Monday, 3 September 2012

Tutu, Blair and the 'L' word

Was Desmond Tutu right to accuse Tony Blair - and George Bush, for that matter - of a "lie"?
It's a question that's at the heart of my new book Stumbling Over Truth, published on 19 September.
**Update - looks like we've reverted to the original publication date; 24 September, the 10th anniversary of the September dossier**
Today - 3 September 2012 - is, as it happens, the tenth anniversary of Tony Blair’s decision finally to publish an “intelligence” dossier showing why he believed Saddam Hussein and his Weapons of Mass Destruction were a clear and present danger needing urgent military attention.
More so than, say, Libya, Iran or even North Korea.
The publication of that dossier, on 24 September, was a key moment in what Desmond Tutu calls:
“the immorality of the United States and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 …” 
Though once the dossier had done its job – grabbing headlines and easing Blair’s passage through the recall of an increasingly sceptical Parliament - it effectively disappeared from view.
We all now know that the September dossier – indeed the whole intelligence/WMD basis of the case for war – was misleading. Saddam had no appreciable WMD.
And we now know it wasn't simply a case of intelligence gathered, assessed, interpreted and presented to the public in good faith turning out to be wrong.
The limitations of the intelligence were known and were a source of tension inside the intelligence community before John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and Alastair Campbell decided to use it as they did in the September dossier and elsewhere in the case for invading Iraq.
The way in which that intelligence was used was misleading, of that there is no doubt.
But was it a "lie"?
A question of faith
Those around Tony Blair between 9/11 and the night of "shock and awe" in February 2003 were struck by the strength of his belief that Saddam Hussein had and was "continuing to develop WMD".
Blair insisted he'd come to that belief because of the intelligence he was seeing - yet it was a belief the Head of MI6 at the time seemed not to share.
But he'd faced down the experts and the evidence before - and had been right to do so. Over Milosevic. Remembering that and seeing the strength of his belief that Saddam had WMD effectively silenced contrary voices, according to some inside Downing Street and the Foreign Office at the time.
It was groupthink in action.
And so, when in late August 2002, Blair decided it was time to share with the public the intelligence he'd found so convincing, those who thought it a bad idea - and there were many - zipped their lips and got on with producing the dossier he needed.
In fact, a dossier had been in production for over six months by then. Several drafts had been written but never published for the simple reason that, according to those around at the time, there wasn't the intelligence to convince anyone who didn't want to be convinced.
Questionable intelligence 
As officials were pulling together the many aborted papers and dossiers that were just "too dull to publish", two pieces of intelligence came into MI6 that seemed, to those who wanted to believe it, evidence that Saddam had an active and growing WMD programme.
But there were problems. Both pieces of intelligence were single-sourced; both had questionable reporting lines; both raised more questions than they could answer; neither gave anything close to a full picture ... and both were eventually withdrawn by MI6 as unreliable. 
One of them – the so-called 45 minute claim, the claim that Saddam’s WMD could be deployed within 45 minutes of an order to do so – was thought by expert analysts in intelligence to be wrong. They thought the ultimate source, a sub-source unknown to MI6, had misunderstood something he'd heard. If the 45 minute claim applied to anything, they thought it could only be battlefield weapons, not WMD.
It shouldn't be in a public dossier they argued, but if it had to be, it should be carefully worded and surrounded with qualifications.
They were ignored. The 45 minute claim, worded less than carefully and shorn of all qualifications was written into the dossier in a way that gave no hint of the original intelligence's limitations. Or that anyone in intelligence thought it might be wrong.
And though MI6 wouldn’t let the second piece of intelligence be used in the dossier, 'C' did allow assertions that relied on it.
In the final week, the dossier lost its downbeat conclusion (written by the JIC team drafting the dossier’s main text) and gained an alarmist foreword (drafted by Alastair Campbell).
Language was hardened following suggestions made in Downing Street; changes made after the spooks had seen the text for the last time.
It was a political, rhetorical dossier dressed up to look like intelligence - as if the imprimatur of those whose trade was treachery gave Downing Street's case a credibility its own reputation could not.  
It was “sexed-up”.
Mens rea
But does that mean Desmond Tutu is justified in saying that Blair’s case for war was “premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction”?
I think not. And for that reason, I've never called the dossier or anything in it a "lie" nor accused Tony Blair or Alastair Campbell of "lying".
Nor did Andrew Gilligan in his infamous broadcasts of 29 May 2003, when he reported the concerns of Dr David Kelly. Nor, as far as I’m aware, has anyone in the BBC, certainly not when speaking on the BBC's behalf.
It was much more complex than that. And in at least one important way, very much worse.
Lying requires a guilty mind - a mens rea as the lawyers call it. The liar knows X is true and Y is false - and deliberately chooses to say Y is the truth.
I don't believe that Tony Blair or anyone around him knew that Saddam had no WMD and chose to say that he had. That's what would have been necessary for it to have been a "lie".
What they did know, however, was that the evidence to support the Prime Minister's belief was thin and at best ambiguous. And that what there was was uncorroborated, insecurely sourced, limited, questionable, arguable and, some thought, wrong.
It was no basis on which to persuade a sceptical party and public into supporting something as grave and uncertain as a foreign war.
Creating the truth 
The September dossier, indeed the whole of the government's case for war was no more nor less than what we'd come to expect of New Labour.
It was not a "lie". It was what Peter Mandelson called "creating the truth".
The decision to take a nation to war is the most grave any democratic government can make. Young British men and women shouldn't be placed in harm's way - some sent to their deaths - with anything other than the most sober reflection on all the evidence, carefully and dispassionately presented. That means complete with all its qualifications, doubts and counter evidence. Anything else is rhetoric.
The dossier was rhetoric. The question is, though, whether presenting that rhetoric as "intelligence" was worse than a lie.
Off the hook
There's another problem with the 'L' word, too. It lets those who, like New Labour, "create the truth" off the hook.
It enables Tony Blair to respond that:
“To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown."
That's true, of course. No sensible analysis has ever shown Tony Blair "lied". Nor was that the allegation levelled by Dr David Kelly and reported by Andrew Gilligan, in spite of Alastair Campbell's efforts to persuade us all that it was
However, substitute for the word "lied" the phrase "created the truth" or "misled the British public about the certainty of the intelligence and the conclusions that could be drawn from it" and most people might well take the view he and those around him are guilty as charged.


Andrew Simon said...

Good piece. Although the WMD 'lie' angle remains largely supported by Blairite sycophants as a more easily defensible straw man argument it still remains to be seen whether he will be found by Chilcot to have actually lied about the matter of a specifically unreasonable French veto as being the only circumstance in which UK forces would participate in action without specific UN authorisation.

I’ve taken the liberty of writing about your post here:



The Church Mouse said...

When Tony Blair introduced the intelligence in the House of Commons, he said that it was clear on the subject. Surely this is the aspect which he must have known was not true rather than the content of the intelligence.

Unknown said...

A sober and reasoned analysis. But I fear Kevin wants to have it both ways. He quite reasonably seeks to dispel the fatuous "lie" charge. Yet at the end he suggests replacing it only with slightly weaker variations - created the truth, misled, and so on. Did Blair make a reasonable mistake, regarding the existence WMD? Or did he mislead/lie/create the truth? It's one or the other.

One fairly fundamental point missed by Kevin is that Blair's belief that Saddam was developing WMD (a belief shared by most governments, experts and and intel services at the time) wasn't based solely or even mostly on the intel. It was based on Saddam's history. The intel was regarded as confirmation of what seemed obvious to most expert observers.

Kevin Marsh said...

Good points, 'unknown' ... though I don't think I'm trying to have it both ways.
I think there IS a difference between "lying" and "misleading" or "creating the truth" - and the second two aren't just weaker versions of the first.
As my book explains, it was a familiar New Labour tactic to mislead without actually "lying" .... but then to defend charges that they'd misled as if the charge was that they'd lied, a charge that could rarely be made to stick.
And while in a short blog I was unable to set out the full argument, you're quite right that even though Blair said repeatedly that it was the intelligence that had persuaded him Saddam was a 'real and present danger' it was actually a complex of other influences which the intelligence seemed to confirm.
One point I do think you're wrong on is when you claim "most expert observers" thought it obvious that Saddam was developing WMD - some thought it possible (including Dr Kelly) others that it was likely but many also thought there was no hard intelligence to indicate that he was (within a timescale that mattered) and much that indicated he was not.

Stan Rosenthal said...

The point that Mr Marsh and his fellow anti-Blairites miss is that the decision to go to war was not simply based on the intelligence regarding WMD but on Saddam's refusal to fully comply with an inspection regime laid down by the United Nations designed to make sure that he did not possess WMD.

In these circumstances it was understandable that the intelligence was taken at face vaue, particularly after 9/11 when intelligence which could have prevented that particular atrocity was disregarded.

Stan Rosenthal said...

As regards the above comment from Andrew Simon of the Iraq Inquiry Digest it should be noted that I was banned from this site (after being invited to contribute to it) for continually providing answers to just the sort of anti-Blair point made in his comment. And this is a site that is supported by the Index against Censorship!

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Stan ... I'm intrigued that you feel you know enough about me to determine I'm an "anti-Blairite". I don't believe we have ever met nor had any conversation about my thoughts on Mr Blair.
Two points: first, the former Prime Minister was clear that the reason he asked for a dossier to be published was to share with the British public the intelligence that had persuaded him Saddam's WMD were an urgent threat. You may set that intelligence at nought - he did not and it was an important part of his rhetoric and, he said, his decision making. You may not believe him - I think I do.
Second - the inspectors had, as you will remember, returned to Iraq in November 2002 and by late January 2003 were able to implement an inspection regime that they believed was capable of achieving the compliance 1441 demanded.
Finally - the intelligence was not taken at face value as you seem to believe. Quite the opposite. Downing Street knew the intelligence was "patchy" and "sporadic" and MI6 knew that such intelligence as it had was surrounded with qualifications. To take the intelligence at "face value" would have meant giving these qualifications the weight they deserved. That was not done.
Whether President Bush was asleep at the wheel as you allege and whether his intelligence agencies were as incompetent as you claim over 9/11 is a moot point - it's easy to luxuriate in idle hindsight over these things.
I'm sorry to hear you've been banned from commenting on other websites

Andrew Simon said...

I agree with both The Church Mouse and Unknown here.

Kevin's position is that: "I don't believe that Tony Blair or anyone around him knew that Saddam had no WMD and chose to say that he had. That's what would have been necessary for it to have been a "lie"."

I would contend that it would have been a lie to state that it was certain that Iraq had WMD when no such certainty really existed. Although it was all couched in terms of Blair's own private belief, his introduction to the dossier stated that what "...the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons..."

This statement turned out to be completely false. Either Blair knew it was not entirely true when he allowed the statement to be made, or he was imagining a non-existent reality. Some would even suggest, perhaps, that he was in fact delusional. Either way, it was either a conscious or an unconscious lie.

Kevin, you say:

"I think there IS a difference between "lying" and "misleading" or "creating the truth" - and the second two aren't just weaker versions of the first."

I don't think you can directly compare the first two terms, although you do correctly identity the main characteristics of a lie. The actual act of lying and the fact of being a proven liar carry with them an implication of forethought and a conscious (or maybe subconscious) decision to misrepresent something quite deliberately. To deny something absolutely, anything that is otherwise known to be completely true would be my first example. To claim that something definitely exists when it is otherwise known to be a fact that it doesn't would be my second. There are also other versions of lies, white lies and lies of omission for example. A well-crafted lie can even contain large elements of undoubtedly truth. Only one small part of an otherwise expansive and factual comment may actually be knowingly untrue. On the other hand, deliberately misleading someone about something is not necessarily the same as telling a lie if no actual untruth is told. To lie is almost certainly to mislead. To mislead is not necessarily to lie.

(The third one, 'creating the truth', is harder to understand. How can anyone create truth - as if it comes out of thin air? As far as I can see, it would much easier to create an untruth. An example of this would be to start a conspiracy theory - and then to see how it runs. Truths can be revealed by many means of course, but humanly created like this? No, I think not. If Peter Mandelson truly and honestly believes that this troublingly-produced (and perhaps instantaneously composed) political sound bite is anything other than linguistic mumbo-jumbo I'd be very much surprised.)

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Andrew - I'm grateful for your thoughts (and those of Church Mouse and Unknown for that matter) which shine a light on the complexity of this whole matter.
I hope you take a look at the book when it comes out - it explains in far more detail than I can here in a short post etc why I came to the terminology I did over the dossier and the arguments for war.
I certainly agree that both Tony Blair's statement to the House on 24 September 2002 and the sentence you quote from the dossier's foreword come very close to being statements of untruths ... except that all the evidence I can turn up persuades me that Blair believed them to be true at the time - which is why I hesitate to call it a "lie".
He had to ignore a mountain of counter-evidence to come to that belief as well as the qualifications and reservations attached to the intelligence ... but come to that belief he did.
The job for those around him, then, was to produce a dossier that supported that belief - or, to use Peter Mandelson's phrase again "create the truth". Whether PM used that phrase ironically, only he knows but it certainly captures New Labour's attitude to "truth".

Stan Rosenthal said...

Hi Kevin. Nice to come across a blogger who engages with his commenters. Sorry if I wrongly accused you of being an anti-Blairite. Put that down to my experience at other sites where opponents of the Iraq war do not just disagree with the war but invariably turn out to be rabid Blair haters.

As for your response to my two points, the dossier actually resulted from a press clamour for the intelligence to be published not from any great desire by Tony Blair to share it with the public at large. Blair knew very well the pitfalls of going down that route.

I was not setting that intelligence at naught but simply observingthat in a situation where Saddam was giving the impression that he had something to hide it was understandable that Blair ignored the caveats that always apply to intelligence coming from a totalitarian state. In the case of 9/11 it was obvious that too much attention had been given to these caveats and again it was understandable that the politicians and the intelligence community were determined not to be
caught out twice.

Yes the inspectors did return to Iraq in November 2002 and were able to implement a stronger inspection regime. However UN Resolution 1441 required unfettered inspection and it soon became clear that this would not be forthcoming notwithstanding the wish of the inspectors to keep trying (I had a long debate about the detail of all this at the Iraq inquiry Digest site which no doubt contributed to their decision to expel me).

The Digest were also uncomfortable with my tendency to provide the detail of the Tony Blair statements they were fond of quoting out of context. One of these was the Tony Blair introduction to the dossier quoted by Andrew Simon above. Although Andrew's lead-in on this point seems to have taken my Digest comment on board (i.e.that Blair never said it was certain that Saddam had WMD only that it was his personal belief) he still presents the quote here as if this is evidence that Blair lied. A graphic example of the cognitive dissonance at the Digest site which led to some very nasty remarks being made against me culminating in my expulsion.

Perhaps I can continue my debate here with Mr Simon in a more civilised fashion.


Unknown said...

Blair repeatedly referred to Saddam's history, so it seems slightly unfair to imply he was saying it was only the intel that persuaded him. I'd say David Kelly thought it probable and not just possible.

But more to the point, every government and every intelligence service - even the Germans - thought Saddam had a WMD programme and intended to pursue it. Yes there were experts who disagreed, but the mainstream, orthodox view was that Saddam had WMD. Every Middle East government believed it (even officials within Saddam's own government later confessed to believing in it). Doesn't excuse Blair or anyone else for being wrong (and it certainly doesn't justify any decision to go to war) but he was hardly out on a limb.

As for all this stuff about New Labour's attitude to the truth - come on, it isn't even grown-up. You sound like an Adam Curtis film. All politicians exaggerate, evade, shade, because they have to. New Lab pols just did it in the fiercest media environment yet faced by any UK government. Unless you think the Coalition govt represents some great return to truth-telling and integrity.

I feel like part of you has reached a sensible conclusion via the evidence and part of you wants to reassure friends/colleagues that you're still on the right-thinking liberal anti-New Labour team - hence the 'misleading' fudge. But perhaps I'm being unfair!

Andrew Simon said...

Kevin –

Thanks for your reply. I will indeed read your book in due course, and then maybe come back to you about some of the finer nuances of this affair as you will have described them for us.

For the time being I’ll just pick up on a couple of your points above.

I certainly agree that both Tony Blair's statement to the House on 24 September 2002 and the sentence you quote from the dossier's foreword come very close to being statements of untruths…

Taken absolutely, certain parts of the HoC statement are now seen to be verifiably incorrect and therefore untrue. The ‘top level’ claims contained therein, I think you will agree, were that: “His WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD programme is not shut down. It is up and running.”

Blair had produced and then relied on the provinence of the September dossier in its own right to justify what he was saying publicly. Of course with hindsight it is easy for some to say that the above was obviously a lie. Many people do believe that it was. Actually proving the fact is a different matter.

... except that all the evidence I can turn up persuades me that Blair believed them to be true at the time - which is why I hesitate to call it a "lie".

I think Blair was clever enough to advance the case he wanted to make without leaving himself wide open to rebuttal. ‘Belief’ is a strange thing in itself, the use of the term does not intrinsically imply wholly rational or necessarily completely evidence-based thought processes. So that’s what we ended up with, a dossier and later statements that were underpinned with an ultimate proof mechanism that was not entirely authoritative in its (plainly subjective) origin.

I personally don’t think that we have yet seem enough evidence to finally prove this matter one way or another. Or to come to a definitive conclusion about this whole issue. Blair was (or, if we prefer, is) plainly not a stupid man. He was legally trained and quite obviously fully understood the concept of presenting a successful narrative. Which is all that he was ultimately trying to do. I don’t necessarily think it is ever going to be possible to separate out exactly what Blair really believed against that which he really wanted to believe. (I don’t even know if he himself could do this now at this point distant.)

All I would say at the moment is that what we are talking about here has more to do with the question of whether there is any evidence to support the claim (or less likely – to provably deny the claim) that there were lies told by certain individuals rather than asking whether they were ever told in the first place.

(For that which there is no empirical evidence in either direction, such as in the case of Iraq’s unkept documentary evidence about its own unilateral destruction of WMD stockpiles, it is enormously difficult to prove a negative (or a positive depending on the position of the questioner). In the case of Mr Blair’s beliefs, it may just be that there is no independent and referable evidence available from any other source. Maybe, on the other hand, there is and we have not all seen the full and unexpergated picture as yet. I’m sure we all await Chilcot’s verdict…)

Andrew Simon said...

Stan –

Obviously you and I have a posting history about the subject of the rights and wrongs of the 2003 Iraq war. For the record and the understanding of others here it was me who first yellow-carded you and then later removed your posting rights at the IID. We’ve had this matter out at a third-party site already, and you have been notified that you may at some point be allowed to post there again.

You write:

Perhaps I can continue my debate here with Mr Simon in a more civilised fashion.

I don’t know. So far you’ve lead with the suggestion that I am a rabid Blair hater. That’s a good start (not!). Your very first comment here opened with another personal characterisation, we have had long discussions about the significance of not doing so and you know my position on this posting ‘style’. The ball not the man etc.

Your contention at the Digest for a long time was that, as you have already written here, Saddam was refusing to fully comply with the UN. You could not supply documentary evidence that this was the case on multiple occasions and simply dismissed counter-debate as ‘nitpicking’ (repeatedly). IF you now have some sort of ‘proof’ that there was active and orchestrated interference with mandated UNMOVIC activities you might wish to make your case here.

Unknown –

But more to the point, every government and every intelligence service - even the Germans - thought Saddam had a WMD programme and intended to pursue it.

I haven’t really seen any evidence to suggest this is true beyond the point of the introduction of Res. 1441. Sure, they all knew about the past but this is not the same as interpreting what the then-current position was. It made sense for Saddam to give up whatever might have remained subsequent to the 1991 Gulf War. Why continue to hang on to just a bit (Scott Ritter said 95% was already gone), especially when everything was practically reproducible at some undetermined future date in any case, when his prime objective was to get out from under the sanctions regime and to reinstate normal economic life in Iraq?

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Unknown ... again, I'm intrigued that you seem to think you know my mind - "still on the right-thinking liberal anti-New Labour team". I don't believe we've ever met and have never discussed my take on life.
Remember, my book - and therefore my blog - is principally focused on the September dossier.
It was Blair, not me, who said the intelligence was persuasive - and indeed, had the intelligence not been the decisive factor he could not have answered the question that, by his own and Alastair Campbell's accounts, troubled him throughout. Why Iraq? Why now?
You're right to say that most western governments had come to the conclusion that Saddam had WMD programmes. MI6 believed that too. What was in question, however, was what exactly those programmes amounted too. MI6 believed there was a "paper trail" ... but no actual weapons in any appreciable quantity. Downing Street also elided the distinction between battlefield weapons and WMD.
The consensus, according to those at the top of British intelligence at the time, was that the "programme" was degraded, widely dispersed and its weapons probably unusable. No-one in intelligence - and I mean no-one - thought it was beyond argument that there were WMD ready to go at 45 minutes.
As Paul Wolfowitz - the US Dep Def Sec - shared with us all after the war, it was decided to focus on WMD for "bureaucratic reasons".
As for New Labour's attitude to the truth, well ... since you decline to identify yourself it's impossible to know the basis on which you come to that conclusion.
Perhaps, like me, you were editing major BBC news programmes or a newspaper throughout the entire period of New Labour. Perhaps, like me, you saw what was happening at first hand, day in day out, programme by programme, deadline by deadline. And perhaps you came to a different conclusion about what was happening, how it was different from all that had gone before.
If so, I think you were wrong.
I'd urge you to read the book - it sets out how anyone with an open mind was forced to conclude that New Labour's attitude to the truth was different from all that had gone before.
It's true, I'd only been in political journalism for fifteen years before New Labour was conceived but I think I had a reasonable perspective nonetheless and something of the Callaghan, Thatcher and Major administrations to compare it with.
I should say, by the way, that I'm not wholly thrilled responding to someone who feels unable to make comments in his or her own name. Should you feel moved to discuss this further, I trust you'll do it in the open, identifying yourself as I have.

Kevin Marsh said...

Hi Andrew - thanks for your comments.
One further factor here - which maybe I should have stressed more earlier - is that I've tried very hard in the book to strip hindsight out of what I've written.
I don't imagine for a moment that I've done that successfully ... but what it does mean is that I've tried to get to what we all thought at the time.
It's now clear to all of us that all the substantive claims made in the case for war were false - or "verifiably incorrect" as you more accurately put it.
Actually, it should have been clear to Lord Hutton before he wrote his conclusions - the evidence was there.
On the other hand, when you look closely at the way in which the case for war grew in Blair's mind, you can see how his belief blinded him and silenced those around him who might otherwise have tendered contrary views - indeed, I've spoken to two people who were insiders at the time and who gave me dates and times of the occasions when they thought "hang on a minute ...." but actually said nothing.
Obviously, you're right about the lawyer in Blair ... but that wasn't/isn't his only defining characteristic. His certainty in his judgments - made on whatever basis - were at least as important. You're right, too, that his belief wasn't necessarily rational ... and at a time when reason was paramount.
You'll have guessed by now that I'm a 'shades of grey' type - I think most things are far more complicated than they seem and far less calculated.
It's tempting to look at a sequence of short-term political and rhetorical fixes in hindsight and see what looks for all the world like a strategy.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I've seen no evidence that persuade me there was such a grand strategy.

Andrew Simon said...

Kevin –

Actually, it should have been clear to Lord Hutton before he wrote his conclusions - the evidence was there.

No, I don’t think it all was. Not about everything. The Senate reports, the ISG reports, the UNMOVIC compendium, they all came later. These still don’t even tell the whole story. The Iraq Inquiry (ongoing – perhaps for ever – or 2023 – or which ever comes first) will tell us another version. The final Iraqi WMD declaration forming their own last word on this matter? Expect that only in extract form in about 2038 (with the ‘strictly’ confidential stuff coming out starting in 2068).

It's tempting to look at a sequence of short-term political and rhetorical fixes in hindsight and see what looks for all the world like a strategy.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I've seen no evidence that persuade me there was such a grand strategy.

If we are talking about Iraq in toto here I think we’ve got to look much wider than just the circumstances of the production of the September dossier. Obviously the position of the American (Republican) government is omnipresent in nearly all that befell Iraq. Had Bush ‘43 not been elected as president then I very much doubt that any of this would have happened. I think it is now pretty indisputable that this man came to office with a pre-existing desire to remove Saddam Hussein from power. A great question is about when Blair knew this for a fact. If all of Blair’s case for war was built upon this knowledge from an early point, and incorporated a wish on his part to participate in this action for whatever reason, then all the evidence that contributes to making the case for this to happen, which is not otherwise independently verifiable, must surely be (quite fairly) considered to be suspect.

Sir John Chilcot and his team have a limited remit. They will not be publicly considering evidence which might lead to critical findings against any particular US administration. And they will not be considering (especially) or investigating events concerning Iraq prior to the autumn of 2000. These leave quite a wide exclusion zone. It is not beyond a question of (my own) doubt that factors outside of the spectrum of examination of all the presently-conducted UK Iraq-related inquiries and reviews (notably the FAC, the ISC, Hutton, Butler and now Chilcot) have a bearing on Tony Blair’s overall position on Iraq.

(Have you ever heard of National Security Directive 54 (clue: paragraph 10). ...An explicit objective of the United States... Sometimes these things pass from father to son. There you go. Call it my very own ‘conspiracy’ theory if you want to. Truth or untruth put simplistically? Or otherwise a small but highly significant piece of information useful in the determination of the true nature of yet another far deeper set of truths?)

Stan Rosenthal said...


Your response here nicely illustrates the sort of exaggerated sensitivity I encountered at the Digest site to any kind of criticism with a possible personal connotation regardless of the personal jibes directed at me.

Thus my anodyne reference in my first comment to "anti-Blairites" is distastefully regarded as a "personal characterisation" and my reference to opponents of the war at other sites invariably turning out to be rabid Blair haters is interpreted as a direct attack on your good self (as it happens I considered you to be one of my more reasonable opponents at the Digest site).

In your latest comment you said I could not supply documentary evidence at the Digest that Saddam was refusing to fully comply with the UN. You have obviously forgotten the Foreign Office document I drew to the Digest's attention listing no less than nine separate ways in which Saddam's responses fell short of requirements, which included numerous case examples. I offered to paste the full text at the site but my offer was refused for "technical reasons" possibly linked to Chris Ames (the founder of the Digest site) regarding the document as "a preposterous piece of government propaganda".

Anyway visitors to this site do not need to take my word on all this. They can go to or google "Desperately clutching at Straws, Iraq Inquiry Digest" for the full story in the comment thread including an itemisation of the many ways in which I was denigrated at the site and was finally given a red card by your good self.

Andrew Simon said...

Stan -

I think this is the wrong place for us to pick up on where you forced an end to your contributions at the Digest.

This is Kevin's blog, he's introduced a topic for discussion and that's where we're at with this right now.

Anyway visitors to this site do not need to take my word on all this.

They'd be fools to do so if they did. Again for the record, you claim that the IID thread which you link to here contains the full story about what took place on that website. In fact your last post in that thread, where you suggest you might get red-carded, was made on June 08 last year. You continued to be allowed post rights there (across four other separate threads) and were eventually disqualified on July 27. Certainly I removed your posting rights by first moderating and then 'unapproving' some of your final posts to prevent them being repeatedly resubmitted, but it was not me who issued the final red-card (p=11866).

Stan Rosenthal said...

I think our exchange is highly relevant to Kevin's post,Andrew, since it shows how everyone creates there own truth when passions are aroused. The trick is to determine which is the more plausible truth by clarifying facts and using logical analysis.

Andrew Simon said...

Stan -

I think our exchange is highly relevant...since it shows how everyone creates there (their?) own truth when passions are aroused.

So what is it that you are 'creatively' suggesting here (precisely)?

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