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Iraq – Tony & the Truth

Sunday 10.15PM 20 March

Two years ago tonight, the Prime Minister was preparing to broadcast to the
nation. He was taking the country to war.

Tony Blair TV address 20th March
“Tonight British servicemen and women are engaged from land sea and air. Their
mission: to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and disarm Iraq of its weapons of
mass destruction.”

Mr Blair had said the intelligence services had showed beyond doubt that Iraq
had weapons of mass destruction.

Prime Minister’s Iraq Statement to Parliament. House of Commons 24th September

“…there has been a real concern on our Part not to exaggerate the intelligence
that we get.” 

Yet some of Mr Blair’s claims about intelligence were exaggerated.

Prime Minister’s Iraq Statement to Parliament. House of Commons 24th September

“The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four
years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.”

We now know that was not quite the picture the intelligence services painted to

Robin Cook MP. Cabinet Minister 1997-2003

“…he knew perfectly well what he was Doing…  I think there was a lack of

Tony Blair (13/10/04)
“What I cannot bring myself to say that I misrepresented the evidence because I
do not accept that I did…”

But there are many in the country who think he did.

Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson. Secretary, D-Notice Committee 1999-2004
A:. “..the government perhaps allowed the public to be misled as to the degree
of certainty about weapons of mass destruction.”

The Prime Minister remains utterly convinced he was right to take military

This is the story of what Mr Blair didn’t tell us before sending British troops
into battle.

Tony Blair 13/10/04
“What I do not in any way accept is that there was any deception of anyone.”

Carne Ross
First Secretary – UK Mission to the UN 1998-2002

Q: Is he someone whose word you still trust?
A: I personally don’t trust him, no.   No, not on.. this was such a
fundamental.. such an important, such a huge thing to send young men off to
war…. [edit]….. I'm afraid the government did not tell the whole truth about the
alleged threat that Iraq posed, that's why I think it's a tawdry story.”


Reconstructions in this film are based on public sources and conversations with
some participants.

8 MARCH 2002

On Friday 8 March 2002 a top secret briefing paper on Iraq was sent to the
Prime Minister

It was almost exactly twelve months before he took Britain to war.

“Come in….morning Tony here are your papers.”


Mr Blair was told the Bush administration was considering overthrowing Saddam

An invasion was the only way of doing this – but it would require a legal

The Prime Minister was advised “…none currently exists.” 

Nevertheless, Mr Blair would make a commitment to regime change.

This would be a radical departure in British foreign policy – which he withheld
from most members of his cabinet.

Cheney arrives at No.10

On Monday morning the American Vice President Dick Cheney arrived at No.10.

The Prime Minister had been briefed that Saddam posed no greater threat now than
in recent years.

Press question
“Mr Cheney: are we going to war with Iraq?”

But at his press conference Mr Blair made no mention of that crucial

He had decided that he and the President Bush were gong to row back the tide of
proliferation. And that Iraq was the place to start.

Prime Minister and Dick Cheney in Joint Press conference – London 11th March

Q: … What evidence can you lay before the world that Saddam Hussein does have,
or shortly will have, the capability to threaten not only his own people but
countries in western Europe and indeed the United States itself?

A: If I can answer first of all…. that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein
and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired is not in doubt at all…
of course al-Qaeda would use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of
mass destruction if they could.”

Manning in Washington

The next day in Washington, Mr Blair’s foreign affairs and security adviser met
the Bush Administration.

Sir David Manning sent a note to Mr Blair of his conversation.

What Sir David said leaked out last autumn.

V/O Manning (reconstruction)
From: Sir David Manning
To: The Prime Minister
“.. We spent a long time at dinner on IRAQ. It is clear that Bush is grateful
for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said you would
not budge in your support for regime change.”

Robin Cook MP. Cabinet Minister 1997-2003
A: I think the real dishonesty of the government's position is that Tony Blair
could not be frank with the British people about the real reason why he believed
Britain had to be part of an invasion which was to prove to the United States
President that we were his most reliable, most sound ally.  That was why he
committed himself to President Bush… I don’t deny that Tony Blair genuinely
believed that there were illegal weapons inside Iraq, but the evidence for it
was always very thin.

Q: But he believed it.

A: The reality is that he believed in the evidence because he needed to believe
in the evidence.”

Mr Blair was certainly warned the intelligence was thin by the government’s
key Joint Intelligence Committee. Although the Committee advised that
Saddam was able to produce chemical and biological agent, they also said there
was no firm evidence he was still making weapons.

And Mr Blair was told the available intelligence was “sporadic” and “patchy”.

What little intelligence there was coming in from Iraq was seen by the chief
intelligence analyst on weapons of mass destruction at the Ministry of Defence.

Dr Brian Jones.Defence Intelligence Staff 1987-2003  

“The intelligence we had certainly wasn’t detailed, I mean this was .. was one
of our major problems, there were some very general statements in intelligence
that raised suspicions.  But it .. it certainly didn’t .. didn’t allow
definitive statements or definitive assessments to be made.”

In Washington, the British ambassador had been discussing Mr Blair’s commitment
to regime change with the Bush administration at Sunday lunch.

(V/O reconstruction)
From: Sir Christopher Meyer
To: Sir David Manning
“Memo to Sir David Manning, Number
Ten Downing Street…confidential and

Sir Christopher Meyer reported back to No.10 on this latest meeting.

“ Point 2 on Iraq I opened by sticking very closely to the script that you used
with Condi Rice last week. We backed regime change, but the plan had to be
clever and failure was not an option. It would be a tough sell for us

But No.10 already had a plan for this.

Sunday Times, 24 March 02

“…Alastair Campbell, Downing Street’s Communications Chief, told American
reporters last week that a dossier of allegations compiled by Whitehall and
the intelligence services would be presented publicly…”

“…the dossier would prove, sources in London said, that Saddam is
manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. “

The Mirror 12 March 02

“The Prime Minister is set to use the ‘dossier of death’ to convince Britain to
join the US in attacking Iraq.”

In Whitehall, officials liaising between the intelligence services and the media
on sensitive issues heard there was disquiet at using such weak intelligence for
public relations.

In charge of the Defence Notice Committee was Rear Admiral  Nick Wilkinson.

Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson. Secretary ‘D’ Notice Committee 1999-2004

“… The middle ranking people had severe doubts, as we know now, and that
was apparent you know, for me and people like me…they knew that Saddam
Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction and R&D capability. They
were not sure what he’d done with it since the first Gulf War so they thought
he could have it, but they weren’t sure“

But the Prime Minister was sure. In fact he said he was certain.

Prime Minister i/v on NBC. 4th April 2002

“We know that he [Saddam Hussein] has stockpiles of major amounts of
chemical and biological weapons…”

On what did Mr Blair base this assertion? No recent assessment from the Joint
Intelligence Committee had claimed as much.

(V/O reconstruction)

From: Peter Ricketts, Foreign Office Political Director
To: The Foreign Secretary
“22 March 2002, confidential & personal, to the Secretary of State,
headed “Iraq Advice to the Prime Minister”.

The political director of the Foreign Office Peter Ricketts wrote a candid note
to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

He advised that the Prime Minister & the President should get the threat in

“First the Threat. The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam
Hussein’s WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September.”

To persuade the public war might be necessary, Mr Ricketts said the
government would have to be more convincing.

“To get public and parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be
convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending
our troops to die for.”

The Prime Minister made his claim about Saddam having stockpiles of weapons as
he was about to meet President Bush at his ranch in Texas.

No. 10 seems to have had high hopes of Mr Blair’s influence over Mr Bush.

BBC Ten News 6 April 2002
Andy Marr
“… The word that is being used in Number Ten, quite remarkably, I think,
is that Tony Blair regards himself as President Bush's strategist, when it
comes to Iraq. He is at least as keen as President Bush to see the end of Saddam
Hussein, and wants him out. What they will be discussing how to get there.”

Lib Bush Blair meet at Crawford, Texas 5 
April 2002
The President wanted to know from his closest ally if he could expect coalition
forces to help an invasion.

Mr Blair wanted to know if Mr Bush would revive the Middle East peace
process before any bombing started.

But this seems not to have been set as a condition by Mr Blair. It was more of
big ‘ask’ “ an official present at the summit told us.

TB arriving at Crawford off helicopter and
Bush drives away in pick up
President Bush with press
Q: Mr President ..

A: See you all tomorrow. 

Q: Sounds good.

A: I know you can’t wait and neither can

Q: OK.

A: Neither can the Prime Minister, for
that matter…”

Privately Mr Blair had already promised
the Bush administration he wouldn’t
“budge” in his support for regime change.

But as No.10 had also explained to the
Americans, Mr Blair had to “manage a
press, a Parliament and public opinion
that was very different from anything in
the States.”

TB and GB walk in

So the Prime Minister was much more
nuanced in public than his host about his

Blair at Joint Presser at Crawford
6th April 2002

“You know it has always been our policy
that Iraq would be a better place without
….but how we now proceed in this
situation, how we make sure that this
threat that is posed by weapons of mass
destruction is dealt with, that is a matter
that is open.  And when the time comes
for taking those decisions we will tell
people about those decisions.”

This seems to have been too coded for the
plain speaking President – he left no doubt
about where he was going.

Bush at Joint Presser at Crawford
6th April 2002

“Maybe I should be a little less direct and
be a little more nuanced and say we
support regime change”

Estb. UN
In New York at Britain’s UN Mission the
diplomat responsibe for Iraq had no idea
No.10 was now committed to helping the
Americans overthrow Saddam.

In meetings with other diplomats, he was
still promoting British policy towards Iraq
as being the containment of any threat
through sanctions and weapons

Carne Ross
First Secretary – UK Mission to the UN

“This is what we were instructed to
say…. the public argument was, of
course, that it was illegal. You can't just
go around and topple governments you
don’t like, that's not legal. And that's
what we would say in the UN because the
UN is a place of law and of rules, but
privately what we would discuss with our
allies was that we thought it was a bad
idea because we thought it would be
destabilising and could potentially lead to
chaos in Iraq.

Q: You must have felt, not to put too fine
a point on it, a bit of a prat, I mean
talking to the State Department
promoting one policy when in fact
presumably  the State Department knew
jolly well that the part of the British
government that really mattered was
signed up anyway to a… different policy.

A: Yes, I think that's more or less

Financial Times 20/4/02
“Blair Dossier on Iraq is Delayed

In London, there was still no sign of
No.10’s much heralded intelligence
dossier which promised to show why
Saddam was a threat to Britain.

Lib Prime Minister on Breakfast with Frost
21st April 2002

Q: Someone else said to the FT it was
insufficient to convince critics within the
Labour party that the full scale offensive
against Iraq was justified. Is that why it
was pulled?

A:  No and it wasn’t pulled…..both of
those things are absolutely wrong….”

Absolutely wrong?

A memo has since been leaked that shows
the Financial Times was on to something:

22nd March 2002
From: Peter Ricketts, Political Director
of the Foreign Office
To: The Foreign Secretary
“I am relieved that you decided to
postpone publication of the unclassified
document. My meeting yesterday showed
there is more work to ensure that the
figures are accurate and consistent with
the US. But even the best survey of Iraq’s
WMD programmes will not show much
advance in recent years. The programmes
are extremely worrying but have not as
far as we know been stepped up.”

But the American military were stepping
up manoeuvres in the Gulf region.

For the White House, it was no longer
“whether” there was going to be an

It was when.

Richard Haass
Director of Policy Planning, State
“… the first time I came away persuaded
that a war was ninety nine percent likely
was in early July of 2002 during one of
my regular sessions with Condoleezza
Rice, then the national security advisor. 
… I was uneasy about it, thought that it
raised questions to me at least whether it
was worth it…..and  when I began to
raise these concerns, Condi’s reaction
was essentially, save your breath, hold
your fire ‘This decision’s pretty much
been made, this is where the President

Lib US Military
By now MPs were asking Mr Blair about
British military planning.

Lib Blair at Liaison Committee
16 July 2002
Q: Are we then preparing for possible
military action in Iraq? 

A: No, there are no decisions which have
been taken about military action. 

True, no formal military commitment had
been given.

But British troops were already preparing
for ‘possible armed action’ – the very
question Mr Blair had been asked.

As he spoke Britain had already been
participating for three weeks in joint war
planning with the Americans.

16 July 2002 Blair at Liaison Committee

“…..  I constantly say to people there are
no decisions which have been made in
relation to Iraq at all.”

Robin Cook MP
“ It's perfectly plain from the events that
Tony Blair probably committed himself to
invasion back in Spring of 2002.  He
could never openly admit to that.  He
could never be frank that his main
motivation was to demonstrate Britain
was the closest ally to a republican
president of the United States. “

23 July 2003
Reconstruction based on Lord Butler’s

A week later the Prime Minister chaired a
highly sensitive meeting.

It may prove to be one the most significant
on his road to war.

Just back from Washington was the head
of MI 6.

Military action, he reported, was

Recon Tony Blair
“Morning Prime Minister…”

Several  well-placed sources have told us
that  Sir Richard Dearlove was minuted as
saying that “the facts and the intelligence”
were being “fixed round the policy” by the
Bush Administration

By fixed the MI 6 Chief meant that the
Americans were trawling for evidence to
reinforce their claim that Saddam was a

Not for the first time the Foreign Secretary
questioned whether the threat was
sufficient to justify invasion.

“Right to self defence…”

Philippe Sands QC
Author ‘Lawless World’

“My understanding is that Jack Straw…
made clear I think… his view that the
case was thin, as it was put, and that
other countries such as Libya or Iran or
North Korea had a greater weapons of
mass destruction capability than Iraq..”

The Prime Minister was now in a race
against time to persuade Labour MPs and
the public that intelligence on Iraq justified

But as it stood the government knew the
intelligence might not be convincing.

Two thirds of MI6’s reports on Iraq were
coming from just two main sources.

MI6 was now tasked to extract as much
intelligence as possible from their few

Dr Brian Jones
Defence Intelligence Staff

“There was an appeal if you like for, for,
for people to look and think very closely
about the evidence that was available…

This intelligence trawl was intended to build
up the Government’s dossier.

News that the dossier was going to be
reworked soon spread round Whitehall.

Dr Brian Jones
Defence Intelligence Staff

…..  it was mentioned to me by a colleague
in the margins of a meeting in
Whitehall. Our shared reaction was that
that would be a considerable challenge
because of the relatively sparse nature of
the intelligence available on Iraq's WMD.

The Bush administration was so convinced
the British Prime Minister had committed
himself to regime change that some of
them began to talk publicly about having

Radio interview
John Bolton
US Under Secretary of State:

3rd August 2002
‘Today Programme’
A: “……let there be no mistake… our
policy …insists on regime change in
Baghdad ……we are content that at the
appropriate moment we will have the
requisite degree of international support.

Q: But if you don’t have it, and all the
indications are that at the moment you
won’t, then what?

A: We will have it Mr Humphries.”

Another Bush insider also said he was
confident about one ally in particular:

Richard Perle
US Defence Policy Board
18th August 2002
ABC ‘This Week’
“Our European allies are just not
relevant to this. And the one of some
importance, the United Kingdom, is, I
believe, going to be with us.”

Remarks like these put the Foreign Office
in a spin. The Foreign Secretary flew to
America to interrupt the holiday of the US
Secretary of State Colin Powell.

We understand Jack Straw complained:
“You’ve outed us.”  He said the British
government had yet to prepare public
“Stop this filthy attack…stop this filthy
attack any excuse to bomb Iraq.. Tony
Blair, shame shame…..”

Opinion polls showed that half the country
opposed war.

Mr Blair decided now was the time to
publish the dossier the JIC was to approve.

The demands from Downing Street on the
intelligence services to provide more
material became urgent.

“…..No. 10, though the Chairman…want
the document to be as strong as possible
within the bounds of available
intelligence.  This is therefore a last (!)
call for any items of intelligence that
agencies think can and should be

Was Downing Street now doing what the
Chief of MI6 had warned the Americans
were doing: trawling around for new
intelligence to fit its new policy?

Blair arriving at Hutton
At the Hutton inquiry the Prime Minister
was asked why he chose September to
publish the dossier.

Prime Minister’s Evidence to Lord
Hutton’s Inquiry
“…We have also heard that on 3rd
September you do announce that dossier
is going to be published.
A. Yes.
Q: What changed?
A. What changed was really two things
which came together. First of all, there
was a tremendous amount of information
and evidence coming across my desk as
to the weapons of mass destruction and
the programmes associated with it that
Saddam had. There was also a renewed
sense of urgency again in the way this
was being publicly debated.”

It now seems less surprising that so much
information was coming across the Prime
Minister’s desk.

After all, MI 6 had gone looking for it
following that crucial meeting chaired by
him in July when it was decided to build
up the intelligence case.

Mr Blair has always denied the purpose of
the dossier was to make the case for war.

As the Americans built up their forces in
the Gulf he kept saying no decisions had
been taken.

Yet privately he had been told  that war
was inevitable. 

Which might explain why the Prime
Minister recalled parliament in September
to launch the dossier.

Lib Prime Minister’s Iraq Statement to
House of Commons 24th September 2002

“I am aware, of course, that people are
going to have to take elements of this on
the good faith of our intelligence
services. But this is what they are telling
me the British Prime Minister and my
senior colleagues. The intelligence
picture they paint is one accumulated
over the past four years. It is extensive,
detailed and authoritative.”

True, the Joint Intelligence Committee had
judged that Iraq had a chemical and
biological weapons capability.

But only two weeks earlier, they’d
reminded the Prime Minister their
judgement was based on ”limited”

Not that you’d have known that from the

Lib Prime Minister’s Iraq Statement to
House of Commons 24th September 2002

“It concludes that Iraq has chemical and
biological weapons, that Saddam has
continued to produce them, that he has
existing and active military plans for the
use of chemical and biological weapons,
which could be activated within 45

The Government’s claims – that Iraq was
now actively making weapons which it
could swiftly deployed - were based
substantially on just two new intelligence

Both sources had supplied this information
since MI6’s call went out in July to build
up the intelligence base.

R econ Scene 16 - Dearlove arriving No 10
12 September 2002
Mr Blair was briefed  about both sources
by the Chief of the Secret Intelligence
Service Sir Richard Dearlove just days
before he presented the dossier to

Reconstruction based on Lord Butler’s
“Sir Richard hello.”  
“Prime Minister...”

Sir Richard told Mr Blair that one of the
two new sources was claiming to know
where chemical agent was being produced.
But he was untried and untested.

Recon Sir Richard Dearlove
“I’d like to brief you on SIS main
sources, including a new source on trial.
The new source is potentially important. I
can give you our understanding of his
access. However the case is
developmental and the source remains
unproven …”

The second new source was linked to an
Iraqi opposition group with an obvious
interest in toppling Saddam.

SIS had only three other main sources –
and Mr Blair was told their reports were
unremarkable or hearsay.

What the Prime Minister told Parliament
however, had none of these qualifications.

24th September 2002 – Blair in Commons
“His WMD programme is active, detailed
and growing. The policy of containment
is not working. The WMD programme is
not shut down. It is up and running now.

Robin Cook MP
Q: ..You're saying you think that all the
way through he knew the evidence was
thin is what you're saying?

A: He saw the evidence.. I mean he
probably saw more of the evidence than
any other single person in government
ever.  He was well placed to judge how
thin it was.

Q: But he said it was extensive detail and
authoritative.  Are you saying he made

A: I think you'll have to ask him how he
justifies that.

Q: But this is quite an important point,
this gap between what we now know he
knew and what he said in public.  You
still are of the view that that gap can be
explained by good faith, by… not by

A: I’ve no doubt he believed those
weapons were there…what surprised me,
astonished me, about the September
dossier was how one-sided it was, it was
propaganda, it was not an honest
presentation of intelligence.

Lib Prime Minister’s response to William
House of Commons
24th September 2002
“…there has been  a real concern on our
part not to exaggerate the intelligence
that we get.  But one of the things that
are very difficult to reflect for very
obvious reasons is the credibility of it the
information, and we rate the credibility of
what we have very high. I say no more
than that.”

But there wasn’t much more to say anyway
about the intelligence on Saddam’s

Lord Butler’s review of the Britain’s
intelligence on Iraq said:

“…we were struck by the relative thinness
of the intelligence base’

By early Autumn the Americans were
planning for a likely invasion early in

The Ministry of Defence stepped up
Britain’s Iraq planning.
Camp David 07 September 02
At Camp David the Prime Minister met
President Bush.

There he urged Mr Bush to seek
international backing through the UN for
any action against Saddam.

Mr Blair has subsequently said this about
what transpired at the summit.

Liaison Committee – 8/7/03
“There was no detailed discussion of the
military option at the time because we
believed we could avoid conflict…”

No detailed discussion about the military
option but there was a firm commitment
by Mr Blair to provide British troops -
according to a more recent account
sourced direct to the President himself.

The Prime Minister has also said this
about what happened at Camp David:

Lib Prime Minister presser at Evian

“….the idea…. that I made some secret
agreement with George Bush back last
September that we would invade Iraq in
any event at a particular time, is also
completely and totally untrue.

Again, the two leaders may not have
agreed a “particular” time for an invasion.

But Mr Blair had already agreed that the
UN should not have the last word as to
whether they should invade.

When the Prime Minister pledged troops,
he is said to have looked the President in
the eye and pledged: “I’m with you.”

The President then told Mr Blair’s aides:
“Your man has Cojones” – Spanish slang
for male courage.

Lib UN Weapons Inspectors leaving
For Mr Blair UN weapons inspectors were
the key to getting rid of Saddam.

They had packed their bags in Iraq in 1998
after the dictator had ceased meaningful

The Prime Minister and the President had
decided to get them back by means of a
new  disarmament resolution.

British Embassy, Washington.  
We now know that in Washington in
March 2002 there’d been a discussion at
the British embassy on how sending back
the inspectors might be used to trigger an

The ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer
sent an account of that discussion back to
London. It’s since leaked out.
From: Sir Christopher Meyer
To: Sir David Manning
18 March 2002

“… We backed regime the plan had to be
clever and failure was not an option…..”

This “Clever Plan” involved getting the
UN Security Council to pass a tough new
disarmament resolution.

Sir Christopher Meyer Memo
“The US could go it alone if it wanted.
But if it wanted to act with partners there
had to be strategy for building support
for military action. I then went through
the need to wrong foot Saddam on the

“I then went through the need to wrong
foot Saddam on the inspectors.”

John Ware
“Wrong foot” means to trick or trip up.

Was Mr Blair going to the UN to seek a
legal device – a disarmament resolution –
confident it would trip up Saddam so that
he could joint the Americans in an
invasion which would otherwise be

Sir Jeremy Greenstock
UK Ambassador to the UN

Q: As the Prime Minister was advised
early on, regime change was unlawful. If 
you find a legal device for something
which starts out as being illegal, does
that make it legal?

A: Well I don’t agree with your slightly
pejorative use of the word 'device'.  The
fact is that the…

Q: Route.

A:  …business of the First Gulf War had
not been finished in disarmament terms
... This had to be dealt with…it wasn't a
device, it was unfinished business which
is a different matter.”

Robin Cook MP

Q: Are you clear in your own mind now
whether… what was really propelling the
Prime Minister was regime change or
was it disarmament?

A: No, what was propelling the Prime
Minister was a determination that he
would be the closest ally to George Bush
and they would prove to the United States
administration Britain was their closest
ally….His problem…. is that George
Bush's motivation was regime change.  It
was not disarmament… ..”
Tony Blair
Radio Monte Carlo – Middle East

“ So far as our objective, it is
disarmament, not regime change - that is
our objective….I have got no doubt either
that the purpose of our challenge from
the United Nations is disarmament of
weapons of mass destruction, it is not
regime change.”

US carrier “Ready Now” 14 October

UN weapons inspectors

In November the UN weapons inspectors
did return to Iraq, the British and

Americans having persuaded the Security
Council to pass a tough new disarmament
resolution: 1441.

Prime Minister Statement on Iraq 08/11/02

“Iraq now has a 'final opportunity' to
comply with its international and legal
obligations by giving up once and for all
its weapons of mass destruction…. If it
does not, then the consequences are

UN Inspectors

The Iraqis were slow to give information. 
But this time they didn’t stop the
inspectors from having unimpeded access
to every suspect site.

But the inspectors were not turning up any
chemical or biological weapons.

Inspectors look in Fridge
“It’s marmalade..”

Hans Blix
Executive Chair UNMOVIC
“…the further we came to that in
January and February 2003 the more
sceptical I became, in particular when we
found no weapons of mass destruction in
about 3 dozens of sites which have been
given to us by the intelligence, and then
we said to ourselves, they claim these are
the best sites they have, and if this is the
best, what is the rest.”

Ben Brown BBC News 20 Jan 03
“The Paras will soon be on their way just
part of a British deployment as big as the
Gulf War…


But British troops would not be able to
fight alongside the Americans unless
government lawyers concluded that an
invasion was justified by international law.

The Prime Minister trained as a lawyer and
often stressed that he would be bound by

Tony Blair – press conference 25/7/02

“What is important is that whatever
action we take, should we take action, it
is done in accordance with international


But Mr Blair had a problem. 

While troops were gearing up for war
foreign office lawyers said UN resolution
1441 on its own did not make war lawful.

The Security Council would have to vote
for a second resolution - explicitly
authorising war.

But the Foreign Secretary thought a 2nd
resolution was not essential.

Essential or not the Prime Minister was
desperate to get one. 

Otherwise it would be difficult to carry the
country or Labour MPs to keep to his
commitment to President Bush.

But without American diplomatic muscle
he hadn’t a hope of securing a 2nd

Richard Haass
Director Policy Planning, US State

“I don’t know of any American
enthusiasm for a second resolution…The
feeling was that fourteen forty-one had in
it just about everything it want.  All the
demands, what you put, over Iraq, as well
as the – the legitimacy if you will, that
you'd need when you call for all serious
and potentially serious consequences.”

Lib Blair on way to White House 31 Jan 03

At the end of January, the Prime Minister
flew to Washington.

He urged the President to help him win
over the UN Security Council.

The President granted his closest ally this
as a favour

- though he didn’t sound very enthusiastic.

Lib Bush & Blair Joint Presser at White
31st January 2003

A: Any attempt to drag the process on for
months will be resisted by the United
States, and as I understand the Prime
Minister, I am loathe to put words into
his mouth, but he has also said weeks,
not months.”

Privately the Americans had explained to
the British that they would work to get a
2nd resolution – but only so long as it
didn’t delay their military timetable which
had scheduled an invasion in about a

On his return to Britain Mr Blair was
questioned about the Bush
administration’s commitment to helping
Britain getting a 2nd resolution.

Lib Prime Minister & Edward Leigh MP in
HoC 3rd February 2003

“…Is there any difference of opinion, or
any difference of emphasis, between the
US and UK Governments on the need
for-and extreme desirability of-a second
UN resolution?”

The Prime Minister: “No, I do not think
that there is any difference between us on

Twisting shells.

But he knew that there was.

Standy by

Number 10 was pressing the Americans to
delay the invasion to give the inspectors
more time to find weapons.

Without them Mr Blair had been told by
his own officials he was most unlikely to
get a 2nd resolution.

Early in the New Year the British had
asked for a delay until April.

But the Americans  just “wiped that away”
an official told us.


Lib 15th February 2003 Stop the War

In Britain opposition to war was becoming
more vocal.  A million protestors in
London took to the streets.


But that didn’t stop the military

Thousands of British troops were now
training in the desert.


In public the Prime Minister continued to
maintain that no decisions had been taken.

But on 20 February he confided in Hans
Blix that one had.

Hans Blix
Executive Chair UNMOVIC
“He said, if I remember rightly… that it
was until the end of the month that
action was fairly imminent at that time,
and ‘end of the month’ was an
expression that he used.

Al Samoud film ex UNMOVIC –1- 2

Until now Iraqi co-operation had been

But by early March it improved
dramatically - as these pictures, never
before seen, show.

The Iraqis allowed inspectors to destroy al
Samoud missiles

No.10’s “Clever Plan” was not going quite
to plan..

Hans Blix
“…as we got closer to the war the will to
go to war went up like this but the
evidence went down in the other
direction…. “

Al Samoud destruction – 3 – 6 March 
By the end of the first week of March, 27
al Samoud missiles had been destroyed;
and the Iraqis were committed to the UN
destroying all 97.

Even before the destruction started the
Prime Minister dismissed this as Saddam
was still playing cat and mouse. 

Blair 28/2/03
“The moment I heard earlier in the week
that Saddam Hussein was saying he
would not destroy the missiles, was the
moment that I knew later in the week that
he would announce just before Dr Blix
reported that he would indeed destroy
these missiles. But this is not a time for

Al Samoud – 8 – 15  March

But at the UN, the head of the weapons
inspectors did not share Mr Blair’s
certainty that the dictator was still playing

Hans Blix 7 March UN Security Council
“We are not watching the breaking of
toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being
destroyed. One can hardly avoid the
impression that, after a period of
somewhat reluctant co-operation, there
has been an acceleration of initiatives
from the Iraqi side since the end of

Mr Blair has denied he set out to
“wrongfoot Saddam” through UN
inspections – as No.10’s Clever Plan had
envisaged. His goal and the President’s
was disarmament.

Tony Blair Liaison Committee 080703

“I recall the exact conversation I had
with him.. I said to him: ‘you have to
realise that if Saddam co-operates fully
with the inspectors we have to take yes
for answer. If that happens there is no
conflict’ and he agreed with that fully.’”

But would the American President really
take ‘Yes’ for an answer?

Mr Bush had already said he was
committed to getting rid of Saddam’s

The dictator may have begun to co-operate
meaningfully with the inspectors.

But Mr Blair now sought to persuade the
Security Council that this was a sham.

He needed enough votes to win the second
resolution to persuade MPs an invasion
would be lawful.

Reconstruction MI6 briefing

In New York,  the Secret Intelligence
Service MI6 asked for a meeting with the
Mexican ambassador to the UN.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser
Mexican Ambassador to the UN
“This was in a room, a sealed room, that
closed like a  safe deposit box in a bank
and,  full of all of this, you know,

MI 6 were trying to persuade Mexico and
other countries on the Security Council
that there was an explanation for the
failure of the inspectors to find any
weapons: Saddam was hiding them.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser
Mexican Ambassador to the UN
“ And they had these piles of files on the
table, and there were,  three officers
there, three or four officers.  And,  they, 
begin to show us, in a map….  I asked
them, ‘Do you have,  full proof of the
existence of these weapons, at any one of
these particular sites that you are
referring to?’  And the MI6 officer told
me, “No, we don’t.”

Q:  We don’t.

A: We don’t. ‘”

“…it was very clear they didn’t have the
proof, that they had circumstantial
evidence of a funny behaviour, of a
suspicious behaviour.  But I knew that,
we all knew that, because that was what
we were getting from the inspectors…

Q: So you left that meeting less
convinced than you were – not more

A: Less convinced.” 

Sir Jeremy Greenstock
UK Ambassador to the UN
“…we didn't have, you know, there
weren't people inside Iraq, we didn't have
people placed inside Saddam's regime.  It
was all more remote intelligence than
that, there were ideas on where this stuff
might be.  There was a very strong
feeling that he might have shifted some
of it into Syria, or put it in mobile
facilities or.. after all buried part of his
airforce, the cameras in the sky never
saw them until the wind blew away the
sand and they appeared a few months
later.  And no, we were convinced there
was something there.”

UNMOVIC weapons
Saddam Hussein had once been the Arab
strongman of the Middle East.

But now some of his weapons the UN
inspectors were checking seemed to be
more of a threat to his own soldiers than
his neighbours. 

Iraqi Rocket goes phut..

By early March the inspectors had
searched around 300 sites.

No WMD had been found.

Mexico and other countries on the Security
Council asked Hans Blix how long he
needed to be sure if Saddam had actually
got any WMD?

Three to four months said Blix.

Carne Ross
First Secretary, UK Mission to the UN
Q: Is it your view that the British
government had for all practical
purposes signed up to regime change,
which of course was driving
unambiguously the United States.

A: I don’t know that but I believe it.

Q: You do believe it.

A: Yes….…if they'd really believed
disarmament as the goal, then
inspections would have been allowed to
continue… I think it's pretty clear
looking back that the military timetable
drove the diplomatic timetable.”

Robin Cook MP
“…His problem was he could not be
honest about that with either the British
people or Labour MPs, hence the stress
on disarmament.

Q: If he couldn't be honest about it, that
suggests he was dishonest.

A: Oh I would never accuse the Prime
Minister of being deliberately

Q: I know..

A:  I think there was a lack of

No.10 was now warned by Jack Straw that
Britain was not going to win enough votes
for a 2nd resolution in the short time left to
them by the Americans.

He advised the Prime Minister to prepare
to abandon the quest for one.

On 10 March, No.10’s worst fears were
confirmed.  President Chirac had
dramatically announced that France would
veto a second resolution if it was put to the

President Chirac
10th March 2003
TF1 – 20:30 French time
“My position is that, regardless of the
circumstances, France will vote "no"
…because she considers this evening that
there are no grounds for waging war in
order to achieve the goal we have set
ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq.”


In his interview, the French President
mentioned “this evening” no fewer than
four times to stress he didn’t think war
was justified - as of that moment.

But Mr Blair seized on only the first half
of President Chirac’s statement.

Prime Minister
Presser at Downing Street
11th March 2003

“If France or any other country is simply
going to say ‘We will veto no matter
what’ that is obviously a very difficult

In fact President Chirac had not said ‘no
matter what’ – as if forever.

He stressed that if the Iraqis ceased to co-
operate with the weapons inspectors, war
would become inevitable. It just wasn’t

But in No.10’s briefing to the press,
neither they nor Mr Blair mentioned this
important qualification

Watching these extraordinary events from
close quarters in No.10 was Sir Stephen
Wall, the Prime Minister’s European
Affairs Adviser.
Sir Stephen Wall
Prime Minister’s European Affairs
Q: .. do you think Downing Street
wilfully misconstrued what the French
President had said?

A: I think that they, I wouldn’t say
wilfully misconstrued in this sense, that I
think that Tony Blair and other members
of the government were convinced that
there was no circumstance in which
France was prepared to support action

Q: Ever?

A: Ever. If you mean, did they take
Chirac’s words, and take them out of the,
out of the total context in which they
were made, undoubtedly.”

The SUN had already run banner headlines
softening up President Chirac.

Squirm worm….wriggly wobbler Chirac.

Stop Squirming.

12th March
Now the SUN accused the French
President of being   “a cheap tart who puts
price before principle……”

We’ve been told that in Number Ten,
Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell
expressed approval of the SUN’s

12th March
Jacques Chirac struts the streets of shame
…Like all who ply the trade of the harlot,
they will catch something very nasty.“

Sir Stephen Wall
Prime Minister’s European Affairs
Q: Do you think … Downing Street quite
deliberately were playing the French

A: Oh there’s no doubt that the
French card was deliberately, was
deliberately played, I mean

Q: Blame it on the French

A: Yeah I mean you know …death to
the French is always a pretty good cry in,
in British politics…. I mean I think that
you know when you’re, when you’re in a
tight corner, knocking the French is a, is
not a, you know is not a, is not a bad
policy and this was a tight corner…
I mean here was the government that was
fighting for its life…”

Ministerial resignations were threatened;
the country and MPs divided.

The French embassy complained to the
Foreign Office that No.10 had deployed
“Soviet style disinformation.”

We understand that the Foreign Office’s
Political Director responded: “What your
President said was such a gift.”

But it was not the French who finally
killed off Mr Blair’s hopes of winning a
2nd resolution.

“…the British were asking the
Americans, give us a little more time.
…. it was not France, it was the United
States, who did not want to give us more
time, it did not want to give Saddam
Hussein, the United Nations or the
Security Council, or the British, for that
matter, more time.

Admiral Vern Clark

“I know this, I was just given the order
last week to get another fifteen ships
under way and they’re loading
marines…..go figure.”

US military
With the American forces ready to go Mr
Blair’s commitment to President Bush 
had brought him to a legal crossroads.

Foreign Office lawyers still believed that
war without the explicit authority of the
Security Council voting for a 2nd
resolution would be illegal.

But help was at hand.

This is Lord Goldsmith. As Attorney
General he’s the government’s most senior
legal adviser.

He’s also been described as a loyal Labour
party foot soldier.

Recon Attorney General

Lord Goldsmith was certainly leaving it
late to come to a settled view about such a
critical issue as to whether war would be
PTC in Washington

“On the 11th February the Attorney
General came here to Washington to
hear from US Government lawyers why
they thought an invasion without a
second resolution was lawful.

We’ve been told by sources in a position
to know that until this point Lord
Goldsmith was by no means convinced it
would be lawful.

But by the time he left Washington his
spine had been stiffened – at least a

Recon Scene 25 - Goldsmith dictating
minute 7 March

Two weeks later the Attorney General met
with the Prime Minister’s inner policy
circle at No.10.

A week after that he delivered his written
advice to the Prime Minister.

The advice ran to 13 pages.

“Minute to the Prime Minister. Dated
Friday 7th March 2003….”

We’ve been told that Lord Goldsmith
advised that it would be preferable to have
a 2nd resolution but that he could make a
case for going to war without one. On the
other hand there were risks.

Philippe Sands QC

The risks indicated in particular the
possibility of legal proceedings against
the United Kingdom……. And my
understanding again is that the United
Kingdom took steps to protect itself
against such proceedings for example, by
beginning the task of preparing legal
advisers to assist in the defence of a case.
So it was a very equivocal advice, it was a
balanced advice.”

Lib UK military in Gulf
The Chief of Defence Staff was not happy
with this “balanced” advice.

Admiral Boyce needed to be sure that his
troops were not at risk of fighting an
illegal war. 

The Admiral required a crystal clear
answer from the Attorney General.

Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson
Secretary, D-Notice Committee
“…. the Chief of Defence Staff….[was]
concerned about having a very clear cut
tick in the box that this war was going to
be legal. I heard that what… the Service
Chief saw then was not the clear cut tick
in the box they were looking for.”

British troops in desert
A quarter of the British Army was now
battle-ready on the Arabian peninsula.

General Mike Jackson
7 March 2003
“There are I think two or three ships yet 
to come in. I would have thought four or
five days would pretty much complete the
whole logistic piece. But even if it were
today it’s good to go.”

Fortunately for the Prime Minister – the
Attorney General’s view had continued its
evolution to the point of complete clarity.

All the caveats had now been stripped out
of it.

On 13 March, Lord Goldsmith informed
No.10 it was now his “clear view” that
Britain could go to war - without a 2nd

So what had changed over the previous
month to stiffen his spine still further?

Robin Cook MP
A: Nobody can avoid the obvious fact
that the view changed when we found
that we couldn’t get the Second
Resolution, and I am rather disturbed
that there were discussions with the
Attorney General and Downing Street….
What is important is that the Attorney
General should be semidetached, should
provide an independent legal view,
should not himself become drawn into
the debates and negotiations within
government as to what the appropriate
course of action is, and I think in this
occasion the Chinese walls got broken
down in a way that’s damaging to the
authority of the post and needs to be

The Attorney General has told us he
doesn’t wish to discuss how he came to his
view that the war was legal other than to
say it was his own view - genuine and

However, what has astonished so many
senior civil servants is that the cabinet
only had the assurance from the Attorney
General that war would be legal just three
days before the bombing started.

Reconstruction Prime Minister
“Right. Can I ask the Attorney General
to set out the legal position on the use of
force? Peter”

Reconstruction Attorney General
“Authority to use force against Iraq
exists from the combined effect of
resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. All of
these resolutions were adopted under
Chapter VII of the UN Charter which

Reconstruction Clare Short
“We can all read…”

The International Development Secretary
Clare Short tried to start a discussion about
why the Attorney General’s opinion was
so late and whether he had any doubts
about the legality of Britain going to war.

“…There’s no need to read it out loud..”

But she says the cabinet was impatient 
and were happy to let Lord Goldsmith
stick to his prepared text – which was just
one page….

…not the earlier 13 pages of advice with
caveats and qualifications he’d sent to the
Prime Minister.

So the cabinet was never told Mr Blair
risked being brought before an
international tribunal.

To this day, No.10 refuses to disclose the
Attorney General’s earlier legal advice
about the risks of going to war without a
2nd resolution.

Sir Stephen Wall, former European
Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister

“We stretched the legal argument to
breaking point in my view and the fact
that we didn't have that authority I think
does set a dangerous precedent…. I
regret that I didn’t speak my mind to
Tony Blair on it….at the end of the day,
going to war is about the most serious
thing you can, you can do in, in
international, it is the most serious thing
you can do in international affairs and if
you’re going to put people’s lives at risk,
your own people, apart from the civilians
in a country where you’re attacking, it
does have to be the last resort and you do
actually need some international
authority to do it..”

NBC  News 18 March 2002
“For standing by George Bush, Tony
Blair Prime Minister of Great Britain is
in the fight of his life today..”

NBC News
“Let’s talk about the President’s
strongest ally in one Prime Minister Tony
Blair. He’s asking British lawmakers to
support a war against Iraq, a vote
expected in the next few hours..”

The Prime Minister had promised the
fullest possible debate in Parliament.

Tony Blair MP
House of Commons
18 March 2002
“Deputy Speaker, I beg to move the
motion standing on the order paper in my

Mr Blair told MPs that but for France’s
threat to veto the 2nd resolution, Britain
might have won a majority in the Security
Council for invasion.
Tony Blair MP
House of Commons
18 March 2002
“Last Monday, we were getting very close
with it. We very nearly had the majority

But according to some of the diplomats
involved in the actual negotiations, this
wasn’t true.

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser
Mexican Ambassador to the UN
Q:… the statement from Mr Blair - and
it’s one of several in this vein -  quotes,
‘We very nearly had a majority
agreement’  That doesn’t –

A:  No.  We were never – never close to
have a majority vote, never.

Q:  “We very nearly achieved
agreement,” he also said. What  about
that one?

A:  No, we were never close to one.  Not
agreement that would, that would have
satisfied the Americans.”

The Prime Minister insisted that in going
to war Britain would be upholding ”the
authority of the UN” to ensure that Iraq
complied with UN disarmament
Hans Blix
Executive Chair UNMOVIC
A: I think that's an absurdity - that here,
a minority of the Council goes to war to
uphold the authority of the majority that
is against it!” 

Tony Blair MP
House of Commons
18 March 2002
“We are asked now seriously to accept
that in the last few years, contrary to all
history, contrary to all intelligence, he
decided unilaterally to destroy these
weapons. I say such a claim is palpably

Hans Blix
Executive Chair UNMOVIC
Q: Was it ‘palpably absurd’?

A: No, it was not and the inspectors had
not really asserted that these things
existed. They had calculated material
balances and they've said here a lot of
things unaccounted for, and it wasn't
absurd that they had destroyed it.”

Big Ben
“…Bong bong …”

BBC Ten O’Clock News 18 March 2003

“The moment of truth for Mr Blair…”

The Prime Minister won a large majority
but the country at large was still split right
down the middle as two years ago tonight
he took Britain to war.

Tony Blair MP
20 March 2002
“So our choice is clear: back down and
leave Saddam, hugely strengthened; or
proceed to disarm him by force. Retreat
might give us a moment of respite but
years of repentance at our weakness
would I believe follow.”

Saddam & injured  baby

Destroyed tanks
The search for weapons of mass
destruction has been abandoned. No
WMD has been found.

About half of MI6’s main sources that
were used to build up the Iraq dossier have
been withdrawn as unreliable.

Number 10 has told Panorama the Prime
Minister has nothing to add to the facts
and findings of the four inquiries that have
already been held.

But there is one issue that none of these
inquiries has focused on:– the evolution of
Mr Blair’s Iraq policy: 

What he said in public, what he knew in
private – and whether he can reconcile the