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Manning Reflects on Iraq War, Blair, Bush
Former Top Blair Advisor Says PM Believed WMDs Existed, but Didn't Want Invasion
09/13/2007 10:07 AM ET
Washington, UNITED STATES: British Ambassador Sir David Manning (L) speaks with US President George W. Bush (R) after Bush signed a book of condolences 08 July 2005 at the British Embassy in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty
Washington, UNITED STATES: British Ambassador Sir David Manning (L) speaks with US President George W. Bush (R) after Bush signed a book of condolences 08 July 2005 at the British Embassy in Washington, DC.

David Manning's long career in service to the Crown granted him a front-row seat for some of the most dramatic historic developments over the past two decades, but he will likely be most remembered in his role as Tony Blair's top foreign policy adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Manning is leaving his current post as UK ambassador to Washington, and has started to open up and reflect on the events of recent years, granting a long interview with the New Statesman, key selections of which appear below.

On the special UK-US relationship:

"You have to understand Blair the person before you get into this. A lot of what he was doing with Bush, he was doing with Clinton. Blair was very clear about the doctrine of liberal interventionism. This was not something . . . invented to justify close relations with George Bush. You have to understand he believed very strongly."

"One has to be careful not to say that the United States is the UK on steroids. We are different societies. It's very important to understand where we're different as well as where we see things the same."

"All the time I have been here we have seen the poodlism charge. It's a very simplistic view of the political and broader relationship. We have a natural affinity and a natural friendship, but we're very different, too. It doesn't help either of us to pretend that it isn't true."

Blair's views on Iraq's WMD:

"He believed the WMD story. It's not true that it was made up and that he always knew it was made up. Was it wrong? Yes. But the idea that he somehow sat down and confected this story and that was the justification for the policy he opted for is not true."

Blair's views on regime change:

Blair "was always in favour of regime change, but that did not mean he always wanted regime change through military means. He must have known it might come to military action, but I have always believed he hoped and probably believed there was a way of getting there by using the UN to put pressure on Saddam. I don't think he ever wanted to go by the military route."

On president Bush's pledge to Blair that the State Department was drawing up plans for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq:

"We now know that the preparations were all blocked. There were plans made and deployed in the state department, but in the end the state department wasn't allowed to take the job.... Was it a double-cross? I don't think they set out to double-cross the prime minister. I don't think that is true. I think what you see here is confusion. I've never entirely understood what happened, but I assume that, in some kind of inter-agency discussion, Rumsfeld's DoD said: 'We're going to do this.' I did not know that the DoD was going to take over the running of the country. We didn't have any sense that that was about to be the way postwar Iraq was going to be run."

After the invasion:

"That was the moment I remember having real feelings of disquiet. Then we got very concerned when we heard the army was being disbanded and when we heard that de-Ba'athification was going ahead on the scale it was."

"Was a key period mishandled and opportunities lost? Yes. I don't think anybody can see that the immediate postwar situation was anything other than a failure. We had hoped that rapidly the situation would stabilise, that it would be possible to introduce reconciliation, get the economy moving quickly and rebuild society. Did it happen quickly? No, we failed. We were over-optimistic, as we perhaps were after the collapse of the Soviet Union, about the powers of this place to regenerate itself."

On Iran:

"I don't see any intention on their part to use hard power on Iran . . . Of course there are pressures, but there is no sign for the moment that that is where the president is."

"I would like to see a bolder effort by all of us to engage with Iran more broadly, so that the nuclear file becomes just one area of the dossier."

On views that the war has US power on the wane:

"It's very easy to underestimate the power of this country to reinvent itself. There is still an extraordinary energy here. If you want something done, America is still the place to come and look for the pioneering new technology, the capital formation, the people who will take the risks."

On climate change:

"When I came here there were pretty profound arguments about the science. Those have changed. But it's still very difficult here to get people to accept our line of argument that you can't solve this on new technologies alone; you can't do this alone on a voluntary basis. You're going to have to have mandatory emission caps, a carbon-trading system."

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