|image source / UCLA Intl. Institute|
Like Blair, like Bush.
When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair released his memoirs two months ago, I noted that the long volume detailed many of the meetings he had with then-President George W. Bush during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq—but he neglected to mention a key (and controversial) January 31, 2003, talk they held in the Oval Office. According to a memo written by a Blair aide documenting the meeting, Bush and Blair in that session each said they doubted any weapons of mass destruction would soon be discovered by the UN inspectors then searching for such arms in Iraq. Without any WMDs, it could be harder to win support for the war. But Bush had an idea—or two.
The memo—portions of which were published in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands’ Lawless World —noted that Bush raised the notion of provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. “The US was thinking,” the memo said, “of flying US reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions. A retaliatory attack would then be fully justified; the war could begin. In other words, Bush raised the prospect of staging a phony event to justify a military attack on Iraq. Bush also discussed producing some “defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD.”