BritDopers: Why did Blair support Bush in the Iraq War?

I’ve read the Downing Street Memo (, hoping for some major revelations, but it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know. In particular, it didn’t clear up one point that has been a mystery to me ever since the idea of invading Iraq first was floated: Why did the Blair Government support the Bush Administration in that enterprise? Blair knew perfectly well, as of summer 2002, that Hussein was no active threat to his neighbors and that the theories of his being being terrorism and having WMDs were bogus – “. . . the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” So far as I know, Blair does not share the neoconservative vision of American global military hegemony combined with global democratic-capitalist revolution; nor does he share Bush’s crusading religiosity, his cowboy militarism, nor his manichean good-vs.-evil world-view. Perhaps he decided joining in the war would gain something of material value for the UK – but what?

Sorry, I mean, “being behind terrorism,” of course.

Perhaps Blair belived that Iraq would gush rivers of oil once the country was “safely” under a democratic government.


You’re either with us or the terrorists (and, even worse, France).

It’s a good question.

Certainly Blair knew the intelligence was insufficient to justify invading.
His Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, who had full access to the information, resigned before the war even started. You may find his speech startlingly prophetic:

‘I have chosen to address the House first on why I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.’

‘France has been at the receiving end of bucket loads of commentary in recent days.
It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.
We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac.’

‘Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.’

‘Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.’

‘For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.
Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam’s medium and long-range missiles programmes.
Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.’

‘Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.
It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.
Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?’

‘Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.’

‘What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.’

that is a good question that perhaps only Tony knows for sure. However, I think that he did think that Saddam had some WMDs, as probably Bush did too. It was a gamble that failed. This is not to say that they didn’t ignore relevant information, but to be fair there is always much conflicting intelligence information on most topics, and critics can always cherry pick the bits that support their case after the event and say I told you so.

Also Tony is of the socialist school that tries hard to reform society for its own good. The necessary belief there is that governments can actually do something good for society. Tony, perhaps rather foolishly, thinks that the limited success he has had in the UK situation can be extended to the world in general. Thus Africa can be cured, Middle East fixed up with democracy. As well foreign adventures always takes the pressure off home problems. The warm glow from being America’s best pal probably helps (though I hear that that hussy Australia is trying to steal you yanks away from us).

I suspect also there is just the sheer excitment of being a war leader. Who wouldn’t want to be another Churchill (unfortunately Churchill unlike Blair lost the election just afer the war)

I think Robin Cook’s speech (quoted above) proves that Blair did not think Saddam had any WMD’s.

No, seriously, consider the changes to the Labour party since Blair took over. The man even sends his children to private schools!

What, for example, has Blair done about Zimbabwe?
The debt relief is undoubtedly down to ideas from Gordon Brown, with Bob Geldorf providing the media pressure.
Can you give any speech in which Blair talks about fixing the Middle East with democracy?!

:confused: Isn’t Blair the leader who purged the Labour Party of the last remnants of its socialist heritage?

Anyone know what’s in his portfolio?


Not a BritDoper but I think its pretty much an open secret that Britain supported Bush for the same reason that Australia did. Both nations regard a close security relationship with the United States to be the central constant element of their foreign policy, and will not risk a breach under almost any circumstances. Evidence and international law are lesser factors compared to this overriding strategic imperative. Neither nation is going to run the risk of getting the treatment that France got.

I have also read that Tony Blair regards it as dangerous for the US to become further isolationist and isolated in the world community. A whole host of Bush administration actions from arbitrary scarpping of the ABM treaty, Kyoto, undermining of the ICC, undermining of the Geneva conventions, sabotage of the landmine treaty etc make the US essentially a rogue state that does whatever it pleases, and it is considered that the US would be an even more obstructionist element were she to be totally friendless.

I think you got it right… plus the “special relationship” part where the UK is always allied to the US.

Bush was quickly becoming isolated… and I think Blair up to a point thought that someone had to be on his side to temper and mediate better. He in fact got Bush to go to the UN resolution that ultimately failed anyway.

Overall I think Blair beleived in reforming the Middle East. He is an idealist. Taking down Saddam was the first step in a nice change of scenario in the area… which obviously hasn’t worked.

My guess? He realises that things are bad, resource-wise and environment-wise in the world and likely to get much worse and it’s in the best interests of the UK to be the sidekick of the guys with the big guns.

. . . Not sure I follow the reasoning here.


The Bush administration has devoted considerable effort to sabotaging things important to the world community, (landmine bans, ICC etc). In the case of the ICC for instance the US not only refuses to take part but demands exemption and punishes nations that refuse to grant it with withdrawal of military aid. Blair thinks that through supporting Bush, he can moderate his isolationist impulses. Blair worked from the outset to get Bush to work within the existing international framework and to use the UN. Its an attempt to exploit insider advantage.

Try harder then. Both are as close to self-evident as you can possibly get.

From the Ricketts memo:

‘Yes sir, Georgie and me beat up that little kid.’

‘Yes, I know he’s in hospital.’

‘Yes sir, I punched him too.’

‘Wrong of me to hit him?’

‘But sir, I figured that by helping Georgie beat him up I could make it better by saying things like “don’t hit him in the face, Georgie” or “Him missing two teeth is enough, Georgie”’

‘Sir? Do I know the meaning of the word accomplice, sir?’

  1. The Robin cook speech did not say anywhere that Blair thought anything. It said that Robin himself did not think there were any weapons. I think we must be reading different documents.

  2. Sure Tony sends his kids to public school. So do many avowed left wingers (e.g. Dianne Abbott) in the Labour party. Proves nothing except hypocrisy. Tony is not an old school socialist, but still has the socialist (Stalinist?) mentality that the best way to fix things in society is for the government to meddle, control spending and set lots of targets. I feel he has the same attitude to foreign affairs - you may care to differ.

  3. Tony has consistently put foreign affairs on a high ranking and has been talking debt relief etc for many years. This is the first time I have seen Gordon Brown talk about anything except domestic economic affairs - I think Gordon is starting to assume the PMs mantle on for size.

  4. The PM is always (like any leader) talking about democracy overseas. just google “blair democracy speech”. E.g last year from

"Increasingly both Europe and America are coming to realise that lasting security against fanatics and terrorists cannot be provided by conventional military force; but requires a commitment to democracy, freedom and justice. The only stable Afghanistan will be a democratic Afghanistan. Ultimately it is democracy in Iraq that will defeat the insurgents, which is why they are so desperate to stop it. The only viable Palestinian State will not just be based on territory but on democratic values. Likewise the best help we can give Africa is not just through aid, vital though that is and on opening up trade, but through supporting countries in their desperate and fraught attempts to build the institutions of good governance.

Democracy is the meeting point for Europe and America. I am not, repeat not, advocating a series of military solutions to achieve it. But I am saying that patiently but plainly Europe and America should be working together to bring the democratic human and political rights we take for granted, to the world denied them. "