Bush Caught Red-Handed

The Case of the Downing Street Memos

Revolution #008, July 17, 2005, posted at revcom.us

Revolution received the following correspondence from San Francisco.

For over nine months before their March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government insisted they were giving negotiations, UN pressure and international inspections “a chance to succeed.”

Now the lies of their charade have been exposed—in a series of high-level British government memos and briefing papers that have leaked into the press. Behind the scenes, the Bush White House had already decided to launch the invasion, and was lining up Britain’s Tony Blair government as allies and was negotiating which lies to use as justification.

The so-called Downing Street memo in particular is a “smoking gun” that confirms that the U.S. and British governments were coldly lying to the world about their motives and intentions. This memo (first published in Britain’s Sunday Times May 1, 2005) contains the minutes of a July 23, 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Richard Dearlove, then head of British MI6 Intelligence.

Dearlove had just returned from high-level meetings in Washington. The memo documents what the U.S. officials were then saying to their main ally behind closed doors:

“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 National Security Council had no patience with the U.N. route... It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.”

Clearly war to remove Iraq’s government had already been decided, but the British and U.S. governments were trying to get their stories straight—on which excuses to use as their pretext for the aggression. To repeat a key sentence: “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

This Downing Street meeting was in July 2002—eight months before the invasion was launched in March 2003. While secretly fine-tuning war plans with the British intelligence head, Bush publicly insisted he was seeking peaceful alternatives.

Neither Bush nor Blair deny the authenticity of this Downing Street memo. But the White House does deny that its decision for war had been made by that time.

In response to a question about the fixing of intelligence to justify the war, a White House spokesman stated, “The suggestion is just flat-out wrong.” Stung by the exposure of their lies, the Bush administration responds with a new lie.


As if this Downing Street memo was not damaging enough, a secret British Cabinet Office briefing paper (also dated July 23, 2002) has also been leaked to the Times. It states that “since regime change was illegal, it was ‘necessary to create the conditions’ which would make it legal.”

This secret briefing confirms that Blair “had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W. Bush three months earlier.”

It went on to say that the British regarded “the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defense, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe or if authorized by the U.N. Security Council.”

In other words, the British government too was set on war, but wanted to come up with a legal public rationale for the war.

In a third secret memo (dated March 14, 2002), David Manning, the foreign policy advisor to Blair briefed the Prime Minister on a dinner he had with Condoleezza Rice — over a full year before the invasion was launched.

Manning wrote:

“We spent a long time at dinner on Iraq. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. 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 different from anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option.”

Clearly overthrowing Hussein was the goal and the only discussion was how to manipulate public opinion.

Yet another secret memo (dated a week later, on March 22, 2002) confirms this. This memo was from Peter Ricketts, British Foreign Office Political Director, to Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary.

Ricketts writes:

“U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda is so far frankly unconvincing. ...Much better, as you have suggested, to make the objective ending the threat to the international community from Iraqi WMD before Saddam uses it or gives it to terrorists.”

But Ricketts then writes that this too may be a problem:

“What has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, but our tolerance of them post-11 September...the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts... Attempts to claim otherwise will increase skepticism....”

A few days later on March 25, 2002 Straw wrote a memo to Blair stating:

“[T]here has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL and AlQaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September.” (UBL refers to Osama bin Laden.)

These leaks make clear that it was not “poor intelligence” that caused the U.S., British and allied governments to attack Iraq. These war criminals knew from Day One that their justification for war was based on lies. And they were working together to fine-tune these lies, long before they admitted publicly that they were going to war.

They never believed that Iraq’s weapons posed a growing threat or that Saddam Hussein’s government had “links to terrorists.” These were only a cover story invented to cover their calculated aggression.