Your president speaks: Ridgewood Country Club (Waco, Texas), August 10, 2002:
Q I’m sorry, if I could follow up. Are you surprised that you haven’t been able to build more support within the region and within Europe for taking action?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Stretch, I think most people understand he is a danger. But as I’ve said in speech after speech, I’ve got a lot of tools at my disposal. And I’ve also said I am a deliberate person. And so I’m — we’re in the process of consulting not only with Congress, like I said I do the other day, but with our friends and allies. And the consultation process is a positive part of really allowing people to fully understand our deep concerns about this man, his regime and his desires to have weapons of mass destruction.
Last question, and then I’ve got to go chip and putt for a birdie. (Laughter.) It was a good drive.
Q It looked kind of right.
Q Do you think the American people are prepared for casualties in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that that presumes there’s some kind of imminent war plan. As I said, I have no timetable. What I do believe the American people understand is that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of leaders such as Saddam Hussein are very dangerous for ourselves, our allies. They understand the concept of blackmail. They know that when we speak of making the world more safe, we do so not only in the context of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but nations that have proven themselves to be bad neighbors and bad actors.
Thank you. Have fun today.
And in yesterday’s Independent:
Tony Blair had resolved to send British troops into action alongside US forces eight months before the Iraq War began, despite a clear warning from the Foreign Office that the conflict could be illegal.
A damning minute leaked to a Sunday newspaper reveals that in July 2002, a few weeks after meeting George Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Blair summoned his closest aides for what amounted to a council of war. The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, adding that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”.
The minute records that the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, had warned that the case against Saddam was “thin”. He suggested that the Iraqi dictator should be forced into a corner by demanding the return of the UN weapons inspectors: if he refused, or the inspectors found WMD, there would be good cause for war.
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith who took part in the meeting warned then that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action”.
The document ended with the admonition: “We must not ignore the legal issues”, adding that “the Attorney General would consider legal advice”. The Government has consistently refused to say when the Attorney General was first asked for an opinion on the legality of war.
Eight months later, Lord Goldsmith drew up his 13 page legal opinion, released by Downing Street last week, which echoed many of the doubts expressed in the earlier Foreign Office brief. The Attorney General echoes the Foreign Office paper, rejecting US claims to be able to decide whether Iraq was in breach of UN resolutions. The Americans were alone in this position, he said, before dramatically altering his opinion 10 days later.