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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Bond forged in ruins of 9/11
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

George Bush and Tony Blair
It all started with toothpaste
The bond between George Bush and Tony Blair, one of the most defining and controversial relationships of modern politics started with humble toothpaste.

At their first meeting in Camp David they discovered a mutual affection for Colgate.

"So what?" the world shrugged and wondered how the close friendship between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton could ever be matched by the man with the Texan swagger.

How wrong we were. Their initial bond was forged in the dust of 9/11, when the president singled out the prime minister as a special friend.

Shared convictions

Then came Afghanistan and of course Iraq, in which Tony Blair proved himself as by far the most willing member of the coalition of the willing.

In fact the British ambassador to Washington once told me that "if he wanted to, the prime minister could veto this war". But he didn't and the war went ahead.

The two shared far more than we had imagined: a devout faith in God, a devout conviction in the creed of liberty and the same chilling view of the threat posed by Islamic extremism.

Britain played Athens to America's Rome. Tony Blair was cherished here as a more polished and articulate version of George Bush.

Even Democrats loved him, remembering that he had once also been a close friend to Bill Clinton, whose "third way" politics he emulated.

In fact, at times it seemed as if Tony Blair was a reflection of whichever leader happened to be in the White House.

George and Tony differed on matters like climate change, the peace process in the Middle East, debt relief and the importance of the United Nations.

But ultimately it was their alliance on Iraq, and the failures of the war that entrapped them in the trenches of unpopularity and that in years to come will define their legacy.

In the meantime Tony Blair can be sure to enjoy a far more loving reception in the US than at home, as well as the inevitable treasure trove of lecture tours.


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