Monday, September 20, 2004

Smoking memos

It's just a pity when the Torygraph gets the dirt about the lead-up to war with Iraq before the rest of us. A cache of documents leaked to the rag show that, as early as March, 2003, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning (a performer in the Hutton inquiry, if you recall) was able to tell Condoleeza Rice that the prime minister
"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 from anything in the States."
The next day, the British ambassador in Washington reported to Manning that
"We backed regime change but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option."
(You can get the quotes here, but the Torygraph requires a tiresome info-grabbing registration process)

Now, we have already seen plenty of evidence that decisions had been taken long before the dossiers appeared. After all, back in March, I reported on the Commons Defence Committee's report on the war with Iraq, and specifically the fact that the MoD had been discussing the question of UORs - Urgent Operational Requirements, a procedure for buying extra kit needed for an, er, urgent operational requirement in a hurry - as early as May, 2002. (Linky) Also, General John Reith, chief of joint operations in the Permanent Joint HQ, Northwood, stated that he became aware of planning in May although the UK only became involved later (but had already begun buying more kit? Eh?). Planning is said to have "crystallised" in the summer. The mysterious White House Iraq Group, also involved in the Valerie Plame case was established in August, as was Ali C's Iraq Communications Group.

Was the clever plan, in effect, to have Tony Blair act as PR man for a war with Iraq, using his excellent spin team and coordinating through the Coalition Information Centre staff?

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