Thursday, November 26, 2009

Iraq war inquiry hears intelligence on Saddam 'patchy' in run-up to conflict.

I feel quite sure that the Chilcot inquiry is going to drive me crazy. We are going to hear lots of things which we already suspected, and the thing that will drive me nuts is that Blair and the people who lied to us will appear before the inquiry - mouth the lies they have been mouthing for the past half decade - and then glide back into public life, paying no price whatsoever for what they did.

Yesterday we dealt with just how detailed British intelligence's knowledge was concerning Iraq's weapons programmes.

Questioned by the panel of the Iraq inquiry, Foreign Office officials said they believed Saddam's nuclear programme had been dismantled and they had no evidence of his trying to supply chemical or biological weapons to terrorists.

Sir William Ehrman, the Foreign Office's director of international security at the time, yesterday revealed that ministers were repeatedly warned over the limits of intelligence on Iraq. "We did, I think on 10 March [2003], get a report that chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and Saddam hadn't yet ordered their assembly," he told day two of the inquiry in London. "There was a suggestion that Iraq might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents."

The department's officials told how ministers heard that knowledge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes was "sporadic" in the years up to the invasion of 19-20 March 2003. In September 2002 the intelligence "remained limited", they heard. Yet Blair that month described Saddam's banned weapons programme as "active, detailed and growing" and said the picture emerging was "detailed and authoritative".

We can argue forever over what constitutes a barefaced lie, but when Blair stated that he believed intelligence assessments had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam was continuing to produce chemical and biological weapon, we are getting pretty near to the point where barefaced lying was taking place.

If British intelligence regarding Iraq's weapons programme was "sporadic" then it seems really obvious that it is almost impossible to establish anything "beyond doubt" as Blair claimed. Everything was actually in doubt, as we knew very little about what Saddam was up to.

And the way that Tim Dowse, then head of counter-proliferation at the Foreign Office, explained the government's famous "45 minutes from attack" claim spoke volumes:

Asked about suggestions that the Blair government's 45-minute deployment claim had referred to weapons of mass destruction usable by Iraq to strike another nation, Dowse said: "I don't think we ever said that it was for use in a ballistic missile in that way." The inquiry panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman pointed out: "But you didn't say it wasn't."

Neither MI6 nor the joint intelligence committee explained that the 45-minute claim was speculative and referred only to short-range weapons. Ministers later claimed they had never asked what kind of weaponry the claim was about.

The truth is that all of these claims, including Blair's comments about what British intelligence was establishing "beyond doubt" were actually part of a sell. They were selling us a war and they were saying anything they felt necessary to scare the public into backing that war.

And, in order to do so, Blair said things which he "believed", which is really just a clever lawyers way of providing himself with cover when the lie was revealed.

Because, once it was revealed that what Blair was saying was not in fact true, when we look again at what he said we suddenly notice that he actually was telling us what he "believed" the intelligence to be saying. So, it's suddenly subjective. Now it's all about whether Tony really believed that or not.

It's nothing more than a clever lawyer's trick. He was giving himself cover. And the fact that he sought to do so leads me to believe that it didn't matter to Blair whether or not what he was saying was true or false, this was a sell job.

And the thing which most annoys me is that Blair will sail away from all of this untouched.

Click here for full article.

1 comment:

Cristine said...

Nice article writing and informative