A new hot document confirms that George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair intended to sucker Saddam Hussein into war.
John Prados -- TomPaine.common sense
John Prados is a senior analyst with the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. His current book is Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. The Polo Step slides can be examined on the National Security Archive website.
Feb. 21, 2007 -- The now-infamous Downing Street documents showed how President George Bush managed his move to war by fitting intelligence to his policy, and by refusing to accept the reports of United Nations inspectors who could find no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Now there is a new hot document that confirms that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair intended to sucker Saddam into war. It demonstrates that this aim was present long before the Bush-Blair talks, and indeed that provocation formed an integral feature of the U.S. war plan.
A Jan. 31, 2003, meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair clearly shows the two leaders discussing ways to provoke Saddam Hussein so as to justify war, indicating premeditation. Last week the National Security Archive in Washington posted the U.S. war plan -- the set of briefing slides used by Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General Tommy Franks to brief President Bush on “Polo Step,” CENTCOM’s Iraq invasion scheme. The PowerPoint slides were prepared for a series of presidential meetings held from December 2001 to August 2002. The slides summarized CENTCOM’s buildup and maneuver concepts for Bush’s deliberations. Bush backed Franks’ concept of “adjusting” Iraqi defenses by executing what amounted to a covert offensive air campaign. They would use forces already in the Persian Gulf region for the ostensible purpose of enforcing no-fly zones created after the first Gulf War. TomPaine.com has previously covered this operation (“The War Before the War,” June 24, 2005), but the new evidence establishes an explicit link between the aerial offensive and the Iraq war plans.
The no-fly zones were originally designed to prevent Iraqi government interference with humanitarian efforts in northern Iraq (“Operation Northern Watch”) and against Shiite minorities in the southern region of the country (“Operation Southern Watch”). They used aircraft based in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and on aircraft carriers in the Gulf. Until 2001, it had been standard practice for U.S. and British aircraft participating in these missions to retaliate against Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, missiles, and radars that had fired at the planes. CENTCOM had a plan it called “Desert Badger” that established standard operating procedures for such strikes.
In early 2002, General Franks and his aerial component commanders revised the old arrangement. CENTCOM created a set of “response options” from 1 to 5, providing successively higher levels of violence. The Polo Step briefing slides make clear that U.S. planners envisioned using response options in the case of “triggers,” -- Iraqi actions -- and specified 16 different possibilities to lead to retaliation. These ranged from simple interference with flights to major threats or attacks on friendly regional neighbors. One of the Downing Street documents reveals that the British realized the no-fly zones had no basis in international law and the contemplated air campaign no justification as “self defense.” A May 2002 CENTCOM slide noted that “contingency plan execution is tailored to match strategic timing and current strategic environment.”