UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is now saying that he was unaware that the 45 minute claim referred to battlefield weapons. If this is true, it means he dragged his country into war without taking the time to properly inform himself of the most basic facts which served as the rationale for war. Stupidity or negligence or intellectual laziness is not an option for Blair or anyone who advocates pre-emptive war. It is essential that such a war be based on certain evidence of an imminent threat which cannot be defended against except through a war.
Tony Blair’s defence is that he ? the control-freak and supreme manipulator ? was too easygoing and stupid to realise his own mistakes.
Blair said: “If there were chemical or biological or nuclear battlefield weapons, that most certainly would be a weapon of mass destruction and the idea that their use would not threaten the region’s stability I find somewhat eccentric.”
If they were only battlefield weapons, by definition they could not threaten the region’s stability. In fact, it is possible to argue that Iraq’s possession of such weapons would increase regional stability by deterring invasion of Iraq. In any event, we know Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, not even battlefield weapons, and it is Blair’s continuing insistence that he had, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, which is eccentric.
UK Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, actually had the audacity to say that he had not discussed the nature of the weapons with Blair because it had not then been a major issue. Hoon was aware that the British press was playing up the 45 minute claim, and knew that their reports were misleading because there was in fact no imminent threat, but did absolutely nothing to correct the misapprehension, making it clear that it was intended by the Blair government that the British people be deceived. All these people seem to think that a lie that they get away with is somehow blessed into becoming the truth.
Geoff Hoon knew from the beginning that ‘containment’ was working, but was determined that the British people thought otherwise.
The infamous 45-minute claim:
John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the body responsible for drawing up the dossier, and in this case the British equivalent of the American Office of Special Plans, knew that the claim related only to munitions, but never used the term ‘munitions’ in the drafts of the dossier, thus allowing the claim to be blown up into one concerning weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Brian Jones, the leading expert on WMD in the British Ministry of Defence before he retired, has written that Blair’s dossier was ‘misleading’ with respect to Saddam’s chemical and biological capability. He said that the entire Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), Britain’s best qualified analysts on WMD, believed that the WMD claims should have been “carefully caveated”, and that the Joint Intelligence Committee - which intended to place political interference so deeply within the intelligence apparatus that it was hoped it would be hidden - lacked the expertise to make a competent judgment on WMD.
He even went so far as to say that the Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence, Tony Cragg, did not see the intelligence that supposedly confirmed the 45-minute and chemical production claims, and took on trust assurances from MI6 that it was credible (i.e., Dr. Jones is claiming that the MI6 lied about it). In fact, it appears that Dr. Jones, the leading expert, was intentionally squeezed out of seeing the raw intelligence in fear that he would be able easily to debunk it.
Jones expressly contradicted the position of the Blair government and Hutton’s stupid report: “In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier in September 2002, resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq’s capabilities.”
Dr. Kelly made exactly the same type of comments as Dr. Jones (Dr. Jones should probably not take any walks in the woods for a while), and he was so deeply disturbed about it that he eventually talked to Andrew Gilligan. Leaving aside for the moment the inconvenient fact that Saddam didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction, all the experts agreed that that he had no nuclear weapons and no prospect of acquiring them, and that the importance of biological and chemical weapons had been grossly exaggerated, mainly because they knew Saddam had no delivery system.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the institutional structure behind the British preparation of the dossier was intended to produce a result desired by Blair’s government and the British military and industrial elites. The Joint Intelligence Committee, which passed for a committee of experts, was used to create a lying dossier. The real experts like David Kelly were exposed to the drafts long enough so the government could plausibly claim that the experts had agreed with the conclusions in the dossier, but this was another lie.
In fact, Scarlett and Blair used the concept of ‘ownership’ of the dossier to preclude any expert qualifications from entering the terms of the drafts. Scarlett maintained ownership of the dossier, took comments from the experts, but did not incorporate any of the comments. Dr. Jones wrote, referring to qualifications the experts wanted added to the overly strong dossier: “Despite pointing this out in comments on several drafts, the stronger statements did eventually appear in the executive summary.”
Just when the experts started to wonder where their comments had disappeared to, Scarlett turned ‘ownership’ of the dossier over to Blair, at which point Blair’s government argued that its terms were cast in stone. This clever slight of hand allowed Blair to insist that the dossier was a product of the intelligence experts, and bore no marks of political tampering.
The BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan is supposed to have made two basic mistakes: claiming that the Blair government through Campbell had ‘sexed up’ the dossier; and stating that the Blair government was aware that the 45 minute claim was incorrect.
Anyone looking at the facts would have to conclude that Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Press Secretary, played a major role in wording the dossier, and his requests to strengthen the document were almost always agreed to by Scarlett, despite the fact, as we know for certain now, that the real experts actually thought the document was in fact too absolute, and should have been changed to receive more qualifications. Sir Paul Lever, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, believes that there was too much direct political interference, all of which appears to have come through Campbell. I think Gilligan’s use of the term ‘sexed up’ brilliantly conveys what Campbell was doing. It is the statement that the Blair government was aware that the 45 minute claim was incorrect that is more complex.
The apologists for Blair, including Hutton, assumed that there were three distinct and completely separate parts to the preparation of the dossier: the raw intelligence that came in from Iraq; the analysis of the London intelligence experts who weighed the evidence and produced a report; the politicians who decided policy, in this case war, based on the report.
In fact, there was significant bleeding between all three of these parts. The raw intelligence was produced almost to order, and was created by an ugly mix of American agents like Mai Pederson who had infiltrated UNSCOM, Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress members who had the unwavering agenda of creating a basis for a war which would remove Saddam, and intentionally faulty intelligence created by Sharon’s office also with the goal of removing Saddam (Tenet has revealed, in a not surprisingly unnoticed part of his speech, that a “trusted foreign partner” - I wonder who that could possibly be? - supplied the Americans with their only source of information that Iraq “was aggressively and covertly developing” a nuclear weapon, and that it was producing and stockpiling chemical and biological weapons in dual-use facilities, both of which were lies intended to lead to war).
There was not one piece of data which could be thought of as uninfluenced by someone’s agenda. The analysis process had already been subverted by ‘Operation Rockingham’, an operation intended to cherry pick raw intelligence data that could be used to lead to war. The actual 45 minute claim arrived suspiciously late, just when the British creators of the dossier were looking for something to ‘sex up’ the case against Saddam, and you would have to be awfully naive to see this as a coincidence.
In fact, if anything Gilligan’s error was being insufficiently cynical. He assumed that the basic process must be honest, and thus came to the conclusion that the politicians must have lied. Since the whole process was set up with the clear goal of leading to a war, a pawn like Blair needn’t have been fully aware of the lies he was telling (although I imagine he was fully aware). Data was made to order by various parties sharing the same goal, cherry picked by the intelligence analysists, analyzed with implicit and explicit political interference, and served up steaming hot to the poodle so he could have his little war. Crooked raw data was fed to a crooked Joint Intelligence Committee which was intended to create a crooked dossier so some crooked politicians could provide a crooked rationale for a crooked war.
Blair now is trying to downplay the importance of the 45-minute claim. Of course, without that claim or the claim that Saddam posed an imminent threat, the rationale for war completely falls apart. When we see how the whole intelligence-political scheme was set up to lead inevitably to an unjust war, we can begin to see how deep the corruption runs in British government.
Article courtesy of Xymphora