4 Oct 2010

THE IRAQ WAR -- PART II: Was There Even a Decision?

U.S. and British Documents Give No Indication Alternatives Were Seriously Considered

A March 8, 2002 Downing Street document said that "The US administration has lost faith in containment and is now considering regime change."

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 328

Edited by John Prados and Christopher Ames

Posted - October 1, 2010

For more information contact:
John Prados - 202/994-7000

Washington, D.C., October 1, 2010 – Contrary to statements by President George W. Bush or Prime Minister Tony Blair, declassified records from both governments posted on the Web today reflect an early and focused push to prepare war plans and enlist allies regardless of conflicting intelligence about Iraq’s threat and the evident difficulties in garnering global support.

Perhaps most revealing about today’s posting on the National Security Archive’s Web site is what is missing—any indication whatsoever from the declassified record to date that top Bush administration officials seriously considered an alternative to war. In contrast there is an extensive record of efforts to energize military planning, revise existing contingency plans, and create a new, streamlined war plan.

This electronic briefing book is the second of three to be posted by the National Security Archive that re-examine several aspects of the run-up to the war. The previous EBB covered the development of President Bush’s thinking during the first year of his presidency. This posting focuses on U.S. planning and preparations for action, and British deliberations over how to respond to the Bush administration, during 2002. It is accompanied by a separate analysis by Archive Senior Fellow John Prados and journalist Christopher Ames that reframes this critical period. The third part of this set will address a parallel effort to create political conditions conducive to carrying out an invasion of Iraq.

Among other findings from the documents, the posting’s editors conclude that the Bush administration sought to avoid the emergence of opposition to its actions by means of secrecy and deception, holding the war plan as a “compartmented concept,” restricting information even from allies like the United Kingdom, and pretending that no war plans were being reviewed by the president.

President Bush and his senior advisers were so intent on pursuing their project for war, the documents show, that they refused to be deterred by early and repeated refusals of cooperation from regional allies like Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt; or from traditional allies such as France and Germany.

Bush administration disdain for a diplomatic solution to the issue of Iraq’s potential for developing weapons of mass destruction is further evidenced, the editors conclude, in early resistance to a multilateral solution through the United Nations (UN), in a preference to substitute direct U.S. control for a UN monitoring regime, and in the difficulty encountered by both America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S. State Department, in inducing President Bush to agree to try a UN initiative.

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