Friday, July 16, 2004

The Butler Report 15 July 2004

The Butler Report apportions collective responsibility presumably so that no one individual need therefore get the sack or have to resign. Going from public meeting to public meeting in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Blair argued persistently and insistently for a current Iraqi threat to UK interests when he had no idea whether it was true. The phrase being used now is "The government believed the judgement it was making." This reminds me of the sort of thinking that embues the religious of theological bent as they try to justify their faith. They know there is no God, but they like the religion and everything it gives them, so they chose to "suspend disbelief" in order to avail themselves of the various benefits. They find from time to time the need to justify their beliefs through theological debate notheless.

Blair claims to be a Christian. Is this why he felt able to try to persuade others about the necessity to go to war in a "theological" manner? Faith is about conviction not evidence, after all. Did he really believe what he was arguing ? Did the Bishops really believe in the Trinity at the Council of Nicea?

Analogues are often useful to clear the fog. To see the parallels between the Council of Nicea (as an example of the theological approach) and Blair's decisions, the proceedings and conclusions of the Council need to be briefly explained for those have heard of it but know nothing about it.

The Nicene Creed resulted from the Council in 325 AD. The priest Arius had earlier proposed that if the Father begat the Son, the latter must have a beginning, that is there was a time when he was not, and that his substance was from nothing like the rest of creation. The Council condemation of the beliefs of Arius resulted in the Nicene Creed, proclaiming that the Son was "one in being with the father", using the Greek word Homoousius, or Constubstantial, meaning "of one substance".

The Bishops used scripture to argue their case, but got into difficulties when Arius used them too with a a new interpretion. In the end, the Bishops resorted to the assertion that Arius' view had to be wrong because it was new. The Creed was adopted because it was ancient and apostolic. Athanasius wrote: "...they [the Bishops] did not write 'It has been decided', but 'Thus the catholic Church believes'. And thereapon confessed how they believed...."

This is strangely reminiscent of Blair's assertion as noted by Butler, that "The government believed the judgement it was making on the intelligence...."

A journalist from the floor of the Press conference given by Lord Butler asked him, "....made a judgement on decision already made rather than intelligence at the time?"


I was not the only one in the months leading up to the war in 2003 to disbelieve Blair. I called him a liar like many others, based on what I knew, which was less than Blair but included the facts as presented by the various inspectors who had been inside Iraq since after the 1991 War. It seemed obvious from what was already known that Blair, in 2003, was fitting the "evidence", of which there was essentially none, to a pre-ordained plan (regime change) probably agreed with Bush in 2002. We knew of the strategic agenda for Iraq and the Middle East which developed in the mid 90s in the U.S. under the influence of the Neocons. Anyone that interested in Iraq would have been reading for years the details of the weapons inspections and know about the various attitudes to Iraq in the U.S. before 9/11.


The Butler Report apportions collective responsibility so that no one need resign.I would have used the same cop-out. The elections are close and the public can decide what Butler wishes not to.

The one person at the heart of government who has resigned, Campbell, did so before the Hutton report came out, in a move widely accepted to be to protect Blair. The details of what went on in the inner circle are well documented and include a series of telling emails between Campbell, Jonathan Powell and Scarlett, which clearly show sexing up occurred.

We are ready to examine Blair's insistence about Iraq's immediate and current danger to Britain in the wider context. The argument being presented now is that it was not a question of deception but rather one of judgement. Blair, it is claimed, can be condemned for lack of it, but not for trying to hoodwink us into war. I beg to differ. He knew what he knew and he knew what he told the House of Commons and the public. He either knew enough facts to claim Iraq was an immediate threat or he didn't. They say he made a judgement on one set of intelligence but was not told that piece of intelligence was "withdrawn" because is was unsound.

A year later there seem to be no facts to make a judgement on. They have evaporated like morning dew. We are left with weasel words from Blair and Mandarin from Butler about whether Blair's assertions were outright lies or not.

At the time he made his remarks about Iraq's threat I felt he was lying. I reasoned he had reasons for doing so. Those reasons, I thought, showed he distained the British public. He ignored the anti-war demostrations, pushing them aside with : "everyone is entitled to their view". He was prepared to tell a simplified (religious?) story which he believed we would accept, or at least, would create the political momentum to propel Britain into war with Iraq - alongside America - without too much struggle, and which Blair felt he could use to justify his decision later. He is using this justification now.

John Kampfner in Newstatesman, Monday 19th July 2004, says:

"In his statement to MPs, Blair resorted yet again to his "What's the problem? We've got rid of a bad man" refrain. But this time he had to temper it with an acknowledgement of "full personal responsibility". He said he had searched his conscience "not in a spirit of obstinacy but in genuine reconsideration in the light of what we now know". Then he resorted to his tried and trusted tactic of triangulation. Even though it was now clear "that the evidence of Saddam's WMD was indeed less certain", he could not go to the "opposite extreme" and conclude that he posed no danger. The logic of this is utterly flawed. This was Blair's opportunity to put his hands up and say simply that - as Butler suggests time and again - he had got the intelligence wrong, no ifs, no buts. "

The accompanying Statesman leader says:

" The Prime Minister's relationship with the truth has always been an uncertain one. He is a lawyer by trade, accustomed to convincing himself that a weak case can be won. He is also a politician who owes much of his success to deft presentation. As a BBC Panorama programme has recalled, Mr Blair told the Commons, during Operation Desert Fox in 1998, when cruise missiles and bombs rained down on Iraq, that the aim was "to degrade the ability of Saddam Hussein to build and use weapons of mass destruction". The operation was declared a success. Yet Brian Jones, then a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff, told Panorama that his department was not able to provide with any certainty a list of targets. John Morrison, deputy chief of Defence Intelligence from 1995-99, said that the operation wasn't "particularly effective", though he had been under pressure to say it was."

I thought at the time that he simply felt it important to follow the U.S. into the war because he knew to be left out would be worse that to stick to principle and do it by the book. I thought his decision to take Britain to war was, in large part, about how he perceived himself: he had successfully projected images of strength in his foreign policy forays before (e.g. Bosnia and Kosovo, Africa). Many of his articulate stirring speeches worked politically, especially in the U.S., where may wrote how they wished they had a president as able to explain his views.

Blair thought it would work again. There was a risk that Blair might suffer later. Whereas with Kosovo it was "just politics", with Iraq and the "intelligence", or as we now know lack of it, and the attitude of the Bush administration, it was more complicated.

One such complication is the UK armaments industry, which employs at least a million people. He naturally wanted to get Britain's share of the post-war settlement in contracts. And not more oil butto sell our oil expertise.

I wrote this on Thursday, November 20, 2003


Yes, we have seen, at one time or another, the earnest expressions and heard all the "look...."s expressing his conviction for war, despite pre- and post-war public disquiet. Now imagine, instead of giving The Big Speech for War, Bliar had done the opposite and chosen to make The Speech Against Invasion of Iraq on strongly argued grounds. Instead of talking about WMD he would have expressed the view that 9/11 was a criminal act and was to be dealt with through the courts. And, more tellingly, to argue that to go to war over terrorism would be to confirm what the terrorists believe; that their murderous acts are a political prospectus.

Picture : conclave of experts including He of Blessed Memory, Alistair Crowley ( Campbell). Preparatory discussions. Where will he chose to give the speech? Bush will be apoplectic. We always side with the U.S. in these things. Why change now? What will Bush say in public after hearing it? Will he say, This changes nothing, or, tempered by lack of support, decide to postpone? [Am reminded, for some reason, of processes that go into media food scare: inaccurate reports of science; arguments in media based on inaccuracy; public alarm says media; politicians and govt. officials try to calm public “fears” [three people questioned in the street by TV crew]; scientists defend their science [free publicity for research projects/worrying about funding]; media report the scientists’ complaints; politicians/ officials shift positions; public loses interest: politicians perceived to be manipulating to defend “position” taken. Eg.Vide BSE in UK]

In this defining speech somewhere - significantly neutral, several late nights at No.10 deciding where - Blair impresses the Continentals with his intellectual grasp of the excuses not to intervene militarily in Iraq. Arch pieces in Le Figaro, Le Monde, La Stampa, Der Spiegal, etc., running with The Barrister Bit: admiration for the skill with the ex-barrister defends.

Let us make a preliminary list of excuses/reasons:

(1) Saddam is a murdering nuisance, a charismatic, nasty man who has subjugated and treated many of his people badly; [ good touch this] killed a million Iranians and many thousands of his own people, but he is no immediate threat to the West.

(2) 9/11 go down in history of infamy

BLAIR : Errrr…..perhaps not… Pearl Harbour…
CAMPBELL : Hang(g) on, hang(g)…didn’t Bush use that?
BLAIR : Er…....dunno
CAMPBELL : S’okay, then, we'll use infamy too

(3) The U.S., he carefully explains, will naturally be very upset - we too have lost many in the Twin Towers - and it believes the world will never be the same again, but this is a first reaction. They will realise in time that it is just a big disaster which people will see for what it is: the West's inability to monitor terrorists and pre-empt terrorism large or small.

(4) Support the U.S. desire to stop terrorism. Potted history of our support for the U.S. and theirs for us, including Falklands.

“No country can deny the horror of 9/11. Would they like it to have happened to them? Would we like it to have happened in our capitol city? What would have been the response of our European friends if 3000 Parisians had died in a gas attack in the metro? Or of the Germans if the new Parliament building had been flattened by a suicide helicopter?"

(5) However, we must look at the big picture. Stability in the Middle East. Settling the Palestinian Problem. International Law. Islamic sensibilities. Colonial past..

(6) Sanctions have worked against Iraq and so have the no-fly zones, which Britain has contributed to. 9/11 is not connected to Iraq as far as we able to tell, although there are Islamist groups in the north in areas not controlled by Saddam. [17 July: apparently he said just that in 1998 in the House of Commons, though he was wrong there too according to retired intelligence analyst Mr. Jones.]

(7) Despite Iraq being a secular state, its people are Islamic, divided into Sunni and Shia. We do not want to further antagonise feeling in the Middle East and throughout the Islamic world by invading a sovereign state, even if it is controlled by a vile dictator. The time for this has passed.

(8) Evoke, elliptically, the debacle of Suez, 1956, in which U.S. president Eisenhower prevented Britain and France controlling the Suez canal. Mention a series of U.S. interventions that failed. And some that were successes but lacked international legitimacy.

(9) Need time to support the UN mandate by peaceful means.

(10) We have the means to punish Iraq if it uses WMD - Saddam has never used them [July 17..."against us"] because he was warned not to and told what the response would be if he did. He did use rockets against Israel in 1991 but they contained conventional war heads. Again, israel hasd warned him:"Use WMD and we will nuke you".]

Blair - as he was before he had to transpose his vowels or watch his nose grow longer - knows this position will please the French and Germans. They are in no position politically, economically or militarily to wage war. Germany is anti-war through principle, France through expediency masquerading as principle. They both have large Muslim populations.

He knows - as we all do - that the U.S. is top dog and can do what it wants, when it wants, without reference to anyone else. So anything he says will be posturing, but look good on tellie. But Bliar's anti-war stance will not be the final position. He will calculate that it is "a very grave step...." first, then, having pleased the Europeans, as the U.S. moves towards invasion, slowly slip in beside the U.S., arguing that the situation has changed.

This first anti-war speech will be a decoy, a red herring, a side-step, a feint, to lull the Europeans into making soothing statements at the UN. He already knows he is going to have to side with the U.S., as the French and Germans know, after all our nuclear missiles are made in USA and there is Ford, Vauxhall, IBM, [July 17 :massive U.S. investment in the UK]. It is a global economy after all. People, money, goods, services, culture, can more freely round the world. He needs to plump up domestic opinion and molify our immediate neighbours. He knows what people in Britain are thinking focus group-wise... they don't believe in the WMD argument but don't like Saddam either and would like to see him gone.

Trying to imagine the various positions Bliar - as we have to call him as we are only engaged in a thought game and know what he really said and did - would take, the permutations of cause and effect, we soon see that Crowley (er…Campbell) decides Bliar's speech cannot be directly anti-war, making it easier to join the U.S. later). He must be seen to show he understands history: not the history of nation states, his place in history….[joke] He can show how he has been tough before (Kosovo) and that he saw the necessity [July 17 and wad willing to commit to] tackle Al Qeida in Afghanistan.

Siding with the U.S. straight away, making persistently weak cases for war on flimsy grounds and discounting public opinion, he has seen as presenting him as strong, whereas "no war with good reasons" is weak. He will appear to be on the defensive in the anti-war stance; decisive in arguing for action. Being weak and on the defensive about reasons - taking an untenable "position" and sticking to it because of his belief that the sticking to it rather than the position is what has seemed to matter - is less weak than appearing weak with a strong case.

In summary he is told by Crowley that has no choice "action with weak arguments" better than “inaction with strong arguments".

To me, he is a man who decides things because of what he imagines people think of him, or will think think of him, rather than because they are right - despite claiming endlessly the opposite is true - and is therefore a moral and ethical pygmy. But, hey, armchair moral philosophers don’t have to make decisions like this…


I wanted Saddam out, and wanted the invasion, and knew too many Iraqis would die in the war [and, as it has proven, its aftermath]. All these things evoked strong memories of my boyhood Iraq, stimulating me to blog.

We have to use a utilitarian balance asking, Was the death of (?) 30,000 [July 17: It turned out to be about 10,000] Iraqis - "needed" to remove him - a price worth paying? Will the means (and deaths) justify the result (of which we cannot in advance be sure) ? If I was Prime Minister and my Minister of Defence came to me with projections of 25-30,000 Iraq deaths in and after the war, I could not do it. Bliar almost certainly knew roughly how many Iraqis would die and how many British soldiers would die. And yet he could still decide to go to war. All I can guess is that a sort of moral and ethical mist must drop down over leaders faced with such decisions. Certainly one wonders if Churchill, with Dresden, had a "Robespierre moment" (remember the film "Danton", where he lies in bed sweating with a sheet pulled over his head) after he gave the go ahead for the bombers to set off.

Neither Bush nor Bliar can, or will, think or debate openly the point that we think Bush seems almost to believe by default, by failing to mention them, that Iraqi (and indeed Afghani) deaths [ will] cancel out 9/11 deaths, maimings and orphanings. If we are led to believe that Bush doesn’t care about these avoidable deaths - because he never mentions it in public; because he doesn't say he will see the families right; because it is of greater importance to mollify his domestic opinion/feeling because of what he learns from opinion poll and focus group, we can't possibly think too well of him, because we know he had the choice: invade or negotiate.

The invasion of Iraq will, of course, only confirm to the Arab world that the West is happy to continue objectifying them – and anyone else who gets in their way - to achieve their aims. And encourage other Arab states to put into another gear their anti-Semitic/Jewish propaganda, while making soothing noises to the U.S. about their willingness to change. Check out examples of translations of Arab papers in MEMRI.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

author of Republic of Fear returns to Iraq  

SEE latest apposite links

Iraqi human rights activist, Kanan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear (1989) cataloguing Tyrants human rights violations.

Makiya was always being interviewed on some US or UK channel or other in months leading to war.

Article pin-points he was:

* member of the State Department's Democratic Principles Working Group
* principal author of a draft Iraqi constitution emphasizing secularism and minority rights
* By President Bush's side in the Oval Office in April 2003, watching on television as Saddam Hussein's statue came crashing down in Firdos Square
* set-upIraq Research and Documentation project at Harvard : collecting evidence of atrocities in Iraq since 1992
* Baghdad-based Memory Foundation

But read on.......

Allawi's tactics 

I wrote many weeks ago that the Interim Iraqi Government would probably use stick-carrot-stick. Washington Post claims Allawi has been talking to almost everyone, including the Iranians. You have to bear in mind that he probably won't be Prime Minister of Iraq after its first elections. So he can do what the elected PM won't be able to do.

memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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