Part of the serialization of former British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Christopher Meyer has just hit the press in tomorrow’s Guardian newspaper.
Ambassador Meyer, whom I had the pleasure of meeting many times during his tenure here in Washington, pulls no punches in this run-down of his prime minister’s dance with Bush in the months before the Iraq invasion.
His intro says a lot, but read it ALL:
Hindsight usually follows failure. As I write, things looked bad in Iraq. At regular intervals over the last two years I have asked the same question of former colleagues in the British and American governments: in Iraq, is the glass half-empty or is it half-full? With one exception the answer has been “half-full”.
The exception was a trusted American friend and government official, who, after paying a recent visit to Iraq, returned to tell the White House: “We’re fucked.”
The excerpt on Libby and Cheney is interesting — mostly because Cheney’s “Darth Vader” reputation preceded him. Meyer wanted to see Britain’s options kept open — and wanted to show that Britain was moving America on at least part of its agenda. It seemed instead Bush and Cheney were successfully seducing Blair, who was forfeiting Britan’s points of leverage with “unconditional support” of Bush’s regime change plans.
Here is the Cheney bit:
Something then occurred to me: Britain was acquiring the status of indispensable ally. I had depressed myself by the thought that Blair’s unconditional support for Bush had destroyed British leverage; but it dawned on me that the Americans really needed us by their side if it came to war. “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, said to me later that we were the only ally that mattered. That was a powerful lever. Bush’s decision to take the UN route was welcome, as far as it went, but it left a host of questions unanswered.
Just before Blair arrived at Camp David, I received a phone call from one of the most experienced and prominent foreign policy practitioners of the Clinton administration.
The familiar voice warned me that Cheney, Bush’s sometimes intimidating vice-president, would be present throughout Blair’s discussions with the president. “How the hell do you know?” I asked. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” was the enigmatic reply. “But Blair had better watch out.”
The voice was right. Cheney attended all the meetings, including those where Blair and Bush were alone with their closest aides. After one of these conclaves Bush emerged to announce that Blair had “cojones”, I may have been the only member of the waiting British team who understood this meant balls. It was a tribute to Blair’s unequivocal reaffirmation to Bush of his earlier commitment to stand by the Americans, including in a war. This was what the Americans wanted from the Camp David summit.
Bush, in return would go to the UN to give Saddam one last chance to meet his international obligations.
Christopher Meyer is a lot like Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, for four years Chief of Staff at the Department of State under Colin Powell. Both men saw the behind-the-scenes action that led to the Iraq War and are now revealing what they know and saw because of a loyalty not to a Prime Minister or a President, but to their respective nations writ large.
The Mirror‘s comments on Sir Christopher Meyer revelations in The Guardian reads much like an assessment of Wilkerson:
The damning judgment of former diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer on his old master is the most devastating so far delivered.
As Our Man in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer loyally served the PM for nigh on six years.
He was Downing Street’s go-between with the White House in the run-up to the Iraq war and personally backed the invasion.
A career mandarin, Meyer saw Thatcher and Major up close. And that is precisely what makes his memoirs devastating for a Premier clinging on to power as his sell-by date fast approaches.
Meyer can’t be dismissed as a money-grabbing glory hunter out to settle old scores. He’s donating fees for serialising his memoirs to charity.
They are dynamite because he saw the private face behind the carefully spun public image.
Blair swats away critics as if they were little more than irritating mosquitoes. Meyer is a different creature, a critic with a deadly bite.
If just half of what the ex-diplomat writes is true, Blair should lock himself in a No 10 cupboard out of embarrassment.
I am very much looking forward to Ambassador Meyer’s entire book — but these are hugely important revelations that must come out now — to prevent the repetition of such disastrous military decisions.
What makes all of this even more intriguing is that I had some genuine hard-headed arguments across the dinner table with Meyer’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Tony Brenton (this name was inserted after initial post as I could not originally remember my occasional dinner host’s surname, though my arguments with him were quite memorable). This DCM sounded like a card-carrying neoconservative and was a greater proponent for the war and regime change than I think many even around President Bush were.
One prominent journalist shared this note about Brenton with me:
Tony Brenton is the man you’re thinking of. He once tried to convince me that it didn’t matter whether WMD were found or not and that us journos should stop focusing on the past.
I’ll have to check out whether Meyer devotes any pages for his former war-happy Deputy.
— Steve Clemons