A former British ambassador to Washington says George W. Bush and Tony Blair made a secret agreement to invade Iraq only nine days after terrorists struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Sir Christopher Meyer said the agreement came at a private White House dinner while Blair was visiting Washington following the 9/11 tragedy. Meyer said Blair advised Bush not to get distracted from the primary objective of going after al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Britains The Observer reported Bush told Blair he agreed but that when operations in Afghanistan were over, they must deal with Iraq. The newspaper quoted Meyer as saying that when we did come back to Iraq, it wouldnt be to discuss smarter sanctions. He said that even though Blair believed Saddam would not give up power or his weapons without a fight, the prime minister said nothing against Bushs plan. Regime change was already U.S. policy.
Vanity Fair magazine will publish the full text of this meeting in its May issue. The British newspaper reported it tends to support Richard Clarkes claim that Bush was obsessed with Iraq as his principal target after 9/11. Clarke, the former counter-terrorism chief in the Bush White House, had unsuccessfully pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and that al-Qaeda, bin Laden and the Taliban all were in Afghanistan, not Iraq.
The forthcoming article may add to the headaches of both Blair and Bush. For Blair, the implication is that he already knew of U.S. intentions to attack Saddam even though he publicly claimed no decision had been made. For Bush, it will indicate the president was less concerned about retaliating for the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocents than he was in removing Saddam and grabbing Iraqs oil.
The article also will contain excerpts from the diary of Clare Short, former International Development Secretary. On July 26, 2002, Short wrote she had raised her concerns about Iraq with Blair and requested a debate at the next cabinet meeting before the summer recess. She wrote that Blair said it was unnecessary because it would get hyped. He said nothing [was] decided, and wouldnt be over summer.
Thats not all the grief thats building for Dubya. Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, said a prime reason for the invasion of Iraq was to eliminate a potential threat to Israel, a key objective of Ariel Sharon.
The Bush administration, however, claimed it was because Saddam was a threat to the U.S. and that he had weapons of mass destruction. None has yet been found, despite extensive searches. The administration has never called any attention to its close connections to the Likud Party and Sharon.
An Inter Press Service report from Washington said Zelikow commented about the unstated threat while he served on the Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), a group that reported directly to Bush. Zelikow was a member from 2001 to 2003. The board has since disbanded. He was addressing a university group in 2002.
Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? Zelikow said. Ill tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990its the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans dont care deeply about that threat. I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesnt want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.
His comments marked the first time a source close to the administration has admitted the war, which so far has cost the lives of more than 600 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqis, was motivated by Washingtons desire to serve Sharons aims.
However, Zelikow fails to mention the obvious, the Gulf War and subsequent bombings in the No-Fly Zone, as motivators of possible Iraqi aggression against America.
The small clique of staunch Zionist neo-conservative hawks within the administration is trying to fend off charges that they harmed the anti-terrorism war by going into Iraq, which does not appear to have posed any direct, verifiable threat to this country. Israel is the White Houses biggest ally in the Mideast and gets $3 to $4 billion annually in direct U.S. aid.
The 16 members of the board (PFIAB) all come from outside government, but they hold the highest security clearance. The group is known in intelligence circles as Piffy-ab, and is charged with evaluating the nations intelligence agencies and probing their mistakes. They have access to all information related to foreign intelligence.
Zelikow was a strong supporter of ousting Saddam. Nonetheless, he spelled out his reasons for believing the invasion was more to protect Israel than to eliminate any WMDs. He noted that in 1990-91, Saddam was preparing to spend very large sums to harness communications against nuclear explosions. He said that plan was absurd unless Saddam and his government intended to ride out a nuclear exchange with the Israelis, not us.
Additionally, he said, there was the danger of biological weapons getting into the hands of the anti-Israeli Islamic Resistance Movement, known by its Arabic acronymHamas. He said those weapons could be developed to the point where the U.S. would hesitate to attack Hamas.
Dont look at the links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, he said, but then ask yourself the question, Gee, is Iraq tied to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the people who are carrying out suicide bombings in Israel? Easy question to answer, the evidence is abundant, Zelikow said.
But again, he misses an obvious point, considering the fact that Saddam was paying considerable sums of money to the families of suicide bombers.
More cracks in the dike appear as the truth about the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror begins to leak out. The real story of 9-11 also is becoming clearer as a growing tide of Americans demands the truth.
Next in the hot seat is Condoleezza Rice, President Bushs national security adviser. The independent panel is promising a thorough grilling. It will be interesting to see how she deals with it. Whatever happens, it appears the Bush administration has little room left in which to maneuver.
Oh, except for several slight advantagesthe Chicago Sun-Times ran a Gannett News Service report that the White House will have final editing rights of the 9/11 Commissions report, and the administration will also decide when it will be released. Could it be that the Commissions censored report will not be released until after the election?
Sources: Gannett News Service, Inter Press Service, National Public Radio and Londons The Observer.