Transatlantic exchanges that helped take the West to war

 

In Sir John Chilcot’s diplomatic shorthand, they are the “difficult documents”. For the rest of us – those looking to brand Tony Blair and George Bush as war criminals, or those who believe the pair saved Iraq from the excesses of Saddam and the world from a potential WMD catastrophe – they are the communications that will reveal how close Washington and Whitehall were in the run-up to the 2003 war.

The classified documents the Chilcot team have been shown, and want to publish, are thought to relate to when and how Mr Blair made commitments to his US counterpart. “Commitment” and what that meant to Mr Blair is at the heart of the disclosure row.

In the insider account of the Iraq war preparations by the Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, there is a description of Alastair Campbell being congratulated by Mr Bush about how committed his boss was to the imminent conflict.

“Your man has cojones,” the spin-doctor was told. The translation is unambiguous. The brave Blair – and his testosterone – will be there for me.

Chilcot needs more than anatomical metaphors. In the covert preparations for Iraq, where the Blair Cabinet were told little and apparently knew less, the inquiry now has knowledge of what scraps they were thrown. The contents may damage Mr Blair; they may also damage the MPs for not demanding to know more.

In the US, the intelligence experts were telling the White House what they wanted to hear: that the evidence for Saddam holding weapons of mass destruction, at least for the CIA, was a “slam dunk case”. So what did Mr Blair reveal to his Cabinet? Did the CIA hand on their insight (which was proved wrong)? And when Blair changed from a “humanitarian” conviction that Saddam needed to go, to a position based on the threat to the UK from Iraq, did his discussions and communications with Washington explain to President Bush how the moral swap might go down back home?

If Mr Blair is criticised in the report’s main text, and Chilcot cannot publish the allied evidence in the way he wants, then the criticism is invalid, the report is pointless, and there will be no lessons for future UK government to learn.

If, as suspected, Chilcot is leaning towards a conclusion that Mr Blair, “oversold” the war, and that his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, used to joke about Blair’s “messiah complex” – who was this shared with? Who knew? Ten years on, the protected documents and their contents appear as out of reach as they were in 2003.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project