Monday, March 27, 2006

Iraq: The Paper War

The carnage continues on the ground in Baghdad with 100 or so new deaths, including 30 beheadings, in the last day, but the war seems to have entered a new phase at home. Let's call it The Paper War.

There have been relevations in recent days from the trove of captured Saddam documents that lend credence to the view that the dictator had WMDs, although maybe not at the time of the 2003 invasion, and did have ties to terrorist groups. (See my March 24 post on Iraq: Let the 'I Told You So's' Begin, as well as earlier posts.)

Competing for attention from the other side, so to speak, are relevations that further confirm the fact that the Bush administration was going to go to war no matter what, and was willing to do just about anything to strengthen its hand.

On Jan. 31, 2003, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with President Bush in the Oval Office. A five-page British government memo on that sitdown reviewed by the New York Times notes that war was inevitable, but casts fresh light on the administration's penchant for playing dirty pool and well evinced disdain for the United Nations:

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Two other ways of provoking war were discussed, according to the memo:

It also described the president as saying, "The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam's W.M.D," referring to weapons of mass destruction.

A brief clause in the memo refers to a third possibility, mentioned by Mr. Bush, a proposal to assassinate Saddam Hussein. The memo does not indicate how Mr. Blair responded to the idea.

For the entire story, go here.

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