A a joint news conference yesterday British Prime Minister Blair and President Bush denied that either side had “fixed” the intelligence about Iraq’s weapons to justify war.
- (Steve Holland/Reuters): Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn’t do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.
But all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren’t able to do that because — as I think was very clear — there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked, or the way that he acted.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I — you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I’m not sure who “they dropped it out” is, but — I’m not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth.
My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations — or I went to the United Nations. And so it’s — look, both us of didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It’s the last option. The consequences of committing the military are — are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who’ve lost a loved one in combat. It’s the last option that the President must have — and it’s the last option I know my friend had, as well.
And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a — put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.From the Boston Globe grabs this comment from AfterDowningStreet.org (who are pissing in the wind about impeachment):”We now have official government minutes of an official government meeting putting down what a lot of people suspected. If these minutes are accurate, Bush lied to the American people and to Congress.”
The person who chaired the meeting (Blair) just denied the accuracy of the minutes, leaving you with precisely squat. Even The Washington Post has signed the certificate of expiration on the manufactured controversy.
But his query [Steve Holland] ended a slightly strange episode in the American media in which the potentially explosive report out of London had become a seldom acknowledged elephant in the room.
The Times report was intriguing: It showed that the head of British foreign intelligence told Blair seven months before the invasion of Iraq that Bush saw military action against Saddam Hussein as “inevitable” and that intelligence in Washington was “being fixed around the policy.” In part, the memo never gained traction here because, unlike in Britain, it wasn’t election season, and the war is not as unpopular here. In part, it’s also because the notion that Bush was intent on military action in Iraq had been widely reported here before, in accounts from Paul O’Neill and Bob Woodward, among others.I’ll have one more giant nail in the coffin of the story – proof as to what “fixed” actually means – in a separate exclusive story later today.
Update: Here’s the “fixed” story