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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?