The New York Times files a valuable follow-up on the revelations made last month in a book by a British law professor that Bush and Blair were determined, in January of 2003, to launch military action against Saddam, regardless of what U.N. weapons inspectors found.
Previous reports only paraphrased the content of the memo. The Times reviewed the actual five-page document in its entirety and confirmed its authenticity with senior British government sources.
Quoting the memo, the Times story confirms the following:
—Bush wanted to illegally goad Saddam into war: "The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
—Both Bush and Blair downplayed the potential for civil war, saying that that it was: "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
The article also contains choice, previously unreported quotes like Tony Blair saying: "As for the future government of Iraq, people would find it very odd if we handed it over to another dictator."
And insight into the overly optimistic assessments for the post-war period. "The prime minister asked about aftermath planning. Condi Rice said that a great deal of work was now in hand."