Subject: Bu$h-Bliar 's Secret Pact Nine Days After 9/11
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2004 20:20:42 +0200
X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4522.1200
Sunday 4 April 2004 By David Rose - The Observer - UK
Bush and Blair made secret pact for Iraq war
· Decision came nine days after 9/11
· Ex-ambassador reveals discussion
President George Bush first asked Tony Blair to support the removal of
Saddam Hussein from power at a private White House dinner nine days
after the terror attacks of 11 September, 2001.
According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to
Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign
leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should
not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with
the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying : 'I agree with you, Tony. We
must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan,
we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.
It was clear, Meyer says, 'that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't
be to discuss smarter sanctions'. Elsewhere in his interview, Meyer says
Blair always believed it was unlikely that Saddam would be removed
from power or give up his weapons of mass destruction without a war.
Faced with this prospect of a further war, he adds, Blair 'said nothing
Details of this extraordinary conversation will be published this week
in a 25,000-word article on the path to war with Iraq in the May issue
of the American magazine Vanity Fair. It provides new corroboration
of the claims made last month in a book by Bush's former counter-
terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, that Bush was 'obsessed' with Iraq
as his principal target after 9/11.
But the implications for Blair may be still more explosive. The
discussion implies that, even before the bombing of Afghanistan,
Blair already knew that the US intended to attack Saddam next,
although he continued to insist in public that 'no decisions had been
taken' until almost the moment that the invasion began in March 2003.
His critics are likely to seize on the report of the two leaders' exchange
and demand to know when Blair resolved to provide the backing that
The Vanity Fair article will provide further ammunition in the shape
of extracts from the private, contemporaneous diary kept by the former
International Development Secretary, Clare Short, throughout the months
leading up to the war. This reveals how, during the summer of 2002,
when Blair and his closest advisers were mounting an intense diplomatic
campaign to persuade Bush to agree to seek United Nations support
over Iraq, and promising British support for military action in return,
Blair apparently concealed his actions from his Cabinet.
For example, on 26 July Short wrote that she had raised her 'simmering
worry about Iraq' in a meeting with Blair, asking him for a debate on
Iraq in the next Cabinet meeting - the last before the summer recess.
However, the diary went on, Blair replied that this was unnecessary
because 'it would get hyped ... He said nothing [was] decided, and
wouldn't be over summer.'
In fact, that week Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning,
was in Washington, meeting both Bush and his National Security Adviser,
Condoleezza Rice, in order to press Blair's terms for military support,
and Blair himself had written a personal memorandum to the President
in which he set them out. Vanity Fair quotes a senior American official
from Vice-President Dick Cheney's office who says he read the transcript
of a telephone call between Blair and Bush a few days later.
'The way it read was that, come what may, Saddam was going to go;
they said they were going forward, they were going to take out the
regime, and they were doing the right thing. Blair did not need any
convincing. There was no, "Come on, Tony, we've got to get you on
board". I remember reading it and then thinking, "OK, now I know
what we're going to be doing for the next year".'
Before the call, this official says, he had the impression that the
probability of invasion was high, but still below 100 per cent.
Afterwards, he says, 'it was a done deal'.
As late as 9 September, Short's diary records, when Blair went to a
summit with Bush and Cheney at Camp David in order to discuss
final details, 'T[ony] B[lair] gave me assurances when I asked for
Iraq to be discussed at Cabinet that no decision [had been] made and
[was] not imminent.' Later that day she learnt from the Chancellor,
Gordon Brown, that Blair had asked to make 20,000 British troops
available in the Gulf. She still believed her Prime Minister's assurances,
but wrote that, if had she not done so, she would 'almost certainly' have
resigned from the Government. At that juncture her resignation would
have dealt Blair a very damaging blow.
But if Blair was misleading his own Government and party, he appears
to have done the same thing to Bush and Cheney. At the Camp David
meeting, Cheney was still resisting taking the case against Saddam and
his alleged weapons of mass destruction to the UN.
According to both Meyer and the senior Cheney official, Blair helped
win his argument by saying that he could be toppled from power at the
Labour Party conference later that month if Bush did not take his advice.
The party constitution makes clear that this would have been impossible
and senior party figures agree that, at that juncture, it was not a
Short's diary shows in the final run-up to war Blair persuaded her not to
resign and repeatedly stated that Bush had promised it would be the UN,
not the American-led occupying coalition, which would supervise the
reconstruction of Iraq. This, she writes, was the clinching factor in her
decision to stay in the Government - with devastating consequences for
her own political reputation.
Vanity Fair also discloses that on 13 January, at a lunch around the
mahogany table in Rice's White House office, President Chirac's top
adviser, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, and his Washington ambassador,
Jean-David Levitte, made the US an offer it should have accepted. In
the hope of avoiding an open breach between the two countries, they
said that, if America was determined to go to war, it should not seek
a second resolution, that the previous autumn's Resolution 1441 arguably
provided sufficient legal cover, and that France would keep quiet if the
administration went ahead.
But Bush had already promised Blair he would seek a second resolution
and Blair feared he might lose Parliament's support without it. Meanwhile,
the Foreign Office legal department was telling him that without a second
resolution war would be illegal, a view that Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-
General, seemed to share at that stage. When the White House sought Blair's
opinion on the French overture, he balked.
A Downing Street spokesman said last night : 'Iraq had been a foreign
policy priority ...........................