LONDON — Leaked British government documents call into question ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s public statements on the buildup to the Iraq war and show plans for the U.S.-led 2003 invasion were being made more than a year earlier, a newspaper says.
Britain’s Sunday Telegraph published details of private statements made by senior British military figures claiming plans were in place months before the March 2003 invasion, but were so badly drafted they left troops poorly equipped and ill-prepared for the conflict.
The documents — transcripts of interviews from an internal defence ministry review of the conflict — disclose that some planning for the Iraq war had begun in February 2002. Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb, then head of Britain’s special forces, was quoted as saying he had been “working the war up since early 2002,” according to the newspaper.
In July 2002, Blair told lawmakers at a House of Commons committee session that there were no preparations to invade Iraq.
Critics of the war have long insisted that Blair offered then-President George W. Bush an assurance as early as mid-2002 — before British lawmakers voted in 2003 to approve U.K. involvement — that Britain would join the war.
The leaked documents are likely to be supplied to a public inquiry established by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to scrutinize prewar intelligence and postwar planning, and which will hold its first evidence sessions later this week.