The Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government have lied to the British people in order to wage war in Iraq and this irresponsible action has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent individuals.
These lies were fashioned over a year ago and formed the basis of the government’s September dossier in 2002 and Tony Blair’s speech to Parliament on the 24th of the same month. The crux of the false allegations is that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was therefore a threat to both her neighbours in the Middle East and the Western world.
Three of the lies were statements made by Tony Blair to Parliament. The fourth is a “lie” of omission.
“Iraq has chemical and biological weapons” and that, “Saddam has continued to produce them”.[i]
Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes.
“he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes”[ii]
Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger in Africa in order to produce a nuclear warhead.
“In addition, we know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa”[iii]’
Tony Blair did not say that the intelligence assessment was that Iraq would only use chemical or biological weapons if attacked.
Lie One – “Iraq has chemical and biological weapons”
In examining the post-conflict situation in Iraq the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was in the process of producing more looks ridiculous. Leaks from the Iraq Survey Group suggest that after 6 months they have found no evidence of any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Dr. Hans Blix, the former head of the United Nations inspection team, has recently stated that he believes that Saddam Hussein destroyed what weapons he had ten years ago. He said, “the more time that has passed, the more I think it is unlikely that anything will be found.”[iv] The lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction has created a problem for the Prime Minister, as they were the foundation of his decision to go to war. Therefore the war was based on a lie and the Prime Minister is aware of this. On the 4th September this year, he spoke of finding weapons programmes in Iraq rather than actual weapons. “ I have got no doubt at all…that they will find evidence that those programmes were continuing”.[v] The justification for war now appears feeble and unconvincing.
Lie Two – Weapons of mass destruction could be activated in 45 minutes
The 45 minutes claim is an obvious lie, which has caused deep embarrassment to the government. It generated problems when it was included in the September dossier because as Andy McSmith of The Independent on Sunday points out, “it was arresting detail that the public had not seen before.” However, the claim led to charges from the BBC that the government ‘sexed up’ the document in order to convince the British people that war was necessary. The unfortunate death of Dr. David Kelly and the Hutton Inquiry into his apparent suicide has shed some new light into the 45 minutes claim and revealed discrepancies between the government and the intelligence services over the compilation of the dossier. In his evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, Dr. Brian Jones, the retired branch head of the defence intelligence analysis staff alleged that the Iraqi military capacity had not been correctly represented in the dossier. According to Dr. Jones, there was a difference between the type of weaponry commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction and the chemical and biological weapons detailed in the document which the government claimed could be launched in 45 minutes.
Yet the government allowed these weapons to be interpreted as weapons of mass destruction in order to persuade doubters that military action in Iraq was needed. In particular, Geoff Hoon the Defence Secretary knew that the report would be misinterpreted but did not correct press reports that were wrong. He admitted to the Hutton Inquiry that at the time of the dossier’s publication he knew that the type of weapons that could be deployed in 45 minutes were “shells, battlefield mortars, tactical weapons”, and not as the press assumed strategic missiles. Geoff Hoon knowingly allowed the information in the dossier to be interpreted incorrectly and misled the press and the general public about the true nature of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal.
Lie Three – Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa
The British government asserted that Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy nuclear material from an African nation, as part of the Iraqi dictator’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. This is false. The country in question, Niger, produces just over 8% of the world’s uranium but its mines are operated by a French consortium, and any transaction would have had to take place with the knowledge and permission of the French. This would not have been allowed to happen. Using the British intelligence reports about Niger, President Bush included the claim in his State of the Union address, saying: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”[vi] The Bush administration has since said the Niger claim should not have been included in the speech in January as it fell short of the standard that is necessary for Presidential speeches.
Lie four – Omission of the assessment that the weapons would be used if Iraq was attacked
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, advised John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee to remove a section of the dossier that indicated that Saddam would only use chemical and biological weapons for defensive purposes. In an e-mail to Mr Scarlett, Mr Powell wrote,
“ I think the statement on pg19 that ‘Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat’ is a bit of a problem. It backs up the Don McIntyre (Political columnist for The Independent) argument that there is no CBW (Chemical and biological weapon) threat and we would only create one if we attack him. I think you should redraft the para(graph)”
This is important, as Jonathan Powell is one of the Prime Minister’s closest aides and it indicates that Number 10 was willing to remove particular parts of the September dossier that would undermine the case for war.
As part of his testimony at the Hutton Inquiry, Tony Blair acknowledged that he was aware of changes being made to the document in terms of presentation and style, and that discussions took place between Alistair Campbell and John Scarlett about changes to the language of the dossier. He stated that the dossier had to be “in the end the work of the JIC.”[vii] However, Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff had influence in altering the content of the dossier. When Jonathan Powell was questioned at the Hutton Inquiry if he accepted that you could transform a document by omission he stated
“It is important what you take out as well as what you put in.”[viii]
NO MORE LIVES
From the beginning of the military campaign in March until September 2003, around 7,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have died and at least 20,000 have been injured. The casualty number continues to rise as the British and American forces struggle to maintain law and order in Iraq.
Some 200 Iraqi citizens have been killed by cluster bombs, munitions that were used during the bombardment of Iraqi towns and cities in the first stages of the war. Thousands more have been injured. Cluster bombs can kill and maim in particularly traumatic ways, including decapitation. Ordinary Iraqis have suffered greatly from the shrapnel that flew from the exploding bombs, and the sight of a child with a lost limb was not an uncommon sight in Iraq’s hospitals. According to Amnesty International, a cluster bomb canister contains 202 small bomblets the size of a soft drink can, which can then scatter and spray over a large area about the size of two football pitches. At least 5 per cent of the bomblets do not explode on impact, effectively turning them into anti-personnel mines that continue to pose a threat to people, including civilians, who come into contact with them.[ix] Cluster bombs, plus more conventional mortar and missile attacks, brought about destruction and caused the unacceptable and needless deaths of innocent civilians.
Ordinary Iraqis continue to endure hardship under British and American occupation. Much documented incidents include the two Iraqi policemen shot by U.S. soldiers in August and the incident in Samarra in May when four wedding celebrants were killed after firing shots in the air.
The Iraqi civilian death toll far exceeds the number of U.S. and U.K. military deaths, which on the 22nd of September stood at 305 American and 50 British fatalities.[x] Innocent Iraqis continue to die whilst their country is under Coalition control. For example an alleged attack on U.S. troops from “unknown forces” resulted in sustained machine gun fire and an air strike on a farmhouse that left three dead and three injured, including two children.[xi] No American troops were injured. With the media reporting such incidents on a daily basis, it is apparent that it is difficult for the ordinary people of Iraq to lead a normal life without fear of the British and American military.
The approach of the British troops in Basra is similar. In May, a fourteen year-old boy was shot and killed by a gun discharge from a British soldier, and in August Iraqi protesters were fired on, killing at least one individual.
The governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom promised democracy for the Iraqi people. Instead, they have suffered from constant bombardment from land, sea and air in the first months of the war and are now subject to an over zealous, but anxious, gun happy occupation force. More innocent Iraqi lives will be lost.
[i] Prime Minister's Iraq statement to Parliament (24th September 2002)
[ii] Prime Minister's Iraq statement to Parliament (24th September 2002)
[iii] Prime Minister's Iraq statement to Parliament (24th September 2002)
[iv] The Independent Thursday 18th September p1
[v] The Independent on Sunday 14th September p11
[vi] President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address January 28, 2003
[vii] Tony Blair’s testimony to the Hutton Inquiry (28th August 2003)
[viii] Jonathan Powell’s testimony to the Hutton Inquiry (23rd September 2003)