Friday, 8 July 2016

Chilcot fallout: When Blair first committed to Bush on military support; and why

John McTernan ("Commitment to solidarity with our closest ally," July 7:, who was not only Tony Blair's former political secretary, as you state,  but also was last year political advisor to Jim Murphy, Labour's former Scottish leader, who subsequently  lost all but one Scottish Parliamentary seats at the last General Election (including his own) - indicating Mr McTernan's lack of political astuteness - attempts to explain the context of the infamous five words that opened Mr Blair's July 2002 memo to President Bush: ie "I will be with you,whatever."
McTernan  links this commitment to Blair's determination to back Bush following the 9/11 terrorist outrage in the US 10 months earlier.
In fact, Blair conveyed his backing for Bush much earlier. in a statement to the Labour Party National Executive Committee just  three days after George W. Bush was inaugurated for his first term as the US President on January 20, 2001. The contemporaneous personal minutes of the NEC meeting on January 23, 2001 by NEC member Ann Black ( records:

“Tony Blair said that the issue must be handled with care. Instead of rushing to judgment, we should bring all sides together to seek a way through. We need good working links with the new President because the Tories will exploit any cooling in the ‘special relationship.’ William Hague has already promised the Americans everything they want before they ask, a curious way to defend British sovereignty.”
As we enter a period of post-Chilcot reflection and analysis, it is as well to get some of the basic facts right.

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