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Home > War On Terror

Robin Butler and his Trusting Bunch

From The Friday Thing.

4 February 2004

The new Inquiry into the intelligence which was offered to justify the occupation of Iraq is essentially the same team as investigated Weapons of Mass Destruction last year, apart from chair Lord Butler, who likes (a) cricket, (b) bicycles and (c) things they way they are.

So it might be worth remembering how good they are distinguishing between reliable intelligence and dodgy claims which come from crazy lying hotheads.

One of the scarier claims about Iraq was that Saddam had been trying to get hold of "yellowcake" uranium from Niger. This would have let him make nuclear bombs, which, we were told, he planned to drop on Britain.

We know from Hutton that Number 10 insisted on lying about this in the dossier, changing what they'd been told (that he had "sought" yellowcake) into something substantively different (that he'd "secured" it).


But how accurate was what they'd been told in the first place?

Let's not rely on one source to answer that.

Source 1: the ISC

The same people who Blair has appointed said then: "We have questioned [MI6] about the basis of their judgment and conclude it is reasonable."

In short, the Ctte says: "jolly good, carry on, decent chap".


Source 2: Google

Google, as we know, is one of the most important research tools in modern intelligence.

If you take the correspondence that "proved" that Saddam was haggling for some cheapo yellowcake, you can see that they were "signed" on July 6 2000 by the Nigerian Foreign Minister. The signature read "Allele Elhadj Habibou" of the Conseil Militaire Supreme.

What Google has to tell us is that the Conseil was abolished eleven years before the date on the document, and that Habibou was Foreign Minister in the eighties.

In short, Google says: "Good God, what do we pay these people for?".

So who's made the better judgment? Who would you trust to distinguish between good intelligence and badly-faked up hoopla? How excited are you about them cracking this latest fiasco?

(If it helps, it might be worth remembering that Butler believed Neil Hamilton when he lied about his relationship with Mohammed Al Fayed, and trusted Jonathan Aitken when he started lying to The Guardian.)

This is an edited version of an article from this week's edition of The Friday Thing. For subscription details, see here.

Jack Straw said at the time that this fake correspondence wasn't the only source. He'd also seen something on CNN about it.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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