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Blair's Lies

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has told many direct lies about the dossier, both in his foreword to the document itself and when presenting it to Parliament, and when controversy over the dossier erupted after the invasion of Iraq.

Fabricating a case for war

When using the dossier to make his case for war, Blair lied both when he claimed that it represented the disclosure of the Joint Intelligence Committee’s (JIC) assessments and when he presented the intelligence behind it as "extensive, detailed and authoritative".

  • In his foreword he claimed that the "assessed intelligence" had "established beyond doubt" that Saddam had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons and continued in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

It is of course self-evident that neither point had been established beyond doubt as neither was true but the assessed intelligence had never claimed any degree of certainty on either point. The JIC assessment on the question of current production was that Iraq's presumed chemical and biological weapons were either from pre-Gulf war stocks or recent production. The JIC's latest assessment on nuclear issues explicitly stated that the intelligence was limited: "Although there is very little intelligence, we continue to judge that Iraq is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme."

  • Blair told the Commons that the government had in the dossier "decided to disclose [the JIC’s] assessments" (Column 3) and that it represented "what [the intelligence services] are telling me".

In fact, few of the dossier’s claims were set out in the same terms as the JIC’s assessments.

  • Blair told the Commons that Saddam had "existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons…including against his own Shia population".

The JIC had actually only stated that it was possible that Saddam would use WMD against a Shia uprising.

  • Blair told the Commons that UN inspectors had "discovered that Iraq was trying to acquire mobile biological weapons facilities, which of course are easier to conceal. Present intelligence confirms that it has now got such facilities."

The UN inspectors had not discovered that Iraq was trying to acquire these facilities but that it had considered developing them well before the 1991 Gulf war and therefore before the inspectors' arrival. The intelligence only indicated that Iraq had developed mobile fermentation systems that could produce biological weapons agent.

  • Blair told the Commons that "if he were able to purchase fissile matériel illegally, it would be only a year or two before Saddam acquires a usable nuclear weapon" (Column 5).

This claim was a complete fabrication. No formal assessment had been made of the time within which the acquisition of suitable fissile material from abroad could result in the production of a nuclear weapon, other than that it would be shorter than five years (Butler review p171).

The UN Lie

  • Blair told the Butler Inquiry:
". . . I remember that during the course . . . of July and August . . . I was increasingly getting messages saying . . . 'are you about to go to war?' and I was thinking 'this is ridiculous' and so I remember towards the end of the holiday actually phoning Bush and saying that we have got to put this in the right place straight away . . . we’ve not decided on military action . . . he was in absolute agreement . . . So we devised the strategy,and this was really the purpose of Camp David . . . where we would go down the UN route and . . . the purpose of the dossier was simply to say 'this is why we think this is important because here is the intelligence that means that this is not a fanciful view on our part,there is a real issue here' . . . there was a tremendous clamour coming for it and I think a clamour to the extent that had we resisted it would have become completely impossible..."

Blair's claim that the dossier made a case for the UN to deal with Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as a way of avoiding war is perhaps his greatest and most hypocritical deception. It is now clear that Blair had agreed by early 2002 to back the US desire for "regime change" in Iraq and that the return of UN weapons inspectors was part of a plan to establish a "legal justification for large-scale military action" (para 7). The dossier was intended to be the centrepiece of an "information campaign" to make the case for war - "to prepare public opinion in the UK that it is necessary to take military action against Saddam Hussein" (para 20).

The Cover-up

  • On 4 June 2003 Blair told the House of Commons that "the judgment about the so-called 45 minutes… was a judgment made by the Joint Intelligence Committee and by that committee alone." (Column 148) He repeated the point: "the Joint Intelligence Committee made that assessment on its own behalf with no interference from anyone." (Column 154)

This was the beginning of the cover-up and because Blair so clearly asserted that no-one other than the JIC was involved in the "the judgment about the so-called 45 minutes", no claim of subsequent JIC approval can save him. The 45 minutes claim was not expressed as a key judgement in the original JIC paper (p163/4) or on its first appearance in the dossier. In both cases, it was expressed uncertainly as something that recent intelligence indicated. But in the executive summary of the 16 September draft, the claim was expressed as a judgement. By refusing to confirm that that section of the dossier was drafted within the JIC machinery, the Cabinet Office has hung Blair out to dry. Further, when this new status was challenged from within the intelligence community, it was the dossier drafting group, packed with spin doctors, not the JIC, that decided that it should keep that status.

by Chris Ames last modified 2009-07-26 15:14

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