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.
There’s also this:
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 [in July 2002].
‘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’.
There’s also some stuff about a French compromise proposal in January 2003 that got turned down.
And here’s another funny thing. Call me crazy, but the “senior American official from Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office” sounds an awful lot like someone I’ve heard quoted several times before, once in relation to Valerie Plame and once in relation to something else that I can’t remember. I have a feeling that there’s someone in Cheney’s office who isn’t 100% on board with the program. I wonder who?