(Philippe Sands, Queen’s Counsel and Professor of Law, University College London)
On 31 January 2003, David Manning — who now serves as British Ambassador to the United States — recorded notes on a secret understanding between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that their two nations were committing to war against Iraq in March 2003 regardless of diplomatic outcomes with Saddam Hussein.
The memo is extremely important in understanding the pathway to war that Bush and his team engineered — and this important memo is embedded where it first surfaced — in a brilliant and provocative book by Philippe Sands, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules.
The “Manning Memo” was featured in a major, front page New York Times story earlier this week.
One might ask why we need more confirmation at this point that Blair and Bush were set on a course for war — despite mountains of counsel that their focus and plans were off target. In fact, the real target should have been bin Laden, who is still at large and whose personal ambitions to launch a global transnational Islamic radical terrorist movement have succeeded because of the Bush-Blair miscalculation.
But getting the record straight is important. It creates, hopefully, resistance against committing the same sorts of errors again. It makes sure that the trust that Presidents and Prime Ministers depended upon from their publics is harder won next time. One hopes anyway.
Philippe Sands will be speaking at the New America Foundation for the American Strategy Program, which I direct, on Thursday, 30 March (tomorrow) from 3-5 p.m. I will chair the meeting.
If you’d like to attend, RSVP to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The address is 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 7th Floor in Washington, D.C.
Should be a fascinating session. . .particularly given the oral arguments yesterday before the U.S. Supreme Court that America’s secret military tribunals are unconstitutional.
— Steve Clemons