Scoop Link: LA Times Feature On Downing St. Memos
New Memos Detail Early Plans for
British officials believed the U.S. favored military force a year before the war, documents show.
By John Daniszewski, Times Staff Writer
LONDON — In March 2002, the Bush administration had just begun to publicly raise the possibility of confronting Iraq. But behind the scenes, officials already were deeply engaged in seeking ways to justify an invasion, newly revealed British memos indicate.
Foreshadowing developments in the year before the war started, British officials emphasized the importance of U.N. diplomacy, which they said might force Saddam Hussein into a misstep. They also suggested that confronting the Iraqi leader be cast as an effort to prevent him from using weapons of mass destruction or giving them to terrorists.
The documents help flesh out the background to the formerly top-secret "Downing Street memo" published in the Sunday Times of London last month, which said that top British officials were told eight months before the war began that military action was "seen as inevitable." President Bush and his main ally in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have long maintained that they had not made up their minds to go to war at that stage.
Michael Smith, the defense writer for the Times of London who revealed the Downing Street minutes in a story May 1, provided a full text of the six new documents to the Los Angeles Times.
Portions of the new documents, all labeled "secret" or "confidential," have appeared previously in two British newspapers, the Times of London and the Telegraph. Blair's government has not challenged their authenticity.