Campbell lays bare Blair's promise to Bush

Former PM's communications chief reveals explosive correspondence between leaders

Britain was committed to joining the United States in military action in Iraq in a series of secret letters sent to President Bush from Tony Blair months before the invasion, it has been revealed.

The contents of the notes, which were written by the former Prime Minister and only seen by a small group of senior ministers and advisers, were revealed for the first time at the Iraq inquiry yesterday as it heard from Mr Blair's head of communications, Alastair Campbell. In the correspondence, described as "very frank", Mr Campbell said that President Bush was given the overriding message that British troops would be beside their US counterparts in any invasion, should Saddam Hussein continue to defy the disarmament demands issued by the United Nations.

"I would say the tenor of them was that... we share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed," Mr Campbell said. "If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there."

During his grilling by the inquiry, which spilled over into an extra session, Mr Campbell launched a staunch defence of the decision to go to war in Iraq and the Government's case for the invasion, asserting that Britain should be proud of removing Saddam and what has been achieved since his departure. While he said that Mr Blair's instincts had always told him to back the US in any action it took, he had remained eager to find a peaceful resolution right up until a Commons vote on military action days before troops moved in.

In a typically combative display, Mr Campbell said he defended "every word" of the controversial September 2002 dossier, which set out Mr Blair's reasons for backing an invasion of Iraq and denied that he had "beefed up" any of its claims. The document suggested it was "beyond doubt" that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that his weaponry could be launched within 45 minutes.

The former spin-doctor, who acquired an infamous reputation for confronting journalists over stories, said he had never been obsessed with headlines. He added that he had felt no compulsion to correct confused media reports that the now notorious 45-minute claim referred to weapons that could be used against other countries.

He denied that he had undue influence over the September document, which had been overseen by the Government's intelligence chief, Sir John Scarlett, adding that it was Sir John who was "100 per cent" in charge. "At no time did I ever ask him to beef up, to override, any of the judgements that he had," he said. "The whole way through, it could not have been made clearer to everybody that nothing would override the intelligence judgements and that John Scarlett was the person who, if you like, had the single pen."

But he admitted suggesting alterations to the document, as well as chairing two meetings with intelligence staff on how the dossier should be presented. He also admitted to drafting Mr Blair's foreword to the document, but denied that he had overstated that Saddam's WMD capabilities were "beyond doubt".

"If John Scarlett or any of his team had had any concerns of real substance about the foreword, then they know they could have raised those directly with the Prime Minister," he said. "I don't believe that if any of the [Joint Intelligence Committee] thought that the foreword in any sense over-stated the case to a degree that would impact the work that they had done – hit its credibility – they didn't feel they had the opportunity to say something." The assertion appeared to contradict Sir John's own evidence, during which he told the inquiry that he felt he could not substantially alter the foreword as he regarded it as "overtly political".

Meanwhile Mr Campbell also attacked Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador in Washington, for suggesting that Mr Blair had "signed in blood" a deal to back regime change during a meeting in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002. He turned on Clare Short, who resigned from the Cabinet soon after the invasion, saying she was not liked by senior military figures.

He also reopened an old feud with the media over its coverage of the Government's case for war in Iraq. He maintained that controversy only arose after the publication of "dishonest journalism" over the issue.

But last night Andrew Gilligan, the former BBC reporter at the centre of No 10's battle with the media, stood vehemently by his claim made in 2003 that Mr Campbell's involvement led to the "sexing up" of the dossier. "The documentary evidence shows that Campbell did pressurise John Scarlett particularly in regards to the nuclear issue," he told The Independent. "That was subsequently changed, remains unsupported by intelligence and is a sexing-up to me."

The evidence also put Gordon Brown in the spotlight, suggesting that the then Chancellor was central in discussions on Iraq. "I would say, certainly, that Gordon Brown would have been one of the key ministers who he spoke to," Mr Campbell said. It immediately led to calls for Mr Brown to be forced to give evidence to the inquiry ahead of the next election. The inquiry team has allowed him to delay his appearance until after a ballot.

In a rare moment of contrition, Mr Campbell conceded that a second dossier on Iraq, produced in February 2003, had been a mistake which damaged public trust. The document, which became known as the "dodgy" dossier, contained information taken from a journal on the Middle East.

Summing up his five hours of evidence, Mr Campbell said that at one time he thought Mr Blair would not survive the fallout from the invasion and could lose the 2005 election. But he said he remained proud of his role in the action taken against Saddam and said Britain should be, too. "I was privileged to be there and I'm very proud of the part I was able to play," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam