President Bush and Prime Minister Blair were just questioned on the Downing Street Memo during their joint press conference:
QUESTION: On Iraq, the so-called Downing Street Memo from July, 2002, says “Intelligence and facts remain fixed around the policy of removing Saddam through military actions.”
Is this an accurate reflection of what happened? Could both of you respond?
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 change 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.
BUSH: Well, 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.
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 conversations with the prime minister was how could we do this peacefully, what could we do.
And this meeting, evidently it 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 of us didn’t want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. That’s the last option.
The consequences of committing the military are very difficult. You know, one of 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 how to do this peacefully, to put a united front up to Saddam Hussein, so 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.