LONDON — In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."
The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.
Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq — which they failed to obtain — the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.
Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
Hitler, when he invaded Poland, used prisoners to "invade" Germany, in a manner similar to Bush's idea here.
Not that he's a Nazi, of course.
Bush of course was publicly saying something entirely different.
Getting back to the title of this post, as I note in my comments today on Joe Carter's blog, this is indeed a problem with conservatism; much of their whole doctrine is founded on wrong speech and wrong action. It brings to mind Sartre again...
Awful freedom is exactly what it sounds like, an irony wrapped in a moral truth cloaked in the wonderfully unphilosophical guise of Sartre's novels and plays. Like Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, Barrett's name became familiar to millions of people who had never read philosophy before. Terms like ''alienation," ''authenticity," and ''bad faith" became part of the American lexicon as did such names as Heidegger, Camus, Buber, and a long string of others.
Sartre appealed to the American people particularly when it came to his dramatic conception of freedom, light-years removed from the popular American version. Sartre often spoke of ''awful freedom," adding that we are ''condemned to be free." Strangely, Americans took to such language.
What he meant was that freedom is part of what it is to be human even if we are in bondage. For example, during the long, German occupation of France, one was still free to say ''no" to the occupiers of Paris and so many other French cities. The collaborators who didn't say ''no," who practiced a kind of moral arbitrage, playing one side against the other, he referred to as ''les salauds," or stinkers -- the smelly, self-righteous countrymen who favored the German occupiers of their land. Out of this experience, Sartre composed his first novel, ''Nausea," which describes the decaying moral essence wafting through the French air.
Les salauds is actually not simply "stinkers" in French...but the connotation with such people and with conservatism should be evident: rank and file conseratives in effect are collaborators with the worst that are definitely freer society has to offer in the way of authoritarian, right-wing protofascist ideology and advocates.
That's why folks on the right ignore their dance of credulousness and dishonesty at their own peril: just as lying is not right speech, so credulousness is not right thinking; one is a lie we tell to others, the other is a lie we tell to ourselves.