and declassified documents obtained by the Archive. We also use some of the many documents disclosed to and published by Lord Hutton’s 2003 inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr. David Kelly. The significance of many Hutton Inquiry documents has not been fully understood and some were originally published in an expurgated form. We have obtained unredacted versions of some of these documents and other evidence that the British government sought to conceal. This evidence shows that British communications and policy officials were concerned to make as strong a case as possible that Saddam had WMDs, irrespective of doubts about the intelligence, and to ensure that their claims would not be seen as contradicting those of Bush administration officials. The British government also provided evidence – albeit often partial and misleading – to an inquiry by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee; to an inquiry by its own Intelligence and Security Committee; and to an inquiry in 2004 into the use of intelligence led by another British peer, Lord Butler. Our evidence from the US includes the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 inquiry. In addition, we have first-hand information from sources on both sides of the Atlantic with first-hand knowledge of the production of both white papers and of the attempts to co-ordinate them.

    Our evidence also includes the “Downing Street papers”, leaked to U.K. newspapers and published on the internet. Many of these same documents have been supplied to the Chilcot Inquiry but have not been declassified and the British government has not allowed their publication. Nevertheless testimony at the Inquiry confirms their authenticity. These materials show the extent to which the Blair government was conscious not merely of a perceived need to support the Bush administration desire for regime change in Iraq but of the need to win the propaganda war.

    Other EBBs in this series have shown that in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, hawks in the Bush administration wanted to launch an attack on Iraq, with no evidence that it was involved. Prime Minister Blair is credited with talking Bush out of such an action and persuading him to focus on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. However, it has been suggested that this was at the price of a commitment to “come back to Iraq” at a later stage.

    In his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush listed Iraq, along with Iran and North Korea, as part of an “an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” In February 2002, Britain began to produce a white paper, which was already called a “dossier.” This was initially based on four countries alleged to be in possession of or developing WMD. But as we have shown in part two of this series, evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry confirms that by March the Blair government was aware that the U.S. administration was determined to overturn Saddam’s regime and felt that it had no choice but to support this policy. According to evidence from Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) chairman John Scarlett, the task of producing this paper was given to the JIC assessments staff.

    The JIC provides assessments to the British government much like the national intelligence estimates (NIEs) developed in the U.S. Its structure is different from the U.S. system, and consists of responsible officials from various government departments, chaired by a senior official of the Cabinet Office whose title and status derives from this important role. Assessments are drafted by a cadre of government analysts (the assessments staff), supervised by the chairman’s deputy. This might be the equivalent, in the U.S. system, of having NIEs written by a few CIA analysts supervised by the deputy national security adviser then cleared by a subcommittee of the National Security Council. In actuality, in the U.S. the NIEs are compiled by experts from inside and outside of the intelligence community, selected and supervised by officers who hold portfolios on a senior body, the National Intelligence Council whose assessments are meant to be utterly unaffected by U.S. policy considerations. The NIE papers are then reviewed a board of directors of the intelligence agencies.

    On March 5, 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw published an article in the Times of London said to be based on data from the intelligence agencies, which claimed that “evidence has been building up that the threat from Iraq's weapons programmes is growing once more.” (Note 2) The next day the Guardian newspaper reported that “Britain and the US are engaged in a joint strategy designed to apply pressure on Saddam Hussein to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq while preparing public opinion for military action against the country.” (Note 3) The paper said: “The British government is planning to release a dossier, based on intelligence information, on Iraq's attempts to produce weapons of mass destruction and develop long-range missiles.”

    Behind the scenes, the policy that was already being put into effect was being formally elaborated. A U.K. Cabinet Office paper dated March 8, 2002, which has since leaked, purported to discuss the respective options of tightening the existing policy of containing Saddam, as against regime change, but appears to have been designed to advocate the latter, while using the former as a pretext. The document assessed that “continuing containment is an option” but did not assess the case for regime change, other than to state, “The US has lost confidence in containment.” It then discussed how regime change might be achieved. Among elements of a staged approach to achieving this were efforts to build a coalition and obtain United Nations support, including “sensitizing the public: a media campaign to warn of the dangers that Saddam poses and to prepare public opinion both in the U.K. and abroad.”

    On March 11, 2002, six months to the day since the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Cheney met Tony Blair at Downing Street. As we set out in our parallel 2002 EBB, Cheney was on a tour of European and Middle Eastern countries to see what their tolerance was for action against Iraq. Jonathan Powell, Prime Minister Blair’s chief of staff, told the Chilcot Inquiry: “The action was about -- yes, about replacing Saddam.” (Note 4) At the subsequent press conference, Blair said: “no decisions have been taken on how we deal with this threat, but that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired is not in doubt at all.” (Note 5) This warning concerning a “threat” was entirely in line with the proposal in the Cabinet Office paper that the public should be given notice of the “danger” from Iraq. Nevertheless Blair’s certainty cannot be reconciled with the caution in the Cabinet Office paper that “our intelligence is poor” and the assessment that the policy of containment meant that “Saddam has not succeeded in seriously threatening his neighbours.”

    Blair was already spinning the WMD issue. His claim that no decisions had been taken on Iraq was no more truthful. The very next day, his chief foreign affairs adviser, Sir David Manning, accompanied by Britain’s Washington Ambassador, Sir Christopher Meyer, met US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for a discussion which set the tone for US/U.K. interaction on Iraq for the next year. After the meeting, Manning sent a memorandum to Blair. In one sentence it shows Blair’s unequivocal support for removing Saddam, tempered only by the need to “manage” domestic opinion: “I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States.” (Note 6)

    Efforts to manage parliamentary opinion were proceeding that very day. At a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Straw gave Labour MPs a briefing paper on Iraq co-written by Michael Williams, one of his special political advisers. The paper alleged that “if Iraq’s weapons programmes remain unchecked, Iraq could redevelop offensive chemical and biological capabilities within a very short period of time and develop a crude nuclear device in about five years”. (Note 7)

    The next day, Foreign Office non-proliferation official Tim Dowse sent Williams a memo (Document 1) complaining that his department had not been forewarned about the paper and that it differed in one important respect from the government’s well-established pubic line. For Iraq to build a bomb required that controls (i.e. U.N. sanctions) should be lifted, “in other words, we believe that at present the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme is not ‘unchecked’.” Dowse pointed out that this line was also included in what he called “the draft public dossier on ‘WMD programmes of concern.’” He wrote: “We clearly will now have to review that text, to avoid exposing differences with your paper.” Dowse, who would be involved in finalising the dossier six months later, signalled his willingness to change its claims to bring them into line with claims from spin doctors that were known to be false.

    Ambassador Meyer further stressed British support for regime change and the need to make the public relations case at a meeting with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz on March 17. According to Meyer’s account of this discussion, Meyer makes reference to British plans to produce a white paper.. He told Wolfowitz that the “U.K. was giving serious thought to publishing a paper that would make the case against Saddam.” The reference to what subsequently became known as a “dossier” followed from the British need to get public opinion on board. “If the U.K. were to join with the U.S. in any operation against Saddam,” Meyer wrote, “we would have to be able to take a critical mass of parliamentary and public opinion with us.” (Note 8)

    Scarlett told the Chilcot Inquiry that “in mid-March,” that is, exactly when Meyer and Manning were meeting Wolfowitz and Rice, “it was decided, as a policy decision, to proceed not with the four country paper, but with a draft on Iraq alone.” That paper would cover Iraq’s supposed WMDs as well as the regime’s history of defiance of the U.N. and human rights abuses. It was shelved at the end of the month, Scarlett testified, apparently on grounds that the moment was too early politically, and the evidence remained too weak. (Note 9)

    In a letter to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dated March 22, 2002 (Document 2), the Foreign Office’s Political Director, Peter Ricketts, wrote: “I am relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there is more work to do to ensure that the figures are accurate and consistent with those of the US. But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up….”

    Rickett’s letter shows that, in the prelude to Blair’s visit to Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch in April 2002, the U.K. government concentrated on the need to make WMDs, rather than regime change, the focus of public policy pronouncements, even if war was the end result. Ricketts, furnishing advice for Straw to give the prime minister, argued that “Bush would do well to depersonalise the objective focus on elimination of WMD, and show that he is serious about U.N. Inspectors as the first choice means of achieving that.” But Ricketts points out that “we are still left with a problem of bringing public opinion to accept the imminence of a threat from Iraq. This is something the Prime Minister and President need to have a frank discussion about.”

    It remains unclear exactly what was said during the frank discussion at Crawford and to what extent Blair committed the U.K. to taking part in an invasion of Iraq (see part two of this series). A Cabinet Office paper produced in July 2002 states that Blair agreed to go to war on certain conditions, which included the point that “efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion.” (Note 10)

    After the summit, U.K. military officials were integrated into US planning, and propaganda efforts began on both sides of the Atlantic. Alastair Campbell, Blair’s director of communications and strategy and a close confident, took stock of Britain’s propaganda campaign. According to Campbell’s published diaries, (Note 11) on April 23 he and Scarlett met with other officials “to go through what we needed to do communications wise to set the scene for Iraq, e.g. a WMD paper and other papers about Saddam.”

    Only two weeks later, on May 8, 2002, the Bush administration commissioned its own white paper. This would be produced under supervision of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and issued in the name of CIA Director George Tenet. We will refer to it as “the CIA paper.” According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) 2004 report, (Note 12) after a meeting of the NSC deputies committee, an assistant to John McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, asked Paul Pillar, the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for the Near East and South Asia, to begin work on this CIA paper. Its initial draft was ready by May 22. As the NIO, Pillar exercised a supervisory role over line analysts in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI) who performed the major effort on this paper according to the SSCI report.

    The DI analysts were from its Near East and South Asia office and were primarily expert in political and military trends, not weapons of mass destruction, yet the content of the CIA paper mostly covered those weapons. Reviewing the product, Pillar was concerned at the weak summary section on WMD, and with the use of the intelligence community’s corporate pronoun “we” for a document the CIA was merely preparing—at that time supposedly to be issued by the United States government. Pillar feared the agency being dragged into political advocacy. At this stage Pillar went back to McLaughlin for guidance on who, specifically, was to be its corporate sponsor. The CIA was then cast in that role. The second key development was that the draft white paper was circulated for comment among key officials of the Bush administration. For example, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith commented on it during the summer. His suggestions all went toward sharpening its charges against the Saddam Hussein regime.

    In a 2006 television interview, (Note 13) Pillar questioned the propriety of producing this paper and expressed regret over his involvement. He said that the document was “published for policy advocacy purposes. This was not informing [a] decision. What was the purpose of it? The purpose was to strengthen the case of going to war with the American public.” According to the SSCI report, NIC staff then worked intermittently on it for “the next several months,” although Pillar has told the authors that for most of that time it was “lying fallow.” (Note 14)

    During the summer, work on the U.K. white paper continued. On June 6, 2002, the Cabinet Office circulated a new draft dossier (Document 3), dated June 3 and “produced by CIC.” The CIC, or Coalition Information Centre, was a transatlantic organization, with offices in London and Washington, set up following the 9/11 attacks to provide propaganda in support of the invasion of Afghanistan. The U.K. branch was based in the Foreign Office but it reported to Alastair Campbell at Downing Street. This document is highly significant in that it establishes not only that the U.K. dossier was being actively drafted during the summer of 2002, but that the CIC was carrying out the drafting, or at least assembling the three elements into a single document. Although the CIC is known to have produced the February 2003 briefing paper on Iraq’s “Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation” (Note 15) (known as the “dodgy dossier”), its involvement in drafting the September 2002 WMD dossier has not previously been disclosed.

    It appears that at this stage it had not been decided whether to publish the various elements of the dossier as separate papers or a single document. The CIC draft is virtually identical to a draft dated June 20, 2002, (Note 16) that was supplied to the Hutton Inquiry bearing the heading “one document version,” while another text, described below, on which the first complete draft dossier (Document 6) was based, bears the heading “two document version.” A State Department memo in September 2002 (Document 8) refers to the British “tossing out the first draft they shared with the USG some time ago.” This evidence indicates that a draft of the U.K. dossier produced in the summer – or perhaps even earlier – was shared with the U.S.

    As a previous Archive EBB has shown, a further version of the CIA paper was produced in July 2002. It appears that the drafters of the British dossier saw a CIA draft at around this time. An email sent between British officials in September 2002 (Document 12) refers to “the earlier version” of the CIA paper. Coordination of the British dossier and the CIA paper clearly indicates the collaborative nature of the process and the joint intention of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to produce the strongest possible allegations against Iraq as a means of influencing American and British public opinion.

    The centrepiece of the “Downing Street documents” and the one from which they take their name, is a “minute” or record of a meeting at 10 Downing Street on July 23, 2002. This leaked document provides significant insight into the attitude of the Bush administration to regime change, the “UN route” and propaganda efforts – and into the British response to US views. At the meeting, Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of SIS, reported on his recent visit to Washington: “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 U.N. route and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record.” (Note 17)

    Dearlove appears here to be differentiating between the Bush administration’s intention to use claims about Iraqi WMD, linked to the terrorist threat, to justify an invasion and it unwillingness, or at least that of the NSC, to widen the propaganda focus to historical issues such as those around human rights. The assessment that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy may have been a reference to the CIA white paper, whose redrafting at that time is consistent with Dearlove’s assessment that military action was now seen as inevitable in the US.

    In response to this assessment from Dearlove, the Blair government planned to use Secretary of State Colin Powell to persuade the US to go to the U.N. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the meeting that “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.” In spite of these doubts, Blair decided that Britain would support plans for regime change, as long as the US had a workable military plan, and would focus its efforts on persuading Bush to take “the UN route” and on securing international support.

    Significant though the Downing Street minute is, the Cabinet Office briefing paper (Document 3) that was produced in advance of the meeting is equally important. It records retrospectively that at Crawford Blair had agreed to support military action against Iraq “provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the U.N. weapons inspectors had been exhausted.” In addition, the paper shows the Blair government’s unremitting focus on a transatlantic propaganda campaign. It invited ministers to: “Agree to the establishment of an ad hoc group of officials under Cabinet Office Chairmanship to consider the development of an information campaign to be agreed with the US.” A further comment illustrates that war was not a possible outcome but an inevitable one: “Time will be required to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein.” Not coincidentally, the Bush administration created its own White House Information Group to shape the public’s perceptions of Iraq during this same timeframe.

    The Cabinet Office briefing paper also demonstrates that Prime Minister Blair gave inaccurate testimony to the Butler Inquiry in 2004 when he said, regarding August and early September of 2002, as noted in its report: “The Prime Minister described to us his impression of a growing media picture of military action being imminent, and of a growing clamour for information from the media and from Parliamentarians about why the Government thought that military action was necessary. That led him to conclude that there was a need to put fuller information about Iraq’s nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes into the public domain.” (Note 18) Blair went on to say, however, that this led to a telephone call to Bush at the end of August in which he told the President: “we have got to put this in the right place straight away ... we’ve not decided on military action.” In fact it was not a media “clamour” for more facts but a determination to shape press coverage and public opinion that drove the Blair government’s “information campaign.”

    Evidence remains insufficient to specify the extent to which Blair persuaded Bush, or whether the U.S. and U.K. were equally fixed on propaganda efforts. By early September, both sides had begun finalizing their respective white papers. Paul Pillar has told the authors that in his view, “The White House called for release of the paper when it did because that's when it hoped it would furnish the most support for its pro-war sales campaign.” On September 3 Blair announced at a press conference in his parliamentary constituency in the North East of England that the British paper would be now published. (Note 19)

    At a meeting chaired by Campbell on September 5 officials discussed how the document would be produced and by whom—specifically what input the government’s spin doctors and the US would have. It was agreed (Document 5) that the dossier would involve a “substantial rewrite, with [John Scarlett] and Julian M [Miller, Scarlett’s deputy] in charge, which JS will take to US next Friday [September 13]”.

    Why was a major redrafting of the document needed at this point? Dr. Brian Jones, who was at that time a senior manager of the WMD section of the Defence Intelligence Staff of the Ministry of Defence has told the authors that when he learned of the white paper publication plan in mid-September, the link with the increasing rhetoric at the end of August from Bush administration officials like Cheney suggested to him that things were moving faster: “By now it seemed likely to me that the dossier was about justifying probable military action against Iraq on the basis of its possession of WMD and being a threat to UK. I thought it highly improbable that the new intelligence purporting to make the case that had not been possible up to that point should arrive so conveniently.” (Note 20)

    In spite of Scarlett being placed “in charge” of the dossier, the first substantial rewrite was actually produced by John Williams, press secretary to Straw, and circulated on September 9 (Document 6). This text is of immense significance. It is the first complete draft of the dossier produced after Blair’s announcement and was undoubtedly part of the iterative process that led to the published document, as the presence of Williams’ drafting suggestions in a subsequent draft shows. Because it predates Scarlett’s version the next day, its existence contradicts the Blair government’s subsequent claim that the Scarlett draft was the initial text of the dossier written in September 2002. Williams’ paper constitutes evidence that the spin doctors participated from the very first stages of the British drafting process.

    Public relations experts like John Williams played a major role in “sexing-up” the British government white paper but the Bush administration also made a significant contribution, publicly and privately. The drafters of the parallel white papers exchanged further drafts of their respective documents during September. Paul Pillar reports that officials, mainly at the analyst level, held a number of transatlantic videolink conversations to discuss them. Pillar says this type of co-ordination was not out of the ordinary but the level of attention given was higher because the intelligence papers were to be published: “it behooved both sides to avoid the embarrassment of any obvious inconsistencies between the two. I don't think there was ever any expectation of achieving complete conformity, and in any case the scope and organization of the papers always were somewhat different. On points on which the analysts, after discussion, still disagreed, it was considered acceptable for one side to include something in its paper and for the other side simply not to say anything at all in its own paper about the report or topic in question. What both sides wanted to avoid was any outright contradiction.” (Note 21) This was the theory, but the evidence shows that the British thought it necessary to ratchet up their claims to match the U.S. ones, in spite of the Bush administration’s predilection, known to the British, for “fixing the facts.”

    On the weekend of September 7-8 2002, Blair met Bush at the President’s Camp David retreat and persuaded him, against the wishes of the Cheney-Rumsfeld wing of the administration, Cheney in particular, to take “the UN route” to regime change. (Note 22) On the morning of September 8 the New York Times published an article claiming that “Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.” (Note 23) This story was apparently based on information that was planted by the administration, but did not disclose that some intelligence analysts had serious doubts that the tubes were part of a nuclear weapons programme (Note 24)– and in fact doubted that Iraq had such a programme. During that day a number of administration figures, including Cheney, cited the report on television as evidence of the need to tackle Saddam.

    Iraq’s attempts to purchase “specialised aluminium” (the correct British spelling) were already cited in early drafts of the U.K. dossier but it is clear that some British analysts also doubted the tubes’ relevance to a possible nuclear programme, because they would need to be substantially re-engineered. (Note 25) Foreign Office non-proliferation official Tim Dowse, told the Chilcot Inquiry: “At one point we, I think, were not intending to make any reference to them in the dossier.” But, he explained “Vice-President Cheney made some public comments on US television related to the aluminium tubes and we felt that it would look odd if we said nothing on the subject.” (Note 26) In an echo of his memo from March 2002 (Document 1), Dowse again showed his willingess to amend the dossier to match public statements, whether or not those statements were true.

    Dowse’s comments constitute explicit evidence that the British dossier consciously mirrored U.S. claims, while documentary evidence confirms that this was British policy. In London on the morning of September 9, Campbell met Scarlett – and Williams. In a subsequent memo (Document 7), Campbell informed Scarlett, based on what had been discussed at Camp David, that the U.S. planned to produce its own series of dossiers. He told him: “I am confident we can make yours one that complements rather than conflicts with them.” This particularly telling sentence reflects an intention to mirror the US, while Campbell’s use of “we” shows that the white paper was to be a joint effort between Scarlett and the propagandists.

    On the afternoon of September 9, the first meeting of the dossier drafting group was held, with Williams and other public relations specialists present. (Note 27) According to the British government’s version of events, (Note 28) it was following the discussion of a formal JIC assessment at this meeting that the notorious claim that Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes was picked out and added in the next draft dossier, issued under Scarlett’s name late on September 10 (Document 11). In a covering memo, addressed to Alastair Campbell (Document 10), Scarlett acknowledged that Williams had provided “considerable help” with his draft and would continue to contribute from New York, where he had accompanied Foreign Secretary Straw to attend ceremonies marking the first anniversary of 9/11 and the U.N. General Assembly on September 12.

    In his memo, Scarlett asked Campbell and others for comments on his draft dossier. Cabinet Office official Desmond Bowen responded the next day (Document 13): “In looking at the WMD sections, you clearly want to be as firm and authoritative as you can be. You will need to judge the extent to which you need to hedge your judgments with, for example, ‘it is almost certain’ and similar caveats. I appreciate that this can increase the authenticity of the document in terms of it being a proper assessment, but that needs to be weighed against the use that will be made by opponents of action who will add up the number of judgments on which we do not have absolute clarity.” This instruction explains one of the failings that post-war inquiries found in the U.K. white paper. The 2004 Butler inquiry concluded that: “it was a serious weakness that the JIC’s warnings on the limitations of the intelligence underlying its judgments were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier.” (Note 29) Bowen’s memo suggests that the absence of such caveats was quite deliberate.

    It was during his set-piece speech at the U.N. on September 12, 2002, (Note 30) that President Bush committed the US to “the UN route,” to the relief of the Blair government. It is clear from Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, the Bush administration’s court history of these events, that Secretary of State Colin Powell had to fight hard to obtain Bush’s approval for a U.N. option and that Vice President **** Cheney fought that decision every step of the way. (Note 31) The new evidence suggests that the Blair government counted on Powell to fight this battle, and it is also evident that a principal British aim at the Camp David summit on September 7 was to seal the deal. This puts new light on the sudden “leak” on September 8 of the “mushroom cloud” rhetoric and aluminum tube charges made in concert by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Condoleezza Rice. Their gambit may have had the object of creating an element of fear so great as to preclude Bush taking the U.N. route. In any case, Woodward also establishes that the U.N. option kept disappearing from the rewrites as Bush’s U.N. speech was prepared, and it disappeared again—at the U.N.—as the speech was fed into a teleprompter for the president. We know now from the new evidence (Documents 15, 16) that the British government—intensely interested in Bush’s course and sure to object at the absence of the supposedly agreed U.N. option—was denied advance knowledge of the contents of the president’s speech. This completes a chain of events that suggest what happened to the Bush speech was purposeful, not an accident. If true, this highly disturbing pattern indicates a different backstory: that Cheney operatives made a last-ditch effort to wreck the U.N. path by conspiring to prevent the decision to make the Bush speech and even its delivery.

    Bush’s speech, meanwhile, also included a claim that Saddam might produce a nuclear bomb within a year if he acquired fissile material. This timeline was apparently news to the drafters of the first published U.S. dossier, “A Decade Of Deception and Defiance,” (Note 32) which appeared simultaneously with Bush’s exhortation. That paper cited a recently released report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, rather than giving the U.S. government’s own estimate of the worst case nuclear timeline.

    John Scarlett was in Washington on September 12 seeking the views of American officials on his draft dossier (Document 11). He met with Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, plus CIA and NSC contacts. An email on the dossier sent to Campbell on September 12 (Document 12) includes the line: “Clearly John will be speaking to [the] US.” It is not entirely apparent whether this refers to Scarlett or Williams (who was at the U.N. with the British delegation at this time). Nevertheless this evidence demonstrates that British representatives intended to discuss the text and presentation of their dossier with the Bush administration.

    Present evidence remains insufficient to specify exactly what U.S. officials said about the British dossier. One issue known to have been discussed is the claim that Saddam had sought uranium from Niger. The CIA expressed doubt regarding this charge. Here it appears that American officials attempted to persuade Britain to tone down its claims or remove them altogether. The draft that Scarlett took to Washington bore the claim that the material had been “purchased” (following an even stronger charge in the Williams draft that uranium had been “acquired”). The British Foreign Office told a 2003 parliamentary inquiry (Note 33) that “the CIA offered a comment noting that they did not regard the reference to the supply of uranium from Africa as credible.” (emphasis added). A July 2003 statement by then CIA director George Tenet (Note 34) confirmed that the agency had expressed reservations about the inclusion of “reports of Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa.”The CIA’s evidence, revealed in the Plame-Wilson affair, was that Nigerien ore production went entirely to the nations which owned the consortium mining the uranium. There were doubts regarding documents fabricated to indicate an Iraqi ore deal, and the CIA objection was sufficient to induce the British to weaken, but not eliminate, the allegation in their dossier. The intent to influence public opinion is manifest in the fact that the Bush White House then used the British dossier’s charge as the basis for repeating the claim in the 2003 Bush State of the Union speech—repeating an allegation the CIA itself refused to support. This instance demonstrates that the British made actual changes in their dossier as a result of U.S. objections, but also that they were unwilling to give up making the basic allegation.

    The British government told the (parliamentary) Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry (in 2003) that its claim had been based on two pieces of intelligence, received in June and September 2002, respectively. (Note 35) But it seems the claim was initially included in the white paper on the basis of the first of these reports: John Scarlett later told the Hutton Inquiry that “further intelligence” on the issue was received between the drafts of September 16 and September 19. (Note 36) It is clear that at least one of these pieces of intelligence was compromised by association with the forged documents obtained from an Italian source by the U.S. and given to the International Atomic Energy Agency in early 2003. But the other intelligence—on which the British government still relies—has also been revealed as having come from Italy. (Note 37) It seems inconceivable that Italy would pass intelligence of this potential significance to Britain without sharing it with the United States. This raises the possibility that U.S. intelligence, unlike the British, may have seen and discounted the second report. It is possible that the same or other U.S. officials may have ensured the information was given to Britain in order for it to be used in the U.K. dossier.

    On September 9, 2002, Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service, met Stephen Hadley, deputy to Rice at the NSC. Two days later, White House speechwriters were told that the NSC had “new intelligence” on the uranium issue but CIA approval for the claim to be made in a speech by President Bush was given and then rescinded. It was immediately after this that Britain received its second piece of intelligence. Whether this was engineered by NSC officials must remain a matter of conjecture. The new intelligence still failed to persuade the CIA. Yet a few months later, in a similar maneuver, the NSC staff relied upon the appearance of the charge in the British dossier as their basis for including it in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech. Top leaders were clearly prepared to cull the most extreme formulations of the intelligence to fuel their charges against Iraq.

    In spite of the CIA’s “reservations,” in his January 2003 speech, President Bush made a reference to the dossier’s conclusion: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” (Note 38) This claim, which became notorious as the “sixteen words,” was included in the face of a CIA refusal to authenticate the information, in a precise reversal of the process. The play-by-play in the “sixteen words” claim has been documented in CIA official statements and in congressional testimony. (Note 39)

    For the most part, in September 2002 the U.S. claims regarding alleged Iraqi weapons were stronger than the British. As officials rewrote Scarlett’s draft dossier in London, they paid close attention to public statements from the Bush administration and to what they identified as the latest draft of the forthcoming CIA white paper. British officials overtly sought to match U.S. claims. At lunchtime on September 13 officials discussed apparent differences between U.S. and U.K. estimates of how long Iraq would need to design and build a nuclear weapon if it did not acquire fissile material from abroad. The U.S. estimate – set out in the July draft CIA paper – was that this could not happen until late in the decade, while Britain judged it would take at least five years, but – as Tim Dowse had emphasized six months earlier – would be possible at all only if trade sanctions against Iraq were removed or broke down. British officials could see that a difference between the two allies over the effectiveness of sanctions would become apparent, “depending on the actual text of the US NIE/White paper.” One official wrote: “I’m not sure that the differences will be that great. Remember US and U.K. signed up to maintaining sanctions. US can hardly do that and then turn round and say that they are having no effect.” (Document 12)

    Further significant evidence that British officials were seeking to match their claims with those of the U.S. appears in an unpublished document whose existence was revealed when the Cabinet Office released a list of documents considered for disclosure under FOI. Among these is an email dated September 13 “covering a copy of a Bush speech to compare with UK dossier claims.” (Document 15) The Cabinet Office has confirmed (Document 16) that the speech in question was one given by Bush at the United Nations on September 12. Comparison with the Scarlett draft of September 10 will show that Bush’s new worst-case nuclear timeline – where Iraq would acquire fissile material from abroad – contradicted the estimate (“at least two years”) for the same scenario in Scarlett’s draft dossier. Later on September 13 Alastair Campbell was shown a new version. According to Campbell’s note to Scarlett four days later (Document 19), the timeline in that draft had been shortened to “1-2 years”. The Cabinet Office has been unable to explain the change. The plausible conjecture is that British officials compared their dossier to Bush’s U.N. speech and ensured that the former complemented the latter.

    By the evening of Friday, September 13, British officials had a copy of “the latest US Doc. Summary + nuclear section.” An email sent at 7:54 p.m. (Document 17) forwarded that document. Internal evidence identifies this as the draft of a CIA white paper, one more recent than the July version, making it at least the third iteration of the paper. An email reply the following Monday makes what appears to be a wording suggestion for the U.S. paper. Although this is a technical point, it demonstrates that the transatlantic exchanges on the respective drafts were a two-way process.

    On the U.S. side, Pillar told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Note 40) that during the “several months” of intermittent drafting, he and his colleagues came to the conclusion that the paper’s summary was “somewhat weak” and required a “full-blown” judgments section. The re-energized work on the CIA paper was managed by Pillar’s deputy. The compilation of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on this subject began on September 12, after a series of congressional requests. Because it primarily concerned weapons of mass destruction, at that point the manager of the CIA paper worked closely with the National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear programs, Robert Walpole, who was himself managing the NIE drafting. Walpole held a more alarmist view of Iraqi weapons developments. Quotations from Walpole in the SSCI report read as if he had very much a proprietary attitude toward the contents of the CIA white paper. For example, Walpole told investigators that he considered including a section in the paper on Iraqi use of and doctrine for WMD but rejected it because it would “basically be telling Saddam what we think he is thinking,” and “that just didn’t seem smart at that point.” (Note 41) Evidence of coordination between the CIA and the British dossier drafters resides in the fact that the British were aware of the preparation of an Iraq NIE within 48 hours of when its drafting began.

    Meanwhile, a new version of the U.K. dossier circulated on September 16. Evidence to the Hutton Inquiry shows that it was the dossier drafting group, packed with public relations specialists, who gave this document the review that the Joint Intelligence Committee would normally have provided. At a drafting group meeting on September 17, representatives of the Defence Intelligence Staff raised serious concerns about some claims, which they felt were overstated. Their concerns were dismissed. In fact, as has now been revealed by Brian Jones, the responsible office chief of the Defense Intelligence Staff, the British foreign intelligence unit (SIS) suddenly surfaced a mysterious “Report X” at that meeting—one that SIS itself refused to defend elsewhere—that was used to derail intelligence staff objections to the claim that the Iraqis could deploy WMDs within 45 minutes. (Note 42) It is perplexing that this report as well as the “new intelligence” on Nigerien uranium should have suddenly materialized within this very short timeframe when British analysts were concerned that the data did not support the claims being made in the dossier. Yet a subsequent JIC meeting on September 18 barely looked at the text of the dossier. JIC members were sent a further draft the next day with a 3:00 p.m. deadline for comments. This did not apply to prime ministerial aides Alastair Campbell or Jonathan Powell, both of whom successfully lobbied for changes after this time. A final draft was produced on September 20, in which the title suddenly changed from “Iraq's Programme for Weapons Of Mass Destruction” to “Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction.”

    That dossier was published on September 24 (Document 20). Prime Minister Blair presented it to the House of Commons. The paper included the shortened nuclear timeline plus other dubious assertions about Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs – including the reference to aluminum tubes and the “uranium from Africa” claim.

    At the CIA, Robert Walpole’s work on the National Intelligence Estimate dovetailed neatly with the British process. Walpole circulated an initial draft of the Iraq NIE on September 23, and on the 25th he convened an all-day session of analysts to scrub its contents. In this case the substantive experts who contributed the bulk of the writing were analysts of the Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) of the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, a unit that combined a great deal of expertise, and focused on weapons of mass destruction, but one that was involved in at least one other manipulation during this same timeframe. While WINPAC officials did not believe in the “uranium from Africa” reports, they had no difficulty with aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds. The NIE sailed through to completion. Its revised draft went out on September 26, and the paper was approved by the National Foreign Intelligence Board on October 1 and printed the same day.

    The CIA white paper was published several days later (Document 21). It had been moving forward in tandem with the NIE. The major weakness was felt to be in its summary, or “key judgments” section, much as the British drafters had focused so hard on their own dossier summary. Robert Walpole was at the center of that CIA effort. With the NIE already underway it was decided simply to bolt its judgments onto the white paper as the unclassified key points. Walpole decided what material to integrate and how to do it. As the SSCI report has described, the CIA white paper was shorn of the caveats that were included in the NIE. The paper presented its projections as statements of fact, very much like the U.K. white paper.

    The more deeply the processes of creating the government reports on the alleged Iraqi threat are reconstructed—on both sides of the Atlantic—the more their products are revealed as explicitly aimed at building a basis for war. In the light of a decision process in which no serious consideration was given to any course other than war, the question of whether American and British leaders set out to wage aggressive war has to be squarely faced.


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    Read actual declassified documents at the National Security Archives below
    Read the Documents - Part III
     

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