Iraq war inquiry hearings begin

The Iraq war inquiry's public hearings have begun in London with top civil servants and a former spy chief giving evidence on the conflict's origins.

The investigation, looking at the whole period from 2001 to 2009, is expected to last months, with a report not out until after the next general election.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be among the future witnesses.

Tuesday's session looks at UK foreign policy towards Iraq in the lead-up to the war, which began in 2003.

'Open mind'

The long-awaited inquiry began with a statement from its chairman, Sir John Chilcot.

He stressed that the panel was apolitical and had an "open mind" about the UK's involvement in the Iraq conflict and its aftermath.

  • Sir Michael Wood: Legal Adviser to the Foreign Office (1999-2006)
  • Sir Peter Ricketts: Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (2000-2001)
  • Simon Webb: Policy Director, MoD (2001-2004)
  • Sir William Patey: Head of Middle East Department, Foreign Office (1999-2002)
  • He said it was the panel's job to "establish" what happened in Iraq - "to evaluate what went well and what did not - and crucially why" - so that lessons could be learned.

    He said he intended to produce a report which was "thorough, impartial, objective and fair", stressing that it would not hold back from criticising institutions and individuals where this was "warranted".

    While most hearings would be held in public, Sir John said he reserved the right to conduct sessions in private where issues directly affecting national security were addressed.

    The inquiry is hearing on Tuesday from Sir Peter Ricketts, who was the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee - which oversees MI5, MI6 and GCHQ - from 2000 to 2001.

    In early 2001, he said the UK and US agreed their policy of trying to contain Iraq - underpinned by sanctions, an arms embargo and no-fly zone - was failing and they must try to "regain the initiative".

    "Saddam Hussein was feeling pretty comfortable," he said of the situation at the time.

    He noted there were "voices" in Washington calling for Saddam Hussein to be removed even before the Bush administration came to power in early 2001 and that the "rhetoric" about this possibility increased after that.

    But he said there was not any "operational consequence" from this and that, prior to the 9/11 attacks, the US was still seeking to try and make the containment policy work and sanctions more effective.

    Others giving evidence are former senior Ministry of Defence official Simon Webb and ex-Foreign Office officials Sir Michael Wood and Sir William Patey.

    Controversial dossier

    The members of the inquiry's committee were chosen by Downing Street, leading critics to ask whether it can be independent of the government.

    Sir John has insisted the inquiry will not produce a "whitewash" but critics have expressed concern about the lack of legal experts on the panel and the fact witnesses will not be questioned on oath.

  • November-December: Former top civil servants, spy chiefs, diplomats and military commanders to give evidence
  • January-February 2010: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and other politicians expected to appear before the panel
  • March 2010: Inquiry expected to adjourn ahead of the general election campaign
  • July-August 2010: Inquiry expected to resume
  • Report set to be published in late 2010 or early 2011
  • On Wednesday, the panel will hear from former senior Foreign Office staff on the claims that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed "weapons of mass destruction".

    Over the coming weeks the inquiry is expected to hear from a succession of diplomats, military officers and politicians, including Mr Blair, who is due to appear early in the new year.

    Sir John Scarlett, the former chief of MI6 who as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee in 2002 drew up the Government's controversial dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, is also due to give evidence to the five-strong inquiry panel.

    Former Conservative leader Michael Howard said he would have preferred witnesses to be required to give evidence on oath.

    However, he said the inquiry would be broader than other past investigations into aspects of the Iraq conflict and may unearth evidence that had so far not come to light.

    'The truth'

    "I hope what we get out of Chilcot is the truth. That is what people yearn for," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

    Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, said it was important the inquiry had access to all documents covering the run-up to the war.

    "There needs to be some definitive view about what happened."

    Despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq after the invasion, he insisted previous inquiries had said Tony Blair had acted in good faith in his justification for the war.

    The BBC's Jim Muir, in Iraq, said people there appeared to be "bemused by the sight of the Western powers dissecting the decisions that were taken... as one politician put it, it's not at all relevant to Iraq today".

    The war resulted in the deaths of 179 UK forces personnel.

    Previously, the Butler inquiry looked at intelligence failures before the war, while the Hutton inquiry examined the circumstances leading to the death of former government adviser David Kelly.

    Sir John Chilcot has said he hopes to complete his final report by the end of next year, although he has warned it could slip into 2011.

    An example of why this enquiry may achieve something for the edification of future government and military personnel but little for critics was provided in the words of the father of a member of the RAD Regiment who lost his life in Iraq. He did not want to ascribe blame, he said, just an honest enquiry to revea the truth, to make sure it could never happen again.

    This shows such a deep misunderstanding of life in general that no enquiry into any war could serve to assuage this poor man's grief and confusion. What is it that he wishes never to happen again?
    Does he wish no soldier ever to die due his equipment being less than perfect and the military plan guaranteed to prevent the enemy from inflicting casualties in an operation where all the reasons for, and means of, fighting have not been discussed in public - presumably for any enemy to approve as well? Or does he complain that we were not completely ready and able to choose the war to fight, when to start it and how to finish it despite the efforts of any enemy force that might change its methods, aims and threats precisely so as to make any well thought plans useless.

    There is no way any human being or any nation can ensure that something 'will not happen again', let alone when there are other human beings and nations bending every sinew and brain cell to make sure that it can. All that can be done is make every effort to look at the world as we see it and as it affects our well being and then act according to the best interests of humanity, in order that we can cohabit this planet with some sort of security for most people. For those who join the armed services, that means risking your life in operations which will never be perfect unless we are dealing with opponents who are so incompetent that we should not need to fight, just round them up with sheepdogs and send them to school for re-education. The awful happenings in Iraq in no way prove that an alternative decision, to avoid intervention because of all the imperfections known and unknown at the time in the reasoning and preparations (all Rumsfelds 'unknown unknowns') would have led to a better outcome for future generations. We are all going to die, what counts is what we leave behind.

    NOVEMBER 29th 2009
    The only thing to come to light so far in this enquiry is civil servants trying to cover their arses. The public reaction is for the usual critics to complain that Blair and Bush decided on regime change in advance and (a) that was illegal and (b) made Blair a liar. It's the same useless mumbling by people who do not understand politics, the law, history or the possible. War is what takes place when international law fails, it is unlikely to be something that international law approves of. Here is a letter I sent yesterday to Simon Jenkins, a respectable fellow, very good on churches, hopeless on politics. I don't expect a reply.


    I was impressed by your concise analysis [on a BBC program last week] of the Iraq decision process as being purely political, but your contention that its was a political failure is not analysis but opinion unsupported by fact.

    In my view it was a political success, demonstrating clear political leadership, which is what politicians are elected to exhibit.

    We all (no, not all, most) knew all the problems that Blair faced. What I did not know was just how ignorant Cheyne and Rumsfeld were. There was only one question:

    Were there natural or domestic forces that would as time passed remove Saddam and prevent some of the following: massacres of Shia and Kurds, destabilisation of the area, the growth of an empire growing on the Stalinist model which Saddam followed with all science and culture bent to the service of megalo dreams and the whims of his dysfunctional family and followers, while external sanctions grew and the suffering of Iraqis were blames on the nations containing him?

    If the answer was NO, was there a window in which he could be removed by a coalition of the willing before, after sanctions and no-fly became unsustainable, he had achieved momentum and capability to make his removal so dangerous it was impossible for any coalition to be formed to do the job?

    We can ignore Bush's delusions and the bust of Winston in the White House. The answer to the first question was NO, and anyone who has lived even under Mafia terror in Italy will tell you that is true. Those under tyranny pray daily for their fellow men and women to come to their aid, as there are NO natural forces to cause time to do the job if good men do nothing.

    You may say Bush and Blair were both deluded in their own way, that is not the issue. Christopher Meyer was just a dandy who wore red socks, not listened to by American neocons - that is true but still not the issue.

    The issue is that most UK MPs in the Labour and Conservative parties understood what I have set out above. WMD in Iraq were what we could not handle in the future. The idea that the dimwit Blix could ever have found them or found that there were not any, at any one moment, was a mathematical geometric impossibility - a science beyond the scope of the minds of most critics.

    So what we have is a political success in the decisions to go to war, but a political failure by America to prepare postwar Iraq because they were seriously deluded and the UK was unable to talk about postwar because we had to please a public in the UK who did not understand the issues. While there was a chance of opening up Iraq so its scientists could speak freely to their own people in Iraq, there was no case for actual war. But after many years it became clear there was no chance.

    It is true some of the British public were misled by some of the UK press and the government did not prevent that. But the non-understanding public has, as a cheerleader, you my dear Simon. You still confuse your analysis with your opinions. The first is limited and often good, but its limitations mean your opinions are uninformed.

    We should be very proud of our political decision to remove Saddam, or he and an Iraq with all sorts of weapons, sealed by Stalinist tyranny, would be there with a similar Iran growing next to it. Now, because Iraq is not a threat, there is a chance the people of Iran will calm down their Revolutionary Guards and fanatics. There is a chance that the International Community will unite to curb their military nuclear growth without any invasion. Iran is not Iraq.


    Of course should Iran become like Iraq, with its people unable to gather and discuss things and if necessary overthrow a regime gone mad an tyrannical, then we will be in a situation that thank goodness we avoided in Iraq, thanks to Bush, for all his personal incomprehension, was nature's Saddam Husssein removal-tool. History is already proving Blair correct in his terrible decision.

    DECEMBER 3rd 2009
    Good points made today by the Chief of Staff at the time. He could not make proper preparations for the invasion of Iraq, let alone post war, because from Blair's point of view the UK press would immediately have said that regardless of the UN vote, Bush and Blair had decided on war in advance. The idea of contingency planning is beyond the meagre intelligence of the UK media buffs and the pacifist brigade. The idea that it was necessary to plan for the entire invasion and aftermath in order to threaten it, still with the hope it could possibly be avoided, is even further beyond them. Since our country is hostage to the media of which we are so proud, a media with no responsibility other than to make money for its proprietors, proper planning for anything except a sunny afternoon is always impossible.

    DECEMBER 07 2009
    Major General Tim Cross gives evidence that tells u what was already known: there was no UK planning for the post-war reconstruction. It was not allowed, until invasion was inevitable. he also confirmed that in the US there was no planning for other reasons. The military said: "We don't do peace", and the State Departmen were sidelined by the Rumsfeld influenced administration.
    That is not to say that massive, rapid, sensible planning could not have been put in place soon after the invasion - but it was not. Readers of this website will learn nothing new.

    DECEMBER 08 2009
    John Scarlett tells us the obvious: that the 45 minute capability to launch chemical weapons did not relate to intercontinental ballistic missiles but to battlefield weapons. If that was not obvious to all, I can't imagine what could be.

    DECEMBER 10th 2009
    More of the obvious is revealed, this time outside the enquiry and well ahead of his appearance, by Tony Blair.
    "Tony Blair has dropped something of a bombshell by admitting that he would have favoured removing Saddam Hussein regardless of any arguments about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."     He was talking to Fern Britton on her BBC TV programme.

    This could only come as a bombshell to bears of very little brain. Blair, along with most sensible people, had come to the conclusion that waiting till Saddam was fully recovered after the withdrawal of coaltion forces, and was equipped with tactical WMD both chemical and nuclear, and then expecting our armed forces to take him out, was about the dumbest plan in history. There was just one window of opportunity and it had to be taken.

    Hans Blix has predictably claimed this was illegal and all grounds for intervention were and are fig-leaves. Yes, yes, dear Hans. You would still be appealing to the referee when your goalkeeper had been gassed, forwards poisioned and the rest of the team bribed.

    Coming to Blair's defence are those Iraqis who say 'it was worth it' for all the terrible collateral damage. I don't think we have to think like them either or even like Blair to know that it was necessary, the least by a very long way of many terrible, worse futures. It is painful to listen to Blair in his own defence, as contrary to popular opinion he is really bad at selling a compelling argument for anything. The man is naive in many ways, a nice guy, very brave, very honest. Those who called him a liar were the people troubled with their own guilt and their knowledge that they would never have the guts to take a decsion to do the right thing unless they were covered with some oily legal guarantee. The law never justifies anything, it merely covers people's arses and enables some to enforce actions in their own interests using laws they 'had prepared earlier'. Saddam, like most crooks, used International law for all it was worth. Blair likes to keep his arguments simple. He trusts his instincts. To put and win the case for his actions, however, against the arguments of the devious and clever people who oppose them, would require a very much more robust approach that attacked the flaws in their thinking. That is not his style. He believes in the rightness of his own views, simply put, and leaves it at that.

    DECEMBER 14th 2009
    Ken MacDonald, a lawyer to his fingertips for whom anything is moral as longs as the arse is covered by some law, is a man who is none the less worried by life as he knows many of these laws become outdated and were not so great to begin with. So the job of DPP (which he was from 2003 to 2008) was a goal worth achieving to assuage his unease. When it comes to the Iraq question he has to claim he and the rest of us were all grossly misled and the whole operation - a
    foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions - in which our poor troops were "misled into a deadly war". Sir Ken would of course have backed down, left Saddam in power and sent the troops in later against a powerful Saddam who would have thrown the weapons he then had against them, knowing that the tactics he employed in 2003 (which he advertised in advance and have indeed caused chaos even after his death) would be no use then. Sir Ken would have had our troops face real opposition, a fight to the death where Saddam would have had weapons and used them, going down in Gotterdammerung style. See the link for Sir Ken's complaint that Blair got carried away. " U.S. seat of power 'turned his head and he couldn't resist the stage or the glamour that it gave him'. "

    No, Sir Ken. I think Blair was a modest man, with a lot to be modest about, but honest and courageous. He hadn't the foggiest  idea if we would find any WMD and neither had anyone else. Iraq was a place where there could have been a hundred Wembly stadiums hidden underground built long ago and indetectable from the air and enough misinformation and terror to make any intelligence indecypherable. The issue was: what will happen if after 12 years of sanctions and no-fly zones and endless small strikes we back down and say "OK, do what you like". You think Iran is a problem? Think again Sir Ken. You don't know what trouble is.

    DEC 15: Michael Portillo, in a brilliantly researched and presented edition of his 'Things we forgot to remember' today did a fair amount to credit Neville Chamberlain with the remarkable steps he took to go the last mile for peace and buy Britain time to prepare its population, aircraft industry and empire for the awful task ahead. There are few who believe now that a preemptive strike on Hitler was possible, yet Chamberlain's record is unjustly clouded in hindsight. Blair's case is the reverse. The strike was taken after he had already gone the last mile for peace. Saddam had never kept to the peace signed at the end of the 1st gulf war. The strike was premptive but only after every possible warning had been given and all else tried. In a reversal of the positions of Britain and Germany in 1938, there was a window of opportunity to make Saddam's overthrow certain and definitive. Chamberlain was cheered at the time, derided later, and will be judged by history to have done the only thing possible and managed it well. Blair was criticised at the time by many, by others later because of lack of planning, but will be judged by history to have done the only thing possible but managed it badly because he could not get the whole country behind him. They felt too safe and wanted peace in our time.

    JANUARY 2nd 2010
    Today the BBC, in its Today programme (given over to a Liberal editor) and later in 'Listeners look ahead', gave rein to the full panoply of depression and wrath of those who find the government to blame for every ill and Tony Blair as 'Bush's poodle' responsible for the dangerous state of the world and worthy of arrest and trial. While the government has certainly made mistakes, as a septuagenarian I find the world in a very much safer state than the one I was born into and the one I lived through in the 1950-1990 period. We have immense new financial problems, rather more exposure to sudden death from terrorists depending where you are standing or moving, and a sudden change in the status and security of all those who have lost their jobs.

    However, while at the time I was unsure of the wisdom of regime change in Iraq, in hindsight I am sure it was essential. John Major, while still avoiding to criticise the war on legal grounds, pretends now, as a result of Chilcott so far (??) to be amazed that 'regime change' was the real reason Blair and others decided to act. Good grief, regime change was what was planned, what was carried out, and in the case of the US was an overt political commitment, avoidable only if Saddam complied with the terms of the cease-fire when the first Gulf War was (quite correctly) halted unilaterally by the coalition. It was halted on those very conditions. Major sounds even more ridiculous when he comes up with the old chestnut: "Just because Saddam was a very bad man it does not make regime change right. There are many other bad men in other regimes. That does not make it legal to remove them". We have covered that point so often it is not worth while repeating but yes, John, it is not legal or necessary to remove all bad leaders by invading their country. Each case must be taken on its merits. This one was, most carefully. Just a pity it could not have been done properly. I consider one of its results, the discrediting of the Bush regime along with its supporters in Congress and the country, as important as the removal of Saddam. What you might call a 'double whammy'. The cost in US and Iraqi treasure and lives has been horrendous, but there is one thing it may just have succeeded from preventing from happening again, at least for some time - the government of the US, as well as that of Iraq, falling into the hands of such people.

    JANUARY 12th 2010
    The Chilcot Enquiry is going quite well now. A few people have been able to let off steam, some justified, some like Ken McDonald an excuse to give vent to personal views without much justification.
    Now we are getting down to some facts.

    An interesting input from the Dutch enquiry into the war reveals that in spite of their political support for the invasion it was clear that the UN resolutions passed did not give individual states the right to invade Iraq. [Interesting that the BBC transcript left out the world 'individual' which was key - the invasion was not carried out by individual states. It was a coalition effort - a bit of biased editing here]. I think we can ALL agree that 2441 did not give individual states the right to invade Iraq. The UN at the end of the day decided not to bite the bullet. Most countries knew that if it came to an invasion it would be better to keep their heads down and the coalition countries could take the risk and the blame, and that the rest could not carry their domestic populations in support of Bush due to his inept rhetoric

    Alistair Campbell shows himself quite capable of making sense and answering the questions. Some people claim to still be unable to understand that the goal of 'regime change' could have been achieved peacefully and that would have been acceptable and preferred by Blair right up to the last minute. Regime change was the fixed goal, war was not. Disarmament of Saddam Hussein was the fixed aim.

    Disarmament of any regime that had shown itself utterly ruthless, undemocratic, violent, capable of genocide and with ambitions to control the Middle East was a sensible aim in most people's eyes. That Saddam had been used in the past and even supported in a 'balance of power' was indeed regrettable but hardly a new class of mistake. The 'balance of power' method has only ever been replaced in extremis by the now even more eschewed politics of colonisation, and the only thing to be said about colonisation is that its time has passed.

    Tomorrow's Daily Mail and some others claim Campbell 'reveals' a secret agreement with Bush to support an invasion. DOH! It was hardly a secret. It was public knowledge that if diplomacy failed and force was needed, Blair had told Bush the UK would be there. How on earth could it have been otherwise unless evidence of disarmament as a fact and as a policy had been forthcoming and the US had still insisted? Only on those conditions, which had been the only ones on the table for 10 years, would Blair have declined UK support. As for legality, the wat was neither lega or illegal. War takes place when compliance with law under diplomatic aegis fails. There can by no definition be a just war in such circumstances when Saddam flouted all laws and the UN was powerless.

    JANUARY 18th 2010
    Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, has give his evidence to the Chilcot enquiry. It is in contradiction with that of Christophe Meyer, the big difference being that Powell recalls facts about meetings where he was present, and Meyer was largely speculating. I think most people are in any event more likely to take Powell more seriously than red-socks Meyer worrying about his image and his future, and that will go for the Chilcot team.

    JANUARY 21 2010
    Geoff Hoon has given his evidence, mainly complaining that the inadequate preparation for the invasion and pacification in Basra was not his fault. He is justified. The fault lies with the British public who had not the sense to see that since we were likely, if the UN failed to sanction action (the only threat which would have made Saddam come clean), to be going in, they should allow us to prepare without claiming that preparation meant invasion was inevitable. As I made clear on this web ite at the time, those who deny the right of the PM and Parliament to decide our policy succeed in the end only in fucking up the result.

    David Omand also has the right, having kept his mouth shut at the time, to state his regret that the cautions of the security services on the reliability of their intelligence was ignored in the government press releases and statements to Parliament. It rather weakens his case though when he admits that he saw the dodgy dossier and did not himself spot the fact that it would later be held to be deliberately misleading or drop the security service in the doo-doo. Exactly, Sir David. You had to button your lip too when the error of not mentioning the intelligence doubts did appear to be being used by those who for their own reasons wished to undermine the obvious reason for the final decision by both the Attorney General, the PM and the military: that it was hardly logical to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt only to have to mount this operation in a few years time when it would be ten times as dangerous. We shall see what the Attorney General, Blair and Brown have to say, but in my view that is the cast iron case that made the war legal and right. In time, that will be the verdict of all Iraqis and of History.

    All those who had doubts were right to have them and to voice them. All those who in the end decided to proceed were right to do so. Chilcott, as I understand, will not be asked to pronounce a verdict on that but to see what lessons are to be learned so far. Jack Straw, one of our greatest Foreign Secretaries, says it was the most difficult decision of this life.

    JANUARY 26th 2010

    Jack Straw rejected advice in early 2003 that invading Iraq without UN backing would break international law, the Iraq inquiry has heard.

    Mr Straw's chief legal adviser at the time, Sir Michael Wood, said he warned the then foreign secretary it would "amount to the crime of aggression".

    But Mr Straw told him he was being "dogmatic" and that "international law was pretty vague", Sir Michael said.

    Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had the final say on legal matters, he added.

    And it was Lord Goldsmith who ultimately advised then Prime Minister Tony Blair that force could be used without a second UN resolution.

    Some lawyers thought and still think that it acceptable to risk our military in what would have certainly ended in a military action against a seriously armed and confident Saddam some years later. Most historians and military advisers thought and still think that risk totally unacceptable when the withholding of a further resolution to authorise the invasion was clearly due to the self-interest of others in the security council. Their loss of face in expecting others to do the dirty work was just one reason for their failure to take responsibility. There were others, none of them based on anything creditable.

    I am sure Margaret Beckett will stick to her guns when she gives evidence

    Now we have some real meat. Elizabeth Wilmshurst says she was told by Iraqis that to go in without UN Security Council backing would be 'the nightmare scenario'. I could not agree more, it was what I said at the time and how it turned out. However it was also clear that there was no alternative. No matter who had been Prime Minister of the UK, we would have gone in and it was as legal as it was ever going to be, because the Security Council was never going to enforce International Law, and the status quo was untenable - as well she knew and knows it now. As for her contention that Lord Goldsmith was asked too late, it was only at the last minute, when it was clear the UN was a busted flush, that he could say without doubt that it was legal to enforce the resolutions already passed. But Wilmshurst was right, it was going to be a nightmare. Now we have to decide what the lesson is that has to be learned. What makes me think it will be the wrong one? Because that would be par for the course in the current climate.

    Iraq legal decision 'lamentable'

    A Foreign Office lawyer who resigned in protest at the Iraq war said the way ministers weighed up the legal case for the invasion was "lamentable".

    Elizabeth Wilmshurst told the Iraq inquiry she thought the war was unlawful without express UN backing.

    And she said it was "extraordinary" that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had only been asked for his opinion days before British troops went in.

    Ministers argue that existing UN resolutions justified the use of force.

    The testimony of Ms Wilmshurst and her then boss Sir Michael Wood made it clear that the legal team at the Foreign Office believed that the war was illegal under international law.

    Legal debate

    But in his final legal opinion on the eve of war, Lord Goldsmith advised ministers the "combined effect" of existing UN resolutions on Iraq dating back to 1991 meant the invasion was lawful.

    However, critics of the war say the attorney general reached his decision just days after offering a much more finely balanced view of the legal issues involved in an initial assessment.

    Ms Wilmshurst told the inquiry she had seen a copy of the attorney general's draft advice in which she said he argued that a second UN resolution explicitly authorising military action was advisable.

    Peter Biles, BBC World Affairs correspondent: This was the most dramatic day of evidence so far. Elizabeth Wilmshurst's appearance was always guaranteed to draw plenty of attention.

    The former Foreign Office legal adviser had not previously spoken publicly about her decision to resign over the Iraq war.

    When she finished giving evidence and the cameras had been switched off, members of the public in the hearing room burst into spontaneous applause.

    Ms Wilmshurst appeared composed and precise. During the discussion about Jack Straw's rejection of Foreign Office legal advice in 2003, she was asked whether it had made a difference that Mr Straw was a qualified lawyer. "He's not an international lawyer," she replied tersely.

    We now know that Ms Wilmshurst was not a lone voice in the Foreign Office. Her boss, Sir Michael Wood, also believed the war was illegal, although he chose not to resign.

    His evidence session was unexpectedly interrupted after only 40 minutes as more declassified government documents were suddenly released and handed to the inquiry. For once, there was a real sense of unpredictability about the proceedings.

    Lord Goldsmith will appear before the inquiry on Wednesday.

    Ms Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office in the run-up to war, was the only civil servant to resign over the invasion.

    She told the inquiry that the momentous nature of the action taken against Iraq meant that she believed explicit UN authorisation was needed - an opinion she said was shared by her colleagues.

    "We were talking about the massive invasion of another country, the changing of a government and the occupation of that country. In those circumstances, it did seem to me we ought to follow the safest route," she told the inquiry.

    She criticised the manner in which the government considered the legal arguments for the invasion, saying it was "extraordinary" the attorney general was only asked for his opinion days before the conflict.

    By this stage, she said it would have been "very, very difficult" for him to take any other view than he did without giving "a public relations" boost to Saddam Hussein.

    "The process was lamentable. There should have been greater transparency within government about the evolving legal advice so that it was not left entirely to the attorney general alone right at the end to say." she added.

    Earlier on Tuesday, the inquiry heard that Jack Straw rejected advice from Ms Wilmshurst's boss, Sir Michael Wood, that military action without express UN backing would amount "to a crime of aggression".

    We were talking about the massive invasion of another country, the changing of a government and the occupation of that country
    Elizabeth Wilmshurst

    Mr Straw told him that international law was "an uncertain field" and opinions were divided over the issue.

    Asked about the foreign secretary's position, she said Mr Straw was "not an international lawyer".

    Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Mr Straw should not have been "second-guessing" legal experts on such an important issue.

    He said Mr Straw and other ministers showed a complete "disregard" for opposing legal arguments.

    "I am deeply disturbed by the implications of what we have heard," he told the BBC.

    But Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett defended the way ministers, and Lord Goldsmith in particular, handled the legal arguments around the invasion.

    "The attorney general's advice to the government, whether on something as absolutely vital as war and peace or on some other issue - it kind of stands," she told the inquiry.

    "My impression of him [Lord Goldsmith] is there is absolutely nothing that would make him give advice, particularly on an issue like this, that was anything other than the best possible advice he could give."

    JANUARY 27th 2010
    Lord Goldsmith, Attorney General at the time of the invasion of Iraq, has given his evidence. It has been properly reported in full. He makes it clear that he changed his mind on the legality of the war only after lengthy discussions on the origins of the UN Resolutions which Saddam was accused of flouting and the history of the negotiations that had led to those resolutions. He held discussions with all the relevant players. The information he obtained included, of course, certain information that was very recent at the time on the ongoing position and political stance of UN members. He decided that there was a case for legally justified intervention and, at the very least, that the case for preventing military intervention on legal grounds was as shaky, or more so, than the case for enforcement. Later, he had to make a judgement because he was the man appointed to that job, long before the issue of the war came up. That he was a not a political animal who had climbed the greasy pole was all to the good. Clare Short's objections on those grounds are absurd.

    I have known a few lawyers in my life and the greatest amongst them have always been very clear in their minds that the law does not exist a-priori. It is drafted and enacted over the years as we find words to permit or enforce actions which have come to be considered 'right' or 'necessary' as part of the social contract that forms the constitution of a country. The same is true for International Law.

    Lord Chilcot has said he is frustrated that he cannot publish all documents related to the case. While it is said by some that this is a cover-up in the name of national security, I would guess it is more a matter of the government maintaining adequately good international relations, not just with allies but others on the Security Council. Is it illegal not to enforce the law when you are the sovereign authority? That would be the charge against the UN Security Council.

    Clare Short's comments, that because Goldsmith listened to US lawyers and took their opinions into account made this 'a dishonourable procedure', are disgusting. I was once a great supporter of Clare Short. She was a superb Minister for Overseas Development. Now I see her as an uninformable mind, autistic in its inability to accept a view other than her own.
    There was nothing dishonourable about Britain's part in deciding that UN resolutions should, in the last resort be enforced and that we should send our soldiers with many others to do the job, as we have done elsewhere.

    In a single sentence then: Goldsmith decided a further resolution was required from the Security Council and on examining the three resolutions already adopted, Goldsmith was clear the Security Council was duty bound after the time given for compliance, with the forces deployed and ready at great cost, to pass that resolution.

    The legality was therefore clear. The matter had been exhaustively discussed, more than any military enforcement of the law in the whole of world history. Those who were against were against on principle. Principles cannot be derived from the law, they are used to MAKE the law.

    JANUARY 29th 2010
    Today is Blair's turn.
    So far (1.30pm) the only things to note are that he still takes the reponsibility on the WMD as his own judgment on all the intelligence, and the decision to back Bush and have the UK join a 'coalition of the willing' as a key player was a political and military decision that had to be taken one way or the other. He regrets answering Fern Britten the way he did, that he would have been in favour of removing Saddam even if there were no WMD in his possession at the precise moment of invasion, but only because it appears to override the clear belief that he did have them because he refused to account for what he had done with the WMD he was known to have had earlier. One critic said it was absurd that the master of interviews would make a mistake. Oh really? A master of science and cosmology, Jim  Alkhalili, has just referred to the 'dark side of the moon' in a carefully made and edited programme on how order formed out of chaos. There is no dark side of the moon! We all make mistakes.

    The audience of angry mothers of sons who had died in Iraq are still furious because they thnks he is a liar who misled the nation. He is clear he is not a liar but and advocate for taking action he believes has saved us from far more deaths than these mothers could dream of in their worst nightmares. He could well be right, and as Keynes said: in the long run we are all dead.

    The enquiry is only concerned as to whether or not there were mistakes made and lessons to be learned. On this issue Balir's evidence will not add much. He only had one big decision to make and he took it. Others had thousands of decisions to take as a result over the following days, weeks, months and years. There were many mistakes made, as there always are. The ones who suffered most were the Iraqis who had suffered under Saddam, suffered under the western sanctions, suffered in the invasion and suffered as the infrastructure of their country was destroyed. If there is one lesson to be learned it is that we were not able to do the job without this happening, because the is no United Nations Organisation with a coherent vision, a coherent military and a coherent state-repairing organisation. Until humanity and its many nations can get past the nationalist manifest-destiny syndrome, the paranoid self-defense syndrome, and the we-are-the-chosen-of-God syndrome, there seems little likelihood we can get one.

    What's all this talk about CERTAINTY in relation to Blair and his going to war?
    He has always made it clear it was a very difficult decision.
    His certainty was only that when in government, decisions can not be ducked. Avoiding decisions is a decision.

    Ming Campbell thought and still thinks that by taking the decision NOT to go to war he could hide behind the pseudo-legality of the UN and its failure; and that he, if he had been PM, would not be responsible for whatever happened if he had not taken the decision to proceed. It would all be the fault of the UN!!! Oh goody goody, Ming - not your fault. That makes it all OK

    We still do not know if the future would be better, worse, or in the very long term any different if Blair had, on the failure to get the final resolution, told Bush to stop or go it alone. Nobody knows.

    Two things are almost certain, Blix could have spent the rest of the next few years in Iraq without altering the position on WMD, and Saddam would now be the richest man in the world. We cannot hide behind the law and the law can not decide what is right at the highest international level. The law is what our societies negotiate and agree once they have decided what is right. That changes as new problems and people arise. This is evident in domestic law. Law is changed as opinions change on matters affecting life and death, abortion, cloning, IVF, sexuality.

    "The law is for the guidance of wise men and the obeyment of fools".  That does no mean anyone is a fool to obey the law, it means fools have to and should. Others may have to take the risk of breaking it because it is either out of date or being abused. They take their chances and the responsibility. Blair took it.

    Death and taxes, that's it as far as certainties go, and taxes only because the alternative is anarchy and therefore likely self-destruction.

    As for those who claim regime change was always 'on Blair's mind' and always an option, there is only one thing to say: never, ever make threats you are not prepared to carry out. If you do, they become forever worthless in the future. The UN resolutions were clear. Only fools make threats they do not really mean, and Saddam took the UN for fools in perpetuity.

    As for the mothers who claim he 'sent their loved ones to war', if find that the final absurdity. They joined the army to fight, they wre not conscripted, end of story.

    FEBRUARY 02 2010
    Yesterday we had Jock Stirrup who gave us the facts. He had little time to get all the kit together to equip our military. He would have needed an extra month. We had all the right gear but not necessarily in all the right sizes in the right place at the right time. It is clear that because of the endless media arguments and the accusations of 'sexed up intelligence', Blair could not do what he should have done: tell the public that for the threat of invasion to have chance of really working, full preparations for the invasion and postwar plans had to be made public well in advance. Once again we see that the anti-war protestors and those who insist on the bad faith of Blair succeeded only in costing lives, not saving them.

    Today we had Clair Short, who thinks that the decision to go to war should not be taken by any PM and his cabinet, but only by collective discussion in Parliament of all the pros, cons, intelligence, reasons etc. Rather as if, at a penalty shoot out, the team came to discuss in full hearing of the opposing goal-keeper, all the ways it might be best to score the goal. Saddam Hussein would have played the British public like an organ. We wuz misled says Clare - 'at least I was. The rest went along.... Tony never told us the real reasons'. I have certaib sympathy with her, here. He never did discuss the real reasons which were quite simply, what was the probable result of continuing to let the absurd Blix potter around while the troops baked on the border (they had to be put on the border even to get the inspectors allowed back in) and were then brought home. She claims the Attorney General misled the Cabinet, but we already know the A.G. was asked by the military for a clear yes or no on legality. One thing the A.G. knew was there was no longer a case for a clear NO. There was one for a YES. So he gave it, as was his job. Here's Clare

    FEBRUARY 06 2010
    Having had a further study of Clare Short's evidence I have to say that a lot of what she had to say about what was going wrong in Basra after the invasion is absolutely correct. The files on this web site are full of comments on this at the time. What she says about her comments being ignored that may also be true. What is far from clear is if her warnings consisted of news that was not common knowledge, and if there was anything that could have been done at that stage, had she been listened to more politely, to make impovements better and faster.

    John Reid's evidence on the workings of the Blair cabinet were in total contradiction to Clare Short, there are no two ways of looking at that.

    FEBRUARY 08 2010
    Today, on the 10pm Radio 4 news, the BBC wheeled on Sir Malcolm Rifkind to criticise Jack Straw's latest evidence. The verbose knight expostulated: "You do not wait till 72 hours before a war to get legal advice" and
    "Britain would have looked ridiculous if, having marched its troops up to the border, it marched them home again".

    I invite Sir Malcolm to consider these statements at length and reflect on the following.

    The war would certainly NOT have been legal until all diplomatic pressures had been used. The definitive opinion therefore had to be asked of the Attorney General when that moment had been reached. The A.G. himself had taken every possible steps to inform himself so as to be able, when faced with that situation, to give the most reasonable answer. Legal advice had been sought and considered regularly, publicly and privately over years and months, with increasing intensity as the deadline approached.

    The diplomatic pressure had necessitated, in order (a) to get inspectors into Iraq and (b) to credibly threaten serious consequences if the breach of UN resolutions continued, to take allied forces to the border of Iraq. If Malcolm Rifkind disagreed with all moves up to and including the point of taking troops to the border, then he should have done so at every stage, since he now accepts that to withdraw them would have been ridiculous and a disaster for UK and UN credibility.

    Rifkind is a very intelligent man, and a consummate hypocrite. The BBC it seems will never cease currying favour with our national store of them amongst the license payers.

    MARCH 05 2010

    Today is Gordon Brown's day at the enquiry. His evidence has been straightforward. It makes 100% sense. Perhaps the ultimate gold seal on it has been Nick Clegg's judgment, that at last Gordon Brown has come clean - when asked if it was right that British soldiers had died in Iraq, he answered yes and this is all we need to know about his moral compass. Yes indeed, Mr Clegg, and that remark tells us all we need to know about yours.
    It is quite simple: Diplomacy had been exhausted, but the UN abandoned its duty at law thereby removing by the date in question (but not before) the legal objections. Of course the Attorney General had doubts earlier. The UN's failure removed them.
    The BBC is covering Brown's evidence reasonably but still harping on about underfunding of the army in the years prior to the invasion. Brown was perhaps over-polite to America on the failure to plan postwar. Those in the audience who could not find other fault with his evidence said how absurd it was for Brown to say 'we have learned lessons' concerning the postwar failure. Surely he had learned those lessons long ago? Yes is indeed, dimwits. By 'we' he meant George Bush and his mob that he acknowledges he failed to pass on the lessons learned. He tried, but failed. To blame them now is, however, politically unhelpful.

    I suppose it is necessary to give Liam Fox his say but good grief, what a hypocrite. Read this, Liam:

    Why do we have to pretend that the military of any nation going to war as a matter of duty can ever be sufficiently equipped in advance. Efforts to do this to even a moderate extent result in arms races and a global flood of military equipment and materials that finds its way into the wrong hands and causes the violence that civil societies throughout Africa and elsewhere suffer daily.

    In the UK, we have always had to compromise between preparedness and political caution and diplomacy as well as budgetary considerations, not to mention the fact that to equip adequately for the present or immediate future would likely lead soon to a massive and outdated military to which any enemy could design countermeasures.

    Any individual joining the armed services knows that in actual combat, they will be stretched beyond the capability of their equipment and themselves. If this were not the case, their very existence would deter any potential enemy from making a single move in the first place that would engage their full capability. This is the logic of the strategic nuclear deterrent.

    The criticisms of the families of soldiers who died because they drove vehicles over mines because of a lack of stronger vehicles or more helicopters are unjustified. It is always possible that an operational assignment in a complex area can involve on the spot judgments which in the rush of events do not get the necessary prior reflection and balance of opinion. These errors must be minimized but they cannot possibly be eliminated. Military operations are not like pest exterminations where the troops are protected and the enemy a lesser life form. They are by definition the enforcement of sovereign will against individuals and groups who have pitted their best and latest intelligence and means to cause death and defeat at every possible moment. To think for one moment they can be prevented other than on a statistical level, over time, is absurd.

    Yet all the discussion that goes on, not so much at Chilcot where they are not children, but on BBC programmes that discuss these matters and in interviews such as today on WATO, insists on pretending otherwise: that we can be prepared for war.

    We are not even prepared for peace. We are not prepared for anything. Indeed if we were, all of life and the entire universe would be completely pointless. The very troubles that the pinheads who fill our airwaves see as cause for complaint are in fact the evidence that should give us hope, faith and love of creation and the meaning of life, for the religious and secular alike.

    As for Nick Robinson's summary of Gordon Brown's performance, I am sure Robinson thought it was brilliant. However it was just a glimpse into the Robinson brain, exposing it once again as the sort of stuff I scrape of my shoes after stepping into something I don't want indoors.

    JULY 2nd 2010
    The Chilcot Inquiry is back in session. Nothing interesting is emerging in spite of the efforts by the media to suggest that there is. 'Revelations' that the Attorney General was lent on during his visit to the US turn out to be nothing more or less than the obvious fact that he had some facts explained to him without any restriction on security, or the need to explain publicly to the entire world why Saddam had to be removed. It was explained why hiding behind a quasi-legal smokescreen and a corrupted international institution was permissible temporarily if it served in some way to move towards better law and greater integrity of the said institutions but, at the precise juncture reached, the failure after 12 years to follow up on UN resolutions relating to a dangerous an uncontrollable dictator with assets that put him beyond the control of sanctions had reached and passed all sensible limits. The sheer force of the facts are what decided the Attorney General that action was legal. More important, it was necessary.

    Should anything of interest come up I shall discuss it here. This, for example, is not of any significance.

    JULY 5th 2010
    This is of significance.
    As Ms Keeble explains:
    she had also planned to quit, but this had become "impossible without getting muddled up with [Ms Short's] political agenda"
    Proper preparation for the war and the aftermath was completely screwed because of the 'political agendas' of a number of influential people and a mass of their ill-educated or confused followers. This is just one significant case out of several.

    JULY 20th 2010
    Eliza Manningham Buller's evidence is straightforward. The invasion of Iraq radicalised a section of the young UK muslim community and this brough a demoestic terrorist threat that stretched MI5's resources suddenly and significantly. No surprises there, then. Those of us who remember WW2 will recall that declaring war on Germany made life in the UK a lot more dangerous, not so much from terrorists as we collared the lot and locked them up (even if they were not terrorists), but from bombs dropped from the air.

    12 terrorist plots were stopped. Well done. A bit strange that MI5 was not expecting this and was 'swamped'. Manningham Buller's opinion on whether or not the war was a good idea was rather peculiar, in that I am not at all sure what qualifies her to make a judgment. Lord West's mumbling opinion voiced on BBC Radio 4 just now was essentially meaningless. There was never the slightest chance that Saddam was going to be given another decade to bugger around and all this chatter about it not being wise to be in two theatres of war are ridiculous. Of course it's a terrible idea. So ****ing what? Cookies crumble and life moves on. There is nothing to be learned at all in this enquiry that was not obvious for ever and a day.

    There is one point could excuse the unreadiness of MI5: how could anyone have thought that removing Saddam Hussein could be construed as an attack on Islam or Muslims? The man was a secular, atheist who's experience had led him to believe that Iraq could only be ruled on the Stalinist model (for much the same reasons that Stalin cmae to that conclusion about Russia and the Soviet Union). The 3rd generation muslims in the UK who became terrorists did so because of the mass of confusing information churned out by the UK and foreign media and the mismanagement of the Iraqi campaign after the invasion. The assumption by Manningham Buller that the invasion took place because of certainty that WMD were present is completely wrong. The certainty was that it was not possible to verify their absence and that in the future, Saddam would and could make damned sure he had them. Those certainties remain as fire-proof now as they were then and no amount of self-justifying blather or proof of incompetence, or even bad faith on the part of a few who supported the war for the wrong reasons, will ever change them.

    JULY 30th 2010 John Prescott gave clear and patently honest evidence as I would expect. His 'nervousness' about the intelligence was shared by all, but it did not unfortunately absolve anyone from coming to a decision - to decide if there was evidence that Saddam did not have WMD and would not get them if the coalitiom withdrew and went home, or that he could have them and would get more. He, like most of the government at the time and most of the opposition now agree with the decision, though to read the BBC reports you would never think so.

    Hans Blix, in his evidence earlier in the week was forced to admit that the evidence that Saddam did have WMD was plausible, but he claimed it was far from certain and he needed more time. Hans Blix is a complete dreamer.

    The intelligence on Iraq's weapons threat was not "very substantial", former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said. He told the inquiry he was "nervous" about the intelligence being presented in 2002 - some of which he said was based on "tittle-tattle". Nevertheless, he defended the military action taken as "legal" and said he would take the same decision again. Closing public hearings for the summer, inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said the committee may choose to recall some witnesses in the autumn and also planned to visit Iraq in the autumn to hear "Iraqi perspectives".

    JANUARY 30th 2011
    The Chilcot Inquiry has been sitting again and called Tony Blair back, along with other witnesses, for 'clarification'. If this matter is not clear now it never will be. This Q&A summary from the BBC is helpful, but there can be no definitive opionion on either the rectitude or legality of the war for obvious reasons. War is virtually defined by the breakdown of international law when demands exceed provisions, one or more parties do not abide by laws already framed, but a status quo is untenable. There was more discussion beforehand the Iraq war than in any war in living memory, the existence or non-existence of WMD was unprovable before and after, and those who wish to blame Blair seem to ignore the fact that he was a restraining influence, not a driver of the offensive. The accusation of hubris makes no sense unless it applies much earlier to daring to run for the leadership of his party and win the election. Once in the hot seat, neither hubris or lack of it can remove the onus of choice. The strains which are driving ther world to a period of anarchy and terrorism would not have been avoided by leaving Saddam in place. Blair did what he saw as his duty. He was out of his depth of course, but Bush was even further from his. However, none of thevoluble anti-war critics could or would or should be put in charge of a whelk stall.

    MAY 15th 2011
    Alastair Campbell was wrong in an important sense to say the dossier was not 'to make the case for war' (see BBC report below).  If it did not make a case for or against anything, it would have been useless. To the extent it put the intelligence that could be used to make the case for war, and there was no intelligence (all agree on this) to indicate Saddam had destroyed his WMD or stopped his WMD programmes, it had by default to be PART of the case for war.  I have no doubt, since it was going to be published for public consumption, the JIC was asked to apply a degreed of KISS philosophy to the drafting.

    The case for war was Saddam's consistent performance, political unaccountability and the fact that unless the developed world ceased buying oil on the world market he would soon be rich enough to buy anything he wanted in the way of expertise, votes in the UN etc. ad infinitum, while the consuming, energy hungry world got poorer and Iraq, apart from those in his pay, direct or conditional trickle-down suffered. Some of the British public seem to overlook that the status quo for all oil-fuelled nations was that they were effectively putting millions into Saddam's pocket every day, regardless of any sanctions. The status quo was not hands-off, it was colossal financial support for Saddam by the US, UK and Europe and all consuming countries unable to democratically deny their citizens the right to buy oil. We could no more stop Saddam selling oil than the FBI could legally, hands off, stop the Mafia dealing in liquor and gambling and protection or get them to act within the law.That was the case, after 12 years of warning shots and UN resolutions, for war. It was not the 'dossier'.

    However, a careless remark by Campbell does not make any significant difference.  What he obviously meant is that the dossier was not
    the case for war. On the other hand we can have absolutely no doubt that it was not supposed, at the state that had been reached, to undermine the case for war. Blair and Campbell can be faulted in not contradicting false reporting in the tabloids on what 45 minutes could apply to but, come on, where do you stop if you start correcting tabloid reporting?

    Iraq inquiry: Campbell dossier evidence questioned

    A senior ex-intelligence official has disputed Alastair Campbell's evidence about a dossier which outlined the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

    Tony Blair's ex-spokesman told the Iraq inquiry last year the September 2002 document was designed to set out UK concerns, not "make the case for war".

    But Michael Laurie said those producing it "saw it exactly as that and that was the direction we were given".

    Mr Campbell said he had "nothing to add" to the evidence he had given.

    The Iraq report is due to be published later this year and the inquiry panel, headed by Sir John Chilcot, is currently considering all the material it has received - including de-classified documents and evidence given during more than 100 public hearings over the past 18 months.

    Among fresh documents it published on Thursday was a letter from Major General Michael Laurie, a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion.

    'Defended every word'

    In the letter, written in response to evidence given by Mr Campbell in January 2010, he disputes Mr Campbell's explanation for the motivation behind the dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

    As No 10 director of communications between 1997 and 2003, Mr Campbell played a key role in the dossier - which contained the controversial claim that WMD could be deployed in 45 minutes of an order to use them.

    In his evidence last year, Mr Campbell said he "defended every single word" of the document and that it did not "in any sense misrepresent the situation" with regard to Iraq at the time.

    Describing it as a "cautious" assessment, he insisted it had not been designed to present the "case for war" but to highlight why Mr Blair was increasingly concerned about the threat posed by Iraq.

    But Mr Laurie - who was responsible for delivering intelligence material on Iraq to assessment teams within the Ministry of Defence - said he disagreed with Mr Campbell's argument.

    "Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not to "make a case for war," he wrote. "I had no doubt at this time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used."

    He added: "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war rather than setting out the available intelligence."

    A similar document produced six months earlier had been rejected as it had "not made a strong enough case", he claimed.

    "From then until September (2002) we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case."

    'Direction and pressure'

    But despite what he said was probably the most thorough "scrutiny of every piece of ground" in Iraq, he said intelligence experts could find no evidence of planes, missiles or any equipment related to WMD.

    Mr Laurie - who is now chief executive of the charity Crimestoppers - also suggested the Joint Intelligence Committee ultimately responsible for producing and signing off the dossier had come under "direction and pressure" - something Mr Campbell has always strongly disputed.


      BBC News Security correspondent

    Why did the government publish a dossier of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

    The official line has always been that the aim was simply to put information in the public domain and not to serve as a piece of advocacy for a policy such as regime change.

    That official line matters, particularly with regards to Britain's spies, who sat on the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which drafted and signed off the dossier.

    They are supposed to provide impartial assessments of intelligence and not get involved in the rather murkier business of pushing a policy and trying to persuade doubters in Parliament or the public of following the government of the day down a particular path.

    The JIC is a collegiate body and has not, in any significant way, broken ranks over events.

    But now, in the form of Michael Laurie, someone serving just below the top tier has expressed his displeasure about the way events have been characterised and particularly the extent to which those collecting intelligence were blamed for getting things wrong.

    He is adamant the purpose of the dossier was, indeed, to make a case for war.

    His assertion that there was direction and pressure on those drafting the dossier will be deeply uncomfortable for those associated with it.

    "During the drafting of the final dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible, the final statements reaching beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts," he added.

    The dossier included a foreword by Mr Blair in which he wrote that he believed the intelligence had established "beyond doubt" that Iraq continued to produce chemical weapons.

    Mr Campbell, who drafted the first version of the foreword - ultimately approved by Mr Blair - said no-one in intelligence challenged this statement.

    However, on the 45-minute claim - which was retracted after the war - he has said the dossier "obviously" could have been clearer about it referring to battlefield munitions.

    Questions about Mr Campbell's role in the dossier were at the centre of a post-war row with the BBC culminating in the death of the government weapons expert Dr David Kelly and the subsequent Hutton inquiry.

    Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it would be up to the Chilcot inquiry to resolve what he said was "a direct and unequivocal conflict of evidence" about the dossier.

    "The controversy surrounding the dossier of September 2002 lies right at the very heart of the criticisms made of the Blair government," he said.

    "Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues will have to decide which of these two versions is correct. They can't both be right."

    The BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Campbell had said he had "nothing to add" to evidence he had given to the inquiry.

    He said the dossier was not about making the case for war but had set out why the government had become more concerned about Iraq's weapons. He added he had "never met Gen Laurie".

    Autumn report

    The Iraq Inquiry, which is examining the decision to go to war and lessons learnt in Iraq policy between 2001 and 2009, also disclosed on Thursday that its final report will not be published until the autumn at the earliest.

    In February its chairman refused to set a deadline but publication had been expected in the summer.

    Alastair Campbell giving evidence

    On Thursday, Sir John Chilcot said the committee now hoped "to present our report to the prime minister later this year but not before Parliament's summer recess".

    "Writing a report covering so wide and complex a time period necessarily takes time.

    "Whilst writing the report, we are also simultaneously seeking the declassification of much relevant material so the public will understand why and how the inquiry has reached its conclusions.

    "If the Iraq Inquiry chooses to make criticisms, as is the case with all public inquiries, this would necessarily involve further processes to give those criticised the opportunity to respond.

    "We cannot predict now how long that would take."