South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
June 24, 2005
ISSUE: British memos raise questions about the Bush administration's prewar planning and motives.
As the public buzz grows louder over leaked British memoranda on the planning that led to the war in Iraq, one thing must be clearly emphasized: there is no "smoking gun" among the memos. But there is plenty to warrant suspicion, and to prompt Americans and their representatives in Congress to demand answers from the Bush administration.
Why, for instance, did Condoleezza Rice, then U.S. national security adviser, show no interest in discussing Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida when she met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser a mere six months after 9-11? The adviser says all Rice wanted to talk about was "regime change" in Iraq.
Why, furthermore, did another official in the British Foreign Office write that the United States was "scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida," that the link was "unconvincing" and that "it sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam"?
And why did war planning go forward even after the British foreign secretary was told that "even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years"?
There's little doubt that before the war, Saddam Hussein harbored serious malice toward the United States, whether or not he intended to act on it. But it's significant that people in the British government, America's chief ally on Iraq, were raising the same doubts about Bush administration planning and motives that critics of the war were expressing.
While the memos are perhaps more an indictment of the British for joining the war despite their misgivings, they offer enough evidence of an unjustified rush to war that Congress has a duty to investigate. It should start immediately.
BOTTOM LINE: The memos raise suspicions and should be investigated by Congress.