Smoke and Mirrors
Posted by Simon Stewart,
"I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base the conclusion of a policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which we could justify a policy on which we had already settled." Robin Cook, to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I am aware of disquiet within the intelligence community over the government's handling of intelligence material related to Iraq, not just on this particular issue of the September 24 dossier but on others." Andrew Gilligan, to the Foreign Affairs Committee
Contrary to the reporting of recent days and the actions of the Foreign Affairs Committee itself, this Committee was supposed to be about 'The Decision To Go To War In Iraq' not an investigation into a contrived private spate by Alistair Campbell on the BBC. But the committee having allowed its purpose to be so wholly highjacked by the government - along with its inability to forensically examine witnesses and also to call witnesses, or to see all the documents - merely shows up the continuing and growing argument for a full judicial inquiry. However, any close reading of the proceedings of the Committee, particularly Jack Straw's contribution, can only lead one to a conclusion in one direction, that of Robin Cook's in the quote above.
Richard Ottaway: It was added later.
Mr Straw: That is what I am trying to tell you.
Richard Ottaway: The answer is that it was added later and it was not in the first draft.
Mr Straw: Again, we can go into detail.
Richard Ottaway: This is a very important.
Mr Straw: Mr Ottoway, it is a completely trivial point, with great respect to you.
Richard Ottaway: It is one you have spent the last 30 minutes refuting.
Mr Straw: It is not remotely material. The allegation was not that it appeared in the first draft rather than the second draft, let us be clear about that, the allegation was that the 45-minute claim was not properly sourced or corroborated and was then "sexed-up" in the final document.
And in another part of his evidence:
This prompted Chidgey to intervene again asking, "you are talking so far about plans, proposals and programmes. You just said they were talking about plans to develop, has there been any hard evidence found in Iraq post-conflict of the existence of weapons of mass destruction?"
Straw was forced to concede, "Mr Chidgey, whether there has been a physical find of a chemical or a biological compound ready for use in some delivery system the answer to that, as you know, is no."
But, going further, and taking into account the comments to the committee by Clare Short, quoted below, one is left only to conclude that we were lied to wholesale about the reasons for going to war - Iraq's supposed possession of WMDs and the threat they posed. That whatever Clare Short wants to attest, there was nothing honourable about it and that Blair had agreed with Bush sometime in the autumn to join in an invasion with or without a further UN resolution.
"I believe that the prime minister must have concluded that it was honourable and desirable to back the US in going for military action in Iraq and that it was, therefore, honourable for him to persuade us through the various ruse and devices he used to get us there, so I presume that he saw it as an honourable deception."
Amusement was added, also, to the whole spectacle the other weekend when some piece of Welsh lobby fodder managed to suggest that it is - in a pastiche of previous Labour government's paranoia about the security services - all the fault of the security services. That it was they that got New Labour into invading Iraq rather than Blair getting it on with Bush. Where does New Labour find such people?
"There is a problem of credibility if they continue to deny reality. There have been recently a number of government ministers or spokesmen saying that the September dossier was accurate. It clearly wasn't accurate. There aren't any weapons ready for use in 45 minutes, there was no uranium from Niger, there were no chemical production factories rebuilt, there was no nuclear weapons programme." Robin Cook, 7th July, Guardian.
Cook believes it is essential that this is now recognised. "If they don't want to have the continued problem of credibility, they have to find some way of admitting that there were errors made - in good faith, by all means - but certainly there were errors made and the case for war, which was put to parliament, has turned out to be unjustified." Ibid.
This committee met for a week and managed to get itself sidetracked brilliantly by the government. However, if it is not to be seen as mere whitewash - given that parts of the report were forced through on the casting vote of the chairman - there needs to be further examination of the role the government in taking us to war. This can only be provided by a full judicial inquiry. The best that can be said of this report is that is not wholly unhelpful; and Cynical Ali's posturings on Channel 4 were masterful - a total red herring a feint to take us away from the lies and duplicity which were the true reasons behind the war.
PS Even the Americans are now admitting the Niger uranium contract documents are forgeries, they knew that as far back as March last year. The report on this was circulated between US and UK intelligence services. Blair is still trying to claim that they have 'separate sources' to support their claim of an attempt by Iraq to buy uranium. This intelligence is taking an awfully long time to emerge into the daylight and should, if it existed, have been passed to the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watch dog, under our obligations to UN resolution 1441.