By David Edwards on 3/28/2006, 5:09am PT  

Guest blogged by David Edwards of

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Prompted by a new report in The New York Times, MSNBC's Hardball takes a fresh look at a history of the Iraq war through the lens of a January 31, 2003 memo detailing a White House meeting between Bush and Blair.

This video begins with a report by David Shuster that weighs possible repercussions of The Memo against the increasing violence in Iraq and President Bush's low standing in the polls.

Chris Matthews interviews writer Phillippe Sands whose recent book, "Lawless World", exposes more pre-war lies. According to The Times, Mr. Sands "is a professor of international law at University College of London and the founding member of the Matrix law office in London, where the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair, is a partner."

Matthews and Sands take the opportunity to pile on The President. Even Matthews' questions to Sands appear to be clear indictments of The Presidents actions:

MATTHEWSWhat struck me in the memorandum again today was that the President George W. Bush had decided to go to war with Iraq before completing the inspections. Had decided to do so before sending Secretary of State--and a skeptic, I must say--Colin Powell to the United Nations.

What is the significance of that? That he made the decision--as recorded by David Manning who was working for the Prime Minister at the time--before either of those events occurred . The U.N. presentation which was apparently to sell Europe of the fact that there were weapons of mass destruction and the completion of the weapons inspections themselves. Both were not waited for. The President decided before then. So did Tony Blair apparently.

The January 31, 2003 memo is consistent with the July 2002 "Downing Street" Memos where British officials expressed concern that Bush had already decided to go to invade Iraq and that "intelligence was being fixed around the policy" to meet that goal.

Phillippe Sands describes yet another memo that recorded a meeting between Colin Powell and his British counterpart Jack Straw. In this memo, Colin Powell explains that, in his view, "if there wasn't enough evidence for a second [U.N.] Security Council resolution then there wasn't enough evidence to justify the U.S. going it alone."

In an attempt to find the earliest hints of a desire among the Bush team to attack Iraq, Matthews references a new book, "Cobra II", by Bernard Trainer:

Matthews: [Bernard Trainer] describes a phone call from then Vice President elect Dick Cheney to then Defense Secretary William Cohen regarding Iraq. This came, this phone call, right after [or] soon after the debate by the Supreme Court when they gave the election to President Bush after the Florida dispute.

Ok, here's what Cohen received: a call from the Vice President [elect], Cheney. Here's what he said: He said that [Cheney] wanted to see one thing. He did not want to see a tour of the world and all of the potential threats to our country. He wanted to get a briefing for the new President, his partner George W. Bush, on one topic. Iraq. That's all he wanted.

And I talked to Bill Cohen a number of times on this and he said that it was breathtaking. All the Vice President wanted to know about --- he didn't care about the world; all around the globe --- the only thing he cared about was Iraq. He was already honing in on that decision in December of 2000. What does that tell you?

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