Socialist Worker

Blair can’t hide from his war lies

Roger Protz finds there’s more to the Butler report than a mere whitewash. Close inspection reveals the lies behind Blair’s wild claims over WMDs

Issue No. 1911

BETWEEN THE lines of the Butler report lies a damning indictment of the Blair government—proof positive that parliament and the people were lied to about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”.

Lord Butler doesn’t point the finger, and doesn’t blame anyone for the lies that dragged Britain into George Bush’s war for oil and retribution.

The terms of reference given to his inquiry were specifically drafted to prevent individuals from being named.

And the choice of the noble lord, a former top civil servant and cabinet secretary to a succession of prime ministers, meant that neither Blair nor the chiefs of the security services would be named or shamed.

It is not the done thing in the upper class circles of public schools and gentlemen’s clubs to put the boot in so crudely.

But if you dig deep into the report and untangle the dense prose, the facts begin to emerge about how the Blair case for war was “sexed up”.

Andrew Gilligan, a BBC reporter, lost his job for saying that. But he was telling the truth. The key points in Butler’s report are these:

lThe claim that biological or chemical weapons could be deployed by Iraq within 45 minutes should not have been included in the infamous government dossier of 24 September 2002.

Its use led to a suspicion that it had been inserted “because of its eye-catching character”.

lDowning Street stretched the available intelligence to “the outer limits”.

lThe September dossier setting out the case for war had a serious weakness”. It left out important “caveats” [cautions] about the unreliable nature of much of the intelligence supplied by spies in Iraq.

The language in the dossier suggested that intelligence was “fuller and firmer” than it was.

Consider the following comments by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which sifts intelligence material and reports to the prime minister:

“Intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes is sporadic and patchy” (15 March 2002).

“We have little intelligence on Iraq’s CBW [chemical and biological weapons] doctrine, and know little about Iraq’s CBW work since late 1998” (21 August 2002).

“Intelligence remains limited and Saddam’s own unpredictability complicates judgements” (9 September 2002).

Yet in his foreword to the dossier Blair wrote, “What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.”

Blair went on, “I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current.

“I have been briefed in detail on the intelligence and am satisfied as to its authority.”

In short, Blair removed and overlooked all the “ifs”, “buts” and “maybes” of the intelligence service.

He presented to parliament and the British people a totally dishonest picture of Iraq’s threats and capability.

The image that emerged from the September dossier and Blair’s report to parliament was that not just the Middle East but also Britain and even the US were at risk from Saddam’s non-existent weapons.

The depths to which Blair went to beat the drums of war can be seen from paragraph 405 of the Butler report.

This paragraph says that in July 2003 the MI6 secret service withdrew two of its reports on Saddam’s weapons because it understood that its sources in Iraq had been discredited.

The date is significant because the decision to withdraw the reports was made before the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

But the representatives of the intelligence services who gave evidence to Hutton did not report their decisions.

The Joint Intelligence Committee would naturally have reported the withdrawals to Blair.

But Blair now claims he did not know about MI6’s change of mind and only learnt these vital facts recently.

The lies escalate. So does the body count in Iraq.

Andrew Gilligan lost his job for telling the truth.

The director general and the chairman of the BBC lost their jobs for supporting Gilligan.

Dr David Kelly, who informed Gilligan that the government had “sexed up” the case for war, was hounded to death by the government and the intelligence services. Only the liars and the warmongers stay in office.

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Sat 24 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1911
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