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Published on June
We thank Llew Smith ( Labour MP - for Blaenau Gwent, UK) for this contribution.
Contact may be made through Dr. David Lowry, researcher for Llew Smith.
for War: how the rationale was changed over the last year
from WMD to removing wickedness in Iraq
by Llew Smith MP
The comment by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Radio 4 ‘Today Programme’ on 14 May that finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq is not “crucially important” because the UN inspectors provided an overwhelming case for war, has led to claims from critics -including several Labour MPs- that ministers have been moving the goalposts to justify invading Iraq.
Mr Straw buttressed his comment, adding “We did not go to war on a contingent basis. We went to war on the basis of the evidence which was fully available to the international community.”
And increasingly in the US, the failure of the American military to find any strong evidence of Iraqi WMD is creating a noticeable and growing unease within both Congress and the Bush Administration. “The Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a pre-emptive invasion has become more than embarrassing,” says Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, the longest-serving lawmaker in Congress, and most vociferous pre-war critic of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption.
Now Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has told the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, on 27 May, that he did not know why Iraq had not used chemical weapons against the invaders as Washington had predicted. Mr Rumsfeld asserted that it will “take time” to investigate hundreds of suspected sites. He also speculated that the speed of US advance may have caught Iraq by surprise, adding “It is also possible that they decided that they would destroy them (WMD) prior to a conflict.”
This explanation was ridiculed as totally illogical on Radio 4’s World at One on 28 May by former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who honourably resigned just before the invasion of Iraq, in opposition to the plans to go to war without legal or security justification.
“It will inevitably take some time to locate that equipment but I am confident that we will do so,” Straw said. “There is considerable work still to do.” The comment appeared to contradict another cabinet minister, the Commons' leader John Reid, who said on 13 May that nobody should be surprised by the failure to uncover banned weapons because no major IRA arms caches had been found during 35 years of troubles in Northern Ireland. That, it has been observed, seems a novel rewriting of history, because the security forces regularly uncovered arms dumps before the IRA declared its ceasefire in 1994.
And in any case nuclear weapons production plants and rocket factories simply cannot be hidden in the same way caches of rifles or shoulder held grenade launchers may be.
But this is not the only instance of ministerial back-tracking on the rationale for war in the past 12 months or so. Below is a selection of verbatim quotes from the three key political British political players –Blair, Straw & Hoon - demonstrating the shifting ground in the face of facts not spin, and evidence not conjecture. Make up your own mind as to what the truth may be.
Blair's speech at the George Bush Senior Presidential Library[7 April 2002]
“…we must be prepared to act where terrorism or Weapons of Mass Destruction threaten us. We cannot, of course, intervene in all cases but where countries are engaged in the terror or WMD business….leaving Iraq to develop WMD, in flagrant breach of no less than nine separate UNSCRs, refusing still to allow weapons inspectors back to do their work properly, is not an option. The regime of Saddam is detestable….it has used chemical weapons against its own people…. to allow WMD to be developed by a state like Iraq without let or hindrance would be grossly to ignore the lessons of September 11 and we will not do it.
Blair's address to the TUC on Iraq [10 September 2002]
“Saddam Hussein is a threat that has to be dealt with…. Uniquely, Saddam has used these weapons against his own people, the Iraqi kurds. Scores of towns and villages were attacked. … Saddam has a nuclear weapons programme too, denied for years, that was only disrupted after inspectors went in to disrupt it. He is in breach of 23 outstanding UN obligations requiring him to admit inspectors and to disarm.”
Straw to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, [14 September 2002]
“Alongside the threats from failing states and from terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses the greatest current threat to global security… Iraq is the only country to be condemned by the United Nations for breaching the Geneva Convention on chemical weapons…. No country has deceived every other country in the world as systematically and cynically as Iraq…”
Blair's Iraq statement to Parliament, [24 September 2002]
“As the [Iraq] dossier [published on 24 September 2002] sets out, we estimate on the basis of the UN's work that there were: up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tonnes of VX nerve agent; up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals; growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores; and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents… There is one common consistent theme, however: the total determination of Saddam to maintain the [WMD] programme; to risk war, international ostracism, sanctions, the isolation of the Iraqi economy, in order to keep it……his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme is not an historic leftover from 1998. The inspectors aren't needed to clean up the old remains. His WMD programme is active, detailed and growing… The dossier is based on the work of the British Joint Intelligence Committee..[ ].. The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative…It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes….we have well-founded intelligence to tell us that Saddam sees his WMD programme as vital to his survival, as a demonstration of his power and his influence in the region….[although] …There will be some who dismiss all this. Intelligence is not always right…. I defy anyone on the basis of this evidence to say that is an unreasonable demand for the international community to ..let me be plain about our purpose…our purpose is disarmament; Disarmament of all WMD is the demand.”
Blair interview with BBC World Service, [9 October 2002]
“The purpose of our action is disarmament of these mass destruction weapons. …However the international community's will has been expressed in relation to the disarmament of that regime rather than regime change itself.”
Straw on 'The Future of Foreign Policy', Lord Mayor's Lecture, [13 November 2002]
“Today, the proliferation of such weapons presents the greatest threat to our security. … Our objective must be to work with the international community to strengthen the consensus against the spread of WMD, in particular through the introduction of effective, intrusive inspection regimes…. Securing Iraqi disarmament is one of the great challenges for the world…...”
Blair and Bush press conference [21 November 2002]
“….the whole world wants to see us now take this very firm stand against terrorism, against issues of weapons of mass destruction….Saddam Hussein has to disarm himself of all weapons of mass destruction and how that happens is a choice for him.
Straw to annual awards ceremony of the Foreign Press Association, [26 November 2002)
“Our aim is an Iraq which no longer possesses weapons of terror, no longer defies the UN, and no longer oppresses its people.”
Straw to Press Gallery Critical Decisions for the EU [5 December 2002]
“As our dossier showed in September, Iraq has continued to develop its weapons of mass destruction…. And they must be accounted for.”
Blair interview with British Forces Broadcasting Service, [20 December 2002]
“we will be prepared to use force in order to ensure that they are disarmed of all chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weapons….
Straw on ‘Strategic Priorities for British Foreign Policy’, FCO Leadership Conference [6 January 2003]
“..we will [also] have to deter and remove the threat posed by hostile or unstable states which possess or are pursuing WMD. … Iraqi disarmament – whether it is achieved by peaceful means or by force – is essential both for the world's capacity to deal with the threat presented by WMD and for the authority of the UN.”
Blair on 'Britain’s place in the world’, FCO Leadership Conference, [7 January 2003]
“Stating our aims is relatively easy and they would be shared by many other countries: security from terrorism and WMD… no one can doubt the salience of WMD as an issue and the importance of countering it. .. with Iraq, the international community through the UN makes a demand on a regime to disarm itself of WMD and that regime refuses, that regime threatens us. …unless the world takes a stand on this issue of WMD and sends out a clear signal, we will rue the consequences of our weakness.”
Straw on The UK and the Muslim World, Jakarta, [9 January 2003] “……disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be a major boost to all of those who support an international community based on reciprocity and the rule of law….”
Straw on 'Vindicating the UN’s founding Ideal,’ at UN Security Council Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Counter-Terrorism [20 January 2003]
“It is the leaders of rogue states who set the example [and] through their chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, again in defiance of all rules, provide a tempting arsenal for terrorists to use….action to stop rogue states' proliferation is as urgent as action to stop terrorism… So the moment of choice for Saddam is close.”
Blair before House of Commons Liaison Committee [21 January 2003]
“Whenever I am asked about the linkage between al-Qaeda and Iraq, the truth is there is no information I have that directly links Iraq to September 11. …in my view the case that we make for disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction has got to be made on its own terms….”
Hoon in Defence Questions , House of Commons Hansard [22 January 2003]
Blair and Spanish PM Anzar, press conference, [31
“….. Resolution 1441 and given Iraq one last chance, and Saddam Hussein one last chance, to disarm themselves of these (chemical and biological weapons ) weapons….. So I believe this is an important moment for us all. It is a test of the seriousness with which we are treating this issue of weapons of mass destruction.”
Blair statement to Parliament after meeting with President Bush
[3 February 2003]
“The duty on Saddam to destroy all his weapons of mass destruction was a central part of the ceasefire agreement at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. In a series of 17 resolutions since then the UN Security Council has put Saddam under 27 separate and categorical obligations: to give full, final and complete declarations on its weapons programmes; to give inspectors unconditional and unrestricted access; to cease the concealment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction… Resolution 1441 imposed on Saddam a duty to give "a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems…. He (Saddam) has still not answered the questions concerning thousands of missing munitions and tonnes of chemical and biological agents unaccounted for
Blair Interview on Newsnight , [6 February 2003]
“The danger is that if we allow Iraq to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons they will threaten their own region, there is no way that we would be able to exclude ourselves from any regional conflict… If he was to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the rest of his region, there is no way that Britain could stand aside from that, or indeed the rest of the world…..we don't move round the world creating war on everyone, but what we do do is we do confront those countries that have this (WMD)material
Straw on ‘Iraq: a challenge we must
confront’, International Institute of Strategic
Studies [11 February 2003]
“International terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threaten to make collective security a redundant concept…. Weapons of mass destruction have been a central pillar of Saddam's dictatorship since the 1980s. …. Iraq was found guilty 12 years ago. Yet they built up their WMD; lied and lied again.”
Straw on ‘Reintegrating Iraq into the International Community- a Cause with “compelling moral force”,’ Royal Institute of International Affairs, [21 February 2003]
“The United Nations has been trying
to remove a central pillar of Saddam’s apparatus of terror - his weapons of
mass destruction …. … Saddam believes his poisons and gases
are a key element in his military arsenal, not a weapon of last resort…..
Hoon in Kuwait [24 February 2003]
Warning of the risks of not stripping Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, he said “People say Saddam may be bad but question whether he threatens us directly. I would remind them of these facts: perhaps it may never happen but history certainly teaches us differently.”
PM statement on Iraq [25 February 2003]
“Is it not reasonable that Saddam provides evidence of destruction of the biological and chemical agents and weapons the UN proved he had in 1999? So far he has provided none.
Blair on MTV Forum - Is War the Answer? [6 March 2003]
“…he's a threat because these weapons - chemical and biological weapons - these are dangerous things. When we call them weapons of mass destruction, I sometimes think it deludes the language of any real meaning.”
Blair, address to the nation [20 March 2003]
“Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea. Their mission: to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.”
Hoon, Today programme, [24 April 2003]
“Once the weapons inspectors went into Iraq there was a quite determined effort by Saddam Hussein's intelligence services to hide weapons, to dismantle missiles into their component parts, to scatter them around to make it impossible for the UN weapons inspectors to locate them. He did not have the time to recover the weapons from those hiding places, to reassemble the missiles and then to fire them.”
Blair, joint press conference with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, [29 April 2003]
“Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and has been pursuing a programme for weapons of mass destruction over a long period of time, that is established fact, that is there in the United Nations and there in all the resolutions the UN has passed..”
Hoon before the Defence Select Committee [14 May 2003]
“The speed and success of military operations meant that the majority of Iraq's essential economic infrastructure was secured before the regime's adherents had time to sabotage it. For perhaps the same reason, the Iraqi regime did not use weapons of mass destruction against our forces. Significant work is now underway in Iraq to identify and secure suspected WMD sites as well as to collect and analyse evidence, although this will inevitably take time…. we had long standing evidence of Iraq's programmes of developing weapons of mass destruction ..I could not accept that there is minor evidence - there is a range of detailed evidence demonstrating that Iraq was engaged in a determined way, over a very long period of time, in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Blair in Prime Minister’s questions, [21 May 2003]
“In relation to weapons of mass destruction, as I have said before, we are conducting a thorough search of all potential sites. We are also interviewing scientists and experts under the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, and I can assure the House that when all that evidence has been accumulated—I think people will find that it is very telling indeed—we shall present it and there can be a proper debate about weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime.”
So Hoon, Straw and above all Blair have put at the centre of their argument for invading Iraq removal of his alleged WMD. But Blair above all should have harboured doubts. In countering Robin Cook's assertion in his resignation speech on 17 March that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction (as he said "in the commonly understood sense of the term—namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target."), Tony Blair used in evidence the information provided by Saddam's son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel, on the extent of Iraq's attempts to develop WMD revealed in an interview with Western security services -CIA & M16- in 1995. But Blair was misleading by omission: Kamel also told the interviewers. Iraq had destroyed his WMD by 1995, as was revealed clearly by Newsweek on 3 March this year.
Kamel has generally been considered the key witness for the prosecution against Iraq. Being at the centre of all Iraq's weapons programmes. He knew everything there was to know. He was instantly executed by Saddam on his ill judged return to Iraq after defecting. On page 13 of the transcript of his interview, posted on the BBC Today programme web site, Kamel is recorded as saying: “All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed.”
On 26 March I asked Tony Blair if he would place in the Library of the House of Commons the text of the interview information provided by Hussein Kamel on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The Prime Minister replied “Following his defection, Hussein Kamel was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” But the BBC has it!
Why were our ministers and Bush’s administration prepared to believe this defector’s information on the extent of Saddam’s WDM procurement and development network, but not listen to his information on the Iraqi regime’s destruction of its WMD?
We may never know: but Mr Blair is still alive to tell us his side of things. Will he?
Page created June 26, 2003 by Charlie Jenks