Far too many of those who lied to parliament and people in order to take us in to an illegal and devestating war are still in positions of public power and responsibility.
By Chris Nineham
Stop the War Coalition
26 September 2012
Tony Blair's epitaph.
The Sun's notorious headlines in September 2002.
Rupert Murdoch admits his papers and TV all tried to shape public opinion to support the Iraq war.
IT IS EXACTLY ten years since the day we were presented with the biggest single package of lies about Iraq -- lies that were cynically used to take us to war.
The Iraq Dossier, released on 25 September 2002, claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction including chemical weapons and biological weapons. It was based on evidence presented by the security services ' Joint Intelligence Committee but whose exact origins were witheld, ostensibly to protect sources.
Many were unconviced. Four days after it came out Stop the War held one of the biggest demonstrations in British history when 350,000 turned out to protest against the growing threat of war with Iraq.
The invasion of the Iraq and subsequent investigations proved the demonstrators right and the dossier wrong in all essentials. In January 2005 the Iraq Survey Group, which replaced the UN inspectors in Iraq, reported it had "not found evidence that Saddam possessed WMD stocks in 2003," and though there was a possibility some may have existed they could not have been 'militarily significant'.
Two particular claims in the dossier became particularly controversial. The first was that Iraq had been involved in sourcing illegal uranium from Africa in order to produce nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency went public in March 2003 to say that the document on which this claim was based was 'an obvious fake'.
The second was the assertion that Sadam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be readied for use in 45 minutes. The introduction highlighted the claim: "the document discloses that his (Saddam's) military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."
At the Chilcot Enquiry one of Blair's lines of defense was that the dossier was a non-event at the time, gaining significance only in retrospect. This was complete obfuscation.
Parliament was in fact recalled to hear Blair's report on the dossier for one of only three times in the last decade, the other two being for 9/11 and the death of the Queen mother.
The 45-minute claim, written into the dossier's introduction by Tony Blair, became the basis for a series of sensational newspaper headlines including the infamous Sun splash "Brits 45 Mins from Doom" and the Evening Standard's "45 minutes from attack". The day after the dossier's release national newspapers carried more than 100 separate stories mentioning weapons of mass destruction.
The dossier was also used as the centrepiece for Blair's own oft-repeated arguments in parliament and elsewhere that Saddam was a proven threat to the region, an argument that many felt swung the balance of opinion in parliament.
The truth was not just that the so-called intelligence was wrong, but that it was deliberately distorted by ministers in order to make the case for war. BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan was vilified and later sacked for making this exact claim in a Today Programme report in May 2003. BBC Director General Greg Dyke was scandalously forced to resign over the isuue in early 2004. Although the conclusions of the Hutton enquiry in 2004 tried to exonerate Blair and the government, the real picture has subsequently become clear.
Even the government had to admit that the sources for their information were unreliable. In October 2004 Jack Straw conceded that the sources for the claim had 'come in to question'. Five years later according to the Guardian, information had come to light that the source of the claim was a taxi driver on the Iraqi-Jordanian border "who had remembered an overheard conversation in the back of his cab a full two years earlier".
One of those involved in writing the dossier, Major General Michael Laurie, wrote to the Chilcott Enquiry in 2011 saying "the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care." And on 26 June 2011, Guardian reported on a memo from John Scarlett to Blair's foreign affairs adviser, released under the Freedom of Information Act, which referred to "the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional".
So, with little or no thanks to three official inquiries, we at least now know the truth. Of course the next thing we need is for that truth to be officially recognised and some justice to be done.
Far too many of those who lied to parliament and people in order to take us in to an illegal and devestating war are still in positions of public power and responsibility. The campaign to bring them to account must continue.
But just as important are the lessons for today. The Western powers are intensifying their campaign to demonise Iran as the great threat to the Middle East peace in frighteningly familiar terms. They are clothing the violent fiasco in Afghanistan in the language of humanitarianism, and dressing their designs in Syria with pious words about democracy.
If we have learned anything in the last ten years it must be just how far our governments are prepared to go to deceive and cajole us in to deadly foreign adventures.