Protesters wearing George W. Bush and Tony Blair disguises. Photo credit:  Tintazul / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

A secret email of a White House memo found on Hillary Clinton’s private server, reveals that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was ready to back a US-led invasion of Iraq long before previously known. What that memo, or stories about it, don’t reveal is … why. Why were Bush and Blair champing at the bit to start a war and accept the inevitable carnage? It wasn’t all about business — but then it mostly was.

An extremely important story has come and gone in a flash, almost unnoticed, like so many important stories. It revealed that President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had agreed to invade Iraq long before the first bombs fell on the oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

The story is important because it adds to our understanding of the essentially criminal disinformation put out to convince Americans, Britons and the world that war was unavoidable. We’d all been told that Bush and Blair only acted after exhaustive efforts to determine whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — and that in any case their focus was on addressing that threat through all possible diplomatic options. In fact, as a leaked White House memo now shows, the UK was committed to backing the US-led invasion almost a year before the war started in March 2003.

The juiciest material in the memo was, of course, redacted, but even what remains is very telling: “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary. He is convinced on two points: the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.”

What kind of “regional success” might these two Western leaders be after? And what would determining that the threat Saddam posed was “real” have to do with “more regional success”?

Well, that success had nothing to do with eliminating WMDs (which turned out to be non-existent). It had everything to do with securing a wealth of natural resources.

As WhoWhatWhy previously reported, former NATO commander General Wesley Clark has revealed that the Pentagon had a plan dating back even before the attacks of September 11, 2001, to invade seven different countries in the region. According to Clark, it was “all about oil.” (Vice President Dick Cheney, chairing a secret energy task force, tried mightily to pin blame for 9/11 on Iraq — and though there was no truth to that claim, ended up persuading a fair chunk of the American public otherwise.)

The Self-Dealing That Explains Iraq

Putting one and one together, now we know why Blair and Bush were so united in their desire to remove Saddam Hussein at any cost. The Iraq invasion was part of a larger scheme to re-draw the map of the Middle East and guarantee Western control of that region’s vast petroleum reserves for another generation and more. And little-known social and personal connections further bound the two men together — connections that ended up benefiting the business interests of a longtime mutual friend.

Make War, Become Popular

There were other benefits for the two men. As we reported earlier, Bush confided to a colleague in 1999 that if he became president, one of his main objectives would be to invade Iraq. He said a president needed a war in order to rally the American people, and get the high poll ratings necessary to drive a domestic agenda.

Tony Blair seems to have had the same idea. As former Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said,

“Tony Blair effectively agreed to act as a frontman for American foreign policy in advance of any decision by the House of Commons or the British Cabinet…. And in return for what? For George Bush pretending Blair was a player on the world stage to impress voters in the UK when the Americans didn’t even believe it themselves.” [Emphasis added.]


We published that story back in 2011. It is never more relevant than now — and it is essentially unknown to the media and hence to the public. It is reprinted below:


Iraq invasion skeptics, listen up. You’re right: it was always about oil.

Now the other shoe is dropping — in India of all places. That’s where the oil and money connection back to Iraq can be found.

The evidence is buried in a New York Times article headlined “BP to Pay $7.2 Billion for Stake in Oil Fields in India.” it began:

The British oil giant BP said on Monday that it would pay $7.2 billion to buy into India’s fast-growing oil and gas industry. It is BP’s second big deal in two months, as it seeks to rebuild after last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill….

Who knew that India even had oil, let alone a “fast-growing oil and gas industry”?

The really important thing going on in this Indian oil bonanza is the role of a smaller company, which appears only briefly in the Times article, down in paragraph 15:

… Indian officials have been slow to approve a deal announced in August by Vedanta Resources, based in London, to buy a controlling stake in Cairn India, an oil-producing subsidiary of Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh. Officials say they want better terms for Cairn’s Indian partner, the state-owned ONGC, as a condition of approval.

The key name in that paragraph is Cairn. The company was founded by one Bill Gammell, a lifelong friend of George W. Bush. Gammell’s family has backed the Bushes for decades. It pumped money into father George H.W. Bush’s tiny startup oil company in the 1950s, and did the same for George W. Bush in the 1970s. The Gammells never complained when the investments went bust.

Gammell is an extremely important figure in the hidden story of the Iraq invasion. A childhood friend of Tony Blair, he was the initial bridge between Blair and Bush that cemented the early if improbable relationship between the two leaders. This relationship, in part, inclined Blair to back Bush’s erroneous statements about Saddam Hussein possessing WMDs. Perhaps not surprisingly, oil was involved.

Many of Tony Blair’s key aides and associates left 10 Downing Street right around the time of the Iraq invasion to accept high-paid positions at BP. This traffic was so heavy that some said that BP must stand for Blair Petroleum. After the Iraq invasion, BP took a significant stake in Iraqi oil fields. And the largest drilling franchise in the oil-rich northern Iraq region of Kurdistan went to Bush’s big donor and good friend Ray Hunt.


Bush Awards Medal of Freedom to Blair. Photo credit:

What about Bill Gammell? When George W. Bush became president, he reversed Bill Clinton’s caution toward India and quickly began doing favors for that country, including casting a more favorable eye on India’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, India began developing its little-known oil deposits, in concert with Gammell’s Cairn Energy, which, as noted above, has partnered with an Indian state oil company to exploit that country’s newly discovered treasure trove.

All of the players cited here had their own motivations, but they dovetailed nicely.

• As I noted in another article, George W. Bush had confided in a colleague way back in 1999 that one of his principal objectives if he secured the presidency was to invade Iraq. He had explained that it seemed to him a president needed a war in order to rally the American people and secure the high poll ratings necessary to drive a domestic agenda.

• Tony Blair had a close relationship with BP, and the company was integral enough to the British economy and hence to Blair’s political success that its gains were his gains (not to mention the revolving door from Blair’s office to the oil giant.) Blair’s approval, in turn, was crucial to Bush’s Iraq “Coalition of the Willing.”

• India wanted better treatment from the United States, and parity with Pakistan on nuclear and other matters. And India had untapped petroleum reserves to be exploited for the benefit of friends of Blair and Bush.

• Gammell could cement the Bush-Blair relationship. His company, Cairn, wanted oil, and got it in India. BP had pull with Blair, wanted oil and got it in both India and Iraq.

So everyone in this story ends up happy. And the rest of us end up with a war that has never been properly explained.

These tangled background stories are important because they help us understand the base motives behind the lofty claims. It’s certainly not the whole story, but it’s much more of the story then we’ve gotten so far.

Related front page panorama photo credit: George W. Bush applauds Tony Blair (Chris Greenberg / White House / Wikimedia), Oil well pump jacks (Richard Masoner / Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0])


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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