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.
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
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
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the inside story of Tony
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
GEORGE W. BUSH: [January 29, 2002]
What we have found in Afghanistan confirms our war against terror is
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
NARRATOR: Back in Britain, Blair was facing
increasing public criticism of his close ties to Bush's belligerent policy on
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?
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.
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.
Minister TONY BLAIR: Supposing there were a second
resolution, though? Would that
make a difference?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
I've never, ever marched before.
I've never been on a march before.
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.
If one country needs a regime change at the moment, it's Britain!
NARRATOR: That day, Blair defended himself at a
Labor party meeting.
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
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.
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.
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
NARRATOR: Over the next six hours, there was an
extraordinary outpouring of opposition from all parties.
[House of Commons debate]
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
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!
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
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.
OF COMMONS SPEAKER: Order! Order!
NARRATOR: No one had anticipated the size of the
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.
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
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
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?
Commission Audiovisual Library
Nations Visual Library
FRONTLINE Co-Production with MENTORN,
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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
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Next time on FRONTLINE: In 1994, the United States made a
If we hadn't done the deal, North Korea would have more than 100 nuclear
ANNOUNCER: But now all deals are off.
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
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
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