NYT, Stooges for Bush In Iraq, Part 923I woke up this morning in a good mood, thinking that the recently published memo has put the nail in the coffin of Bush's Pollyanna-esque supporters. David Sanger, in a triumphant tract, declares with his (and the feckless NY Times') headline that "Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn't Made". I see Sanger, a WSJ regular, is making a powerful attempt to quash the alternative idea, clearly present in the paper, that the decision to go to war had been made. Although not backing his claim up with any further analysis, quotes or even comments, Sanger writes in the first sentence "A memorandum written by Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet office in late July 2002 explicitly states that the Bush administration had made 'no political decisions' to invade Iraq, but that American military planning for the possibility was advanced." Is this a fair reading of the memo? I don't think so. First I present, the entire paragraph from whence Sanger pulls his snippet of a quote:
US Military PlanningEven Bush would have to admit that the military plans described ('Running' and 'Generated' start) require different political strategies, and hence, that different political decisions be made. Notice how the section is entitled "Military Planning" and not anything else. Running and Generated are not simply alternative game plans, each required that the UK/US axis "create" a particular political climate. The question of US political decision making is discussed elsewhere in the document. For example in §3 of the Summary, which outlines the idea of pretending to go through the UN to get what they already wanted... "creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq." Later in the document, the exact means for using the UN are explained in more detail (§ 13 and §14). They wouldn't have needed to use the United Nations to justify the war if the decision to wage war had not already been made in the White House. In §1 "The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace." Apace of what, if not war? Sanger never wonders. §5 entitled "The Goal" says "US military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination if Iraqi WMD." The section entitled "Justification" begins with §11 with the quote "US views of international law vary from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law." In other words, "regime change" was seen by the Bush adminsitration as a proper basis for invasion, and hence the Bush administration had already justified the war, at least to themselves. In the section entitled "Timescales", beginning with §21, leads off "Although the US military could act against Iraq as soon as November, we judge that a military campaign is unlikely to start until January 2003, if only because of the time it will take to reach consensus in Washington."(emphasis mine) The Executive Branch is the Presidency, there is no such thing as "consensus" within one person. The consensus under discussion is with Congress. The President had decided, despite Sanger's brave efforts to spin things the other way with a snip of a quote.
6. Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq. In a 'Running Start', military action could begin as early as November of this year, with no overt military build-up. Air strikes and support for opposition groups in Iraq would lead initially to small-scale land operations, with further land forces deploying sequentially, ultimately overwhelming Iraqi forces and leading to the collapse of the Iraqi regime. A 'Generated Start' would involve a longer build-up before any military action were taken, as early as January 2003. US military plans include no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign. Currently the preference appears to be for the 'Running Start'. CDS will be ready to brief Ministers in more detail.
One horrifying idea that this paper does bring forward is something I simply hadn't considered seriously. Namely the idea that the US didn't know Saddam didn't have weapons, simply because they were too incompetent. We desperately need the best people in government again, and decent ones.