A series of letters sent by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair to ex-US President George W. Bush have been released as part of Sir John Chilcot’s much-anticipated report into the Iraq War.
In total, 29 letters sent by Blair to Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War have been published, detailing Blair’s side of key conversations between the two world leaders.
Some have been transcribed as part of the report, while others have been scanned from the original handwritten notes.
Parts of the letters have been redacted, although, according to a Times report on Tuesday, that is simply for “privacy and security reasons and not to withhold relevant content.”
Chilcot’s report has taken almost seven years to come to fruition, having initially been commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009. One of the biggest sources of the delays to the report has been wrangling over whether or not to release Blair’s letters to Bush. Under usual circumstances, the letters would be held back from public release for at least 30 years.
Take a look at some of the key extracts — along with the dates they were sent, and screengrabs from some correspondence — below.
'If this is a war -- and in practical, not legal terms, it is -- we need war methods.'
'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.'
'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. 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 however noted that 'in Britain, right now, I couldn't be sure of support from Parliament, Party, public or even some of the Cabinet.'
'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 every one now challenged to come up to the mark. Well done.'
Blair concludes that the 'fundamental goal' of the invasion should be 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.'
June 2, 2003 -- In one of the first letters sent after the start of the invasion, Blair says Iraq is 'worse than re-building a country from scratch'
'The task is absolutely awesome and I'm not at all sure we're geared for it. This is 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. My sense is: we're going to get there but not quickly enough. And if it falls apart, everything falls apart in the region.'
'This is all getting lost in Iraq and WMD. But this was always about more than that. It was about a global threat. The starting place was Iraq because of the history. But the reason for action was never Iraq in isolation. It was Iraq as a test case of how determined we were to confront the threat. My worry now is that the world thinks: well, Iraq was a tough deal, so they won't try that again.'
February 1, 2004 -- Blair tells Bush: 'We know Saddam had WMD' but questions some of the intelligence given prior to the invasion
'We know Saddam had WMD. We know the (Iraq Survey Group) has not yet found weapons, though it has found evidence of programmes. The truth is that we anticipated finding the weapons during or shortly after the conflict. So to say we are surprised at the ISG's findings is no less than the truth.
'The issue of US/UK good faith can be laid to rest. We received intelligence. We honestly believed it.
'The issue now is: was it right; and if it wasn't, what can we learn about the difficulties of gathering intelligence in these situations?'
March 5, 2004 -- Blair tells Bush that British companies are crucial to a 'stable, free prosperous Iraq'
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