· PM backed invasion despite illegality warnings
· Plan to disguise US jets as UN planes
· Bush: postwar violence unlikely
A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.
The memo seen by Prof Sands reveals:
· Mr Bush told the Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".
· Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a "public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small possibility" that Saddam would be "assassinated".
· Mr Blair told the US president that a second UN resolution would be an "insurance policy", providing "international cover, including with the Arabs" if anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning oil wells, killing children, or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq.
· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according to the book.
The meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair, attended by six close aides, came at a time of growing concern about the failure of any hard intelligence to back up claims that Saddam was producing weapons of mass destruction in breach of UN disarmament obligations. It took place a few days before the then US secretary Colin Powell made claims - since discredited - in a dramatic presentation at the UN about Iraq's weapons programme.
Foreign Office lawyers consistently warned that an invasion would be regarded as unlawful. The book reveals that Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the FO's deputy chief legal adviser who resigned over the war, told the Butler inquiry, into the use of intelligence during the run-up to the war, of her belief that Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, shared the FO view.
Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat acting leader, said last night: "The fact that consideration was apparently given to using American military aircraft in UN colours in the hope of provoking Saddam Hussein is a graphic illustration of the rush to war. It would also appear to be the case that the diplomatic efforts in New York after the meeting of January 31 were simply going through the motions, with decision for military action already taken."
Sir Menzies continued: "The prime minister's offer of February 23 to Saddam Hussein was about as empty as it could get. He has a lot of explaining to do."
Bush and Blair both got a lotta esplainin' to do.
This is really nothing new, but I'm glad there's more evidence.
About painting US planes in UN colors so Saddam would fire on them, it reminds me a lot of how Hitler started WWII: he killed some political prisoners, put them in Polish uniforms and planted them inside Germany and claimed Poland had invaded.