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BLAIR'S WAR
Produced by Dai Richards

ANNOUNCER: Tonight in Iraq, coalition forces have advanced to within 10 miles of the center of Baghdad. But the United States and Great Britain are still isolated, fighting the war with little international help. And they face a tide of public rage in Muslim countries, in Europe, and around the world.

Tonight on FRONTLINE, the story of why America and Britain find themselves going it alone.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein will be removed, no matter how long it takes.

ANNOUNCER: It is the story of a political battle between old allies.

DOMINIQUE DeVILLEPIN: It is not for one country to decide. We need facts.

ANNOUNCER: And a story of a man of Europe caught in the middle, risking his political future by supporting Washington.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: Sometimes unpopularity is the price of leadership and it is the cost of conviction.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the inside story of Tony Blair's war.

NARRATOR: In the dark days after September 11th, British Prime Minister Tony Blair came to New York to mourn those who had died at the World Trade Center and to express his country's solidarity with the United States.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: After the terrible events of last week, there is the determination to build hope out of tragedy. There is the surging of the human spirit.

NARRATOR: That afternoon Blair was scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House. On the official agenda, America's plans to attack al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: We stand side by side with you now. Your loss we count as our loss. Your struggle we take as our struggle.

NARRATOR: But in Washington, another issue, one that would eventually tear apart the Western alliance, was already in play: Iraq.

EVAN THOMAS, Assistant Managing Editor, Newsweek: In the Bush administration before 9/11, they're not paying much attention to Iraq, with one important exception. In the Defense Department, Paul Wolfowitz, a neo-conservative, is consistently agitating to do something to take out Saddam. At Camp David, the weekend after 9/11, Wolfowitz is right there, saying, "Let's go." I mean literally right there. And the president, in a fundamental way, made up his mind on about September 12th, 2001, that Iraq was something he was going to eventually deal with.

NARRATOR: When Tony Blair arrived at the White House, he entered the debate on Iraq.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER, UK Ambassador to US, '97-'03: We finally got to the White House after this very emotional morning.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's my honor to welcome my friend and a friend to America, Prime Minister Tony Blair, to the White House.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: One of the issues was were the Americans going to use 9/11, quite apart from hunting down al Qaeda, to go after Iraq, as well. And Tony Blair's view was, whatever you're going to do about Iraq, you should concentrate on the job at hand. And the job at hand was get al Qaeda, give the Taliban an ultimatum. The president took Blair and moved him off into the corner of the room, and he said, "I agree with you. Iraq we keep for another day."

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: America has no truer friend than Great Britain. So honored the British Prime Minister's crossed an ocean to show his unity with America. Thank you for coming, friend.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: Britain had been consecrated as the closest ally. And Blair and Bush were, if you like, two leaders in harness, about together, with whoever else was going to join them, to slay the dragon of international terrorism.

NARRATOR: In Paris and throughout Europe, solidarity with America also seemed to run deep.

KEITH RICHBURG, The Washington Post, Paris: The reaction here was really phenomenal. Taxi drivers would ask me, because they could hear my accent in French, "Where are you from?" And I'd say the United States, and they'd immediately say, "Oh, I feel so sorry about what happened." There was this huge outpouring. I remember the Le Monde headline was something like "We are all Americans now."

JACQUES CHIRAC, President of France: [subtitles] The French people stand as one with the American people. We give them our friendship and solidarity at this tragic moment. I have assured President George Bush he has our total support.

NARRATOR: From its headquarters in Belgium, NATO offered America European soldiers to fight in the coming war in Afghanistan.

GEORGE ROBERTSON, NATO General Secretary: This attack shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the allies in Europe or in North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

BENOIT D'ABOVILLE, French Ambassador to NATO: Well, the Americans said, "Thank you. We are very busy now. We are in the shock. Thank you. We'll call you later."

NARRATOR: Eventually, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz arrived at NATO to give the administration's response.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Deputy Secretary of Defense: I mean, we think we had a collective affirmation of support with the-- with what they said with Article 5. And if we need collective action, we'll ask for it. We don't anticipate that at the moment.

NARRATOR: So America prepared for war in Afghanistan on its own terms. The administration did not want to relive the U.S. military's frustrating experience with NATO during the Kosovo conflict.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, Council on Foreign Relations: The sense in the Bush administration was, "We don't want to have to do what the Clinton administration did in Kosovo," collective decision over bombing targets. And that's why I think the U.S. basically said, "Thanks, but no thanks. We're going to fight the war in Afghanistan on our own. We'll do it our way." And then after the main fighting was over, then they said to the E.U., "Come on in. Help us with the peacekeeping." And I think that has left a bad taste in the mouths of many Europeans.

NARRATOR: America fought the war against the Taliban virtually alone. Its rejection of NATO's help began to erode French solidarity.

GUILLAUME PARMENTIER, French Institute of International Relations: The reaction of the Americans was close to contemptuous. So I think this was a bad signal and clearly played a role, I think, in what happened after that.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 29, 2002] What we have found in Afghanistan confirms our war against terror is only beginning.

NARRATOR: After his victory over the Taliban, President Bush suddenly expanded the list of America's enemies from states who support terrorists to those developing weapons of mass destruction.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction while starving its citizens. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror. Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

ROBERT KAGAN, Author, Of Paradise and Power: Americans understood immediately what George Bush meant by the "axis of evil" because Americans don't mind thinking of the world in terms of good and evil. In fact, they frequently do think of the world in terms of good and evil. Now, of course, the reaction in Europe was entirely different. I think many Europeans were sort of stunned and perhaps even horrified by that speech.

ALAIN FRANCHON, Editor-in-Chief, Le Monde: The French Foreign Ministry said it was a simplistic description of the situation. People were sort of afraid of introducing this religious language in the political landscape. Maybe they are-- maybe they are cynical. Maybe they are realistic. But that kind of language is very-- sounds very odd for us, very bizarre, and it does not cross well the ocean.

NARRATOR: If the president's language had offended the Europeans, his new agenda frightened them.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us!

CHRISTOPH BERTRAM, German Institute for International Relations: For the general public in Germany, it was a feeling, like, "Oh, these people are really starting a crusade." Was this really the alliance against international terrorism, or is there something else coming up on the agenda?

ALAIN FRANCHON: We have a virtual threat -- "If, if, if" -- but we have an answer, which is very real-- war. I mean, are we on moral ground when we answer with such a big thing as war to a virtual threat? That is how it was perceived here, a sort of disproportion. Well, we're not so sure about these weapons. We are not so sure that Saddam Hussein is the kind of regime which is going to give that kind of weapons to al Qaeda.

NARRATOR: In London, the British prime minister had his own thoughts about Saddam Hussein. Tony Blair already sensed that Iraq and weapons of mass destruction were going to be defining issues of his premiership.

PETER MANDELSON, Labor MP, Fmr Cabinet Minister: He shares Mr. Bush's analysis that we have to face down dictators like Saddam Hussein, that these are real threats, you know, of our modern day, and that we're not going to protect ourselves simply by putting off the evil hour.

NARRATOR: As prime minister, Blair has never shrunk from using force.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA, Deputy Editor, Sunday Telegraph: He's fought campaigns in Kosovo, in Afghanistan. He's assisted America in an earlier attack on Iraq. This someone who's capable of tremendous moral certainty when he thinks the cause is just.

NARRATOR: Blair didn't fear American power. And if it could be channeled through international institutions, he saw it as a potent force for good.

PETER MANDELSON: He feels passionately we need to harness America's strength, but all the time the focus is that idea of international community, governed by international law, coming together wherever possible in the United Nations, with the backing of that organization.

NARRATOR: Early in April, 2002, the prime minister crossed the Atlantic to gauge President Bush's real intentions on Iraq.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: It was then that Blair realized that the saber-rattling against Iraq was definitely going to lead to a conflict. I was told by a cabinet minister who's very close to Blair that Blair looked Bush in the eyes and realized that America was going to war with Iraq, come what may.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER, UK Ambassador to US, '97-'03: Blair said, "If you want to do this, you can do this on your own. You have the military strength to go into Iraq and do it. But our advice to you is even a great superpower like the United States needs to do this with partners and allies. And the best way of trying to get a good coalition together is to exhaust the processes which the U.N. offers."

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: Blair said to him, "I can be your envoy. I can go to European leaders and say to them, 'Look, this is not a reckless undertaking, this is a campaign to try and make the world a more peaceful place.' " And I think it was on that basis that Blair sold his ambassadorship in Europe to Bush.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Our nations share common interests and a common perspective on the important challenges of our times.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: Blair came away from Crawford thinking at a very deep level about what he, as British prime minister, could do to ensure that this conflict did not do irreparable damage to the international community.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, in Washington, key members of the president's national security team were fashioning a new, aggressive American foreign policy.

EVAN THOMAS: You have Rumsfeld-- "I am going to create a military that can fight and must fight against the bad guys." You have Cheney's awakening view that America's threatened, the sleeping giant is threatened and has to -- has to hit back. You have George Bush, who had a very humble view of foreign policy but now thinks it is his moral, almost religious goal to protect his people.

This small group believes that the world has changed absolutely and fundamentally, that we used to live in a world where we used alliances and forces to contain threats, and now we are going to preempt threats before they come and destroy an American city.

NARRATOR: Nine months after September 11th, the president went to West Point to reveal his vision for a new world order.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [June 2, 2002] Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

ROBIN WRIGHT, Los Angeles Times: The president's speech outlined a whole new tactic for the first-- a first new idea, really, since the cold war more than a half century earlier. And that was to engage in preemptive military strikes to confront any threat faced by the United States.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: The doctrine did alarm a lot of people around the world. Taken literally, these words mean a rampaging hyperpower who'll whiz around the world, whacking people left, right and center whenever it sees its security interests threatened.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act!

NARRATOR: French President Jacques Chirac reacted strongly against the new Bush policy of preemption.

Pres. JACQUES CHIRAC: [subtitles] The wish to legitimize the unilateral and preemptive use of force is extremely worrying. It goes against France's vision of collective world security, a vision which depends upon cooperation between states, the respect of law and the authority of the United Nations Security Council.

GUILLAUME PARMENTIER: He sees this as a make-or-break event for the international system. If the international system becomes one where countries can, without reference to the United Nations Security Council, decide on this or that political structure in the neighboring countries and other countries, life would become very dangerous.

NARRATOR: Chirac, now 70, was in his last term as president, capping a long career in French politics.

KEITH RICHBURG, The Washington Post, Paris: Chirac's been around before George Bush ever even dreamt of going into politics, and so he really sees himself as an elder statesman. He understands the Middle East. He's been dealing with Arab leaders for 30 years. I think he really wants to be deferred to on some of these issues.

NARRATOR: Chirac first met Saddam Hussein in 1974, and France has long had close ties with Iraq. In recent years, it lobbied to lift the U.N. sanctions on Saddam.

KEITH RICHBURG: The French would say after 12 years of on-again, off-again sanctions, on-again, off-again weapons inspections, his regime is basically, you know, bankrupt. They really don't have the capability of hitting anyone with a missile anymore. Most of their weapons, if not all, were probably destroyed through the detection and inspection regime, and he's just not really a threat.

NARRATOR: Over the years, Chirac has gone out of his way to consolidate France's good relations with Arab states, especially with its former colony, Algeria.

KEITH RICHBURG: There's a very large Muslim population, mostly from North Africa, living in France and concentrated in the large cities -- Paris, Marseilles. You know, they're obviously going to be opposed to a war against a Muslim country, and France is really concerned about this kind of reaction. They're really fearful of bombs going off in the streets of Paris. They've had this before with Algerian terrorism. They don't like it. They want to keep it away.

ROBERT KAGAN, Author, Of Paradise and Power: I've described the difference between Americans and Europeans by suggesting that Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus. And what I mean by that is that Europeans have moved to a stage in their development where they increasingly believe that the use of military force is unnecessary, inappropriate and illegitimate. And Americans have not moved in that direction. Americans still believe that military power is an essential tool of international relations. And this is what the Iraq crisis has exposed, this great difference.

NARRATOR: Tony Blair did not share the French nonchalance about Saddam, but he did want to make sure any American war was sanctioned by the U.N. And he had an ally inside the administration.

ROBIN WRIGHT: Colin Powell is America's top diplomat and liaison with the rest of the world, and he knew that the United States was not going to get a lot of support if it said, "We want to roll ahead." He knew, like Tony Blair, that there needed to be some greater effort.

KAREN DeYOUNG, The Washington Post: Blair and Powell considered themselves very close allies during that entire period and for a long time afterwards. They had the same objective, and that was to get the United Nations to participate, to make this a multi-national effort.

NARRATOR: The British were doing everything they could to bolster Powell's position. In early August, the secretary of state made his move.

KAREN DeYOUNG: Colin Powell had arranged to have a private dinner with President Bush in the White House. Powell went in. He had notes. He spoke to the president and presented it as not just a nice thing to have other countries participate, but really, as a thing that would be very important to the success of the operation.

NICHOLAS LEMANN, The New Yorker: The hawks, led by Vice President Cheney, did not want to go to the United Nations in September to seek a new resolution. They just wanted to essentially invade Iraq immediately.

NARRATOR: In late August, Cheney publicly declared his opposition to the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq.

Vice Pres. DICK CHENEY: There's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box. What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: Speeches were being made slamming the U.N., and there was a lot of traffic between Downing Street and the White House, saying, "You can't go this far. If we're going to go down the U.N. route, we have to mean it."

[www.pbs.org: Inside the Bush-Blair partnership]

NARRATOR: Fearful that Bush was backtracking on his promise to go to the U.N., Blair flew back to Camp David.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: [September 7, 2002] The purpose of our discussion today is to work out the right strategy for dealing with this because deal with it we must.

NARRATOR: Bush took Blair off to meet with Vice President Cheney.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: The vice president was concerned that the U.S. not get snarled up, more time being given to Saddam, Saddam playing games. Blair found it difficult to answer all the questions because he was dealing with hypotheticals, but he stuck to his guns. And in the end, the president supported him because, I think, the president realized that there was no way of gaining any support in the international community unless he started off at the U.N.

NARRATOR: Bush had agreed to take Blair's route though the U.N., but he exacted a high price.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: By the time Bush committed to the U.N. route, he had obtained a private assurance from Blair that he would go to war with him, pretty much no matter what.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: This pledge was extremely important. I think it was important at the level of government. I think it was important to the president that he had a fellow leader in London in whom he could truly trust.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: We have a shared analysis, a shared determination to deal with the issue of weapons of mass destruction, and a shared desire to deal with it on the basis of the broadest possible international support.

Prof. TONY JUDT, European Studies, NYU: At each stage in this story, Blair has a little less room for maneuver. He starts off with the assumption that he really is in a position to shape a multilateral engagement against Iraq through the United Nations. He succeeded, but at a price that I don't think he anticipated, in that he himself now was forced to become much more part of the American position, vis-a-vis the United Nations, vis-a-vis the critics, than he would ever have intended.

NARRATOR: When Bush finally came to the U.N. to speak about Iraq, the mere fact that he was there brought sighs of relief across Europe.

ALAIN FRANCHON, Editor-in-Chief, Le Monde: In France, it was perceived as a political victory by Tony Blair and by Colin Powell. We had the impression that these two men were responsible, were the people who were listened to at the White House.

NARRATOR: But the sense of victory would be short-lived. Bush was about to deliver an ultimatum not only to Saddam but to the U.N. itself.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: [September 12, 2002] Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?

NARRATOR: In the speech, Bush said he would go to the Security Council for a new resolution to disarm Saddam.

NICHOLAS LEMANN: What Bush did not say in the speech was, "We will abide by the will of the United Nations, no matter what it is." He made a big point of not saying that.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: Bush's words were received with dismay in Europe because what he seemed to be saying was, "You can have any color you like, as long as it's red. I'll go through the U.N., as long as you agree with me."

EVAN THOMAS: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush never really had any faith that Saddam was going to surrender. They always thought there would be war, that there would be a military solution, and their only reason for going to the U.N. was to get U.N. approval to go to war. So there was a fundamental contradiction built into this whole process.

NARRATOR: The United States circulated a draft resolution to Security Council members. It called for weapons inspectors to reenter Iraq and demanded that the U.N. authorize force if Saddam didn't disarm immediately.

STEVEN WEISMAN, The New York Times: It was a draft essentially dictated by the hard-liners. When it was circulated, the French found it totally unacceptable.

KEITH RICHBURG: Jacques Chirac gave an interview with The New York Times in which he suggested we should have a two-step approach, first a resolution with some period of time to get the inspectors back, and then a short window, just a few months, to come back again and ascertain whether or not he's cooperating.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: Right, Jack. Why don't you start us off with the current diplomatic situation.

NARRATOR: Tony Blair had told George Bush the U.N. approach would work, so he set out to broker a compromise.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: The view was initially that the French were just doing what the French always do, which is to resist cooperation to start with, to exact a price from the international community, and then to jump on board at the very last moment.

NARRATOR: In late October, after weeks of negotiation, the president agreed to a watered-down resolution that gave the French some of what they wanted.

ROBIN WRIGHT: The United States agreed that it would at least go back to the Security Council for another discussion about the final act if Iraq didn't comply and, potentially, a second resolution.

NARRATOR: In a New York hotel, Colin Powell met his French counterpart, Dominic de Villepin, to fine-tune this two-stage approach.

STEVE WEISMAN: De Villepin is a very charming political figure, and Powell really got along with him.

NARRATOR: Powell needed to know what the French would do if the Iraqis violated the initial resolution and America then presented a second one calling for war.

STEVE WEISMAN: Powell turned to Villepin at a dinner at the Pierre Hotel and said, "Just be sure of one thing. If you vote for the first, you have to be prepared to vote for the second." And Villepin said, "Yes, we will be." But of course, they had a different view about what it was that was going to make them prepared to do so.

SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: [November 8, 2002] Will those in favor of the draft resolution please raise their hands? The resolution has been adopted unanimously as Resolution 1441.

NARRATOR: Powell and Blair's vision of a multilateral world order seemed to be holding, but the resolution papered over huge differences between the U.S. and France.

ROBIN WRIGHT: France looked at the inspections as the way to disarm Saddam Hussein. The United States looked at inspections as the way to prove that Saddam Hussein was not complying, and the means of, ultimately, justifying the use of force.

KAREN DeYOUNG: The Americans said, "Oh, boy. We have what we want." And the French said, "Oh, boy. We have what we want." And everyone went out and spun it.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, US Ambassador to UN: The resolution makes clear that any Iraqi failure to comply is unacceptable and that Iraq must be disarmed. And one way or another, Mr. President, Iraq will be disarmed.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE French Ambassador to UN: The rule of the game is that Hans Blix will send a report to the Security Council to establish the facts. And it will be the responsibility of the members of the Council -- all of us -- to evaluate the situation, to assess the situation and then to decide.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK, British Ambassador to UN: There were differences which we knew about. Looking back, I think that was a mistake of diplomacy that we didn't try and deal with those nuances that turned in to ravines by the end of the game.

NARRATOR: In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had agreed to let inspectors in and to comply with Resolution 1441. The limited cooperation that followed pleased the French but frustrated the Americans, who believed inspections would never lead to real disarmament.

As the inspectors worked, the U.S., believing it would ultimately come to war, began deploying troops to the Middle East-- 35,000 in late December, 62,000 more in early January.

STEVEN WEISMAN: The French, the Europeans, saw this build-up, and they never believed that the United States was going to do anything else but go to war.

Pres. JACQUES CHIRAC: [subtitles] For us, war is always a sign of failure. It is always the worst solution. So we must do everything to avoid it.

KEITH RICHBURG: France doesn't like the idea that America is the cowboy in the world, calling the shots, being the world's policeman, going around deciding which regimes to overthrow, which regimes to leave in place. You know, I was talking to a foreign ministry official the other day. He said, "I don't-- we don't give a damn about Iraq. This isn't about Iraq. This is about the post-cold war order-- who decides what regimes stay in place, who decides who keeps the order. Is it going to be America acting alone as a super power, or hyper-puissance, as they say in French, or is it going to be the Security Council, all nations sitting together on the Security Council, with five permanent members deciding?"

NARRATOR: In France and Germany and across much of Western Europe, public opinion was running strongly against an American-led war to disarm Iraq.

ROBERT KAGAN: Within France, Chirac and Villepin were becoming national heroes for delaying the American war and perhaps stopping the American war. Politically, Chirac was enjoying a popularity that he'd never known in his entire political career, and I think, to some extent, it was intoxicating. And as public opinion grew, the French government began to see itself as the champion of this position.

[www.pbs.org: Read the interview]

NARRATOR: And Chirac had a powerful ally. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had recently won reelection on a tough anti-war platform. The leaders of Europe's two largest nations now set out to derail America's plans for war.

ROBERT KAGAN: Schroeder demanded even more fiercely Germans' refusal to participate even with the U.N. Security Council resolution. So the position of Germany was critical to influencing French decisions, as well.

NARRATOR: Blair began to realize he might have to choose between America and Europe. The French weren't following their usual pattern: causing lots of trouble in the U.N., but in the end, joining the war.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: At some stage in January, the penny began to drop that maybe we were going to have to write a new conventional wisdom for French foreign policy.

NARRATOR: At the United Nations, the emboldened French and Germans were about to confront America head-on.

ROBIN WRIGHT: The January 20 meeting of the Security Council -- ironically, not about Iraq -- turned out to be the moment that the United States recognized that there was a real philosophical difference between the United States and France. This was a meeting called by France to discuss terrorism.

STEVEN WEISMAN: Powell didn't want to go. It was Martin Luther King's birthday. It was a holiday. "Why do we need to talk about terrorism in January?"" he kept saying. "Why am I doing this?" he kept saying to people.

NARRATOR: The session went smoothly, passing an uncontroversial resolution about terrorism. But Powell was about to be ambushed by the French and Germans on Iraq.

JOSCHKA FISCHER, German Foreign Minister: We will not be part of military action as the Federal Republic of Germany. And we want to avoid military action by a successful implementation of 1441, based on the work of the inspectors.

NARRATOR: In a press conference Powell wasn't informed about, Dominique de Villepin went on record saying France believed there was no reason for war.

DOMINIQUE DeVILLEPIN, French Foreign Minister: Since we can disarm Iraq through peaceful means, we should not take the risk to endanger the life of innocent civilians or soldiers, to jeopardize the stability of the region, and further widen the gap between our people and our cultures.

KAREN DeYOUNG: Powell I think felt betrayed. He felt like that he had not been prepared to go up and have this discussion, have this argument in New York. He felt like he'd been blind-sided. And I think he was-- he was very mad in a personal way.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: I happened to see Colin Powell pretty soon after the meeting on the January 20th, with his deputy, Rich Armitage. And I think what I would say to you is that their remarks were bordering on the unprintable.

NARRATOR: Powell and de Villepin met for lunch at the French ambassador's residence. Powell had to be cajoled by the press into shaking hands.

ALAIN FRANCHON, Editor-in-Chief, Le Monde: It went very bad, and they were-- not only were they unable to repair their relationship, but that at one point, trying to convince Colin Powell, Dominic de Villepin, I was told, sort of, you know, left his chair and leaned towards the secretary of state to make his point. And apparently, Colin Powell thought and reacted that-- as if it was not a way-- the way you address the secretary of state of the United States.

Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK: There was clearly bad blood, and that was when, in personal chemistry terms, things began to be more difficult between those two senior politicians.

NARRATOR: With tempers fraying on both sides of the Atlantic, Donald Rumsfeld stepped in to bluntly discount the influence of France and Germany in the debate.

DONALD RUMSFELD, Secretary of Defense: [January 22, 2003] You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east.

KEITH RICHBURG: A very accurate statement, but I'm not sure it's the kind of hand grenade you want to throw in the middle of the European Union debate going on over Iraq. And Rumsfeld's statements, I think, are part of why the diplomacy around this has been a real shambles. Not only Rumsfeld, but you had people from the White House and the Pentagon speaking on and off the record, saying some pretty nasty things about France and about Europe and about their opposition.

NARRATOR: Tony Blair hurried back to Washington, where the hawks were pushing for a war even without further U.N. authorization. In Britain, public opinion was running overwhelmingly against war without a second resolution. Fearing a political storm, Blair had come to ask the president for his commitment to continue on the U.N. route.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: We were supposed to go to Camp David, but the weather made it impossible, so we met at the White House. Blair made it perfectly clear that all those who wished to be with the United States in disarming Saddam Hussein -- Britain, Turkey, Australia, Spain, Italy -- there were others -- were all saying that more for political than for any legal reason, they needed to make a best-efforts attempt to get a second resolution. And this was the heart of the case made to Bush.

[www.pbs.org: Read the interview]

EVAN THOMAS: The White House felt some loyalty to Tony Blair and really wanted to go the extra mile for him, to give him as much cover as they could. And so even though their heart really wasn't in it and they didn't really believe it was going to work, they wanted to at least go through the motions.

Sir CHRISTOPHER MEYER: And the result of that was the president deciding that they would try for a second resolution.

NARRATOR: Blair had gotten what he wanted, but the tone of the president's announcement meant the news would do little to help Blair's standing back home.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: This just needs to be resolved quickly. Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it'd be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein. But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution, and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein.

NARRATOR: Back in Britain, Blair was facing increasing public criticism of his close ties to Bush's belligerent policy on Iraq.

STUDIO AUDIENCE MEMBER: [February 5, 2003] I would like to ask, do you believe that the people of your country are behind you at the moment?

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: I think that-- I think if there were a second U.N. resolution, then I think people would be behind me. I think if there's not, then there's a lot of persuading to do.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Because I don't-- I don't share any confidence that the people are behind you at the moment. Everybody that I've spoken to within my circle oppose what's happening at the moment.

[applause]

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: Supposing there were a second resolution, though? Would that make a difference?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: Well.

NARRATOR: That same day at the U.N., Colin Powell, who had once hoped to avoid war, was now making the Bush administration's case for military action, arguing that Saddam Hussein had failed to disarm and it was time for the Security Council to act.

COLIN POWELL, Secretary of State: Iraq has programs that are intended to produce ballistic missiles that fly over a thousand kilometers.

ROBIN WRIGHT: Colin Powell was convinced that if he took some of the sensitive U.S. intelligence and built a case at the Security Council, that the world would finally fall in line with the U.S. position.

COLIN POWELL: Less than a teaspoonful of dry anthrax in an envelope shut down the United States Senate, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoonful of this deadly material.

NARRATOR: The Powell presentation was extensive and detailed, but the French and other Europeans were not swayed. They felt that the U.N. inspectors were dealing with the weapons questions. And they had severe doubts about Powell's claims of a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

COLIN POWELL: Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate, collaborator of Osama Bin Laden and his al Qaeda lieutenants.

STEVEN WEISMAN: The link was weak. Even the CIA was skeptical of it in private. And guess what? The CIA talks to their counterparts in European intelligence. They have to. They cooperate on going after al Qaeda.

COLIN POWELL: Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al Qaeda. These denials are simply not credible.

KEITH RICHBURG: The French intelligence chief came out the next day and said, "Nonsense," it just wasn't true. There was no link to al Qaeda. They're far more concerned about links between Chechen rebels and al Qaeda than they are about al Qaeda and Iraq. And so, you know, that exhaustively put together report by Colin Powell, laying out the proof, was completely dismissed by the French.

NARRATOR: The Atlantic gulf had never been wider. At NATO, America asked for help in defending Turkey, an alliance member, which would be vulnerable to attack from Iraq if war broke out. Paul Wolfowitz made the case.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: We discussed with Turkish officials, and I continue that discussion today, about how to deal with the threat posed by Iraq's arsenal of terror.

NARRATOR: Startlingly, some members blocked the military aid to Turkey, the first time such a request had been turned down in the history of NATO.

NICHOLAS BURNS, US Ambassador to NATO: It became very clear to me, as the American ambassador here, that the French and the Germans and the Belgians were not going to go along.

NARRATOR: France argued that the American request for military assistance to Turkey assumed there would be war, even as U.N. inspectors were working in Iraq.

BENOIT D'ABOVILLE, French Ambassador to NATO: What we were basically saying is that we will not accept-- Paris will not accept to go on a path where the working hypothesis is that there will be a military attack of Iraq.

NICHOLAS BURNS: We are a collective defense organization. We have to have the capacity to act quickly in a crisis, and France was denying us that possibility. So we were very much opposed to the strategy of the French government, the tactics of the French government, and we let them know that.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, Council on Foreign Relations: It is an episode that, in the long run, will, I think, lead to an American perspective on NATO that says, "The usefulness of this institution is dwindling. We are now going to be working through coalitions of the willing. Our strategic priorities have shifted from Europe to the Middle East and Northeast Asia. NATO is turning into a sideshow."

PROTESTERS: Don't attack! Don't attack Iraq! Don't attack! Don't attack Iraq!

NARRATOR: On February 15th, as demonstrators around the world marched against the impending war, in London a million people came to protest Tony Blair's policy on Iraq. It was the largest protest rally Britain had ever seen. People had come from all over the country.

PROTESTER: Birmingham.

PROTESTER: From Thetford.

PROTESTER: Cumbria.

PROTESTER: Sheffield.

CHRIS SMITH, Labor MP, Fmr Cabinet Minister: It did identify real depth of feeling amongst ordinary people. It was people from all parts of the political spectrum, of all ages, all social backgrounds. It wasn't just people who one would expect to see on a demonstration.

PROTESTER: I've never, ever marched before. I've never been on a march before.

PROTESTER: After this, it'll be something else. It'll be another war after war. We've got to stop it.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: Blair made a strategic error as regards the British public, which was to continue to say until very, very late in the day, that no decision had been taken. Now, by this stage, there were pictures appearing on the 6:00 o'clock news of British troops in the Gulf. People became suspicious. They thought the wool was being pulled over their eyes.

PROTESTER: If one country needs a regime change at the moment, it's Britain!

NARRATOR: That day, Blair defended himself at a Labor party meeting.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor, but sometimes it is the price of leadership and it is the cost of conviction.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: The mass march through London had precisely no effect on Blair's strategy, except that it made him more determined to go out and persuade people that he was right.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: And as you watch your TV pictures of the march, just ponder this. If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for. If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people that died in the wars that he started.

[www.pbs.org: Blair and the liberal divide]

NARRATOR: In the House of Commons, rebels from Blair's own Labor Party, once loyal supporters, forced a vote aimed at stopping him from going to war.

CHRIS SMITH: I proposed the amendment, which simply said the case for war is as yet unproven.

[Commons debate] Are we seriously saying that because Saddam Hussein has complied to 70 percent rather than 100 percent, in terms of cooperation, that that is a cause for going to war?

There are times when the issues are so serious, when there are matters of life and death at stake, when you think that, "Sorry. I've got to do what I believe is right here."

NARRATOR: Over the next six hours, there was an extraordinary outpouring of opposition from all parties.

[House of Commons debate]

KENNETH CLARKE, Member of Parliament: The next time a large bomb goes off in a Western city, how far did this policy contribute to it? The next time some Arab or Muslim state topples and is replaced by extremists, how far did this policy contribute to it?

ALEX SALMON, Member of Parliament: If an immoral and unjust war takes place, and thousands of human casualties are the result and innocent blood is spilt, then the person who is responsible for arguing that position will one day answer to a much higher authority than this House of Commons!

PETER KILFOYLE, Member of Parliament: The decision has been made, was made, not in Downing Street, not in the Foreign Office, it was made in the White House.

MATTHEW D'ANCONA: The loathing of Bush is extraordinary. The hatred of Blair for siding with Bush is almost as great. He is an incredibly unpopular figure in the Labor Party, and I think it is true that a lot of what is presented as moral opposition to the war is actually political opposition to Bush.

HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEAKER: Order! Order!

NARRATOR: No one had anticipated the size of the revolt.

SPEAKER: The ayes to the right-- 199. The no's to the left-- 393.

NARRATOR: Blair had won the vote, but it had revealed a new political weakness in the prime minister. One hundred twenty-two of his own MPs had voted against him, the biggest parliamentary revolt in over a century.

JOHN KAMPFNER, Political Editor, New Statesman: The realization dawned on just about everybody that this whole episode could actually bring down the prime minister, a man who had ruled the country with almost untrammeled power for five, getting on six, years, who had won Labor a second landslide.

NARRATOR: That night, Blair knew two things. He knew if he went to war without a second U.N. resolution, he would be leading a deeply divided country. But he also knew he had promised George Bush he would take his country to war.

PETER MANDELSON: He didn't waver for one moment in doing that and pursuing a course that he thought was right, and that is a test of leadership. If he couldn't do that, he wasn't up to that, then it wasn't worth him remaining in the job, and he might as well have gone. But he isn't like that.

NARRATOR: Blair asked a reluctant Washington to make one last effort at the U.N. The president went public, challenging the members of the Security Council to support a second resolution saying Saddam had failed to disarm.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, we'll call for a vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.

ROBIN WRIGHT: The U.S. strategy was to get the nine basic votes, and then it would get down to a diplomatic shoot-out on the floor of the Security Council between France and the United States. And the United States believed, at the end of the day, France was not probably willing to stand alone. It was a huge gamble.

NARRATOR: But President Chirac immediately called Bush's bluff. France would veto America's resolution.

Pres. JACQUES CHIRAC: [subtitles] My position tonight in any of these circumstances is that France will vote "No" because it considers that war will not-- there is no place for war to achieve our objective, namely, the disarming of Iraq.

NARRATOR: It was over. There would be no Security Council support for war. Tony Blair had lost the struggle that mattered most to him.

Prof. TONY JUDT, European Studies, NYU: Blair, was too optimistic, too naive, too idealistic, too self-confident. He believed he could become the bridge, in his own right, between Europe and America, through the United Nations, while maintaining his standing as a credible future leader of Europe and bringing the British along with him. And he has failed on all three fronts. He has failed, if you like, heroically. But there is no question that anything that happens now is not what he wanted.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operation.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR: Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea.

NARRATOR: The war in Iraq finds the Americans and the British going it almost alone, with Europe and the other great powers on the sidelines. When the shooting stops, they will all be left to ponder the implications of the fractured new world this crisis has left behind.

CHARLES KUPCHAN: I think it is the moment in which the American era will have said to have come to a close, not because American primacy eroded or disappeared overnight, but because American legitimacy was called into question. And that really will change the world because American power could well be more resented than respected. It will find it harder and harder to find coalitions of the willing because they will all be coalitions of the reluctant. And in that sense, America's ability to lead through moral leadership, its ability to project an image as a benign power, will be called into question.

ROBERT KAGAN: The question of legitimacy for military action is now up in the air. Europeans and Americans need to adjust to the fact that they don't share the same perspective on international order and questions regarding the use of military force and the legitimacy for action. The big question that we all face is, how do we all adjust to the new situation of having a single power that is dominant in the world?

BLAIR'S WAR

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ANNOUNCER: This report continues on FRONTLINE's Web site, where you'll find background on Tony Blair's political career and an interview with his biographer, an exchange between Robert Kagan and one of his most prominent critics, British journalist Will Hutton, on the U.S.-Europe divide, a Web-exclusive discussion with prominent thinkers on why liberals are divided over Iraq. And find out on the Web site if this program will be shown again on your PBS station. Then join the discussion at PBS on line, pbs.org, or write an email to frontline@pbs.org.

Next time on FRONTLINE: In 1994, the United States made a deal.

EXPERT: If we hadn't done the deal, North Korea would have more than 100 nuclear weapons.

ANNOUNCER: But now all deals are off.

Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R), Arizona: Kim Jong Il is threatening to launch a nuclear missile against the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: Is North Korea building a nuclear arsenal?

Sen. JOHN McCAIN: They have said, "You're not going to be able to do to us what you're going to do to Iraq."

ANNOUNCER: Next time, FRONTLINE investigates Kim's Nuclear Gamble.

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