One year before the United States-led coalition invaded Iraq, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the administration of President George W. Bush that he would support military action in that country, according to a memo publicized Sunday by the Daily Mail.
The revelation "flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis," the Mail points out. "He told voters: 'We're not proposing military action'—in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals."
The document, written in March 2002 by ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell to Bush, was contained in a batch of secret emails held on the private server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
"On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary," Powell wrote in a memo penned one week before Blair met Bush at the former president's ranch in Crawford, Texas.
"Aside from his foreign and defense secretaries, Blair's Cabinet shows signs of division, and the Labour Party and the British public are unconvinced that military action is warranted now," Powell continued, noting that Blair was likely to suggest ideas on how to "make a credible public case on current Iraqi threats to international peace" and "demonstrate that we have thought through 'the day after'."
In public comments during his time at Crawford, Blair denied that Britain was on an unstoppable path to war, saying: "This is a matter for considering all the options. We're not proposing military action at this point in time."
A year later, British Members of Parliament (MPs) gave Parliamentary approval for the invasion of Iraq.
According to the Mail, "A second explosive memo from the same cache also reveals how Bush used 'spies' in the Labour Party to help him to manipulate British public opinion in favour of the war."
The revelations drew outrage from current and former MPs, at least one of whom said he felt "duped."
Former Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay, who sat on the foreign affairs select committee in the run-up to the war, told LBC Radio that he is "ashamed" to have trusted Blair about the Iraq War. "Looking at this these documents this morning and everything else that has gone before we know that this was a complete and utter deceit to me and to others," he said.
"Obviously I feel both deeply ashamed and very stupid having trusted a British prime minister, but it was a British prime minister," MacKinlay added. "One assumed that even allowing for exaggeration or inaccuracies in intelligence, I never thought it would be one hundred percent untrue, but it was—and myself and the British people, all of us, were duped."
Another unnamed senior diplomat, who according to the Mail had "close knowledge of Blair-Bush relations," said on Monday: "This memo shows beyond doubt for the first time Blair was committed to the Iraq War before he even set foot in Crawford."
And former Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the Mail that "[t]he memos prove in explicit terms what many of us have believed all along: Tony Blair effectively agreed to act as a frontman for American foreign policy in advance of any decision by the House of Commons or the British Cabinet."
Davis went on: "He was happy to launder George Bush’s policy on Iraq and sub-contract British foreign policy to another country without having the remotest ability to have any real influence over it. And in return for what?"
"For George Bush pretending Blair was a player on the world stage to impress voters in the UK when the Americans didn’t even believe it themselves," he concluded.
Meanwhile, a timetable for publication of an official inquiry into the UK's invasion of Iraq by Sir John Chilcot still has not been set. The Guardian reports that "there are already calls for further delays if he has not been given access to this secret memo between Powell and Bush setting out the U.S. view of Britain’s position."