While Bush is trying to lay this debacle at Powell's doorstep, he might should have remembered that Powell has friends too.Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.
Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5.
The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.
The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.
Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources.
Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those being presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.
Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his briefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.
But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about what he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of assessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence.
Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".
What are called the "Waldorf transcripts" are being circulated in Nato diplomatic circles. It is not being revealed how the transcripts came to be made; however, they appear to have been leaked by diplomats who supported the war against Iraq even when the evidence about Saddam Hussein's programme of weapons of mass destruction was fuzzy, and who now believe they were lied to.
People circulating the transcripts call themselves "allied sources supportive of US war aims in Iraq at the time"...
Now, when you add this up with the play the media are giving the unfortunate comments that Wolfowitz made in the latest Vanity Fair
, the astonishing attack
on Judith Miller, neo-conservative stenographer and Friend of Chalabi for the NYT by Howard Kurtz, administration stenographer for the Washington Post, the continuing emasculation of Tom Ridge
in the pages of the Post, and the less-than-temperate run Someone in the White House is taking at Rumsfeld
, what we got here is a cage match, folks. Loser gets to fall on their sword to distract people from the whole WMD debacle.
When the dust settles on this one, someone in the administration is what we in the business of bloggage refer to as "fucked".
Me for popcorn.