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The Mother of All Downing Street Memos?
By David Corn
Channel 4 News in England is reporting on the existence of a January 31, 2003 memo that recorded a discussion between Bush and Blair, during which Bush raised the idea of orchestrating an incident in which Saddam would fire on UN reconnaissance planes and, thus, give Bush and Blair cause to attack Iraq.
Channel 4 has posted the below extracts of the memo:
President Bush to Tony Blair: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach"
Bush: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."
Blair: "A second Security Council Resolution resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected and international cover, including with the Arabs."
Bush: "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway."
Blair responds that he is: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."
Bush told Blair he: "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
To my thinking, this is a rather big deal. The president of the United States caught conspiring to create a modern-day version of the sinking of the Maine? Talk about an impeachable offense. I'm presuming the memo is legit. It was first obtained by British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands for a new version of his book, Lawless World. Sands is a friend of friends of mine. He is a trustworthy fellow, and I know that last year he did succeed in prying sensitive documents out of the British government concerning the legality -- or illegality -- of the invasion of Iraq. His sources were obviously British officials upset with the war. So my informed hunch is that this document is real. If so, how will the White House respond? Will members of the press corps at 1600 Pennsylvania press the point? This revelation -- which is more shocking than anything in the Downing Street Memos -- should be major news here. But will it?