Tony Blair Goes to War

In a new book, a British journalist documents the day-by-day march into conflict in Iraq

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

This is your 50th birthday present, Prime Minister,” says Strategy Director Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair comes through the front door of No. 10 Downing Street. “Peter Stothard is going to follow you everywhere you go for 50 days.”

Tony Blair sighs. He had agreed a few weeks earlier for a journalist to be with him on the path to war with Iraq. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Well, a month then,” Campbell concedes with a grin, “Thirty days.”

Like many good resolutions, it does not seem so attractive now. Little is going right. He does not even know for sure that he will still be prime minister 30 days from now.

Tony Blair decides to stick with his decision. He will have a closely observed record of his leadership in the war against Saddam Hussein.

By March 6, 2003, the day Tony Blair invited his chronicler through the door, Britain had become an angry country. Millions of voters, particularly young voters who five years before had hailed his “Cool Britannia,” were enraged that the first Labor prime minister since 1979 seemed about to send bombers to the civilians of Baghdad. Britain, they shouted, should just let George Bush get on with fighting his father’s old enemy, Saddam Hussein.

MONDAY, MARCH 10

Morning headlines: Minister threatens resignation from Blair Cabinet . . . Iraq attacks “fascist” USA . . .

Ten years ago few of even his closest friends could imagine Tony Blair in the place he is now. He was not always the most certain of men. He was persuasive and popular. He liked to be liked. He would have hated the mockery and ridicule.

What has happened?

There are simple answers: he is taking the heat because he knows that he can. He has discovered that he can absorb attack after attack and still be standing.

There are awkward answers: he is restless. He wants to get things done and get out. He does not want to look back later on missed chances to make his view of the world count.

There are also the Christian beliefs that he shares with George Bush. They include a moral revulsion at how Saddam Hussein treats his own people.

Tony Blair won influence over George Bush with a gamble. He promised that British forces would be ready to fight alongside Americans against Saddam Hussein. He asked in return that the United States seek the maximum United Nations authority.

Today the gamble seems to be failing.

Only limited United Nations support has been won. The man who is accustomed to being a winner stands about to lose. He will be asked to make good on his pledge of troops without the United Nations backing he thought he could secure. He knows that George Bush will not wait long enough for the diplomats and persuaders to do everything that they want to do.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12

Morning headlines: Tony Blair faces first reports of challenge to his leadership...Washington wants U.N. vote “this week”...

Thousands protest in Pakistan and Indonesia...

Tony blair sits stiffly on the end of the sofa nearest to the fireplace. He has not had the easiest of nights. After returning from a meeting with the queen he found that American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had written Britain out of the coming war. If the British government could not sort out its political problems, Rumsfeld had said, then too bad: Washington would go it alone.

To be stabbed by Britain’s traditional French rival is one thing. To be kicked by its transatlantic ally is something else. It had taken two late calls to President Bush to establish that Secretary Rumsfeld was “only trying to help.”

THURSDAY, MARCH 13

 Morning headlines: Washington threatens Moscow with consequences of veto . . . Tony Blair denies that British place in war depends on new U.N. resolution . . .

Tony Blair was both a political and a personal friend of Bill Clinton, and had worked with him over many shared problems. How was it possible that Tony Blair could switch so quickly to a close relationship with George Bush, a conservative Texan with whom he shared barely a single belief about how a country should be taxed and run?

Was it true that the two men prayed together? Did George Bush genuinely believe that God guided his hand? Tony Blair did not go that far. He was a more traditional English Christian. He was knowledgeable about Islam and sympathetic to its adherents. What did he and the president say to each other about their religious beliefs, and what difference did it make?

The prime minister takes a walk out into the hall and looks into an empty office as if the answer to the latest state of the vote-count will emerge from its filing cabinets.

“What amazes me is how many people are happy for Saddam to stay,” he says. “They ask why we don’t get rid of Mugabe, why not the Burmese lot. Yes, let’s get rid of them all. I don’t because I can’t, but when you can, you should.”

SATURDAY, MARCH 15

Morning headlines: Emergency summit in Azores…Bush to publish Middle East “road map”... U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces in civilian area will be targets…

Tony Blair is seated in a large gilt chair in a reception room on Downing Street that the Treasury uses to impress foreign bankers. He looks slight, in open-necked blue shirt and chino trousers as he reviews the latest security reports from Iraq. Some of the Baghdad government is resigned to war; there is a certain amount of “summary punishment” being meted out to dissenters.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown poses the question most often heard in the streets. “What people ask me,” he says, “is why is there not just a little more delay.”

The prime minister snaps impatiently: “The reason is that you just go back to 1441: time, time and more time.”

The number 1441 is shorthand for the United Nations resolution against Saddam Hussein that the Security Council agreed to but did not want to act upon. If Parliament ministers could say that the war was being fought because of intolerable abuses of human rights, torture and mass murder, the case would be much easier to make.

SUNDAY, MARCH 16

Morning headlines: Tony Blair faces toughest fight of his political life… Chirac confirms veto of any new U.N. resolution authorizing war…

Amid the wildflowers of a Portuguese airstrip in the Azores, Air Force One finally arrives, escorted by enough surveillance planes to invade a small country.

Talks begin quickly in a brick airport building. George Bush makes suitable, if somewhat halting, remarks about restoring the authority of the United Nations: “In post-Saddam Iraq the U.N. will definitely need to have a role and that . . . that way it can get . . . begin to get . . . its legs . . . legs of responsibility back.” The press conference commences without mishap. Saddam gets his ultimatum. Tony Blair gets his extra time for Parliament.

Prime Minister and President are separated in the lineup for the cameras. The Downing Street team did not want to risk too enthusiastic a hug of Tony Blair by George Bush. That might have cost votes.

Back in the plane for home, Tony Blair muses about his relationship with two U.S. presidents. “Bush has never been concerned about my closeness to Bill Clinton. He sees that the problem of terrorist states and terrorist weapons of mass destruction is the problem of our generation. We may have come to that conclusion from different political traditions, different ideological directions, but we both see that. We’re both working to see that others see it too.”

TUESDAY, MARCH 18

Morning headlines: George Bush offers Saddam Hussein “exile or destruction”. . . U.N. pulls out weapons inspectors . . . France, Russia and Germany oppose use of force . . .

There are still 20 minutes till Labor Members of Parliament gather to be persuaded of the case for war. Tony Blair is in the den, writing notes on the final draft of what he will say.

If Tony Blair fails, the invasion of Iraq will go on regardless. Aweek ago Donald Rumsfeld may have been incautious in saying that Washington would not be stopped by Britain’s political doubts, but he was not being untruthful. The effect on the world of a unilateral American victory is one of the outcomes of tonight’s vote that Tony Blair fears the most.

The television pundits are now surveying the post-Blair landscape. They predict that he will “scrape through” the test, but ask each other enthusiastically about what will happen if he does not.

He doggedly sets out his case. If we weaken now, Saddam Hussein and all dictators will know they can do as they will. The Iraqi government has had 12 years in which to meet the promises it made after its last defeat. Saddam is evil: he punishes dissenters by cutting out their tongues and leaving them tied to lampposts till they die.

The interventions from members of Parliament are feebler than in many less significant debates. The dissenting Labor M.P., former actress Glenda Jackson, tries mockingly to make a point. Tony Blair just ignores her. The one-time star of the stage at his Edinburgh boarding school disdains the attentions of the Oscar-winner.

After all the editing upstairs, he says little more than that the future cannot be known before it happens—with which all can surely agree. But the piling of argument on argument is brutal.

Logic, however, will only take him so far. Those whom he wins over, he wins by showing so powerfully his confidence that he is right.

To many of his critics such certainty is the way of madness. Some have decided that he is already mad, made so by too long in power, too many admirers, too many enemies and too little listening carefully to either friends or foes. The isolation of Downing Street, even friends say, has changed the warm, open, accommodating young M.P. and lawyer they used to know. The man who could always talk around an issue is now taking one view and holding it like a creed.

Others say that he is feigning his peculiar mad certainty, that he needs something to hide his obedience to American orders. By the time he has reached the rhetorical ending, his words have run as well as they could ever run. He sits down to cheers and cries of shame from precisely where he expected them to be.

The chamber is packed. The vote to go to war is called. The first and most critical is on the dissenters’ amendment. Allies and opponents, friends and enemies, all jostle together through the voting lobbies. A few minutes later Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong whispers the result in her boss’s ear and receives a congratulatory smile in return. The government has held its ground. It has suffered an enormous rebellion, but prevented a catastrophic rout.

Back in the prime minister’s office, Tony Blair thanks everyone in a short last speech of the day. There is relief, but no air of triumph.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20

Morning headlines: American “decapitation” attack on Saddam Hussein begins war…Troops advance to the Iraqi border… France, Germany and Russia strongly object at U.N….

George Bush began the bombing of Baghdad rather earlier than his best ally expected. At 8 a.m. the members of the “War Cabinet” have just begun a discussion of how they heard the news, whether they were reading official documents in bed, watching football or enjoying the sleep of the just.

 In front of Tony Blair is an outline of the broadcast text drafted after the trip to the Azores. How should he begin it?

“My fellow Americans . . . ” suggests senior aide Campbell.

Tony Blair does not even begin to laugh.

“What about the end?” asks the prime minister, impatiently scratching the side of his face. He is now being made up so that he can deliver the message. As soon as it is complete he will fly to Brussels and President Chirac. “I want to end with ‘God bless you,’ ” he says.

There is a noisy team revolt in which every player appears to be complaining at once.

“That’s not a good idea.”

“Oh no?” says the prime minister, raising his voice.

“You’re talking to lots of people who don’t want chaplains pushing stuff down their throats.”

“You are the most ungodly lot I have ever . . . ” Tony Blair’s words fade away into the makeup artist’s flannel.

Outside Downing Street there is much discussion of where Tony Blair’s certainty about this war comes from. Is it from the realpolitik requirement to follow an American president (the poodle principle)? From religious concepts that he and George Bush share, even if his advisers mostly do not? Or the thoughtful weighing of argument (weapons of mass destruction held by dictators of mass destruction versus the unavoidable bombing of children)?

The answer, if there can yet be an answer, is “all of the above.”

Advisors will only say that the prime minister is less patient than before, less ready to make time for the consensual approach, more confident, more ready to take some risks before he moves on. He believes that Bill Clinton’s error, which went far beyond the absurdities of the Monica Lewinsky affair, was to shy away from his big domestic and overseas ambitions, not least a tougher pursuit of Osama bin Laden.

For everyone on Tony Blair’s team, an explanation for his certainty is much less important than the certainty itself. The prime minister regularly takes small pieces of advice: the broadcast to the nation ends not with God but on a lame “Thank you.” But knowledge that the boss is not going to change his mind on the big issue provides the concrete on which everything else is built.

FRIDAY, MARCH 21

Morning headlines: Ground attack begins... Baghdad bombed for second night... Two U.S. marines killed in action...

News of the first dead Britons comes while the prime minister is asleep in Brussels. There has been a helicopter crash in Kuwait. Tony Blair comes down to breakfast looking troubled. The blackest rings around the prime minister’s eyes have gone, but he is very pale.

SATURDAY, MARCH 22

Morning headlines: “Shock and Awe” over Baghdad . . . Chirac attacks “illegal” assault . . . U.S. 3rd Infantry overcomes Iraqi defenders at Nasiriya . . .

Today there is to be the biggest protest in London since the war began. Politicians may find it harder to criticize Tony Blair when British forces are fighting, but tens of thousands of voters feel under no such constraint. The cries of “Not in my name” have begun well before breakfast.

Every morning there is an argument about how much intelligence information to divulge. What are the risks? What are the benefits? Today the cabinet’s worries about the effect of “Shock and Awe” on British opinion outweigh the natural caution of the security services.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw still thinks that the TV message from Baghdad is a problem. Reporters are saying that “Shock and Awe” is a deadly show for the media, a form of aerial theater, like the worst pornography, in which real people get hurt. The bombing may be precise, but to noisy doubters in the street—fewer but angrier than a month ago—and to one or two quiet doubters in Downing Street, it does not look very precise.

SUNDAY, MARCH 23

 Morning headlines: U.S.Patriot missile brings down British Tornado, killing two . . . British journalist feared dead in American advance . . . Basra close to surrender . . .

Tony Blair has been in the country. He returns cheerfully, in jeans and open-necked blue shirt, his face colored by safely sitting outside where the only mooing and moaning is from farm animals. His mood does not stay light for long.

“Anyone watching TV would think we’d lost already,” says an angry voice in the outer office. “There’s nothing but Americans killing Brits, Brits killing Brits, Americans being captured, even a dead reporter.”

“We have helicopters that can’t stay in the sky and missiles that don’t know whose side they’re on. Isn’t there any good news?”

As Tony Blair goes upstairs to change into an interview suit, the face of George Bush in the White House Rose Garden is on the flat-screen TV. The president is predicting “a tough time ahead.”

The camera crew is ready. The prime minister arrives, and the business is swiftly done. The cause for which men have died, he says, is of “vital importance for the world,” and that is forcefully said.

Afterward, he talks quietly of how “this is always the worst time, when the fighting has begun and the end is notnear, or even known.” He might be a veteran of a hundred wars. He is right about this war, he says. Then he goes upstairs to see his wife and children.

MONDAY, MARCH 24

Morning headlines: American and British troops face fierce resistance in southern Iraq . . . Advance continues on Baghdad . . . Iraqi TV shows four dead U.S. soldiers and five prisoners . . .

In Iraq, according to words supplied by the Ministry of Defense, the southern oil fields are out of Saddam Hussein’s control, there are only “pockets of resistance” in Umm Qasr, and Basra cannot any longer be used as an Iraqi base. After four days of conflict, a “crucial moment” is approaching.

In his room high in Westminster, Tony Blair adds his own final rhetorical flourish: “That we will encounter more difficulties and anxious moments in the days ahead is certain. But no less certain, indeed more so, is coalition victory.”

He pauses. His generals are still doing better against their opponents in the desert than he himself is doing against his opponents here. The war is still unpopular. “We have 40 percent of the sand,” said the chief of the Defense staff this morning, and for once seemed quite pleased. Forty percent political support would be welcome too.

 TUESDAY, MARCH 25

Morning headlines: American forces attack Republican Guard positions sixty miles from Baghdad . . . Protests rise at humanitarian “horror”. . .

Tony Blair tries to move his mind away from grim thoughts of bombed city streets, reminding himself that there were desperate shortages before war began. He asks about what is happening outside the cities in what he calls Iraq’s “agrarian areas.”

“They’re just doing what they always do,” says Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell unhelpfully, evoking images of donkeys and dry fields of weeds.

“We have got to get out the humanitarian stuff, the U.N. stuff,” says Campbell (who would resign in August amid controversy over the handling of British intelligence about Iraq). “We are going to Camp David tomorrow, but we are also going to Kofi Annan in New York.”

With the mention of the United Nations Secretary General, the air lightens. The name has been appropriated as a verb, an adjective, an adverb, as well as a noun. Labor M.P.s like “a Kofi plan.” “We’d better Kofi this” means to cover with a good coat of humanitarian waffle. “Let’s speak Kofi” is what the mood in London demands.George Bush is not a Kofi-phile. The less the White House has to Kofi, the better it likes it.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26

Morning headlines: U.S. forces closer to Baghdad . . . Shia “uprising” reported in Basra . . . Two soldiers killed when one British tank fires on another . . . Germans say Washington should pay bill to rebuild Iraq . . .

“We’ve been hit,” says a voice from the business class seats.

“Bloody hell. Is it a Scud, or what?”

It is 9:45 p.m. London time. Most members of the Blair team are dozing. Still ahead is a helicopter ride to the Catoctin Mountains and a home-style dinner with the president and first lady at Camp David.

The sides of the aircraft shake like a tin tray struck by a stone. Then nothing more is heard but a tense string of jokes about Patriots and friendly fire. After about a minute the captain comes on the intercom and confirms that the prime minister’s plane has been struck by lightning.

At 10:15 p.m. London time, the 777 lands amid the featureless suburban landscape of Andrews Air Force Base. The Americans’ first view is of the cleverest men in the British government without a single raincoat between them muttering nervous words about having “only one suit” while rain lashes in horizontal lines over the tarmac. Three military helicopters designated to take the team to Camp David are several hundred yards away.

Eventually, within a wall of umbrellas, the team reaches a bus.

THURSDAY, MARCH 27

Morning headlines: Iraq claims 14 civilians killed in Baghdad bombing . . . Tony Blair to meet George Bush at Camp David and Kofi Annan in New York . . .

The prime minister’s cabin is Dogwood, the flower of fidelity. For a man known to his enemies as President Bush’s poodle, this seems a little tactless.

The site of the “press availability” is a tractor barn for Marines. George Bush and Tony Blair are standing in front of a dark-green velvet curtain. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice sit in the second row. Powell looks as though he is on holiday, Rice as though she were waiting for exam results. President Bush takes measured steps over the thin gray carpet and begins to speak. Tony Blair follows smartly behind.

Loyalty, the president makes clear, is something he prizes. “Americans have learned a lot about Tony Blair over the past weeks,” he says. “We’ve learned that he is a man of his word. We’ve learned that he is a man of courage, that he’s a man of vision, and we’re proud to have him as a friend.” Tony Blair ought to be used to high praise by now, but this is plainly tough going.

The president is more articulate than he is often held to be, but he is not an orator. He talks softly, in snatches, like a nightclub singer, calling out the shared times together of Britons and Americans against Nazis and Cold War foes, their shared determination to “loosen the grip of terror around the throats of the Iraqi people.”

The prime minister gives the more formal piano accompaniment, filling in the gaps and the facts, and flourishing, on his own account, the lines about depravity and executions. He speaks more slowly than usual, matching the president’s beat.

The response is mixed. To some, these are the empty words of two men far out on a plank together, tightly bound by the need for success, suddenly aware of the potential for desert disaster. But on others, the effect is very different.

Tony Blair seems almost mesmerized by the president’s song, just as at times George Bush is said to have been wowed by his ally’s wordplay.

When the prime minister is asked how he knows the new deaths are executions, he says: “The reason I used the language I did was because of the circumstance that we know.” That is the rhetorical nadir. When asked by the same reporter why there are so few allies alongside Britain and America, he sweeps up into a great finale of the duty to future generations as well as of the need, “when it is all over, to go back and ask why this has happened.”

“Because you two are both crazy,” says a last voice from the left side. The men leaving the podium do not hear. Tony Blair wants the minimum possible gap between his own view and the president’s view. That is what this coming walk is all about. Time alone with the president to ask difficult questions and to judge genuine determination is the most important part of the trip. So, while others may be winding down, the prime minister is winding up.

When George Bush returns, he is in blue tracksuit and jogging shoes, as though for a power walk, not a stroll in the hills. The two set off along the path, alone except for a security buggy with a faulty horn. Peep-peep, Peep-peep sounds the escort in perpetual distracting cry, as they map out the next steps for their nervous audience around the camp and around the world.

SATURDAY, MARCH 29

Morning headlines: U.S.forces ready for assault on Baghdad . . . Bomb falls on crowded market . . . Tony Blair appeals to Iraqis’ sense of history and national identity . . .

In the foreign office the theorists and the planners are turning their minds to the more distant diplomatic future. They assume now that Saddam Hussein is already “history” in the American sense, as good as dead.

MONDAY, MARCH 31

Morning headlines: Iraqthreatens new suicide bomber attacks . . . British soldier killed near Basra . . . Protests rise at civilian casualties . . .

The war cabinet begins at 9 a.m. The TV pictures in the outer office are of distressed civilians and dead allied soldiers.

TUESDAY, APRIL 1

Morning headlines: Washingtonrepeats warning to Syria and Iran . . . Seven Iraqi women and children in car fired on and killed by U.S. troops . . .

This morning the prime minister speaks to his worried colleagues. He describes the “three phases” of the war, as he sees them. The first, securing the strategic assets of the country, has been achieved. The second, the steady advance on Baghdad, is going on. The third, regime change, is still to come. His two civil servant spokesmen, one tall, one short, look at each other and nod. The short one comes out of the room first and says to the first person he meets, “Steady advance.” Steady advance is the story of the day.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

Morning headlines: U.S.begins full assault on Republican Guard outside Baghdad . . . Investigation launched into U.S. shootings of civilians . . . Jack Straw calls for U.N. conference on post-war Iraq . . .

life has returned to routine. I stop and ask Tony Blair the question the visitor this morning from beyond the war wanted to ask. What does he feel himself about the deaths of children that are the direct result of his own decision?

The prime minister looks up at me from his seat. “It does really get to you,” he says, looking at me directly as though challenging me to disagree.

FRIDAY, APRIL 4

Morning headlines: U.S.forces take Baghdad airport . . . Iraqi Shia leader calls for civilians not to oppose British and American troops . . . U.S. and Europe divided over future control . . .

Most of the news is still good. Finding a secret cache of chemical weapons would be perfect. But perfection has to wait.

“Thanks for coming,” says Blair. Afrail man sitting opposite immediately begins his account of seven years in Iraqi jails, six hours of “hanger” torture each day for 11 months, life in packed cells where the only sleep was standing up, routines of captivity broken only by the occasional day when Saddam Hussein paid a personal visit and cut off the air supply for a while so that the survivors knew he had been there.

Tony Blair takes a deep breath. Alarger man is in the seat closest to him. He is a doctor, and shows the scars around his wrists with the diffidence of a man more used to being shown others’ scars. He says he spent just three years in cells being hung from the ceilings and beaten, alongside other prisoners, in a kind of punishment show that their families were forced to watch.

Tony Blair touches the doctor’s wrists. It is not a comfortable gesture. But words are not easy either, not words beyond his promise that Saddam’s regime has gone, that it should have been removed in 1991, that he is sorry and the same mistake will not be made again.

SATURDAY, APRIL 5

Morning headlines: Baghdadsurrounded . . . Saddam shown “defiant” on TV . . . Tony Blair and George Bush to meet in Belfast next week . . . Pressure grows to find banned weapons in Iraq . . .

Where are all the chemical and biological weapons? That is the persistent question from French and Germans and Canadians and many others, all tired already of being portrayed as shirkers from a successful war. The prime minister says that he is sure the illegal weapons are there.

SUNDAY, APRIL 6

Morning headlines: Red Cross reports Baghdad hospitals overwhelmed...British hold center of Basra...Hopes for Northern Ireland peace breakthrough at Belfast summit...

Tony Blair and George Bush still seem an unlikely couple. One is from the Texan right; the other is from the British left. One believes in low taxes and has little confidence in making people richer or better with public money. The other is prepared to tax more if he can make the public benefits greater.

Tony Blair has thought of many ways in which he and the president have formed the same outlook on the world. He talks of their shared late entry into politics, their experience of life beyond public office, their instinctive, creative, practical approaches.

Those who have been working in these fields for longer than either man, remember how close Winston Churchill thought he was to Roosevelt, how powerful was his belief in the “personal interchanges” that brought their “perfect understanding.”

That was a partnership across the Atlantic on which the fate of Britain and America hung. Hitler was a clear, present and huge danger. That was a test of history that few have since doubted. But a shared approach to Nazi Germany, instinctive, practical, creative at the time, did not bring the understanding in other areas that Churchill wanted to see.

Roosevelt believed fundamentally in better public provision, higher state spending. He also wanted to clear British power from the globe. Churchill believed in none of those things.

Tony Blair, who welcomes George Bush to the UK tomorrow, is unshaken by the pessimism of historians. He does not use the word “friend” as freely as the president does. Partly that is because of his own more cautious character. Partly it is the British characteristic to avoid language that may sound insincere. Partly, maybe most importantly, it is the wish to avoid seeming to crave friendship from the world’s most powerful man.

His instinct is still to trust George Bush until he has reason to do otherwise.

MONDAY, APRIL 7

Morning headlines: Baghdadairport clear for U.S. planes to land . . . British troops secure center of Basra . . .

After a one-minute warning for the “honor party,” the presidential car arrives outside. It is as big and solid as a car can be without being designated an Armored Personnel Carrier.

The prime minister, a slim black line framed in the castle doorway, asks if his guest has had a good journey. “Yes,” says the president. “I go to sleep, wake up, and here I am in Merry Old Ireland.”

There is a mild frisson among the home side. “Merry Old Ireland” suggests that President Bush may think he is somewhere else. Northern Ireland is not normally known as “merry.”

Tony Blair suggests a walk around the gravel path. He is keen to put his case that the United Nations role in Iraq should not be described tomorrow as merely “important,” which is the current agreement, but as something stronger—“of vital importance,” perhaps in order to keep the wheels of diplomacy in motion.

Neither man takes a coat into the cold night air. Coats do not suggest confident leadership.

TUESDAY, APRIL 8

Morning headlines: U.S.forces occupy Saddam Hussein’s palaces . . . Belfast summit on postwar Iraq . . . Financial markets rise as end of war seems near . . .

The press conference is over, and the British team is delighted with what Bush has said and how he has said it on the United Nations, on Ireland and on the Middle East.

Tony Blair gives his foreign secretary one of the now familiar “looks.” “Great press conference,” he adds himself as the president turns to talk to his national security adviser.

Condoleezza Rice does not look so happy. Someone behind her says, “Vital role. Fine. But did he need to say it eight times?”

Rice begins gently to suggest to her boss that some of their colleagues back in Washington might not be so pleased. When she becomes more vigorous, the president leads her away from the crowd towards the garden, where he can be ear-whacked more discreetly. He looks at first concerned, then a bit frosty.

“Ease it, Condie, ease it,” says the president.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9

Morning headlines: Summit promises “vital role” for U.N. . . . U.S. “decapitation” raid on Saddam Hussein . . . three journalists killed by U.S. fire . . .

The prime minister and the president have made a strong start together. They have surprised both their enemies and their friends. They have removed a vicious and dangerous dictator. That much is sure.

Was what they did the right thing? Tony Blair has asked for the judgment of history on that. He will get it. Since he is only 50, he will probably live to get even history’s fourth or fifth drafts. When the balance of good and bad outcomes can be properly seen, when all the participants have spoken, he will get his judgment.

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus