10/2/2004

Iraq, Hutton and WMD @ 3:18 pm

I wrote this last week but have been having a few problems with the old beige box so haven’t posted it yet…

I’m on record as being fairly pro the Iraq war for various reasons but mainly because I believe that the UN Security council big five (US, UK, Russia, France and China) have an obligation to the people of the world to face up to oppressive regimes – and that our place as the dominant powers is to ensure the safety and security of all Civilians not only our own. (I know someone will come back with what about Chinese human rights abuses or Russian action in Chechnya….but sadly what I seek is an ideal not how the world works…that does not however mean that I don’t believe that the UN shouldn’t be more proactive).

Over the past week we’ve had The Hutton Inquiry Report into the Death of Dr David Kelly and the announcement of US and British inquiries into WMD intelligence.

Lord Huttons report (possibly one of the most open inquiries ever held in Britain) was recieved sadly with incredulous chants of whitewash sadly by those who have neither read the report itself or listened to the statement by lord Hutton.

Hutton’s remit was to investigate the Death of Dr David Kelly and thats exactly what hutton did his job was never to investigate our reasons for going to war (although much of the evidence did give an interesting insight into that). But, because Hutton didn’t burn Blair at the stake many people have claimed its a whitewash.

The basic point of Hutton’s inquiry, for me anyway, was that although the release of David Kelly’s name should have been handled alot better, by his employer the MoD, his name HAD to come out…there was no way for his name to have been kept secret because the name had to be disclosed to both the Foreign affairs and Intelligence and Security Committees which would demand to interview Dr Kelly (and did). How can you have a conspiracy to release his name when theres a legal requirment for that name to be made public in the first place? I agree with Hutton, that the government and MoD could have and should have handled it better; but the inevitability of Kelly’s name coming out cannot be denied.

That basically leaves the 45 minute claim. Should the 45minute claim have been inserted into the September dossier? The 45minute claims was a from a “single reliable source” – and the issue therefore becomes NOT is that intelligence correct as people have now argued with hindsight (which to be honest they [parliament] should have asked at the time); but could a detail as important as that be held from Parliament (the principal audience for the dossier)…that is outwith Hutton, but I would say that if we were to go to war based on “Intelligence” then that intelligence needs to be presented to Parliament and to omit it would be an extremely serious breach. Missed by most of the press was an article in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago where they interviewed the man believed to be the source of the 45min claim…and when asked if it was true that chemical weapons could be deplyed in 45minutes he said quite bluntly that they could have done it in nearly 30minutes and actually refered to shells and mortar rounds.

Then comes the whole question of WMD Battlefield or Ballistic weapons…we knew from the UN weapons inspections that the maximum range of their [iraqi] missles was 100km so where on earth did the idea that the 45min claim weapons refered to Ballistic weapons? It didn’t appear in the dossier … in fact it came from an article in the Sun which said that Saddam could attack British troops in Cyprus within 45minutes (in fact the only reason Cyprus was mentioned in the dossier was concerning the Iraqi construction of an engine test stand for the development of long range missles)…The government didn’t correct this …which is a huge oversight on their part. But what really worries me is the Prime Minister speaking to the Inquiry said he didn’t know the 45minute claim refered to Battlefield weapons until March….which I have to take as either incredible stupidity in not clarifying the facts before taking the country to war or a rather dispicable attempt to protect himself from the fact that the government didn’t correct the press’s claims about the 45min claim being about Ballistic weapons as it suited his own political ends (which is probably more likely).

Which brings us to the new WMD inquiry…which some people are already calling it a whitewash. Once again the terms of reference are very narrow basically to assess the quality of the intelligence into Iraq weapons programmes pre-war. If we take it as read that the intelligence said Iraq had chemical and Biological weapons (which we can pretty much accept as we not only have the US and British intelligence agencies saying it but the intelligence agencies of France, Russia, Germany and Canada (all Anti war)) the real questions we need to be asking are to do with the use of that intelligence by Politicians…this new inquiry will not answer those questions….but I don’t believe that just because it doesn’t answer those questions that the questions the inquiry must answer are any less important.

I find it more concerning that believing Saddam had Chemical and Biological Weapons that we sent British troops into Iraq with substandard gear and without proper Chemical and Biological protection but thats another story.

So that brings me to the search for WMD in Iraq. The very important question about how the intelligence could have been so wrong with David Kays concluding that large stockpiles of Chemical Weapons probably do not exist in Iraq (Transcript: David Kays testimony to Senate Armed service committee :: introductory statement) . This part of his statement has been reported heavily in the press however less reported are the other parts of his testimony – in particular that Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441…having discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material…these range from VX and anthrax programmes a 1000mile long range ballistic missile system and attempts to obtain nuclear weaponry.

It may seem a moot point to those who oppossed the war in the first place but when parliament voted to go to war it was on the grounds that Iraq was in breach of 1441. When the Attorney General concluded that going to war in Iraq would be legal it was on the grounds that Iraq was in breach of 1441. Saddam, from the evidence of David Kay, was clearly in breach of 1441 in fact Kay concludes that the scale of his programmes was far in excess of what the intellegence had suggested prior to the war.

I can only conclude that, despite the political rhetoric we hear from the tories and lib dems at the moment, this is what this country signed up for when Parliament voted to go to war.

The development of Chemical, Biological and nuclear weapons capability by any state poses a threat to international security irrespective of whether those weapons are battlefield, ballistic, deployable in 45minutes or 45days. Consequently we need to challenge all states who seek to obtain these weapons (and that includes us and our allies).

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