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Report: Bush Determined to Go to War, Despite Evidence

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Report: Bush Determined to Go to War, Despite Evidence

Report: Bush Determined to Go to War, Despite Evidence

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, protecting a very rare sheep in some of the most difficult terrain in the world.

BRAND: But first, more allegations now that President Bush was determined to go to war against Iraq, even without evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Details of a confidential British memo have been leaked. The report is in today's New York Times. In it British foreign policy advisor David Manning says, quote, "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning."

The memo describes a private two hour conversation between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair on January 31st, 2003, where the start date for the war was penciled in for March 10th.

Some details of the memo were first published a few months ago in the book Lawless World by British lawyer Phillipe Sands. And Phillipe Sands joins us now. Welcome to the program.

Mr. PHILLIPPE SANDS (Author, Lawless World): Very glad to be with you.

BRAND: Now, give us some highlights from this memo.

Mr. SANDS: Well, I think the crucial aspect is two points. Firstly, the decision to go to war was already taken by the American President in January 2003 and was supported by the British Prime Minister, irrespective of what the U.N. weapons inspectors did or did not find.

And secondly, the memo makes it clear that these two gentlemen had no evidence of actual weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and they were therefore reduced to coming up with all sorts of proposals to, if you like, cause Saddam Hussein to make himself in material breach of earlier resolutions.

BRAND: And one of them in the memo, I understand, is discussing ways of provoking Saddam into a confrontation that would involve shooting down a U.S. airplane.

Mr. SANDS: Yes, the U.S. President suggests to Tony Blair that one thing he's thinking of doing is taking U.S. spy planes, painting them in the United Nations colors, and when Saddam shoots on them he'll be in material breach and that will justify the use of force. But of course what's striking about that is if you've got actual evidence of weapons of mass destruction you don't need to be getting involved in those sorts of shenanigans.

BRAND: And they agree to try for a second U.N resolution. Why was that important?

Mr. SANDS: The reason Mr. Blair wanted a resolution was that he faced considerable pressure back home. But it's clear that he too had taken a decision of his own to proceed without a second resolution. What Mr. Blair is reported as saying in the memo is the resolution would be helpful. It would be a sort of insurance policy if things went wrong.

And of course as we know, rather tragically, things have gone wrong. And I think one of the most striking aspects of the memorandum is the comment by President Bush that he did not expect there to be what he called internecine strife or, as we now know it, an insurgency of the kind that has happened.

BRAND: Well, what did the two men envision for a post-war Iraq?

Mr. SANDS: I think the memo makes it pretty clear that they envisioned people turning up waving on the streets and embracing a U.S. and British occupying force. And the memorandum appears to be completely consistent with those who thought the whole thing was rather incompetently planned.

BRAND: Now, this is the second memo. The first was the famous Downing Street Memo where that was detailing an earlier meeting in July where senior British officials were concerned that, quote, "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." So does this second memo confirm those earlier fears?

Mr. SANDS: The memoranda are extremely consistent and I, for my part, think the story now is very clear. As early as March/April 2002 President Bush and Tony Blair had decided to get rid of Saddam, to, if you like, implement regime change. But under international law regime change is plainly illegal.

So what they came up with was the ruse of weapons of mass destruction. And of course they hoped and I think they believed there were weapons of mass destruction. But having not found any, they were then boxed in to a policy which required them to proceed irrespective of what the weapons inspectors found.

BRAND: Is there any doubt to the authenticity of this memo?

Mr. SANDS: The New York Times reports this morning that two senior British officials have authenticated the contents that they have published in the New York Times. And I think what is striking is that not a single denial has come from either the White House or Downing Street since this material first emerged a few weeks ago.

Because of my position as a member of the English bar, a barrister, a professor of the university, I've had to take very great care to make sure I get my facts straight, and I'm entirely comfortable that the material is authentic and cannot be denied.

BRAND: Phillipe Sands is an international law expert. His new book is called Lawless World. Phillipe Sands, thank you for joining us.

Mr. SANDS: Thank you very much.

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