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30 November 2009

Iraq inquiry: Blair’s 2002 promise exposed

David Manning gives Chilcot evidence

By James Macintyre

For those interested in the question of when the UK signed up to George W Bush’s plan to invade Iraq, this morning (actually this afternoon, as it turns out) is a moment we’ve all been waiting for.

David Manning, Tony Blair’s former foreign policy adviser and ambassador to the United States, will give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry today. The inquiry is swiftly proving a fascinating watch, revealing within days of hearing evidence that “regime change” was indeed being discussed in Washington in the wake of the unconnected atrocities of 11 September 2001, and that Blair was told ten days before the 2003 invasion that Saddam did not have the ability to launch WMDs.

Some Westminster hacks are asking why it won’t report for another year or so. “We can pack up and go home,” said one.

However, there are still crucial questions to be asked. And surely it is inconceivable that Manning will not be grilled on his famous March 2002 memo, in which he told Blair after dining with Condoleezza Rice:

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We spent a long time at dinner on Iraq. It is clear that Bush is grateful for your support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a parliament and a public opinion that was very different than [sic] anything in the States.


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