Detailing the close professional and personal relationship which developed between the two leaders in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. and during the build-up to the Iraq war in 2003, Blair writes that Bush was “very smart” while having “immense simplicity in how he saw the world.”

“Right or wrong, it led to decisive leadership… he sincerely believed in spreading freedom and democracy,” he writes in “A Journey;” which hit book stores in the UK on Wednesday…

“I was asked recently which of the political leaders I had met had most integrity. I listed George near the top. He had genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I ever met,” he writes.

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“The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid — that is, Saddam (Hussein) having weapons of mass destruction,” Gates told reporters after meeting with troops at Camp Ramadi in al-Anbar province. “Even if the outcome (of the war) is a good one from the standpoint of the United States, it will always be clouded by how it began.”…

Asked later by a reporter if the Iraq war — which claimed some 4,400 American lives and possibly 100,000 Iraqis — was “worth it,” the secretary sought refuge in ambiguity.

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Saddam was obsessed with Iran. Imagine the effect on the jolly Iraqi’s thinking come 2005 and the rise to stardom of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, publicly mocking the West’s efforts to shut his nuclear program and threatening enemies with annihilation. That year Ahmadinejad broke the U.N. seals at the Isfahan uranium enrichment plant. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il was flouting the civilized world, conducting nuclear-weapon tests and test-firing missiles into the Sea of Japan. In such a world, Saddam would have aspired to play in the same league as Iran and NoKo. Would we have “contained” him?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran and Saddam Hussein in Iraq simultaneously would have incentivized Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan to enter the nuclear marketplace. Pakistan and India would be increasing their nuke-tinged tensions, not trying as now to ease them.

We ought to be a lot prouder of our troops coming home from Iraq than we are showing this week. They deserve a monument. That war wasn’t just about helping Iraq. It was about us. The march across the nuclear threshold by lunatic regimes is a clear and present danger.

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Our long-term presence in Iraq, in fact, is likely to impede any ability to react militarily to genuine threats. Americans don’t have the appetite for it. So if the Islamic radical leadership of Iran — which many experts believe filled the vacuum left by toppling of Saddam Hussein — is, as many believe, an imminent nuclear threat, we are powerless to stop them.

And if every military action in defense of U.S. interests now comes with an obligatory 10-, 20- or 40-year Marshall Plan, you’ve made it even more politically unpalatable.

There are other questions that make the claim “we’re more secure” highly suspect. If we do leave, where is the evidence that Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter) will blossom into a secular democracy and ally in the war against Islamic radicalism?…

The question isn’t whether nation building can work. It probably can. The question is was it worth it.

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He did not seek the office to change the tides of the world. He sought only to continue the country on its “unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born.”. Understanding “the stakes for America are never small,” he held steadfast to the belief that “America’s faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea.”…

Though his words at times may have been jumbled, the eloquence of his heart spoke. His meaning was always clear. We knew who he was. His convictions were firm. And his belief in the promise of America, unwavering.

I salute Obama for calling his predecessor Tuesday, and for acknowledging Bush’s love of this country in the address. But the page cannot be turned until it has been read and its lessons understood. As we near the anniversary of 9/11 and continue to fight for the cause of a free people in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wish the conversation would continue.

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[O]ne Bush adviser, granted anonymity to discuss private conversations with the former president, said he knew of just one “authentic conversation” between the two. It took place shortly before Mr. Obama’s inaugural, when his mother-in-law expressed unease at moving to Washington from Chicago.

“I think President Bush pulled her aside and said, ‘It’s very important for your granddaughters, I think you ought to do that, this is the kind of life you can have here,’ ” the aide said. “And I understand President Obama was very appreciative of that. But besides that, it really has not been any relationship.”