UK 'suddenly' let in on Bush war plans

US military leaders opened up after Blair met President at Texas ranch

Britain's military chiefs were suddenly included in top secret US planning for an invasion of Iraq in the months following a private meeting between Tony Blair and President Bush, the Iraq inquiry heard yesterday.

Major-General David Wilson, then Britain's military adviser at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said he was given absolutely no access to war planning on Iraq when he arrived at the facility prior to the leaders' meeting in April 2002, saying he "would have been shot" had he attempted to muscle in on the talks. However, US co-operation changed abruptly two months later.

He said the access was a "defining moment" in the lead-up to war as he was "made privy to planning that had gone on to that point by the US". It was at the meeting at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, that George Bush revealed to Mr Blair that military options on an Iraq campaign had already been drawn up. Earlier Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's ambassador to the US at the time, also said that the leaders may have firmed up an agreement on military action during the encounter.

General Wilson said he believed an order had been made by Donald Rumsfeld, then the US Defence Secretary, to "draw back the curtain" and give Britain access to the planning process on Iraq. Military chiefs were told of a five-pronged plan drawn up by General Franks, head of US Central Command.

General Wilson said "secure wires ran hot" between London and Tampa as planners within the MoD learned of the strategy. He then gave a speech to a secret military meeting in the US in August 2002 laying out possible British involvement in a military campaign.

However, he said no decision had been made on committing British troops to any future operation. He added that he was "never put on the spot" by US military planners about Britain's willingness to participate in the invasion.

The inquiry was told by another senior military figure that he set up a small "scoping" group within the MoD to look at possible military options for Iraq upon Mr Blair's return from Crawford. "My job was to bring options," said Sir Anthony Pigott, the former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff. "There was no talk about plans at that stage."

General Wilson also attacked US planning for the reconstruction of Iraq, adding that he had warned repeatedly that not enough was being done in preparation for the war's aftermath. He said that the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, set up to oversee the reconstruction effort, had been unfunded and understaffed.

Meanwhile, Britain's former ambassador in Baghdad left Gordon Brown with questions to answer after saying that Mr Brown, then the Chancellor, refused to provide extra funds needed in 2006 to restore normality to the city of Basra. Dominic Asquith said that the Treasury refused requests for an extra £13m to help reconstruction efforts. Political tensions were so great in the years following the invasion that Iraqi politicians told him that only the heavy presence of international troops stopped the newly formed government in Baghdad from being toppled.

Iraq inquiry: What we have learnt

*Monday: Nine months before the invasion, Tony Blair asked military chiefs to draw up war plans for Iraq. Sir David Manning, Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser, revealed that President Bush and Mr Blair discussed Saddam Hussein and Iraq just three days after the 9/11 terror attacks.

*Tuesday: British reconstruction efforts in Iraq after the 2003 invasion were hampered by funding and staff shortages, senior Foreign Office officials said. The inquiry heard that the demands of the task outstripped the money provided by the Government.

*Thursday: Admiral Lord Boyce, then the Chief of the Defence Staff, said that Geoff Hoon, then Defence Secretary, blocked him from ordering equipment and mobilising troops for several months because ministers did not want the secret plans to become public.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'