I can't get behind the New York Times firewall, but Amy Alkon at the Advice Goddess can and provides this snippet of a new article by Don Van Natta Jr. entitled Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says.
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.
"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam". ...
The disclosures come in a new edition of Lawless World, by Phillipe Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College, London. Professor Sands last year exposed the doubts shared by Foreign Office lawyers about the legality of the invasion in disclosures which eventually forced the prime minister to publish the full legal advice given to him by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.
Mr Bush told 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]".
The IHT account of the same story, which is not behind a firewall reveals that the Guardian and NYT articles are exactly from the same source.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Bush, Blair and six of their top aides. ...
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of 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.
There are some differences in the text. In the Guardian article the phrase "The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning" is attributed directly to President Bush. But in the IHT account of the NYT story the words appear to be the paraphrase of Blair aide David Manning. However, both repeat the bizarre proposal to 'paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire'. These memos are being taken as proof of some kind to demonstrate premeditated aggression by the US, but they deserve a closer look because some of the things they suggest are absurd. One obvious problem was eloquently pointed out by Confederate Yankee.
U2 high altitude surveillance aircraft typically operate near their operational ceiling of 70,000 feet, or more than 13 miles in the air. The aircraft simply cannot be seen from the ground, regardless of what paint scheme it manifests, whether it is United Nations blue, or pink with green stripes. The very concept is preposterous.
If Bush and Blair wanted to use Iraqi anti-aircraft fire as their excuse to trigger a war, they hardly had to make up an incident.
Iraq has a long and well documented history of firing upon aircraft enforcing the U.N.-mandated "No-fly" zones in what became unofficially known as the No-Fly Zone War which occurred more or less continuously from the end of the first Gulf War in 1991 until the Iraq War began on March 20, 2003.
Confederate Yankee's is right: U-2s can't be seen from the ground to distinguish UN markings or colors. Colors can't be reliably distinguished at any but the shortest ranges, which is why aircraft shape and IFF are used for recognition instead. Anybody who has to get close enough to read the lettering on the side of a U2 is close enough to get his head examined. Of course it may be argued that President Bush only proved his mental incapacity by making such a strange suggestion. But what would that say about the newspapermen who never noticed the implausibility? Or about Tony Blair who presumably let this sail right past him?
On the basis of internal problems, I think these memos need further examination.