“It is now [September 12, 2001] that the world is in a state of shock;
now that it feels maximum sympathy for the US; now that it can be co-opted most
easily,” Blair wrote.
“The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.”
So said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a July 6 statement in response
to the release of the long-awaited Chilcot Report – a 2.6 million-word
examination, based on dozens of interviews and hundreds of classified documents,
of the UK’s decision to join the Iraq War.
“I did not mislead this country. I made the decision in good faith on
the information I had at the time,” Blair insisted.
Blair is right that the report has, in one way, vindicated him: It should put
to rest the long-held view that Blair conspired to pull his country into a reckless
war with intelligence he knew to be false – he appears to have truly believed
that Saddam Hussein had WMDs.
He is wrong, however, to insist the report exonerates him completely. An examination
of dozens of declassified letters, memos, notes and papers released along with
the report demonstrate that despite the popular image of a scheming Bush taking
Blair along for the ride, Blair and his government were just as eager to manipulate
the world to achieve their desired goal: the removal of Hussein from power.
The documents also give a firsthand look at the more cautious Blair government’s
gradual loss of control over events as the Bush administration pushed them into
a full-scale invasion of Iraq – international approval be damned.
September 12, 2001
A note Blair sent to Bush one day after the September 11 attacks set the tone
for everything to come, immediately adopting the viewpoint that many neoconservatives
like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz would also take: that of terrorism as a
unique and unprecedented menace – and an excuse for pursuing other geopolitical
“We need to construct an agenda that puts onto a new footing action against
this new evil,” he wrote to Bush on September 12, 2001. He would reiterate
this in a note to Bush two
years later. “The more I reflect on it, the more [terrorism], together
with WMD, constitutes an entirely new phenomenon of threat.”
Along with identifying the terrorist groups involved, Blair insisted in the
September 12 letter that the UK and United States “need to review urgently
the laws that in a democratic society they abuse.” This would impact domestic
laws and international agreements, he acknowledged, but “for years, the
West has pussyfooted around with these issues. These groups don’t play
by liberal rules and we can’t either.”
“Some of this will require action that some will baulk at,” he wrote.
“But we are better to act now and explain and justify our actions
than let the day be put off until some…