Bush Downplayed Post-Saddam Concerns To Blair
Well, we’ve already had the Downing Street memos, which confirmed British concerns about the Bush Administration’s efforts to build a case for war based on disinformation, “fixed” intelligence, and provoking Saddam into firing upon UN forces. According to the New York Times today, we now have new releases from the British, which the White House is not denying, that show both Bush and Blair were determined to remove Saddam regardless of whether or not he had WMDs.
(B)ehind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
That Bush was committed no matter what to removing Saddam is not necessarily news, as his supporters always point back to his rhetoric and the fact that regime change was the policy of this government since 1998. But this new release does confirm several things about the reasons Bush gave for going to war: they were all smokescreens for a decision that was made years ago. Was the war about WMDs as Bush repeated told the American people? No.
By late January 2003, United Nations inspectors had spent six weeks in Iraq hunting for weapons under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1441, which authorized "serious consequences" if Iraq voluntarily failed to disarm. Led by Hans Blix, the inspectors had reported little cooperation from Mr. Hussein, and no success finding any unconventional weapons.
At their meeting, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair candidly expressed their doubts that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons would be found in Iraq in the coming weeks, the memo said. The president spoke as if an invasion was unavoidable. The two leaders discussed a timetable for the war, details of the military campaign and plans for the aftermath of the war.
Well, then it certainly was about liberating the Iraqi people, right? No, Bush and Blair didn’t seem too concerned about who would end up the new leader of the country.
The latest memo is striking in its characterization of frank, almost casual, conversation by Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair about the most serious subjects. At one point, the leaders swapped ideas for a postwar Iraqi government. "As for the future government of Iraq, people would find it very odd if we handed it over to another dictator," the prime minister is quoted as saying.
"Bush agreed," Mr. Manning wrote. This exchange, like most of the quotations in this article, have not been previously reported.
And what about the aftermath? Did the two leaders think at the very least that their insistence upon ridding the country of Saddam would cause problems for keeping the country together? No, it appears that Bush, with Condi’s help, minimized those problems and blew smoke up Blair’s ass about how prepared the Bush Administration was for a post-war Iraq. In fact, it sounds like the leaders spent more time on how to provoke Saddam into shooting first than they did on how to manage the country in the aftermath of his toppling.
The two men briefly discussed plans for a post-Hussein Iraqi government. "The prime minister asked about aftermath planning," the memo says. "Condi Rice said that a great deal of work was now in hand.
A flat-out lie.
Referring to the Defense Department, it said: "A planning cell in D.O.D. was looking at all aspects and would deploy to Iraq to direct operations as soon as the military action was over. Bush said that a great deal of detailed planning had been done on supplying the Iraqi people with food and medicine."
Food and medicine, natch. Electricity, water, sewer systems, public health infrastructure, and security, well, those things would have to wait until after the Oil Ministry was secured, I guess. Keep in mind that when Bush and Condi told Blair this at the end of January 2003, both the State Department and the CIA had already told Bush and Cheney of the multitude of problems that would befall the United States once it toppled Saddam. Powell had already given Bush his "Pottery Barn" warning. And yet Bush and Condi told Blair that “a great deal of work was now in hand.” Worse yet, both leaders demonstrated a fundamental ignorance of what they were about to unleash in Iraq.
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
That unlikely “internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups” has now gone on for three years, with the United States now taking sides with the Sunnis of Saddam against the Shiite militias, threatening a full-on confrontation with Moqtada al-Sadr and worse yet, Grand Ayatollah Sistani. This was on display today when in the aftermath of our attack against the Shiites yesterday at one of their mosques, which killed at least 18 worshippers including the Imam himself, we find out that a suicide bomber struck at a joint US-Iraqi base between Mosul and Bush’s latest bragging point Tal Afar, killing at least 40 more. The United States faced increasing anger from the Shiites today for yesterday’s mosque attack as well, and there were new reports of more bodies found. Worse yet, the Interior Minister is all but calling us liars in our account of the mosque attack yesterday, and the local government has cut its ties with the Americans, playing right into al-Sadr’s hands.
None of this would be happening if Paul Bremer, with Donald Rumsfeld’s full support, had not disbanded the Iraqi army and civil service. Yet Bush has full confidence in Rumsfeld, as he expressed as late as last week. Aside from that, this new revelation makes it clear that Bush had no idea what he was doing when it came to the post-Saddam aftermath, and wasn’t concerned about the legitimacy of his reasons for toppling him or for the fate of the Iraqi people and the supposed “liberation” we were promising. As a result of this, we see the Shiites against us, demanding that after the mosque attack we return control of the security forces to Iraqis. Not to be outdone, Saddam’s former Number Two, who has somehow escaped American capture for three years yet had time to appear at an Arab League summit last week in Sudan, called on Arab countries to support the Sunni insurgency as the sole legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.
I have no idea what Blair’s motivation was for being Bush’s poodle on Iraq these last four years, as it was thought that Blair was at least intelligent and able to see the bigger picture. Yet these memos make Blair look as inept and stupid as we already knew Bush was. Nonetheless, Bush and the GOP will have their accountability moments this November. But for those American troops that have paid the ultimate price for this impeachable offense, November cannot come soon enough.
Photo courtesy of the AP