“INTELLIGENCE AND FACTS WERE BEING FIXED AROUND THE POLICY”….The Times of London has gotten hold of the minutes of a private meeting between Tony Blair and his staff that was held on July 23, 2002 after talks with the Bush administration. Here’s an excerpt from the “Downing Street Memo” (emphasis mine):

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. 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 NSC had no patience with the UN 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.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

….The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

In other words, by summer of 2002 Bush had already decided on war regardless of Saddam Hussein’s actions; democracy promotion was not even mentioned in passing as a reason for the war; postwar reconstruction was an issue of no concern; and, as Andy Card tacitly admitted even at the time, the “marketing campaign” for the war was deliberately timed to coincide with midterm elections.

I wonder how much attention this newly uncovered memo will get in the American press?

(Via Tim Dunlop.)

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