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Iraq war has exposed us to terror at home, says Meyer

Ewen MacAskill and Julian Glover
The Guardian

Britain's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, delivers a damaging critique of Tony Blair's approach to the war in Iraq in an interview in the Guardian today.

Sir Christopher, who had a ringside seat in the decision-making that led to the war, unfavourably contrasts Mr Blair with the boldness and attention to detail of Margaret Thatcher. He says Lady Thatcher took pride in knowing more detail than her officials. "That is why it was terrifying to be summoned into her presence because if you did not know your stuff, she would expose you. There was never that danger with Tony Blair."

He takes issue with the prime minister's claim that the war has not exposed Britain to terrorist attacks: "There is plenty of evidence around at the moment that home-grown terrorism was partly radicalised and fuelled by what is going on in Iraq. There is no way we can credibly get up and say it has nothing to do with it. Don't tell me that being in Iraq has got nothing to do with it. Of course it does."

Sir Christopher gave the interview to mark the publication of DC Confidential, the first account by an insider of the decision-making that led to war, to be serialised in the Guardian from Monday.

Unusually for a diplomat, his account is revealing about a host of cabinet ministers who passed through the Washington embassy, such as John Prescott and Jack Straw, and exposes the vanities of advisers such as Lord Levy, Mr Blair's Middle East envoy.

But the part of the book which will attract the most attention concerns Mr Blair and his dealings with George Bush in the run-up to war. He portrays the PM as a man of moral and philosophical certitude but not overly interested in the nitty-gritty of policy. In the interview, he says it would be wrong to see Mr Blair as "an empty vessel". He adds: "By God, in British politics, when on top of his game, his speeches are incredible."

Sir Christopher, who supported the war, sat in on the crucial meetings between Mr Blair and Mr Bush, reading transcripts of their private phone calls and regularly meeting figures such as Dick Cheney, the vice-president, and Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

He reveals that the Foreign Office, which raised doubts about the wisdom of the war, had been even more marginalised by Downing Street than had until now been realised. He said he dealt almost exclusively with Downing Street in the 18 months before the war and could recall few, if any, phone calls with the Foreign Office in that time.

Sir Christopher said he had reflected hard on his time in Washington and its influence on the Iraq war. Although he supported the war and still feels it was right in principle, he now believes that much could have been done differently.


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