• Questioned about memo and Blair's visit,
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, June 13, 2005
QUESTION: Could we go back to the press availability with Prime Minister Blair last week? In response to a question, the President said, about the Downing Street memo, "My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully." And then later on he says, "And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully."
"How to do this" -- that refers to regime change or just to weapons inspections?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, regime change was the policy of the previous administration -- remember, that goes back to the previous administration.
QUESTION: But the policy of previous administration was --
MR. McCLELLAN: I addressed the threat posed by Iraq.
QUESTION: Right, which was not to do it using military force at that time. The decision by this administration was to use military force. So when talking about this --
MR. McCLELLAN: Not at that time.
QUESTION: But when talking about this, and this response, is the President referring to regime change or referring to inspections of weapons --
MR. McCLELLAN: The threat posed by the regime in Iraq.
QUESTION: So regime change [sic]
• President Welcomes British Prime Minister Blair
to the White House,
White House Press Conference, June 7, 2005
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street memo from July 2002 says intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military action. Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. Now, no one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me. And the fact is we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution, to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action.
But all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict. As it happened, we weren't able to do that because -- as I think was very clear -- there was no way that Saddam Hussein was ever going to change the way that he worked, or the way that he acted.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, I read kind of the characterizations of the memo, particularly when they dropped it out in the middle of his race. I'm not sure who "they dropped it out" is, but -- I'm not suggesting that you all dropped it out there. (Laughter.) And somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth.
My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are -- are very difficult. The hardest things I do as the President is to try to comfort families who've lost a loved one in combat. It's the last option that the President must have -- and it's the last option I know my friend had, as well. And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully, take a -- put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, and say, the world speaks, and he ignored the world. Remember, 1441 passed the Security Council unanimously. He made the decision. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.
• Questioned about memo,
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, May 23, 2005
QUESTION: Scott, last week you said that claims in the leaked Downing Street memo that intelligence was being fixed to support the Iraq War as early as July 2002 are flat-out wrong. According to the memo which was dated July 23, 2002, and whose authenticity has not been disputed by the British Government, both Foreign Minister Jack Straw and British Intelligence Chief Sir Richard Dearlove said that the President had already made up his mind to invade Iraq. Dearlove added that intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. Do you think these two very senior officials of our closest ally were flat-out wrong? And if so, how could they have been so misinformed after their conversations with George Tenet and Condoleezza Rice?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct you on the -- let me correct you on the characterization of the quote you attributed to me. I'm referring to some of the allegations that were made referring to a report. In terms of the intelligence, the -- if anyone wants to know how the intelligence was used by the administration, all they have to do is go back and look at all the public comments over the course of the lead-up to the war in Iraq, and that's all very public information. Everybody who was there could see how we used that intelligence.
And in terms of the intelligence, it was wrong, and we are taking steps to correct that and make sure that in the future we have the best possible intelligence, because it's critical in this post-September 11th age, that the executive branch has the best intelligence possible.
• Remarks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw After Meeting,
State Department Press Conference, May 17, 2005
QUESTION: [...] And if I could then ask both of you to comment on the very well-publicized British memo that was leaked to the Times of London, or to the London Times. Madame Secretary --
SECRETARY RICE: Which one is that? Andrea, which one is that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Which one is that?
QUESTION: On Iraq. That came out about 10 days ago, 12 days ago. Are you not aware of this memo?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, a lot of them are, unfortunately, out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In particular, this memo -- and I can quote -- said that the intelligence -- and this was a memo that was leaked from the minutes of a meeting that took place in July of 2002 with Tony Blair --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that one. Okay. Got it. Okay.
QUESTION: -- and some of his military intelligence advisors. In particular, it quotes one British official saying the intelligence and facts that the U.S. was putting forward were being fixed around the policy. We know what the U.S. administration's position is in the buildup to the war on Iraq. It's been made very clear. But could you speak to these allegations in particular, Madame Secretary, and whether or not this is true?
And Mr. Secretary Straw, if you could also speak to the authenticity of this memo and, in particular, you're quoted in here saying that the case was thin, Saddam was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capacity was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. Thank you. [...]
SECRETARY RICE: Okay, right. Okay. On what comes next, I think we will see what comes next. We've obviously got the Security Council as an option for the international community. We've made that clear. A number of Secretary Straw's colleagues have made that clear. And I would hope that the Iranians understand that this is their chance, they ought to take it and get back on the good side of the international community.
Look, we've gone over and over and over the issue about the intelligence and about the case against Saddam Hussein. Obviously, there were problems with the intelligence. That's now very clear. It's why the President has been very quick to react to the intelligence reform legislation, appointing John Negroponte to really more radically reform American intelligence agencies than at any time since 1947, because we need to have the very best intelligence, particularly when we are dealing with opaque, dictatorial societies like Iraq in which information comes at a premium.
But I would just remind that the information on which we were acting, in part on which we were acting, was information that was gathered from sources from around the world, including reports that UN inspectors had had when they were on the ground in 1998. Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction and I think people sometimes forget he had used weapons of mass destruction. In 1991, when the Gulf War ended, we found a nuclear program that was far advanced than what was believed to be the case.
And I just want to remind everyone that at every turn, yes, the weapons of mass destruction were a problem and Saddam Hussein had an inextricable link with weapons of mass destruction, that was made clear by the Duelfer report, which talked about the fact that he was trying to erode the Oil-for-Food -- through the Oil-for-Food program, the sanctions -- was having some success he believed in doing so and was maintaining capability and intent to try to recreate weapons of mass destruction when the world turned a blind eye.
Let's also not forget that this was a bloody dictator in the middle of the Middle East who had invaded his neighbors twice, who had used weapons of mass destruction, who was in a state of continued hostility with the United States and with the United Kingdom, in which he shot at our aircraft on a regular basis trying to patrol no fly zones to keep his air force from harming his own people and his neighbors. This was a bad, bad influence in the Middle East. He was a threat. It is a good thing that he is gone. I am immensely proud of what we did in taking down this dictator, particularly so after having been in Iraq a couple of days ago and seeing that you have, yes, a struggling young democracy there but a young democracy. And what a change for the people of Iraq, what a change for the Middle East. Even if there are terrorists who try on a daily basis through their violence to derail that process, the people of Iraq have a chance now at a decent life under democracy, and that was worth doing. Mr. Secretary.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you. On the issue of Iran, as the Secretary has said, the E-3 has made clear, including in a report to colleague foreign ministers, that we reserve the right to consider reopening the matter before the IAEA Board or referring the matter to the Security Council if we judged that is right and the obligations on both sides of the Paris agreement and other previous agreements have not been met.
The whole purpose of the negotiations with Iran is to try and avoid that circumstance in the context of ensuring that there are objective guarantees about Iran's nuclear intentions.
On Iraq, I don't have the document in front of me. Of all the things I thought I was going to be asked about at a press conference here, that was not one of them. I'd simply say this: that what people forget, too, as the Secretary has been implying, is the context that we were working in, and part of the context in the summer of 2002 was to get the international community to make a judgment about whether Iraq did or did not continue to pose a threat to international peace and security.
It was President Bush who, in September 2002, went to the General Assembly to say I'm putting this back to the United Nations. And it was the Security Council, voluntarily and unanimously, which judged in November 2002 that Iraq, and I quote, "posed a threat," to international peace and security because of its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, its long-range missile systems and its flagrant refusal to implement Security Council resolutions. And it was Saddam's failure to follow his obligations under what became 1441 that led to the military action. And that was the context in which the British House of Commons made that decision.
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