Britain was committed to joining the United States in military action in Iraq in a series of secret letters sent to President Bush from Tony Blair months before the invasion, it has been revealed.
The contents of the notes, which were written by the former Prime Minister and only seen by a small group of senior ministers and advisers, were revealed for the first time at the Iraq inquiry yesterday as it heard from Mr Blair's head |of communications, Alastair Campbell.
In the correspondence, described as “very frank”, Mr Campbell said that President Bush was given the overriding message that British troops would stand beside their US counterparts in any invasion should Saddam Hussein continue to defy the disarmament demands issued by the UN.
“I would say the tenor of them was that we share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed,” Mr Campbell said. “If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there.”
During his grilling by the inquiry Mr Campbell launched a staunch defence of the decision to go to war in Iraq and the Government's case for the invasion, asserting that Britain should be proud of removing Saddam and what has been achieved. While he said that Mr Blair's instincts had always told him to back the US, he had remained eager to find a peaceful resolution up until a Commons vote on military action days before troops moved in.
In a typically combative display, Mr Campbell said he defended “every word” of the September 2002 dossier, which set out Mr Blair's reasons for backing an invasion of Iraq and denied that he had “beefed up” any of its claims.
The document suggested it was “beyond doubt” that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and his weaponry could be launched in 45 minutes.
The former spin-doctor, who acquired an infamous reputation for confronting journalists, said he had never been obsessed with headlines.
He added he had felt no compulsion to correct confused media reports about the notorious 45-minute claim.