British Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the Downing Street Minutes today. According to the AP, Blair said the document paints a distorted picture and insisted that the Iraq war was not predetermined by the United States. These are the key paragraphs of the story:
President Bush “wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD,” read the memo, seen by the AP. “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
In the interview, Blair said raising such concerns was a natural part of any examination of the cause for war.
“The trouble with having a political discussion on the basis of things that are leaked is that they are always taken right out of context. Everything else is omitted from the discussion and you end up focusing on a specific document,” he said.
“It would be absolutely weird if, when the Iraq issue was on the agenda, you were not constantly raising issues, trying to work them out, get them in the right place,” he said.
So while the AP mentions that they obtained the Downing Street memo containing the “fixed around the policy” claim, apparently they didn’t get Blair to respond directly to that accusation. What does Prime Minister Blair say in response to the word “fixed”? Seems the most obvious question, and it apparently didn’t get asked or the answer wasn’t reported.
As for Blair’s argument that the memos were “taken right out of context,” he should feel free to release pre-war papers that prove his point. We’d love to read them.