British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday defended the war in Iraq, and brushed off a new question about a government memo that suggested Washington had been determined to justify the invasion.
“I was glad that we took the action we did,” Blair told the House of Commons when asked about the so-called Downing Street memo. His comments came a day after President Bush rejected suggestions that Washington set a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and urged patience.
According to the leaked minutes of a July 23, 2002, meeting between Blair and top government officials at his Downing Street office, Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain’s intelligence service, said the White House viewed military action against Saddam Hussein as inevitable.
“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD,” read the memo, seen by The Associated Press. “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
British lawmaker Adam Price asked Blair in the Commons on Wednesday whether he believed Dearlove was a reliable source of information on Iraq.
“Is it safe to assume that Sir Richard’s statement … that the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy was an accurate assessment of the intentions and actions of the Bush administration?” Price asked.
Blair said the contents of that memo had already been covered by a high-level independent inquiry into the British government’s case for war in Iraq.
He emphasized that the 2002 meeting was before Britain and the United States sought and secured a resolution from the United Nations Security Council — a path that indicated they were not bent on military action.
“I have to say that this was of course before we went to the United Nations and secured a second resolution, the resolution 1441 that had unanimous support,” Blair added.
Blair, who met Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, went on to defend the U.S.-led war.
“When I stood next to the new prime minister of Iraq, somebody who has had five of his relatives assassinated by Saddam … and realized that he was in power because of the democratic votes of 8 million Iraqis, then I was glad that we took the action that we did and made sure that Iraq was no longer governed by a dictatorship, but by a democracy.”
Details of the memo appeared in British newspapers early last month but the news in Britain quickly turned to the May 5 election that returned Blair to power.
In the United States, however, details of the memo’s contents have raised criticism among opponents of the Bush administration