Associated Press publishes 6 new "secret and confidential" Downing Street memos

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Associated Press has put typed copies of six recently obtained internal British government documents concerning the lead-up to the war in Iraq on its website which are labeled "secret" or "confidential". The copies were provided by British reporter Michael Smith, who claims he destroyed the original documents to protect the sources. An anonymous senior British official said the documents appeared authentic.

The documents were leaked on 18 September 2004 to The Daily Telegraph in an article titled "Secret papers show Blair was warned of Iraq chaos". The documents, however, took 9 months to reach the mainstream press.

AP is saying that the memos show; "When Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser dined with Condoleezza Rice six months after Sept. 11, the then-U.S. national security adviser didn't want to discuss Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. She wanted to talk about 'regime change' in Iraq, setting the stage for the U.S.-led invasion more than a year later."

"U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts said in one of the memos. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam." Ricketts said.

Another memo addressed to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says,"But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."

The memos express concern about breaking international law but Blair is shown as being determined to go to war as America's ally regardless.

An Iraq expert at the University of London, Tony Dodge said, "The documents show what official inquiries in Britain already have, that the case of weapons of mass destruction was based on thin intelligence and was used to inflate the evidence to the level of mendacity. In going to war with Bush, Blair defended the special relationship between the two countries, like other British leaders have. But he knew he was taking a huge political risk at home. He knew the war's legality was questionable and its unpopularity was never in doubt." Dodge also said the memos show that Blair was aware that postwar instability was likely for Iraq.

In one of the memos, David Manning, who was Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, reported on a meeting in Washington with Rice: "It is clear that Bush is grateful for your (Blair's) support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you 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 than anything in the States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option."

A March 22 memo from Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Straw said, "We have to be convincing that: the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)."


Memos on AP website