The Downing Street memo

According to recently leaked documents, which have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo, the war against Iraq would be neither legal nor sensible but very dangerous. One of the documents is a personal letter from the British foreign minister, Jack Straw, to prime minister Blair. In this letter, dated March 2002, a year before the aggression against Iraq, Straw stated that there was no evidence of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that post-war Iraq was likely to be a very nasty place.

Another leaked document was a Cabinet Office briefing paper for a crucial Downing Street meeting held on 23 July 2002, eight months before the invasion or Iraq. It stated that the prime minister had promised Bush, at a Summit in early April 2002 at Crawford, Bush’s Texas ranch, that he would “back military action to bring about regime change” in Iraq, adding that ministers had no choice but to “create the conditions” for making military action legal. This was at a time when Blair was telling the public that all options on Iraq were still open.

Yet another document was the minutes of the actual meeting, chaired by Blair and attended by, among others, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6. Dearlove, just back from Washington, said that “military action was now seen as inevitable … the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy …”!

Geoff Hoon, the then Defence Secretary, who also attended the meeting, said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity to put pressure on the [Iraqi] regime”. According to Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures, while virtually no bombs were dropped on Iraq in March and April 2002, between May and August an average of 10 tonnes were dropped each month, with the RAF taking just as significant a role in the “spikes of activity” as the US. There was a dramatic increase in September, with US and British aircraft dropping 54.6 tonnes. In other words, Bush and Blair were already waging a covert war. In the US only the Congress can declare war, but it did not authorise Bush to take military action against Iraq until 11 October 2002. Blair’s legal justification is rooted in UN Resolution 1441 which was not passed until 8 November 2002.

From June 2002 until March 2003 when the ground war began, the US and Britain flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, attacking 349 pre-selected targets. These attacks prepared the ground for the invasion.

In other words, the US and Britain were waging an undeclared war against Iraq, which was illegal by the standards of even US and British bourgeois law.

As far as wider humanity is concerned, the war against Iraq was always unjust, predatory and illegal, even if every imperialist accusation against Iraq were correct. We always knew that the US and British governments were telling lies. Now that it has all come out into the open, it has served to destroy the last remnants of credibility of these two governments. Even in the narrow circles of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie Bush and Blair are now routinely perceived as the mercenary liars that they are and always have been. None of these revelations, however, would have seen the light of day had the successes of the Iraqi resistance not caused divisions in the camp of the ruling classes of the US and Britain. For this, humanity ought to be grateful to the heroic participants in the Iraqi resistance.