NO ONE’S TO BLAME! –PART 1
Daily Mail, Thursday, July
It is not Lord Butler’s conclusions that are
damning – indeed, they are pretty wet. Rather, it is the former Cabinet
Secretary’s portrait of the governance of Britain as it is conducted by Tony
He tells a tale of rule by elected ministers
displaced by cabals of appointed advisers; of national institutions suborned
for partisan purposes; of a deceit of the British people that sounds no
prettier because it was done in ‘good faith’.
If Butler had refrained from delivering a killer
blow to the Prime Minister, he has provided us all with evidence that is likely
to cripple Tony Blair’s reputation in perpetuity.
The report’s appendices detailing the intelligence
available to the Government about Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs)
from March 2002 onwards make plain to anyone who can read that the BBC’s
Andrew Gillingham was absolutely right: Downing Street ‘sexed up’ the
threat to the British people from Saddam Hussein in a fashion no responsible
prime minister could have attempted.
Lord Butler has done better than his predecessor in the
Iraq inquires business, Lord Hutton, in one important respect\: his report
provides devastating evidence of a failure of governance in which Britain’s
Intelligence Chiefs were foolish enough to
The puzzling part is his conclusion. His bottom
line on this sordid, wholly disreputable saga is that everybody acted in good
Lord Butler, one of nature’s Chief Scouts, recommends
that no individual should be pilloried, be made a scapegoat or suffer a witch
hunt for a silly mistake that anybody might have made:
sending Britain to
war on a prospective that has proved utterly fallacious.
This country went into Iraq
with horse, foot and guns to defeat a threat to British public safety that has
since proved to be tosh. Yet Butler seems content officially to clear the
manufactures and vendors of this tosh to keep their jobs until they reach
index-linked pensions time.
It stinks, and only in
Britain could it have happened. In the United States, a Senate Committee covering
much the same ground delivered withering judgment in a report last week. The director of the CIA has already resigned, in
atonement for his organisation’s huge Iraq intelligence bungle.
In Britain, however, not only
does the man responsible for assessing the Iraq intelligence get promoted- and
Butler thinks that is all right –but also if Tony sticks to his usual form,
John Scarlett will become a Companion of Honour in the next Honour’s List.
For many years now, spies
have been presented to the British public either as comic caricatures in the
movie James Bond manner, or as seedy turncoats of the kind
Peddled by John Le Carre. Most readers and cinema- goers, however, are
sensible enough to recognise that few real spies resemble their fictional
In modern times, the British
Secret Service, SIS has been quietly effective and even admirable. It has been much more highly-regarded than
the American CIA, with its obsession with technology and dire shortage of good
human agents, highlighted by last week’s U.S. Senate Report.
All that, however, was before
Sir Richard Dearlove, director of SIS, and John Scarlett-then Chairman of the
Joint Intelligence Committee-met Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, a
conjunction as disastrous for the integrity and good name of the SIS as that of
the nice girl from Surbiton who fell in with white slavers.
Intelligence chiefs are
supposed to serve national interest. Yet in preparing the Government’s
notorious Iraq dossier, they allowed themselves to be enlisted for a wholly different, and
quite inappropriate purpose: getting the Prime Minister of the day out of a
At the time, Blair was privately committed to take
Britain to war alongside George Bush. Yet he needed a much better public excuse to
reconcile the British people to this purpose than announcing it as his Good Deed for 2003.
a wonderful nature has our modern crusader Tony?]
Intelligence is a craft, not a science. Properly
used, like diplomatic briefing and media reports, it is important tool for
it never has been and never should be is holy writ, to be deployed by
government as authority for such momentous decisions as declaring war.
There is no doubt that the
SIS sincerely believed Saddam Hussein possessed WDM’s. Yet it was madness for Sir Richard Dearlove
and John Scarlett to allow this supposition – and it was no more-to be hijacked
and used in evidence for Tony Blair publicly to justify war to the British people.
Both Dearlove and Scarlett
had a chance to distance themselves from their actions when they gave evidence
to Lord Hutton’s Inquiry.
They could, and should, have acknowledged that the
notorious Downing Street dossier on WDM created by Alistair Campbell at Tony Blair’s
behest, cast aside all the caveats and qualifications about its reliability and
scope, which the raw intelligence material from SIS sensibly included.
Yet Dearlove and Scarlett chose not to do
this. They made the decision to identify themselves body and soul with the
Government’s statements. They stuck with their support for the Government’s
WDM dossier, including the claim that Iraq could deploy their horrid weapons
within 45 minutes, which Lord Butler acknowledges to have been fanciful.
The Intelligence Chiefs today have a choice: to be
condemned as incompetents, or as Downing Street stooges. They have shown
themselves conclusively to be one or the other.
Everyone agrees that Scarlett was an
admirable Cold War intelligence officer.
But whatever his credentials by submitting to become Alastair Campbell’s
avowed ‘mate’, he has destroyed his own credibility.
What on earth did the Chairman of the JIC think he
was doing, sharing as much as a mug of tea with the Prime Minister’s chief of
propaganda, never mind working with him to draft a wildly speculative political
document for public consumption.
And what did Lord Butler think he was doing,
producing a report which contains no mention of Campbell? We are left to
suppose that he thinks Othello would have been less distressing play without Iago
Dearlove and Scarlett allowed themselves and their
service to be prostituted for the explicitly political purpose: convincing the
British people that Saddam Hussein presented an immediate threat to their
It was on their authority that Tony Blair told the
House of Commons in February 2003:
‘The intelligence is clear…the
biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum,
aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually
result in excruciatingly painful death.’