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What Hutton inquiry should lay bare

There are a series of specific lies, and a raft of much bigger and more important lies, which the report from the Hutton inquiry ought to expose in its report, expected soon. The inquiry's hearings showed three key parts of the state machine-

Issue No. 1883

Blair was at key meeting

ONE EXAMPLE of the specific lies concerns who authorised the "outing" of Dr David Kelly to the press.

A few days after Kelly's suicide, Blair was questioned by journalists on his aircraft as it prepared to land in Hong Kong. "Why did you authorise the naming of David Kelly?" he was asked. "That is completely untrue," replied Tony Blair.

"Did you authorise anyone in Downing Street or in the Ministry of Defence to release David Kelly's name?" he was asked. "Emphatically not," responded Blair. "I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly."

Yet in October the Hutton inquiry heard the clearest unequivocal evidence that Blair was personally involved in the decisions which led to Kelly's naming.

Sir Kevin Tebbit, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, told the inquiry that the key meeting from which everything else flowed was chaired by the prime minister on 8 July.

"A policy decision on the handling of this matter had not been taken until the prime minister's meeting. It was only after that that any of the press people had an authoritative basis on which to proceed," said Sir Kevin. He agreed with Jeremy Gompertz, the Kelly family's counsel, that the decision which led to the naming of Kelly was therefore taken at Downing Street.

The 8 July meeting was "decisive", insisted Sir Kevin. So Blair lied.


Every Powell claim was false

THE HUTTON inquiry's remit excluded the really big lies told to launch the war. The premier lie is about the infamous "weapons of mass destruction". Of course every dog in the street knows that no such weapons have been found.

The US and British governments did not just make vague statements about such weapons. They catalogued in great detail what Iraq was supposed to have.

The clearest statements about Iraq's supposed arsenal came from the "moderate" US Secretary of State Colin Powell when he did his film show for the United Nations on 5 February, a few weeks before war began.

Backed up by tape recordings of Iraqi conversations, satellite photographs and all manner of pseudo-scientific material, Powell made 29 claims about Iraq's weaponry.

All of these can now be assessed against what has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group (which is CIA-led and headed by David Kay, the ex-chief of a top defence contractor).

In a brilliant article in the New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers writes, "Kay says nothing whatever about 11 of Powell's 29 claims, which we may take as a functional equivalent of 'not found'.

"At the top of this list are the '100-500 tons of chemical weapons agent', the sarin and mustard gas, the possible 25,000 litres of anthrax, the 'few dozen' Scud missiles, the 'wherewithal to develop smallpox'. Not found.

"The cars full of 'key files' being driven around by Iraqi intelligence agents? Not found. The 'warheads containing biological warfare agent hidden in large groves of palm trees'? Not found.

"The hundreds of documents signed by Iraqi scientists putting them on notice that death would be the punishment for anyone who talked? Not found.

"The factory with thousands of centrifuges intended to produce fissionable material for atomic bombs with the telltale aluminium tubes? Not found.

"It is difficult to convey the completeness of Kay's failure to find just about anything Powell cited as a justification for war. What Kay did find seems paltry and tentative. Powell said, 'Iraq has produced [the nerve agent] VX and put it into weapons for delivery.' Kay cites a 'key area' where Iraq 'may have engaged in proscribed or undeclared activity' including research on a possible VX stabiliser. Where are the actual 'weapons for delivery'? Where is the actual VX? Not found.

"At the UN Powell had displayed schematic drawings of 'biological weapons factories on wheels', adding that 'we know that Iraq has at least seven of these factories'. Kay says only that his Iraq Survey Group has 'not yet been able to corroborate' the existence of any mobile factories.

"So it goes-no evidence backing Powell's claim that Iraqi military units had been ordered to prepare for chemical warfare against invading armies; no evidence that 'Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons.' Of all the weapons cited by Powell in his UN speech only one was actually found-16 empty munitions discovered by the UN inspectors in a scrap heap. The CIA had at one time worried that there might be 30,000 more, but Kay failed to find them.

"The conclusion seems inescapable-on the eve of war, and probably for years beforehand, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and it had no active programme to build them."

For the full Thomas Powers article, "The Vanishing Case for War", go to www.nybooks.com/articles/16813


No link to Al Qaida

A SECOND great lie about the war was that Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaida and was willing to give its activists weapons to attack the West.

The official evidence that this was a lie came last December in a 600-page report (known as the Joint Inquiry) prepared by the US House and Senate intelligence committees.

The Joint Inquiry's report investigated in detail the comings and goings of the 11 September activists. It claimed they "became radicalised in Germany, held meetings in Malaysia, and received funds channelled through the United Arab Emirates".

Among the countries where, it said, Al Qaida sought help or haven were Yemen, Malaysia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Spain, Bosnia, Chechnya, Morocco, Thailand, the Philippines, Dubai, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the United States.

You will have noted one rather startling gap in the list-Iraq. If the US had, as it says it did, followed its own intelligence briefings, it should have been Britain or Switzerland that was invaded rather than Iraq. British intelligence pointed in the same direction.


Two lies in '45 minutes'

THE LUDICROUS claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed in 45 minutes is central to the events which Hutton has investigated.

Based on interviews with David Kelly, the BBC's Andrew Gilligan said top government spin doctor Alastair Campbell had inserted the claim about 45 minutes into a key government dossier. This led to the government attacks on Kelly.

Whatever the ins and outs of what Campbell did, it is clear the 45 minute claim was false. Geoff Hoon, the secretary of state for defence, admitted to the Hutton inquiry on 22 September that he knew the claim in the dossier referred to battlefield weapons only.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for the BBC, then asked, "A number of newspapers had banner headlines suggesting this claim related to strategic missiles. Why was no corrective statement issued for the benefit of the public?"

Hoon replied, "I don't know."

According to ex foreign secretary Robin Cook, Blair knew at least two weeks before the conflict began that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction that could be used within 45 minutes. Cook says that Blair did not believe Iraq's weapons posed a "real and present danger" to Britain.

There was great excitement in the press recently when an Iraqi officer, Lieutenant Colonel Al Dabbagh, said he was the source for the 45 minute claim and that it was entirely true.

But it then emerged that Al Dabbagh was a spy working for the Iraqi National Accord, a pro-Western exile group. There is no other source for the 45 minute claim.

  • The Stop the War Coalition will be holding a lobby when the Hutton inquiry reports. Contact the coalition as soon as the date is announced for details. The coalition is also producing a pamphlet prepared by leading lawyers indicting the government over its lies.

  • Third annual Stop the War Coalition national conference. Saturday 28 February, 9am registration for 10am start, Camden Centre, Euston Road (opposite Kings Cross/St Pancras stations), central London. All delegates from local groups and members wishing to attend should register with the office no later than Saturday 14 February, which is also the deadline for resolutions.


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    Features
    Sat 10 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1883
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