Blair also went to great lengths to make clear his awareness, even at that time, that the international community had a far different perspective than both the U.S. and to a certain degree the United Kingdom.
"Straight after Sept. 11 people came together behind America, but I was aware from the early stages that although the American mindset had changed dramatically, and frankly mine had as well, when I talked to other leaders I did not get the same impression. So one thing I was really anxious to do, because we put together a coalition on Afghanistan, was to put together a coalition again to deal with Saddam Hussein. The U.N. route was not just important for political and legal reasons. It was also important to me because I didn't want America to feel that it had no option but to do it on its own."
Mr. Blair went on to relay his impression, during that private meeting, that Bush was harboring a deep fear that if the U.S. was not prepared to act in a strong way it would run the risk of sending a disastrous signal out to the rest of the world.
Blair maintained that his readiness to stand by the U.S. was "not a covert position, it was an open position.
"I did not regard 9/11 as an attack on the U.S. I regarded it as an attack on us," he told the committee.
That was the attitude he took with him to the United Nations. The Security Council passed Resolution 1441 in November 2002. It demanded that Iraq immediately provide fully open access to U.N. weapons inspectors. When Saddam Hussein failed to comply, Blair recounted the enormous pressure he was under to secure a second resolution authorizing the use of force.
His Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and his own attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, had in fact warned him that without such a resolution he would not only lose the support of the international community, but may be engaging in illegal activity.
When asked how Bush regarded securing a second resolution he said, "His view was that this leopard was not going to change his spots. He [Saddam] was always going to be difficult."
"The president's view as that if you can't get a second resolution, because in essence France and Russia were going to say no, then we were going to be faced with a difficult decision which was that if he was in breach of 1441 we should mean what we said."
Ultimately Great Britain and the U.S. would abandon the resolution altogether.
"The real question Tony Blair needs to answer in the end will be at The Hague and before a war crimes tribunal," said Andrew Murray, chairman of Stop the War Coalition. "He is an accomplished actor, but I think most people have long since seen through the script."
Blair faces no kind of legal repercussions for his testimony today. Instead, his appearance is a chance to provide his side of the story to the British Public and perhaps help define, in part, his own legacy.