There’s a new memo out that reveals that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair discussed the possibility of attempting to provoke Sadaam Hussein into taking an action that would warrant another resolution by the United Nations.
The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.
Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan “to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover”. Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.
The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be “brought out” to give a public presentation on Saddam’s WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was “solidly with the president”.
I’m not sure that this makes one bit of difference. It’s not unheard of to attempt to provoke someone into making the first move via deception. True, entrapment is something that should be avoided—I’m not trying to make that case.
What I am saying is that there was a belief that Sadaam was hiding the weapons from the inspectors and being deceitful about his intentions and that if the countries did not act they would be targets. We all know this.
Given this set of facts, it shouldn’t surprise us that we intended to attempt him to do something provocative to give us cover. It’s debatable whether this was wise or just—military tactics often involve some form of deception to get an advantage—but what they believed and what they felt needed to be done to protect their countries is not in dispute.