The smoking gun: Blair discussed war plans with Bush nine months before invasion

A HAUNTING letter written by Tony Blair to US President George W Bush in the summer of 2002 shows plans were already being discussed between the two leaders for military action in Iraq.

Tony Blair alongside former US President George Bush.

In a letter dated 28 July 2002, nearly nine months before Britain voted to support the US invasion, Mr Blair jotted down his thoughts on how a war in Iraq could work, saying “if we win quickly, everyone will be our friend”.

Loyalty to President Bush is clear, and he said the departure of Saddam Hussein would “free up the region”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Blair wrote: “I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly, the difficulties. The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet.

Tony Blair alongside former US President George Bush.
Sir John Chilcot launching the inquiry.
Protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, where the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War is taking place.
Protesters hold a banner outside the London home of former Prime Minister Tony Blair ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.

“This is not Kosovo, this is not Afghanistan. It is not even the Gulf War. The military part of this is hazardous but I will concentrate mainly on the political context for success.”

Blair stated in his letter that getting rid of Saddam was “the right thing to do.”

He said “He is a potential threat. He could be contained. But containment...is always tricky. His departure would free up the region. And his regime is ...brutal and inhumane.”

Mr Blair wrote that the first question was whether the US wanted or needed a coalition.

He stated that the US “could do it alone, with UK support” but drew attention to unintended consequences, writing: “Suppose it got militarily tricky. Suppose Iraq suffered unexpected civilian causalities. Suppose the Arab street finally erupted. Suppose Saddam felt sufficiently political strong, if military weak in conventional terms, to let of WMS.

“Suppose that, without any coalition, the Iraqis feel ambivalent about being invaded and real Iraqis...decide to offer resistance. Suppose...that any difficulties, without a coalition are magnified and seized on by a hostile international opinion. If we win quickly, everyone will be our friend. If we don’t...recriminations will start fast.

Tony Blair alongside former US President George Bush.

“None of these things might happen. But they might...And there is one other point. We will need to commit to Iraq for the long-term. Bedding down a new regime will take time. So without support, the possibility of unintended consequences will persist through and beyond the military phase.”

Sir John Chilcot launching the inquiry.
Protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, where the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War is taking place.
Protesters hold a banner outside the London home of former Prime Minister Tony Blair ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.