McClellan On British Memo: Bush’s Public and Private Iraq Statements Were ‘Fully Consistent’

Today, the New York Times reports on a previously-disclosed British memo that states Bush had decided by late January 2003 — nearly seven weeks prior to the invasion — that he was going to war. In today’s White House press briefing, Scott McClellan claimed this report was “fully consistent” with what President Bush was saying in the lead-up to war:

This was a meeting that took place back in January of 2003. Even if I know exactly what was said in that meeting, I wouldn’t get into discussing private conversations between world leaders like this. Again, I reiterate to you: The comments that we are making publicly and privately are fully consistent with one another.

Were Bush’s public comments consistent with his private desire in January 2003 to begin the military campaign? We report, you decide.

Public statement:

Bush: “I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.” [3/6/03]

Private statement

“The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March,” Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. “This was when the bombing would begin.” [Bush/Blair meeting, 1/31/03]

Public statement:

Bush: “We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.” [3/8/03]

Private statement:

“The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.” [Bush/Blair meeting, 1/31/03]

Public statement:

Bush: “Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it.” [3/17/03]

Private statement:

“But [Bush] had to say that if we ultimately failed [to get a second U.N. resolution], military action would follow anyway.” [Bush/Blair meeting, 1/31/03]