Socialist Worker

Butler report and the lies over Iraq

Issue No. 1910

“DON’T BLAME us, blame the spies”, say the warmongers Bush and Blair.

They have been exposed over the supposed threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But they want to wriggle out of any responsibility for using that lie to carry out their slaughter in Iraq.

So Bush wants the CIA to get the blame after the Senate Intelligence Committee said last week that reports of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were exaggerated.

Blair was hoping that he could shift responsibility onto Britain’s secret services after the Butler report and save himself.

But at every stage he and his inner circle of friends and advisers intervened to make sure that “intelligence” on Iraq backed up the drive for war.

When the reports didn’t go as far as he wanted, he simply lied.

In the war debate in parliament on 18 March 2003, he told MPs it was “palpably absurd” to say that Saddam Hussein had got rid of his weapons of mass destruction.

Three weeks later he stood side by side with Bush and said, “On weapons of mass destruction, we know that the regime has them—we know that as the regime collapses we will be led to them.”

At the first major press conference during the war he said, “We have absolutely no doubt at all that these weapons of mass destruction exist.”

He has been forced to eat those words. Blair now admits that such weapons may never be found.

Anti-war campaigners challenged Blair’s lies from the very beginning. The Butler report shows Blair cannot “draw a line” under Iraq.

He lied and thousands of Iraqis died. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.


How Blair fuelled 45 minute scare

THE CLAIM that Iraq could launch deadly weapons at 45 minutes notice came in a dossier prepared by John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, in September 2002.

Scarlett, who was subsequently promoted to become head of MI6, is close to Blair’s inner circle. Blair’s loyal adviser, Alastair Campbell, refers to Scarlett as “my mate”.

Even Lord Hutton’s inquiry earlier this year admitted that Scarlett might have been “subconsciously influenced” by Blair.

The influence was absolutely conscious.

Jonathan Powell, Blair’s right hand man, thought the early drafts of the September dossier did “nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat, from Saddam”.

So Blair and Campbell leant on Scarlett. The “intelligence” expert simply rewrote a key passage to imply that Saddam Hussein was a threat. The words Iraq “may be able” to deploy weapons became “is able”.

MI6 began a frantic scramble for evidence to back up Blair’s claims. The Joint Intelligence Committee issued a “last call” for information about Iraq’s weapons on 11 September 2003 because Blair wanted “the document to be as strong as possible”.

Amazingly, as the dossier was being drawn up, new evidence arrived saying exactly what Blair wanted to hear.

The MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove informed Blair of the claim that Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. This appeared in Scarlett’s September dossier four times.

Blair wrote a foreword to the dossier, claiming Saddam Hussein’s “military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes in order to use them”.

The dossier was sent to newspapers, in one case with the 45-minute claim highlighted with a marker pen.

Blair told the Hutton inquiry that he’d published the dossier “because there was a tremendous amount of information and evidence coming across my desk as to the weapons of mass destruction and the programmes associated with it that Saddam had”. It was a lie.


So who agreed with weapons claim?

“CERTAINLY NO one on my staff had any visibility of large quantities of intelligence which proved conclusively there were weapons of mass destruction.”

That’s the comment of Dr Brian Jones, who was the Ministry of Defence’s chief WMD intelligence analyst.

He wasn’t the only one to question Blair’s judgement.

John Morrison, former deputy chief of defence intelligence staff, said, “The prime minister was going way beyond anything any professional analyst would have agreed.”

He told last weekend’s Panorama documentary that he could “almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall” when Blair told MPs that the threat from Iraq was “current and serious”.

Even the false 45-minute claim, which was later withdrawn by MI6, was exaggerated to support the case for war.

The original intelligence suggested that Saddam had “battlefield munitions”, rather than missiles.

Blair told the Hutton inquiry that he was not aware of this distinction.

Defence secretary Geoff Hoon and foreign secretary Jack Straw both claim not to have known, and not to have asked, what kind of weapons the 45-minute claim referred to.

However, Robin Cook, who resigned from the cabinet in the run-up to war, saw the same evidence and fully understood the implications.

He says, “I had been briefed that Saddam’s weapons were only battlefield ones, and I could not conceive that the prime minister had been given a different version.”

Cook, who was briefed by Scarlett, said the spy chief admitted that “not only did Saddam have no weapons of mass destruction...neither did he have usable battlefield weapons”.


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Sat 17 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1910
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