Dick Cheney lavishes praise on Tony Blair in new book
Dick Cheney, the former US vice-president, has used his new memoir to heap praise on Tony Blair and insist that the torture of a key al-Qaeda terrorist helped foil a devastating attack in Britain.
Mr Cheney paid tribute to the Blair government's support after the September 11 attacks and said the US had "no greater ally during our time in office".
But he also indirectly rejected British denials that a plot to attack Heathrow Airport in 2003 was foiled thanks to the torture of Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda commander, by US agents.
In My Time, an unrepentant 565-page volume released yesterday, recalls "a stop in London" Mr Cheney made in March 2002, "to visit one of America's closest and best allies in the war on terror".
He claims to have said George W. Bush did not see war with Iraq as inevitable but stressed "if he decided to go to war, we would finish the job. We would remove Saddam Hussein".
Other evidence suggests the US had in fact decided on military action by this point. Mr Blair's view is said to have "tightened" the following month, when he met Mr Bush at the president's ranch in Texas.
Mr Cheney wrote: "I have tremendous respect for Prime Minister Blair. He is a Labour party liberal and I am a conservative Republican, and we didn't always agree on strategy or tactics.
"But America had no greater ally during our time in office. His speeches about the war were some of the most eloquent I've been privileged to hear." Mr Cheney also disclosed Mr Blair deployed him to shore up support in the House of Commons before the crucial vote on British involvement in Iraq in 2003.
"At the request of the British, I had called a number of the Tories, including Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader," said Mr Cheney. He was, on this issue, a rock of support for Blair." Mr Cheney also repeats a claim made by Mr Bush in his own memoir, Decision Points, that evidence gained via the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda commander, led to the security services uncovering a plot to blow up planes coming into Heathrow.
"The techniques worked," Mr Cheney wrote. "Abu Zubaydah gave up information about Ramzi bin al-Shibh who had assisted the 9/11 hijackers, and on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was captured after a shoot-out in Pakistan. At the time of his apprehension he was plotting to use commercial airliners in suicide attacks on Heathrow Airport and other structures in London."
Faced with the same claim in Mr Bush's book last year, Kim Howells, then a Foreign Office minister, said: "We're not convinced".