Tuesday, January 12, 2010 

Iraq inquiry groundhog day.

It's difficult not to feel the sensation of deja vu when you see Alastair Campbell once again holding forth, defiantly as ever, before a cringing committee of the great and good tasked with supposedly wringing the truth out of him. That they'd have more chance of draining red viscous fluid from a hard inanimate object is ever the unspoken reality. It is also touching though, almost heart-warming to see just how loyal Blair's ever faithful spin doctor remains to his former boss. Blair after all feels no such compunction to keep up the pretence that Iraq was all about the weapons of mass destruction and not, in that famous construction of his following the 9/11 attacks, the re-ordering of things while the pieces were still in flux, admitting as he did to that noted Rottweiler Fern Britton that he would have invaded even if he had known that there were no WMDs.

Campbell in his evidence continued to deny even the possibility that, as one of the leaked Downing Street memos made clear, that the plan to invade had already been settled and that the "facts were being fixed around the policy". Christopher Meyer, the ambassador to Washington at the time, made clear in his evidence that he felt the government never resisted the march to war once it was clear that the US was going to take action regardless of anything or anyone else. Meyer himself sent back a memo in March 2002 (PDF) after a meeting with one of the architects of neo-conservatism, Paul Wolfowitz, in which he stated that "we backed regime change, but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option". This was somewhat backed up by Jeremy Greenstock, who felt this was the case, but who was kept out of the loop, even though he was the person at the UN charged with trying to get a second resolution through. Campbell, for his part, later suggested that Meyer had been "glib" in not considering the consequences for the US-UK relationship in not supporting the war, with the implication that, as always seems to be the case, the illusion of the "special relationship" being maintained is always more important than the consequences of the alliance.

At points Campbell's evidence made you wonder whether his stubbornness to admit almost any mistake is not in fact borne of his continuing loyalty to Blair, or his own unstinting belief in his own righteousness, but in fact that he has to keep telling both himself and the world how he got everything right while everyone else has repeatedly got it wrong in order to convince himself that he is still on the side of the angels. Hence he'll defend "every single word" of the September 2002 dossier, while Andrew Gilligan's substantially confirmed report on the Today programme was a "dishonest piece of journalism", which is a quite wonderful example of projection, and almost anything which contradicts his evidence is a conspiracy theory, like the Guardian report of yesterday which suggested that he changed a part of the dossier to bring it into line with a claim made by Dick Cheney.

It is though perhaps instructive to compare how we conduct inquiries with the Dutch. Previously the government of the Netherlands resigned after a damning report into the Dutch military's failures at Srebrenica. By coincidence, their own inquiry today into their role in the Iraq war has concluded that it was illegal, as UN resolution 1441 could not be used as a mandate for armed conflict. Back here, we're still regarding Alastair Campbell as though he's a reliable witness. One suspects that the Chilcott inquiry's conclusions won't be anywhere near as incisive.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007 

The Iraq dossier: Well and truly exposed.

Chris Ames has done a wonderful public service in putting together IraqDossier.com. Not only does it demolish Hutton's whitewashing of the government's highly manipulated case for war, it also proves once and for all that we were not just misled, with our politicians guilty of relying on intelligence which turned out to be wrong, but instead lied to by a group of mendacious, shameless and warmongering cunts who are unfit to govern us and whom should resign immediately.

The one real remaining mystery is just where the 45 minute claim came from. As Ames writes, it wasn't in the original draft dossier, the one written by John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, now head of MI6. Ames believes that it instead emerged in a secret other draft of the dossier, this one drawn up by John Williams, the Foreign Office press secretary. The government however didn't submit this draft to the Hutton inquiry, and it has refused to release it under the Freedom of Information Act. The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, is now finalising his ruling on whether the draft should be released, following an appeal by Ames.

Best of all is the painstakingly put together table (PDF) which compares each successive draft of the dossier, showing how it was sexed up by the spin doctors, the very claim which Andrew Gilligan made in the now infamous report on the Today programme. As a commenter on BlairWatch notes, there is a huge injustice in all of this. While Dr David Kelly's death cannot be blamed solely on the government, it was the petulant outbursts of Alastair Campbell, demanding an apology and that the BBC identify its source when he knew full well that their lies and editing of the dossier were finally coming to light that meant that the story became the defining moment of New Labour's obsession with news management, and helped a man further along the road to taking his own life.

Nearly four years on from the beginning of the Iraq war, at the lowest possible reasonable estimate 100,000 Iraqis are dead, over 100 British servicemen have lost their lives, and politics has been permanently affected by a prime minister who had already decided to go to war, and who had to manipulate the intelligence to justify it. That he is still somehow in office is both the biggest outrage and biggest indictment of the failure of us (yes, all of us) to rebuild politics from this, its absolute lowest ebb.

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