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Read Tony Blair's Private Memos To George Bush On The Iraq War

"I will be with you, whatever," Blair told President Bush in one of the many private memos released as part of the inquiry into the Iraq war.

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The Iraq war inquiry has revealed dozens of private confidential memos written by Tony Blair in the run-up to and during the conflict.

Mario Tama / AFP / Getty Images

The memos reveal the thoughts, fears, and strategies of Blair and his team. Traditionally these memos would not be released for several decades but Sir John Chilcot managed to obtain them for his report.

Many involve conversations with US president George Bush – although we do not have his replies.

1. Blair to Bush on 12 September 2001, responding to the previous day's terror attacks: "We are better to act now and explain and justify our actions".

The prime minister wrote to the US president to commit to immediate action after the 9/11 terror attacks.

"[A]fter reflection, there will be many who ask: what is the next stage of this evil? What of their capacity to get hold of biological, chemical and other WMD? We know that there are countries and individuals trading in WMD and/or trying to acquire them. We need a range of sanctions and pressures to stop this.

“Some of this will require action that some will baulk at. But we are better to act now and explain and justify our actions than let the day be put off until some further, perhaps even worse catastrophe occurs. And I believe this is a real possibility.”


2. In December 2001, more than a year before the invasion, Blair wrote to Bush calling for a "strategy for regime change that builds over time".

Iraq inquiry / Via

Blair, in summary, wanted to:

* Draw attention to Saddam's breach of UN resolutions, say regime change is "desirable".

* Pressure Syria into closing an oil pipeline and stopping the flow of Iraqi oil

* Bring Russia on board.

* Support opposition groups.

* Begin covert operations with the aim of toppling Saddam.

* Back any eventually rebellion militarily.

"So: my strategy is to build this over time until we get to the point where military action could be taken if necessary," Blair wrote.

"But meanwhile bring back people towards us, undermine Saddam, without so alarming people about the immediacy of action that we frighten the horses, lose Russia and/or half the EU and nervous Arab states and find ourselves facing a choice between massive intervention and nothing."

3. Blair to Bush, 28 July 2002: "I will be with you, whatever."

Iraq inquiry

This lengthy memo sets out Blair's continued support for Bush and the plan to remove Saddam Hussein – many months before the actual invasion that wouldn't take place until March the following year.

"Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do," Blair wrote. "His departure would free up the region."

Blair goes on to warn of "unintended consequences" and predicts that "recriminations will start fast" if the Iraq invasion is not an immediate success.


It has also emerged that Blair was advised not to use the phrase "with you whatever".

This is quite astonishing from the then UK ambo to US on Blair's "with you whatever" memo to Bush

Sir David Manning, the British ambassador to the US at the time of the war, recalled discussing the memo with Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell.

"The prime minister should not say this," Manning said to Powell at the time. However, Blair decided to leave the "rhetorical flourish" in the memo, despite Manning believing that it went "further than we should have gone".

4. "Dear George, It was a brilliant speech. It puts us on exactly the right strategy to get the job done. The reception has been very positive with everyone now challenged to come up to the mark. Well done. Yours ever, Tony."

Tony Blair

Blair wrote the note following President Bush's speech to the UN General Assembly, urging intervention in Iraq, on 12 September 2002.


5. In January 2003, two months before the invasion, Blair wrote to Bush arguing they were "victims of our own success".

Iraq inquiry / Via

Blair wrote: "Your strength on the issue has forced Saddam to let inspectors back in; has made him seem weak and back in his box. So, everyone asks: why bother?

"But they also know, deep down, WMD is an issue and that given half a chance Saddam would be at it again. And they don't want, ideally, to fall out with the US. But to avoid falling out, they need some cover."

6. A month later, the stakes were "now much higher", Blair wrote, predicting a "defining moment in EU/US relations and in the future direction of Europe.

Iraq inquiry / Via

"I have never come across an issue in which the dividing line between overwhelming support and overwhelming opposition is so slender," Blair said.

On attitudes in Britain, he wrote: "We have actually had considerable success in our arguments. Large majorities believe Saddam is a threat and needs disarming. The same believe that without the threat of action, he wouldn't disarm."


"This is the moment when you can define international politics for the next generation: the true post-cold war order," Blair wrote to the US president. "Our ambition is big: to construct a global agenda around which we can unite the world; rather than dividing it into rival centres of power."

Addressing Bush directly, he went on: "Your insight, which no-one has articulated better or more clearly is that post 9/11 our security is best guaranteed not just through traditional military intelligence means but by our values. More freedom in the world means more security. Countries that are free and democratic are countries unlikely to threaten us. The terrorists and rogue states, however different in origin, come together in hatred of our values because those values represent the opposite of dictatorial states and extremist Islamic terrorists who want to Talibanise the world. They don't hate the US by accident. They hate it for what it stands for."

Blair added: "So our fundamental goal is to spread our values of freedom, democracy, tolerance and the rule of law, but we need a broad based agenda capable of unifying the world, to get it. That's why, though Iraq's WMD is the immediate justification for action, ridding Iraq of Saddam is the real prize."


Blair set out an eight-point plan to "get a daily briefing out and give a real sense of strategic grip".

Iraq inquiry

Distilled, the "big picture" of this plan was "continually going back to the nature of Saddam and why Iraq and the world is better off without him".

"He's bad; we're good; he's going to lose; we're going to win," Blair wrote.

9. By June 2003, the US and UK were effectively occupying powers in Iraq. Blair's thoughts turned to reconstruction, and the daunting scale of the task the coalition faced in Iraq.

Iraq inquiry / Via

After praising the leader of the occupational authority in Iraq, American diplomat Paul "Jerry" Bremer, Blair noted that the task ahead was "worse than re-building a country from scratch".

"We start from a really backward position. In time, it can be sorted. But time counts against us (a) because the Iraqis are impatient and don't yet see clear improvement, though plainly delighted at Saddam's departure: and (b) because if there is any vacuum, clerics/Iran/anyone bad, wants to fill it," Blair wrote.

"My sense is: we're going to get there but not quickly enough. And if it falls apart, everything falls apart in the region."

10. In September 2003, Blair wrote again to say rebuilding Iraq was proving the "most difficult phase".

Iraq inquiry / Via

Iraqi media is, Blair wrote, his "obsession". "There are five terrestrial channels to fill; and we need an Iraqi satellite service," he said.

11. A month later, Blair wrote to Bush calling for a "coherent strategy to get us back on the high ground and get the public, at home and abroad, to focus on the big picture".

Iraq inquiry / Via

Blair wrote: "It may be odd for a Labour prime minister and a Republican president to have a common political interest, but we do!"


12. In April the following year, Blair's thoughts still seem dominated by reconstructing post-war Iraq, and the public perception of it.

"Public opinion in Europe is incredibly shaky," Blair wrote.

"People as of us: do they have a plan for Iraq that will work? Do they know what they are doing?"

Matthew Champion is a deputy world news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Matthew Champion at

Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Jim Waterson at

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