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The Independent Weekly
November 27 - December 3, 2009
Bush lied to
start Iraq war
LONDON: A top-level official British inquiry has found
that former US president George Bush s administra-
tion, which came to power at the start of 2001, was
making noises in support of regime change in Iraq
even before the 9/11 terror attacks in the US.
Toppling Saddam Hussein was being discussed by
British and US officials two years before the invasion
of Iraq, senior Whitehall figures admitted this week.
And Foreign Office mandarins who drew up a secret
document discussing the planned invasion knew that
any "regime change" would have no legal backing.
On its opening day of public hearings, Sir John
Chilcot s inquiry into the Iraq war heard that senior
figures working in the Foreign Office and the Ministry
of Defence during the period said that regime change
"was mentioned" during secret meetings between US
and British officials during 2001. They also revealed
there was already a "drum beat" for war in Iraq from
elements of the US administration at that point.
They explained that sanctions against Saddam
Hussein had been breaking down, leaving the Iraqi
leader "quite comfortable", with a growing income,
which caused concern in London and Washington.
However, removing him was not then considered
a legal route and official policy was to contain the
actions of the Baghdad regime.
Sir William Patey, a former Foreign Office official,
said he had gone as far as commissioning a paper set-
ting out regime change as one of a variety of options
in dealing with Iraq. The internal Foreign Office memo
was never released and references to regime change
were removed once it was passed on to the Cabinet
Office for further discussion.
"The document discussed hard containment to
soft containment, to the lifting of sanctions, to -- I
have to say -- the regime-change option, which was
dismissed at the time as having no basis in law," he
Sir Peter Ricketts, who was chairman of the Joint
Intelligence Committee (JIC), said that in those early
days, it was Britain and the US that were most worried
about the threat posed by Saddam.
He said concerns had emerged that the strategy
of attempting simply to "contain" Saddam Hussein
was failing. The combination of strict sanctions, no
fly-zones and an "oil-for-food" program, had been used
since the 1990-91 Gulf War. But extensive smuggling
meant the policy was "in trouble".
Meanwhile, Sir Peter added that he was "conscious
that there were other voices in Washington, some
of whom were talking about regime change". In
particular, he pointed to an academic article written
in 2000 by President Bush s National Security Adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, which warned that "nothing will
change" in Iraq until Saddam was removed from
Sir William added: "We were aware of these drum
beats from Washington and internally we discussed it.
Our policy was to stay away from that."
The inquiry heard that, while US policy in Iraq
had been controlled by Colin Powell and the State
Department during the summer of 2001, there was a
"dramatic" hardening of support for regime change
when power transferred to the Pentagon and the
hawkish Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in the
wake of the 9/11 attacks.
The British and US governments suddenly made
anti-terrorism their highest priority, with heightened
concerns over the availability of weapons of mass
destruction, the inquiry was told. According to Sir
Simon Webb, then a policy director at the Ministry of
Defence, the shift in emphasis led to military action in
Iraq being pushed up the agenda.
In his opening remarks, Sir John disappointed crit-
ics of the Iraq invasion by insisting that no politicians,
military figures or civil servants would be found guilty
by his inquiry. He said nobody was "on trial" and that
it was not the job of his committee to decide the "guilt
or innocence" of those who led Britain into war.
Saddam in his sights:
Photo: Anthony Johnson
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