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Hutton Report

Robin Ramsay

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Since issue 45, last June, there has been so much information produced on the events preceding the assault on Iraq it is impossible to keep track of it all. Here is my selection. For the powers-that-be, the war has been traumatic, not least because their various cover stories and deceptions have been exposed so rapidly, thanks, mostly, to the the Internet.

A story I missed at the time was the replacement of Admiral Sir Michael Boyce as Chief of the Defence Staff. In July 2002 his departure was announced. In 'Defence chief replaced for being "off message" over Iraq invasion' in The Independent 24 July 2002, Kirn Sengupta wrote:

The move follows reports of disagreements between Sir Michael and the Government on a number of issues, especially proposals for a war in Iraq. Sir Michael is among a number of senior British commanders who are said to question Britain's backing for a US invasion of Iraq, and are sceptical of Pentagon claims about Saddam Hussein's links with the al-Qa'ida terror organisation and his stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction.

On 25 January 2004 The Glasgow Herald reported what were claimed to be the views of senior British intelligence figures in a 'pre-emptive strike against Tony Blair ahead of the publiccation of the Hutton report'. The Herald said this of MI6:

The key points it wants on the record are:

Many had been openly sceptical about the presence of WMD in Iraq for years.

The intelligence community was under pressure to provide the government with what it wanted, namely that Iraq possessed WMD and was a danger.

Intelligence was "cherry-picked", with damning intelligence against Iraq being selectively chosen, while intelligence assessments, which might have worked against the build-up to war, were sidelined. Intelligence work had become politicised under Labour, and spies were taking orders from politicians. They provided worst-case scenarios which were use by politicians to make factual claims.

There were no names and no hints of names in the story and no surprises in it. We have to take this on trust. But the author was Neil Mackay, who now has a long and distinguished track record as an investigative journalist.

The best single piece to appear in response to the report by Lord Hutton, was by Lieutenant Colonel Crispin Black in The Guardian 12 February 2004. It contained these devastating lines.

I left the [intelligence] assessment staff just six months before the dreaded dossier was published. From what came out at the Hutton inquiry I could hardly recognise the organisation I had so recently worked for. Meetings with no minutes, an intelligence analytical group on a highly specialised subject which included unqualified officials in Downing Street but excluded the DIS's lifetime experts (like Dr Brian Jones), vague and unexplained bits of intelligence appearing in the dossier as gospel (notably the 45-minute claim), sloppy use of language, that weird "last call" for intelligence like Henry II raving about Thomas a Becket - with "who will furnish me with the intelligence I need" substituted for "who will rid me of that turbulent priest"... When the report came I was puzzled at first - serious people seemed to be taking it so seriously. And then everyone started to laugh. Some of the passages - particularly "the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the prime minister.... may have subconsciously influenced.... members of the JIC... consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC" are masterpieces of comic writing' (emphasis added).

What do the foreign policy experts think? Take Timothy Garton-Ash, for example, who writes a regular column in The Guardian. Garton-Ash is one of those figures who bridge the gap between academia and the Foreign Office/MI6. A governor of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Britain's mini version of America's National Endowment for Democracy, his main role is as director of the European Studies Centre at St. Antony's College, Oxford, MI6's academic annex. In 'We were duped', in The Guardian, 4 March 2004, he offered as reasons: 'unfinished business from the first Gulf War, concern for Middle East oil supplies, a desire to go on "rolling up" the possible threats after 9/11'.

Passage from Lobster Magazine (Summer, 2004)

Edited by Robin Ramsay
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