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]
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
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
commission's report, ordered by President Bush
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."
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
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."
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."
we found in the intelligence community's Iraq
performance are still all too common," they wrote.
spokesman Scott McClellan said the president
agrees with the commission that the intelligence community
needs fundamental change. "We welcome the report," he said.
CIA, INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES CRITICIZED
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
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.
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.
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
added: "It is hard to deny the conclusion that
intelligence analysts worked in an environment that did not
encourage skepticism about the conventional wisdom."
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.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGE
commission made a series of recommendations, many of
which the White House was expected to embrace.
* 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
counterterrorism divisions, as well as the Directorate of
* 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.
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
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.
An update on how another test was contemplated to see if Saddam
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Saddam did to his own population, how can anybody say the action taken
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
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
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
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
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
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
WMD are found or not. They should leave politics to the politicians.
Undermining the government to save their own prickly pride is not
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.
UPDATE MAY 21
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
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
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.
UPDATE JULY 9th
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.
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
opposing administration claims of a WMD threat came from a top
Iraqi official who provided the U.S. spy agency with other
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.
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.
1st 2007 A
PPS from MI6
NOTE HOW THE BBC's HEADLINE IS SIGNIFICANTLY MISLEADING. THE ERROR IS
COMPOUNDED IN THE FIRST TWO LINES FOLLOWING THE HEADLINE.
DEARLOVE DOES NOT ATTACK THE POLICY TO REMOVE SADDAM. HE DEPLORES THE
DECISION TO BASE THE CASE IN PARLIAMENT SO CENTRALLY ON WMD
INTELLIGENCE. HE IS RIGHT.
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON THE NATURE OF THE REGIME, THE PROBABLE
FUTURE OF THAT REGIME AND THE REGION, AND THE LACK OF INTELLIGENCE TO,
IN ANY WAY, MITIGATE THAT PROBABLE FUTURE IF ACTION WAS NOT TAKEN
ESPECIALLY IF THE COALITION HAD WITHDRAWN ITS TROOPS AND IMPLICITLY
DECLARED THE UN RESOLUTIONS UNENFORCABLE. DEARLOVE'S COMPLAINT CONCERNS
ABOVE ALL THE DAMAGE DONE TO THE PUBLIC CREDIBILITY OF 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
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.
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.