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InvisibleXlea321
Stranger
Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Last of the believers
    #2280244 - 01/28/04 11:50 AM (12 years, 10 months ago)

Last of the believers

Only Blair now insists there were Iraqi WMDs. But even claiming an honest mistake will no longer wash

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday January 28, 2004
The Guardian

It's getting embarrassing. Anybody who's anybody now admits that there are no, and were no, weapons of mass destruction worth the name in Iraq. The roll-call of converts to what used to be the exclusive position of the anti-war camp gets more impressive by the day.
David Kay, President Bush's handpicked arms inspector and the former chief weapons monitor of the CIA - hardly a limp-wristed European peacenik - quit his post at the head of the Iraq Survey Group last week, concluding that there are no Iraqi WMD to be found: "I don't think they existed," he said bluntly. Forty eight hours later, Colin Powell, the US secretary of state who a year ago was holding the UN security council rapt with his slide show on Saddam's weapons' concealment, complete with scary satellite shots of secret arms factories, admitted that such weapons may never be found. Even the president himself seems to have got the message. In his state of the union address last week, Bush knew better than to bang the tired drum of 2003. In a phrase so qualified as to be comic, he spoke only of "weapons of mass destruction-related programme activities".

This is one verdict we do not need to hear from Lord Hutton at lunchtime today. Everyone gets it already - there were no weapons of mass destruction; everyone, that is, but the British government.

Like the Japanese soldier of cliche, still shooting from his cave because no one has told him the war is over, Tony Blair and faithful lieutenant Jack Straw are sticking to the cause long after their commanders have surrendered. Their tenacity in the face of all the evidence is almost touching. Blair still says he has "absolutely no doubt". Straw wobbles a bit on the radio, admitting it's "disappointing" that no weapons have yet been found, but he keeps the faith. Washington may have abandoned the pre-war script, but their loyal retainers in London are staying true. They are like a pair of old Communist cadres defending some appalling Stalinist action, unaware that the party line from Moscow haschanged.

It might be a technique. Journalist Peter Stothard, who followed Blair during 30 crucial days in the lead-up to the war, told the excellent Channel 4 documentary, What Hutton Won't Tell You, that Blair deliberately poses as decisive, even when he is uncertain - just to ensure he carries the day. It worked for him then, his eye-blazing conviction of the danger posed by Saddam; it persuaded many Labour waverers that the PM must have known something they didn't. But right now the pose looks silly.

So why does Blair not just come clean and admit he got it wrong? One factor could be the Hutton inquiry itself. Downing Street might have calculated that such an admission would have weakened its position, or at least confused things, during the long wait for today. Better to see what his lordship decides, and then concede what has to be conceded. Hutton apart, a recognition that the WMD do not exist would force a painful choice. Blair would have to admit either that he knew they were not there - and that he exaggerated or lied when he said they were - or that he made an honest mistake.

The first confession is politically unthinkable: as Blair told Lord Hutton from the witness box, a prime minister proven to have deceived the country into war would have to resign. But the second option is not much easier.

For one thing, Tony Blair would have to confess that he has poorer judgment of military and international affairs than the majority of the British public, who told pollsters for months that they did not consider Saddam an immediate threat. He would have to concede that every one of those demonstrators who filled central London last February had a better grasp of Iraqi's military weight than he did. If it stuck in his craw to accept that he had been wrong to predict that Ken Livingstone would be a "disaster" for London, imagine how he would face the entire anti-war movement and say, out loud: "When it came to weapons of mass destruction, you were right and I was wrong."

And there are greater difficulties than mere pride. For the honest mistake argument rests on the premise that the PM did not mislead the public into war, but was himself misled. The culprit is obvious. As the former defence minister Lewis Moonie puts it: "Sooner or later we may well have to say, 'Yep, the intelligence was faulty.'" In other words, Blair may have to argue that he made the best call he could, based on the intelligence placed before him. If that material was flawed, that is not his fault but the fault of the intelligence services.

Downing Street would have some allies for this approach. In Washington, congressional Republicans are moving fast to brand Iraq a systemic intelligence failure and to dump the blame on the CIA. (Even David Kay has said that since the entire intelligence community reckoned Saddam had weapons, a review is needed of the way such work is done.)

But there is a large flaw in the blame-the-spooks argument. For no one believes that the security services were quietly making their own inquiries into the situation in Iraq and then simply presented their best guess as to what was really going on. On the contrary, we now know that on both sides of the Atlantic the intelligence agencies were under two kinds of pressure. First, they were urged to find information that would cast the worst possible light on Baghdad and its intentions. Witness the joint intelligence committee's "last call" to all agencies to come up with some thing juicy to enliven the September 2002 dossier. Witness too the office of special plans set up in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Former official Karen Kwiatowski told Channel 4 that that body was specifically tasked with "cherry-picking" from the raw intelligence data to find items that might harden the case for a pre-emptive war.

Second, the intelligence services were pressured to present their findings - themselves the result of pressure - in the strongest form possible. That much we know from Alastair Campbell's now-infamous memo to JIC chairman John Scarlett, "suggesting" no fewer than nine changes to the wording of the dossier, each one proposing a toughening of language.

Neither of these actions - sending the spooks in a specific direction, or beefing up the presentation of their research - are crimes. But they do undermine the claim that the government was simply making a cool, disinterested judgment based on the evidence laid before it.

Tony Blair needs us to believe that he was confronted with evidence of a threat from Iraq and made a decision, in good faith, to tackle it. But most signs in both the US and Britain point in the opposite direction: that first came a decision to take action and next came pressure on the spooks to hunt down the evidence - even single-sourced, hearsay evidence - that might justify it.

It is unlikely that Lord Hutton will draw this conclusion today: it is probably beyond his remit. But long after the detail of memos and dossiers and emails are forgotten, a plain fact will stand out for future historians to see with perfect clarity. In 2002-03, governments in London and Washington stretched every sinew to persuade their publics that war was necessary because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But Iraq did not and so the war was fought on a false basis. For that, surely, there must be a reckoning.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1132811,00.html


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Invisiblecarbonhoots
old hand

Registered: 09/11/01
Posts: 1,351
Loc: BC Canada
Re: Last of the believers [Re: Xlea321]
    #2281519 - 01/28/04 06:53 PM (12 years, 10 months ago)



--------------------
  -I'd rather have a frontal lobotomy than a bottle in front of me

CANADIAN CENTER FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVES


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InvisibleXlea321
Stranger
Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Re: Last of the believers [Re: carbonhoots]
    #2282538 - 01/29/04 02:24 AM (12 years, 10 months ago)

:lol:

It's an old Bill Hicks line about the first gulf war - still applies perfectly today  :smile2:


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Invisiblesir tripsalot
Administrator
 Arcade Champion: Skeleton Park, Space Hunter

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 6,486
Re: Last of the believers [Re: Xlea321]
    #2282547 - 01/29/04 02:26 AM (12 years, 10 months ago)

History repeat itself? Impossible!


--------------------

"Little racoons and old possums 'n' stuff all live up in here. They've got to have a little place to sit." Bob Ross.


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