Sunday, May 01, 2005

Revealed: documents show Blair's secret plans for war

Revealed: documents show Blair's secret plans for war

PM decided on conflict from the start. Blair told war illegal in March 2002. Latest leak confirms Goldsmith doubts
By Raymond Whitaker, Andy McSmith and Francis Elliott
The Independent
01 May 2005

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".

At the same time, a document obtained by this newspaper reveals the Foreign Office legal advice given to Mr Blair in March 2002, before he travelled to meet Mr Bush at his Texas ranch. It contains many of the reservations listed nearly a year later by the Attorney General in his confidential advice to the Prime Minister, which the Government was forced to publish last week, including the warning that the US government took a different view of international law from Britain or virtually any other country.

The advice, also put before the July meeting, was drawn up in part by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, who resigned on the eve of war in protest at what she called a "crime of aggression".

The latest revelations could scarcely have come at a worse time for Labour, with a general election only four days away and the opposition parties lining up to attack the Prime Ministers credibility....