Sunday, June 19, 2005

U.S. War Plans Much-Discussed in Memos

Jun 18, 12:08 PM EDT

U.S. War Plans Much-Discussed in Memos

LONDON (AP) -- President Bush's government has been accused of exaggerating the risks of Saddam Hussein's weapons and Iraq's ties to al-Qaida before the war to justify the invasion. That's one reason the most quoted section of the eight secret Downing Street memos that have been leaked to the British and American media are the minutes of a meeting that Prime Minister Tony Blair held with his top officials on July 23, 2002.

During it, Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, discussed his recent visit to Washington.

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," said Dearlove, who's identified as "C" in the secret minutes of the meeting.

"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 NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." The NSC is the U.S. National Security Council, which advises the president.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he would discuss the timing of a possible war with then Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing has not yet decided," the minutes said. "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."