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Home > War On Terror

Let's pick some nits

6 February 2004

It's taken almost six months for Blair to have to ackowledge that the 45-minute claim referred to battlefield weapons.

The alliance of Blair / Bush / The Sun has a brilliant new tack regarding all such awkward questions about all those lies Hutton to which Hutton turned a blind eye. It's to call any further attention, in Margaret Beckett's words "nit-picking".

So lets pick some nits.

  • Beckett goes on:
    What matters is what [munitions] can do, not how they are delivered. Does anyone suppose Churchill wasted time trying to find out what munitions the enemy had?"

    In fact, Churchill was so keen to know about German re-armament that he appointed a private intelligence survey to find out about about, specifically, Germany's air power. Plus, of course, Germany invaded Poland.

  • Others have tried a similar tack. Hoon has said that he already spends "more time than I care to correcting misleading items in newspapers and the media". This was his way of explaining why headlines such as 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM could pass without comment, as an imminent threat of nukes and chemical weapons dropping on London is not as important as a 6.07 report about, well, a technicality in a dossier.

  • And, of course, Blair's friends at The Sun are asking Howard not to dwell on "irrelevant" details.

    The "detail" they're talking about is Blair saying that he never realised that it was battlefield munitions and not WMDs. This is the big one. The Hutton evidence tells us that Saddam only planned to use any weapons he had in a defensive, battlefield situation. This means that Blair created the sole conditions under which British troops would be risking their lives.

    So when his spokesman tells us that battlefield munitions might have been adapted to carry biological or chemical agents, he's saying that the PM was creating a far greater danger for our troops. Irrelevant? Only nine months ago, The Currant Bun was very defensive about Our Boys. Blair sent them to their certain deaths when there was no threat. What's changed?

And above all, why would a pressing intelligence dossier make such a big deal of perfectly ordinary wepons which everyone already knew Saddam had?

~ ~

Oh, and on the topic of Blair's "I from Islington I know nothing" defence...

~ ~

Robin Butler lists his among his interests "competitive games". Given his style of "interrogation" of Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton (see last week), if you ever find yourself playing him at Monopoly, you could probably get away with charging 50,000pw rent for one house on Old Kent Road.

- Seems a tad high, old chap.
- Robin! I give you my word.
- That's good enough for me. You carry on.

But there's one fact that even Gullible Robin can't disregard.

Number 10 told the country that Saddam could drop
chemical / biological / nuclear weapons on Britain within 45 minutes.
That wasn't true.
The press repeated the claims.
Number 10 did nothing to reassure us.

There are two possibilities here.

Possibility 1: Big-time incompetence.

This is what Blair's claiming for himself. He acknowledges that the dossier should have referred to battlefield weapons.

But that he didn't know that at the time.

The Defence Secretary knew. The intelligence services knew. But the claim went in anyway. If Blair's claim that he's incompetent is true, that means we have a powerless MI6 and Department of Defence overridden by an ignorant PM. (Again, this was all in the Hutton evidence, but the Report chose to ignore it.)

So the only decent thing is for Blair to, as Lord Butler might put it, is to jolly well push off after a bit of the old contrition.

Possibility 2: Deceit

Of course, it's still possible that Blair knew exactly what everyone else did, and that under his instructions, Campbell saw that the "within 45 minutes" words from one despatch could be tacked onto the "may have plans for nuclear programmes" bit from another report, to make a stronger case for a war that was planned and going to happen anyway. In which case the "I know nothing" defence doesn't make things any better, since it's a lie on top of a lie.

In which case, Lord Butler should give Blair one of his very cross stares and say "well, old bean, you understand you have to go".

This isn't the first time a Western leader has claimed to be a little confused about the intelligence and whether or not he's wholly culpable and deceitful.

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

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