Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Ex-Blair Official Advised Misleading Public on Iraqi WMD
The former Blair administration official tasked with preparing the now-discredited dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq suggested using the paper to deceive the British public on the implications of the unconventional weapons, the London Guardian reported on Sunday (see GSN, May 13).
Then-Joint Intelligence Committee chief, John Scarlett, wrote a memo to former Prime Minister Tony Blair's then-foreign relations adviser on the "benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional."
The Blair administration used the claims of the September 2002 dossier to build a case for joining the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The report's assertions that former dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction capable of targeting British territory and assets have all largely been debunked (see GSN, July 13, 2010). No evidence of signs of active WMD production programs or operational stockpiles have turned up in Iraq in the years following the 2003 invasion.
Scarlett's memo was made public under the Freedom of Information Act. The memo's publication strengthens the testimony of ex-intelligence official Michael Laurie. He told the expert inquiry investigating British participation in the Iraq invasion that it was broadly known that the 2002 government report was aimed at steering public opinion in favor of joining the U.S. effort against Hussein. Laurie also said it misconstrued intelligence to achieve this goal.
Scarlett's committee was charged with providing an impartial assessment on intelligence matters to British cabinet officials.
Scarlett wrote the memo to former Blair adviser David Manning following a review of an earlier version of the dossier that singled out four nations as having "WMD programs of concern." Those countries were Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Ex-British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the dossier "has to show why there is an exceptional threat from Iraq. It does not quite do this yet." In answer, Scarlett wrote back that the dossier could affect public opinion more if it just dealt with Iraq.
Former Labor Cabinet Minister Clare Short, who left the Blair government after the invasion, said Scarlett's response demonstrates that "John Scarlett was in on the deception from the beginning and was being duplicitous deliberately" (Chris Ames, London Guardian, June 26).
March 12, 2013
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