Summary March 31 2005
with updates added Feb 2006
A look at the position in Feb 2004
a Post Script April 22 2006
a PPS November 1st 2007
MARCH 31 2005
We now have the report by a Presidential Commission that blames he intelligence services for incorrect information on WMD in Iraq. But Saddam was removed because he made sure Iraqis believed he had WMD to use against them if they were ever to vote for anyone else in an election, and had refused to comply with UN resolutions that demanded he demonstrate that he had neither the weapons nor the programs to create them. He was not removed on the basis of intelligence. He was removed on the basis of a lack of intelligence and a lack of information from Iraq. The CIA and other agencies had to come with evidence either in support of, or in denial of, this WMD capability. The only sources they had on the ground in Iraq were Iraqis on the receiving end of Saddams repression, backed by internal the WMD threat he was so creful to maintain. How on earth would it have been possible for the CIA or others to bet their reputation, and undermine the case for Saddam's removal, on the premise that the only intelligence they did have was unverifiable? All intelligence of the type we are talking about, that cannot possibly come from aerial reconnaissance (Chemical and biological weapons can be stored in a tiny volume, deployed instantly from hidden locations), depends on human agents on the grounds. We all know how double edged this intelligence is even in an open society. In Saddam's Iraq, where to speak the truth even in a whisper could have fatal consequences, reality could only ever be the subject of speculation. So while no doubt improvements can be made in the methods of obtaining intelligence, this has nothing to do with the reasons for going to war to remove Saddam. He could have avoided that at any time by complying with the UN resolutions. The case of North Korea is completely different. North Korea is a poor country. It survives by forging dollar bills. Its president is incabable of bribing the international community or taking over the entire middle east unless continuously militarily contained. Making US Intelligence the fall guys is convenient, but the fact is the removal of Saddam was a political decision made because containment was not sustainable and the alternatives not tolerable for Iraq or the world. The intelligence community was out of the loop. They were not leant on, they just refused to be responsible for preventing Saddam's removal. [See postscript April 22 2006 below]

I include the Reuters summary of the Commission report here. It in no way invalidates any of the points made in the diary of thoughts written a year ago which I leave here for the record, following this summary.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) March 31 2005  - U.S. intelligence on Iraq was "dead wrong" in almost all cases before the Iraq war and flaws are still all too common throughout an American spy community that requires a major overhaul, a presidential commission reported on Thursday.

The commission's report, ordered by President Bush after he launched the Iraq war two years ago based on intelligence about its weapons programs that proved to be false, said the harm done to American credibility "will take years to undo."

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commissioners wrote.

And at a time when the United States is accusing Iran of nuclear ambitions and pressuring North Korea, the report said: "Across the board, the intelligence community knows disturbingly little about the nuclear programs of many of the world's most dangerous actors."

The presidential commission, led by appeals court judge Laurence Silberman and former Virginia Republican Sen. Charles Robb, called for broad and deep change in the intelligence community to make it capable of developing long-term plans for "penetrating today's difficult targets."

"The flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance are still all too common," they wrote.

White house spokesman Scott McClellan said the president agrees with the commission that the intelligence community needs fundamental change. "We welcome the report," he said.


In what amounted to a direct assault on George Tenet, who was CIA director in the run-up to the Iraq war and gave the president his daily intelligence briefing, the commission found that "the daily reports sent to the president and senior policymakers discussing Iraq over many months proved to be disastrously one-sided."

Bush, accused of hyping the intelligence on Iraq in order to pursue a costly war with a deadly aftermath, and his inner circle escaped direct blame.

The commission said it found no evidence that the White House or the Pentagon put political pressure on analysts to color the intelligence to back up their claims.

"The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments," the report said.

But it added: "It is hard to deny the conclusion that intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom."

The 600-page report sharply criticized the intelligence-gathering on Iraq by the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and other agencies on Iraq before a war fought over claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, none of which was found.

"In the end, those agencies collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading," it said.


The commission made a series of recommendations, many of which the White House was expected to embrace.

The recommendations included:

* creation of a national counter-proliferation center to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

* establishing a separate National Security Service within the FBI that includes the bureau's counterintelligence and counterterrorism divisions, as well as the Directorate of Intelligence.

* designate a point-person under the new director of national intelligence who will be responsible for both information sharing and information security "in order to break down cultural and policy barriers."

* create a new Human Intelligence Directorate within the CIA to ensure the coordination of all U.S. agencies conducting human intelligence operations overseas.

* establish an organization to perform only long-term and strategic analysis under the National Intelligence Council.

* create a non-profit "sponsored research institute" that would function outside the intelligence community and provide a "critical window" by conducting its own intelligence research and analysis.

Bush has nominated John Negroponte to become director of national intelligence, but he is yet to be confirmed by the Senate. The job was established to better coordinate intelligence in the wake of the Iraq failures.

FEBRUARY 03 2006 
An update on how another test was contemplated to see if Saddam was really hiding something he was prepared to risk a fight for. This is an article from the Independent. I am not sure that the plane needed to be fake. Such planes had already flown on these missions for the UN. The only difference was to fly it a bit lower to see if Saddam had given orders to shoot. Hardly a plot. It would not have worked anyway, so presumably that's why it was not tried

Bush 'plotted to lure Saddam into war with fake UN plane'

By Andy McSmith

Published: 03 February 2006

George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.

The two leaders were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

He added: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated." The memo damningly suggests the decision to invade Iraq had already been made when Mr Blair and the US President met in Washington on 31 January 2003 ­ when the British Government was still working on obtaining a second UN resolution to legitimise the conflict.

The leaders discussed the prospects for a second resolution, but Mr Bush said: "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway." He added that he had a date, 10 March, pencilled in for the start of military action. The war actually began on 20 March.

Mr Blair replied that he was "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam." But he also insisted that " a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs" .

The memo appears to refute claims made in memoirs published by the former UK ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, who has accused Mr Blair of missing an opportunity to win the US over to a strategy based on a second UN resolution. It now appears Mr Bush's mind was already made up.

There was also a discussion of what might happen in Iraq after Saddam had been overthrown. President Bush said that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not respond. Details of the meeting are revealed in a book, Lawless World, published today by Philippe Sands, a professor of law at University College London.

"I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy planes to review what is going on would be considered," Mr Sands told Channel 4 News last night. "What is surprising is the idea that they would be painted in the colours of the United Nations to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach.

"Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises... questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."

Other participants in the meeting were Mr Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, her deputy, Dan Fried, the chief of staff, Andrew Card, Mr Blair's then security adviser, Sir David Manning, his foreign policy aide, Matthew Rycroft, and his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.

The Downing Street spokesman later said: "The Prime Minister only committed forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the Commons in the vote on 18 March 2003."

The spokesman added: "All these matters have been thoroughly investigated and we stand by our position."

* The Ministry of Defence will publish casualty figures for UK troops in Iraq on its website within the next few weeks, the Government disclosed last night. Defence Secretary John Reid said the figures ­ which will be regularly updated ­ would identify the number of personnel categorised as seriously injured and very seriously injured. He promised to alert MPs before the first publication of the figures. The pledge came in a Commons written reply.

Feb 1 2004

The idea that the removal of Saddam Hussein was pre-emptive is absurd. Decades of butchery, 12 years of defiance of UN resolutions, the ruination of a whole country wherein law and order was assured only by terror and genocide, restrained only by continuous enforcement of no-fly zones in the north and south, were just some of the reasons why action was finally taken. Other reasons were the consequences of what would have happened if any of the alternative options were pursued.

Unless we assert that despite globalization and world dependence on a sharing of resources, the behaviour of the tyrannical leader of one of the world's resource-richest nations is not in any way a matter for the Internation Community to approve or disapprove, we cannot by the wildest stretch of language categorize the action taken to remove him as pre-emptive. After twelve years of diplomacy and sanctions and military containment, the point came when the UN gave Saddam a simple choice: show with documentation and the production of the personnel concerned how weapons programs, production and stocks have been stopped and disposed of, or stand down, or face forcible removal.

After what Saddam did to his own population, how can anybody say the action taken was pre-emptive.

So what is the point of talking now about a 'failure of intelligence' because we have not stumbled upon buried piles of WMD? What possible difference does that make to the decision taken to give Saddam a real deadline and remove him if he did not meet it? The answer is none at all. There are great problems now in Iraq, but they are piddling compared to those we would have if we and backed down and let Saddam and his ilk get away with it. The price as usual is being paid by innocents, but that makes not the slightest difference to the truth, that the removal of Saddam or his reformation was essential and  the only way he could survive was by tyranny and terror.

The UN should have taken charge and called the shots, but it failed to do so. There is no way what happened can be called desirable, but if it was to be avoided, the international community should have taken reponsibility.

UPDATE FEB 2nd 2004
As far as Weapons of Mass Destruction are concerned, Robin Cook is right on one point: it would be grotesque if the security services were going to be made the can-carriers for the war. There should be no can-carriers at all. The removal of Saddam Hussein was neither an error or an illegal operation. It was a necessity. That is clear to anyone with access to the necessary intelligence. By intelligence, we must include all available knowledge of past and present WMD programmes and operations in Iraq, but this is far from the majority of what needs to be considered, even if it is a vital element. Intelligence in this case includes a great deal more knowledge that has never been discussed in the media, in this context, at all. It is knowledge that I like to think is within the understanding of some of the government's best advisors. How much of it will come up in the inquiry is unpredictable. Personally I doubt if many of the self-appointed interrogators have sufficient education to know what questions to ask or what issues to raise.  If what people want is for all human and technological sources to be named and evaluated, they will have to realise that this can only be done with a protective covering of the actual, precise identification.

Hans Blix said he needed more time. He did not actually ask for more time, but said that without more time he could not deliver. The truth is that Hans Blix could have wandered around for years without resolving any problem for the UN, for Iraq or anyone else. Kenneth Clark is still maintaining that he could have. What are we to make of this imbecility by even the most intelligent of opposition spokesmen? Jeremy Paxman is now asserting agressively, as I write, that the purpose of the coming inquiry is to blame the intelligence services. Why do we have to listen to this immaturity and actually PAY for the privilege?

An inquiry was bound to take place if those looking for WMD reached a stage where, even if not finished, they had to report that the intelligence they were working on with regard to the location of WMD stocks was not yielding any result. It has not been brought about by the BBC or anyone else. It has been brought about by David Kay, an honest and competent man tasked with doing an honest and serious job. Neither the so-called anti-war lobby or the media have contributied one atom to it, least of all Gilligan.

It is an over-used phrase these days, but if ever there was a place for it, it is here and now: "The dogs bark, but the caravan passes anyway." The dogs may bring down a caravan driver or two; they have already brought down several over the past few years, some because they had indeed trailed their coats a bit low, but the caravan will pass......nevertheless. Since it is our own caravan, it would be better if we used a touch of logic in the criticism and advice we give the drivers. Nobody need fear the outcome of this inquiry, though some may learn something from it.

UPDATE FEB 10th 2004
On June 5th last year I wrote:
The reputation of anonymous (to the public) intelligence specialists is not a national interest of great magnitude. That the public should trust its Prime Minister to be honest (which sensible people can see that he is) is more important. MI6 staff are expendable and anyway have probably been faultless in their briefings so no heads will role whether WMD are found or not. They should leave politics to the politicians. Undermining the government to save their own prickly pride is not called for.

On July 22nd, the day after Kelly's death, I wrote:
Dr Kelly then found himself the single individual behind which all these others were sheltering. No other source was going to own up, however many there may have been egging on the baying herd. All of them must have known Dr Kelly's cover would eventually be blown. Were they then going to come out of the woodwork and support him? Unlikely.

It turns out that that it was Brian Jones, the top WMD expert of the Defense Intelligence Staff, who was the man who was worried, not exclusively about his personal reputation, but that of his life's work and the possible effect of any failure to find WMD on the credibility of intelligence warnings on the global dangers of proliferation. When the dossier was published and the press for their own reasons fastened on the 45 minute detail, Jones was not unduly worried. he did not associate newspaper stories with serious intelligence biefings. When Gilligan ran his story, Jones did still not connect. When Kelly committed suicide, Jones appeared oblivious that his own reservations were behind the story that the BBC had forced Dr Kelly to carry the can for by putting its whole reputation on the line behind Gilligan's claim of deliberate misleading of parliament by the government. Only later has he broken cover to explain his thinking.

So here we have it. The intelligence on WMD could be right, or it could be wrong. We have yet to know. The decision to remove Saddam could be right, or it could be wrong. We may never know. But the fear in the intelligence community is that the one things they are entirely certain of: the coming dangers of proliferation of WMD and the serious measures that will need to be taken to mitigate the risks, may lack future credibility because the WMD intelligence on Iraq has become associated in the public mind with the trigger for war, whereas in the thinking of the coalition leaders it was just a brick in the wall of the legal justification for an action which had to be undertaken to avoid future scenarios for which there was no acceptable solution in sight.

I have as yet seen no evidence or reason to withdraw or alter any opinion I have voiced on this web site.

Now that we have seen the USA shoot its moral reputation in the back by allowing and (yes, let us face it, encouraging) the disgusting behaviour  of those given the low-level job of 'softening up' prisoners in Baghdad gaols before interrogation, it is time to seriously evaluate the moral position of the UK.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld must take responsibility at the highest level.

Bush, for his absurd and pathetic rhetoric at the start of the Iraq Operation. Here is a man who pretended to wear the mantle of Winston Churchill while telling his army to 'Go and kick ass' in Iraq. In those few careless, arrogant words he is responsible for the more detached level of patriotic innocents going off the rails. Compare and contrast the words of Lt-Colonel Tim Collins, recorded on this web site.  There was a man who had been in action, who knew how in the heat of battle, awful things happen; and that in replacing a man like Saddam we had to treat the inhabitants of Iraq, on whose good will the entire operation rested, with respect.

Cheney for his role in allowing and encouraging the Pentagon rather than the State Department to decide on post-war planning. Perhaps we in Europe underestimated the consequences of the 9/11 attack. We all think of New York. But the real hurt to the proudest men in America was the realisation that the centre of the Defence Department of the world's most powerful nation, that they believe to be the last hope of the world, was humiliatingly struck with a direct hit, killing many and without a blow struck in its own defence.

Rumsfeld for his entire attitude to everything. The average US GI would come to the conclusion: Bush probably hasn't a clue what goes on in US Prisons, so how would he have any control on one in Iraq full of people whose ass we have been told to kick anyway. Rumsfeld may know, but if does he won't care. He needs the intelligence. Failure is not an option.

So far, all that has happened is that following some plea bargaining, one wretched US soldier (who bears almost no responsibility for the abuse but was the man who took the pictures) has been found guilty by a limited form of Court Martial, punished and dismissed the service. What is still to come with the other defendants will be far more to the point.

The British Prime Minister will now be carrying an even heavier can for associating with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He actually had no choice.

As has been pointed out on this web site from the very beginning, Bush would bring down Saddam, and Saddam would bring down Bush. Bush's America is Natures tool for ridding the world of Saddam; but the operation will reveal the flaws in Bush's America. That is how it has to be. If it was not so, we would be in far deeper trouble. And of course the hardworking realists like Jeremy Greenstock will take all the flak even though they did their best and called the best judgments all the time.

Let us retain two opinions:
"America will always do the right thing after exploring all other possibilities"
"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what's right with America"

The first is attributed to Winston Churchill.
The second is attributed to Bill Clinton, or one of his speech writers, though in fact it was written by me in the mid 1980s on a US computer conferencing system, not in defence of America but in defence of myself after previous rather acid criticism of some US policies at the time with respect to domestic fuel consumption, funding terrorists and foreign policy.

There are still those who claim the war in Iraq was 'illegal'. There are still those who do not understand the method of operation of modern parliamentary democracies.  An action of this kind is legal when the the Attorney General, after due debate and consultation, acting in his official capacity, advises the executive arm of government that it is so.  There is no other source of authority better placed to judge the matter, or so clearly charged with taking the responsibility.

Things are looking bad, but absolutely nothing can make right the arguments or the general position of those who prevented the UN from giving full backing to the removal of Saddam, the same who are responsible for America acting, as it had to, without full UN approval and hence without UN supervision. Leaving Saddam in power was never an option. The world is a more violent place because of the action taken. That is not to say it is more dangerous than it would have been if the UN's 12 resolutions had been ignored and Saddam become the ruler of the Middle East which, as the individual with more unaccountable wealth at his disposal, he would have been.

Today we witness the extraordinary business of American congresspersons claiming that if they knew before what they know now, they would never have voted for the war. How naive can these guys be? We know nothing now we did not know then, unless you believed that Saddam Hussein would actually have had weapons to be found so he could be hauled up before an international court - or that he would use WMD at this stage against an invading international force and suffer obliteration as a consequence. Pull the other leg please. It is however true that the CIA appeared to have given Rumsfeld, Cheney and Powell some intelligence that was seriously cooked by Iraqis who wanted to make sure the coalition had enough stuff to sell the operationto the American public, and something of the same may be said to have happened in the UK. But let us not forget that Dr Kelly, the late Dr Kelly who was used by Gillighan to undermine the case for action, was himself the man who knew more about Iraq and their WMD plans and culture, and his view was that inspections were useless and Saddam had to be removed because of his WMD intentions. Let us not forget either that without Pearl Harbour, Roosevelt could never have taken the US int world war two. Joseph Kennedy's arguments would have prevailed. Germany would now rule Europe. And Pearl Harbour happened because it was allowed to happen, thanks to British and American Intelligence. In the current case, there was intelligence evidence pointing in both directions: on the one hand that\Saddam still had stocks and still had programmes, and missiles with perfomance beyond that allowed by UN agreements, on the other hand that some sources of intelligence that confirmed this were flaky and uncorroborated. See comments on the Butler Report for some further insights.

APRIL 22 2006

Fri Apr 21, 5:39 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA had evidence Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction six months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion but was ignored by a White House intent on ousting Saddam Hussein, a former senior CIA official said according to CBS.

Tyler Drumheller, who headed CIA covert operations in Europe during the run-up to the Iraq war, said intelligence opposing administration claims of a WMD threat came from a top Iraqi official who provided the U.S. spy agency with other credible information.

Of course it would have. Saddam was not an idiot. And although it is fashionable to claim that his judgment is always faulty, in so far as once again he believed the US and a coalition would not take action, it must be made clear that he was encouraged in this belief this time by senior diplomatic contacts in a number of powerful UN member countries. So although there was intelligence to indicate that he had and would in the future have a WMD program and the weapons, there was no way he was going to be caught red handed. However, Saddam was still removed on the basis of WMD intelligence, his history and his potential in relation to WMD and his economic capability in alliance with such potential. This was the basis of his intolerable tyranny which, if allowed to continue and self perpetuate, would have given rise to a problem in the 21st century beyond the power of any coalition to solve.

The situation in Iran today is very different in some respects. The Iranian regime are publicly declaring their technical capability. The problem lies not in their history of WMD, not in any threat of use of WMD to control internal dissent. I does not seriously lie in the ill-chosen words of a head of government who said he wanted Israel wiped from the map, as he is not going to do that. But it does stem from the previous covert breaking of non-proliferation agreements over the years, from the misguided intentions of some Iranians which have been duly noted, and by guerilla or terrorist activities attributed to sponsorship or tolerance by Iran.

The way forward for a peaceful Iran is to let Iranians run it, in confidence, knowing that they can develop at their own pace but with modern, open communications allowing them to join the international community according to taste. IAEA Inspections should assist in this even if they cannot possibly at any time give total assurance in detail of Iranian research and development in nuclear power. The only people who can discourage and control Iranian terrorism are Iranians.

NOVEMBER 1st 2007     A PPS from MI6



Ex-MI6 boss attacks Iraq policy
Government policy was too dependent on intelligence in the run-up to war with Iraq, the former head of MI6 has said.

Speaking in London, Sir Richard Dearlove said when the government made its case in Parliament, too much emphasis was put on intelligence.

In reality, there were many other factors contributing to policy decisions, he said.

This turned out to have highly undesirable consequences for the intelligence community, he added.

Rift rumours

Sir Richard, the head of the intelligence service from 1999 until 2004, made the remarks at the London School of Economics.

In his lecture on intelligence and the media, he said the government felt using intelligence as the primary justification for its actions when presenting its case in Parliament was the best chance of winning over its opponents.

But he went on to say the conjunction of events relating to Iraq was highly unusual and unlikely to apply to issues such as Iran's nuclear programme.

In 2003, there were reports of a rift between the government and Sir Richard over intelligence, but they were denied by Tony Blair's government at the time.

There were also suggestions Mr Dearlove stood down from the post known as 'C' in 2004 over the matter.

But the Foreign Office insisted his retirement was in no way connected to events relating to Iraq.