- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

‘Seduced’ by Bush?

A former British ambassador to the United States believes Prime Minister Tony Blair was “seduced” by American power in the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq, but rejects charges that Mr. Blair and President Bush misled their publics with false claims of the threat from dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Tony Blair chose to take his stand against Saddam and alongside Bush from the highest of high moral ground,” Ambassador Christopher Meyer said in a new book about his Washington experiences.

“It is a definitive riposte to the idea that Blair was merely the president’s poodle, seduced though he and his team always appeared to be by the proximity and glamour of American power.”

Mr. Meyer, ambassador here from 1997 to 2003, said he, too, was convinced Saddam was hiding chemical and biological weapons from U.N. inspectors and was determined to develop a nuclear weapon, although those weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have not been found.

“Enormous controversy surrounds the intelligence on which Blair and Bush relied,” he said in his book, “D.C. Confidential,” which was serialized yesterday in London’s Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers.

“I saw a great deal of the intelligence material in 2002, and I was, myself, persuaded that Iraq had WMD.”

Mr. Meyer declared Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair “innocent” of the charges that they lied about prewar intelligence and that they secretly intended to invade Iraq, despite the diplomatic overtures to Saddam before the invasion in the spring of 2003.

“History will doubtless charge Blair and Bush with a number of sins of omission and commission in Iraq; and its judgment may be harsh,” Mr. Meyer warned.

“But on the central accusation — that they conspired together from early 2002 deliberately to mislead their publics as to their true, bellicose intentions — they are, in my view, innocent. I believe them to have been sincere when they said that a peaceful outcome was possible and war the last option.

“Equally, I had little doubt that Bush and Blair thought that it would come to war. Neither had any confidence in Saddam’s doing the right thing. Who did?”

Mr. Meyer criticized the timing of the war, adding that a delay would have allowed better planning and could have attracted more international support.

“I believe the U.S. and [Britain] would have stood a better chance of going to war in good order had they planned the campaign not for the spring of 2003 but the autumn — the next spell of cool weather in Iraq,” he said.

Mr. Meyer also faulted Mr. Blair for failing to demand that the White House better plan for a postwar Iraq.

Britain, he said, “should have made its participation in any war dependent on a fully worked-out plan … for the rehabilitation of Iraq after Saddam’s demise.”

“We may have been the junior partner in the enterprise,” he added, “but the ace up our sleeves was that America did not want to go it alone.

“Had Britain so insisted, Iraq after Saddam might have avoided the violence that may yet prove fatal to the entire enterprise.”

Woman in Manila

President Bush has nominated a new ambassador to the Philippines who would be the first female U.S. envoy in Manila.

Kristie A. Kenney, a career diplomat, would replace Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, if she is confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Ricciardone left Manila in May.

The U.S. Embassy yesterday said Miss Kenney previously served as ambassador to Ecuador. She is also a former senior adviser to the assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement at the State Department.

She has also served as economics officer at the U.S. embassies in Geneva and in Argentina and as consular officer in Jamaica.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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