This book details the government's ruthless and cynical treatment of Dr David Kelly, the intelligence services and the BBC, as the Prime Minister put huge pressure on all parts of the state machine to back his drive for war on Iraq. In particular, it tells how Blair pushed through the publication of the September 2002 dossier, `Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: the assessment of the British government'.
On 3 September 2002, Blair told us that Iraq was "a real and unique threat to the security of the region and the rest of the world." He told Parliament that Iraq was `a real and present threat to Britain'. He wanted the dossier to back up these claims: the evidence had to be tailored to justify the verdict that he had already decided. But as `Mr A', a civil servant working in defence intelligence, e-mailed Dr Kelly, "You will recall [blanked out] admitted they were grasping at straws."
Blair's clinching argument was to be the sensational new claim that that Iraq was an imminent threat, that its "military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them." This claim came only from a single, uncorroborated source, whose identity and report the government still refuses to divulge.
The dossier repeated the claim four times, yet John Scarlett, Head of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), told the Hutton Inquiry that it was always known inside the government that the 45-minute claim referred only to battlefield weapons, not to weapons for missiles. So the government knew at the time that Iraq was no threat to anybody.
The evidence produced at the Inquiry showed that Jonathan Powell, Downing Street's chief of staff, and Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications and strategy, both substantially altered the dossier: Campbell proposed fourteen changes that all strengthened the case for war. They also changed its title, at the last minute, from `Iraq's Programme of Weapons of Mass Destruction' to `Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction'.
On 5 September, Campbell e-mailed Powell, "Re dossier, substantial rewrite with JS and Julian M in charge ... Structure as per TB's discussion." Scarlett claimed `ownership' of the dossier, yet when Lord Hutton asked about his response to Campbell's proposed changes to the dossier, Scarlett replied, "Yes, I was accepting. And I see absolutely nothing difficult in that at all. It was entirely up to me how to respond. I was completely in control of this process. I felt it at the time and feel it subsequently." Lord Hutton concluded, rather comically, the "PM's desire ... may have unconsciously influenced Mr Scarlett and the other members of the JIC."
A minute of a meeting held in Scarlett's office on 18 September showed the true picture: under the heading, `Ownership of the Dossier', it said simply, "Ownership lay with No. 10." Campbell's remarks show how true this was. His diary entry of 5 September, on the dossier's contents, said, "It had to be revelatory: we needed to show it was new and informative and part of a bigger case." On 17 September, he e-mailed Scarlett, "I think we should make more of the point about current concealment plans. Also in the executive summary, it would be stronger if we said that despite sanctions and the policy of containment, he has made real progress, even if this echoes the Prime Minister." (My italics)
Even after all this, Jonathan Powell advised, "We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat." But when Blair launched the dossier, he did override the intelligence and claim that Iraq was an imminent threat.
By the eve of war, in March 2003, all the government's claims about Iraq's WMD had been publicly proven false. The UN inspections had found no WMD in Iraq. In the 18 March debate on the war, no Minister repeated the 45-minute claim; at the Security Council, Colin Powell did not repeat it. But without the 45-minute claim, there was no threat; without the threat, there was no case for war. Yet Blair carried on regardless.
On 28 January 2004 (the day that Hutton delivered his Report), Dr David Kay, head of the US's Iraq Survey Group that had been seeking Iraq's WMD, told the Senate armed services committee, "I don't think they existed ... we were all wrong." Blair and his team had abused the intelligence to try to justify an attack that he and Bush had agreed on when they met just a fortnight after the September 11 attack. Blair lied to us about the intelligence and he lied to us about the threat.
The Bush/Blair attack on Iraq was an unnecessary and criminal aggression. It was a diversion from the real threat of fascist Islamic terrorists, and it has worsened that threat. As the JIC warned in February 2003, "al Qaeda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest threat to western interests, and the threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq."
Now Blair is trying to persuade us of the merits of another foreign venture, another commitment `for an unlimited period', by signing us up to the EU Constitution, whether we want to or not. But after Iraq, he is a busted flush.