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Tony Blair Goes to War

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

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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.

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