British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday the "Downing Street memos" paint a distorted picture, and he insisted that the Iraq war was not predetermined by the United States.This is quite possibly one of the lamest, least convincing responses to a controversial leaked government memo ever. Seriously. Notice how he does not deny the authenticity of the memo, just that people are reading what is says and taking it at face value. (Stupid bloody people.) Then he pretends that the fact that we didn't bomb Iraq at the time of the memo as proof that we followed diplomatic measures-- even if the memo seems to predict exactly how they were going to build their case to justify military action.
"People say the decision was already taken. The decision was not already taken," he said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
Blair added he was "a bit astonished" at the intensive U.S. media coverage about the leaked memos, which actually were leaked minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting between Blair and top government officials at his Downing Street office.
"I am a bit astonished at how this has received such coverage in the U.S. because the fact is, after the memo was done, we went to the United Nations," Blair said.
"What people forget about that memo is that that (it) occurred nine months before the conflict. ... So whatever issues there were, we resolved them ultimately by saying we have got to give it one last chance to work peacefully."
Blair also said it was "vitally important" for coalition troops to remain in Iraq "until the job is done."
"That is vitally important. If we defeat these insurgents and terrorists in Iraq - and we'll only defeat them with the Iraqi people - we will beat that terrorism and insurgency worldwide," he said.
"The world for both of us changed after Sept. 11," Blair said. "What happened for me after Sept. 11 is that the balance of risk changed. I took the view that if these people ever got hold of nuclear, chemical or biological capability, they would probably use it."
Sept. 11 "changed the whole picture. It changed the politics of how we dealt with the threat. And I still believe in a time to come it will be seen as important that we took that decision."
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.The part where Blair is "astonished" by how much attention it has received in the U.S. is rich.
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.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or [United Nations Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.
Although it was awfully nice of Bush to lend Blair his talking points from last night's speech.
9/11+Iraq war victory=defeat of global terrorism=world peace