Posts Tagged ‘weapons of mass destruction’

An Illegal War is State-Terrorism

January 29, 2010

By Yamin Zakaria, Information Clearing House, January 29, 2010

“We were convinced that all the fissile material that could be used for any weapons purposes had been taken out of Iraq, and we knew that we had eliminated and destroyed the whole infrastructure that Iraq had built up for the enrichment of uranium.”

  • Hans Blix, in a BBC Interview, Jan 2003

As the toothless Chilcot Inquiry collates the evidences from the various individuals, not many are asking some basic questions regarding the Iraq War. As a layperson, the following questions come to my mind:

  • What aggression did Iraq commit against the US and the UK that could have justified the war? How did the people of Iraq ever cause any harm to the people in the UK or the US?
  • Where are the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was the primary pretext for waging aggression on Iraq?
  • Why was the UN Inspectors not given further time to finish their job, given that they had unimpeded access to inspect any place in Iraq and that they failed to find any evidence contrary to Iraq’s earlier declaration to the UN?
  • In the absence of such weapons, why is the UN not taking the criminals to task at the international war crimes tribunal and order the belligerent nations to pay war reparations to Iraq?

I see the above questions are at the heart of the issue regarding Iraq war. The only answer I can conclude is – the new world order is governed by the brute force of the Wild West; far from some noble principle that is applicable equally to all nations. I do not want to “move on” like Blair, I want to see justice. I want to see criminals like Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Jeremy Greenstock face the gallows for the slaughter of innocent Iraqis, yet these armed robbers are parading themselves as ambassadors of peace. It is disgusting!

The evidence given by the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, at the Chilcot Inquiry revealed that he had conveniently changed his mind after meeting the American Lawyers, and added pressure from Jack Straw and possibly few others, just weeks before the actual invasion is launched. Note, whilst he is mulling over this, the British troops are already there, poised to attack a nation that has been systematically disarmed for a decade. Therefore, the British government still would have gone into war with the Americans, even if Goldsmith managed to standby by his conviction. Nevertheless, if he did remain firm, it would have helped, even if it could not halt the war.

It should have taken a “smoking gun” to change someone’s mind on a serious issue of this nature, which Hans Blix and his team of inspectors with unrestricted access could not find in Iraq. Given the circumstances under which the sudden change of mind occurred, it shows that Lord Goldsmith is a feeble man; all he needed was a little ‘push’ to rubberstamp the war that was already on the verge of being launched. Unlike some of the other principled individuals, he could not standby his conviction, and if needed resign from the post. Perhaps, the folks from Spooks whispered in his ear about the fate of Dr. Kelly! So, his ears only consulted those who were bent on going to war. Indeed, it was a one-sided conversation.

Why did he not consult other lawyers with an opposing view concurrently? Why did he not consider that other major powers in the UN Security council were of the view that UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war? Why did Britain go back to the UN Security Council to seek a second resolution if the first was adequate? Being a democracy, it is imperative to discuss such matters with the Cabinet, but Jack Straw denied Lord Goldsmith that opportunity, obviously, Jack did not want to be late for the war party.

People say lawyers are shark, but Goldsmith proved to be a spineless cod! His ‘fatwa’ is like the ‘fatwa’ given to the Saudis during the First Gulf War at the last minute by some cleric, to permit the US Forces to setup base inside Saudi Arabia. By the time the Fatwa was given, the US armed forces had already arrived at the shores of Saudi Arabia, as if the fatwa was necessary. Again, the basic question, what did the Iraqis do to the Saudis?

There is no doubt the majority opinion amongst the prominent legal experts is that the UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war, and more pertinently, this was view held by the majority of the nations inside the UN Security Council, including France and Russia with Veto powers. Therefore, the war had no mandate from the UN Security Council; it was a unilateral and barbaric act of aggression by the Anglo-US regime. Without a legal backing – the invasion was state terrorism dispensed to the innocent civilians of Iraq.

Some argue the war was necessary, as Saddam posed a threat to the region, but the region was not calling for war, with the exception of Israel. Maybe that was enough, serving Israel is enough to prove that the West are no longer anti-Semitic and they can redeem their past sins by the punishing some innocent third party, once again. Israel is a nation that routinely engages in killing innocent civilians, and is busy in the process of ethnic cleansing to make the land pure for the chosen race of God, add to that ‘accolade’, they are harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians in the true spirit of the shylocks!

Yamin Zakaria ( yamin@radicalviews.org )

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Tony Blair Admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway

December 12, 2009

WMD were not vital for war says ex-PM ahead of appearance at Chilcot inquiry

by Riazat Butt and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian/UK, Dec 12, 2009

Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public.

[Tony Blair told Fern Britton, in an interview to be broadcast on BBC1, that he would have found a way to justify the Iraq invasion. (Photograph: BBC)]
Tony Blair told Fern Britton, in an interview to be broadcast on BBC1, that he would have found a way to justify the Iraq invasion. (Photograph: BBC)

The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

“If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”.

Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”

He explained it was “the notion of him as a threat to the region” because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people.

“This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region. Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have been very difficult to have changed it in the right way.”

Though Blair has always argued that Iraq would be better off without Saddam Hussein, to parliament and the public, he always justified military action on the grounds that the Iraqi dictator was in breach of UN-backed demands that he abandon his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme.

It is possible that Blair has shifted his ground in anticipation of his appearance early next year before the Chilcot inquiry. The inquiry has heard that Blair made clear to President George Bush at a meeting in Texas 11 months before the Iraq invasion that he would be prepared to join the US in toppling Saddam.

Blair was “absolutely prepared to say he was willing to contemplate regime change if [UN-backed measures] did not work”, Sir David Manning, Blair’s former foreign policy adviser, told the inquiry. If it proved impossible to pursue the UN route, then Blair would be “willing to use force”, Manning emphasised.

The Chilcot inquiry has seen a number of previously leaked Whitehall documents which suggest Blair was in favour of regime change although he was warned by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, in July 2002, eight months before the invasion, that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action”.

Manning told Blair in March that year that he had underlined Britain’s position to Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser.

“I said you [Blair] would not budge in your support for regime change, but you had to manage a press, a parliament, and a public opinion which is very different than anything in the States,” Manning wrote, according to a leaked Whitehall document. A Cabinet Office document also seen by the Chilcot inquiry, dated July 2002, stated: “When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford [his Texas ranch] in April, he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion …”

Now Blair appears to be openly admitting that evidence of WMD – the purpose behind the now discredited weapons dossier he ordered to be published with the help of MI6 and Whitehall’s joint intelligence committee – was not needed to invade Iraq, and he could have found other arguments to justify it.

Blair did say in a speech to Labour party conference in 2004, over a year after the invasion: “I can apologise for the information [about WMDs] that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam.

“The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.”

Blair told the former This Morning presenter how his religious beliefs helped him in the invasion’s immediate aftermath.

“When it comes to a decision like that, I think it is important that you take that decision as it were on the basis of what is right, because that is the only way to do it,” he said.

“I think sometimes people think my religious faith played a direct part in some of these decisions. It really didn’t. It gives you strength if you come to a decision, to hold to that decision. That’s how it supports your character in a situation of difficulty.”

Most “really hard” decisions involved a “downside and an upside either way”, he added.

Sir John Sawers, Blair’s former chief foreign policy adviser and now head of MI6, told the Chilcot inquiry on Thursday that Iraq was one of several countries where Britain would have liked regime change. Discussions took place on “political” actions to undermine Saddam, including indicting him for war crimes, Sawers said. There was no talk in 2001 in Whitehall of military action, he added.

“There are a lot of countries … where we would like to see a change of regime. That doesn’t mean one pursues active policies in that direction.”

Memo confirms Bush and Blair knew claims Iraq had WMDs were lies

June 26, 2009

By Paul Bond | wsws.org,  26 June 2009

A confidential memo obtained by the Observer, detailing a meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, confirms their determination to press ahead with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without any evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and without United Nations approval.

The five-page memo, written by Blair’s foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning, is dated January 31, 2003, some two months before the invasion began. It records the thinking of Bush and Blair as it became increasingly obvious that United Nations weapons inspectors would not find the advanced weaponry, including a nuclear capability, that both leaders were using to justify military action.

Continued >>

An Honorable Exit from Iraq

March 23, 2009

by Poka Laenui | CommonDreams.org, March 20, 2009

CommonDreams.org Editor’s note:  This article was originally published in the Fall 2007 issue of YES! Magazine and re-printed on this site on September 18, 2007.  Despite a new administration in Washington and certain hopeful overtures on US Iraq policy, there is nothing in Poka Laenui’s poignant perspective that doesn’t deserve repeating.  On the Sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, let it serve as a reminder of the crimes of our government’s ongoing policies and how far we still must travel on our path to a sustainable, just, and lasting peace in Iraq and with the Iraqi people.

The United States should not win in its war against Iraq. It should change its strategy to being just.

The United States was wrong to attack Iraq. Possession of weapons of mass destruction is not a justification, moreover Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Toppling Saddam Hussein is no justification; the imposition by a stronger nation of its political preference for the running of another nation’s government has never been a legitimate basis for attack.

Every justification for the attack by the United States against Iraq leads to the same conclusion: the United States acted as an international delinquent, a violator of Iraqi sovereignty, and an international threat to peace.

So how could one even entertain the notion of winning a war for which there is no justification?

The thinking among the “leadership” of American society in trying to find a victorious exit from Iraq is awry. The United States has been the bad guy all along. It must now exit honorably. The elements of an honorable exit strategy should include the following:

1. Confession. Declare to the Iraqi people and the international community that the United States was wrong in conducting this war.2. Apology. Apologize to the Iraqi people and the international community for its conduct of the war.

3. Reparation. Take responsibility for the repair of the damage caused by the war, and bring the people and the physical condition of Iraq back to the condition they would have been in had the United States not invaded Iraq. Iraqi families who have suffered the loss of lives or injuries should be compensated in amounts established by a neutral commission and fully funded by the United States.

4. Leadership. The United States should leave Iraq immediately and turn over its responsibility for reparation to an international coalition that will direct the rebuilding of Iraq.

5. Relinquish profits. The profits gained by U.S. companies and individuals as a result of the war should be turned over to the reparation effort.

6. Disengage from Iraqi affairs. The United States should make a legally binding commitment to refrain from any overt or covert attempt to affect the internal affairs of Iraq.

7. Accept accountability. U.S. individuals, including the highest-ranking civilian and military personnel, should be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and to domestic courts to answer to war crimes charges. This plan will not be supported by the U.S. public initially, because of its high price. But the plan will stop the cost from escalating further in terms of lives lost and injuries on all sides of the war, and the destruction of property.

The price will only go higher the longer this unjust war continues, and the repayment will eventually be meted out, if not willingly by the United States, then through continued terrorism throughout the lives of our children and their children, ad infinitum.

The continuation of this war will not resolve terrorism. If terrorism is to end, it will only come through a just peace. An end to U.S. government terrorism will decrease other forms of terrorism, and this, along with the elements above, can begin to build a foundation of justice as the basis for long-lasting peace.

Poka Laenui is executive director of Hale Na`au Pono, a Community Mental Health Center in Wai`anae, Hawai`i. He is active in the Hawai`i and international arena as a proponent for indigenous people’s rights and for the decolonization of Hawai`i. www.opihi.com/sovereignty.

SELECTIVE VISION: IRAN, ISRAEL AND NUCLEAR ARMS

March 18, 2009

Media Lens, March 17, 2009

Gullible’s (Endless) Travels

Have journalists learnt nothing from recent history? It truly is a wonder when a reporter can assert in public, on the BBC News no less, that “Tony Blair passionately believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed a grave threat.” (BBC1, Six O’Clock News, February 24, 2009). When BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was challenged on this remarkable display of naïveté, she compounded her grievous error by responding:

“I said Mr Blair passionately believed Iraq had wmd because he has consistently said so. When challenged he has stuck to his guns.” (Email posted on the Media Lens Message Board, March 2, 2009)

So when a demonstrably mendacious leader claims he “passionately believed” in a lie, the media has to take him at his word. This is the same brand of journalistic gullibility that has had such tragic consequences for the people of Iraq. This is the endless, uncritical obedience to power that boosted the warmongering agenda of London and Washington, allowing them to fit ‘facts’ to a pre-ordained policy of launching a war of aggression. Such an act, sold by the BBC as Blair’s “passionate belief”, is the supreme international crime, as judged by the 1946 Nuremberg Tribunal.

And a similar tragic fate may yet befall the people of Iran, if the corporate media portrayal of Iran as a rogue state lorded over by “ruling mullahs”, desperate to get their hands on nuclear weapons, goes unchallenged.

A Nuclear Programme Under Close Surveillance

At the end of 2007, a thorough assessment by the United States concluded that Iran’s nuclear weapons programme had already halted in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate was the consensus view of all 16 US spy agencies. (Mark Mazzeti, ‘U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work,’ New York Times, December 3, 2007)

In its latest report on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) strengthened this assessment when it stated it had “been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material [for possible military purposes] in Iran.” (IAEA, ‘Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei,’ March 2, 2009; http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/ Statements/2009/ebsp2009n002.html)

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With Iraq plan, Obama embraces US militarism

March 2, 2009
Patrick Martin |  WSWS, 2 March 2009

In extending the full-scale US occupation of Iraq for another 18 months, and acceding to the timetable already adopted by the Bush administration for a tentative pullout by the end of 2011, President Barack Obama has done more than betray the hopes of the millions of antiwar voters who supported his candidacy in 2008.

He has fully identified the incoming Democratic Party administration with the fraudulent arguments employed by the Bush White House to justify the ongoing war in Iraq, after its initial claims about “weapons of mass destruction” and ties between Iraq and the 9/11 terrorist attacks had been proven to be lies.

Obama’s speech to thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune was an effort to legitimize the US conquest and occupation of Iraq and present the American military as an instrument of liberation rather than imperialist war and oppression.

While candidate Obama described the Iraq war as one that “should never have been authorized and never been waged,” President Obama gave a much different reading. “You have fought against tyranny and disorder,” he told the assembled troops. “You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq.”

No one would know from this effusive description that the US intervention’s main effect upon “unknown Iraqis” was to kill, maim and displace them. Some 1 million people have died since the US invasion in March 2003, including hundreds of thousands killed by US bombs, missiles and shells fired at civilian neighborhoods. Countless Iraqi civilians have been murdered at US checkpoints for the crime of not slowing down quickly enough.

As for the “precious opportunity” allegedly extended to the people of Iraq, it is the right to vote for parties and politicians sponsored by the US occupation regime to preside over a society that has been virtually destroyed.

Nearly six years after the US conquest, Iraq still does not have running water, electricity, adequate sewage and other necessities of modern life; unemployment is estimated at 50 percent of the adult population; there are some 4 million refugees in internal or external exile; and most Iraqi cities are divided into ethnic and religion-based neighborhoods separated by blast walls and checkpoints.

Obama did not acknowledge, let alone disavow, the real motive for the US military onslaught—Iraq’s vast oil wealth and strategic position at the center of the Middle East. That silence only demonstrates that the new president shares the fundamental goal of his predecessor, to strengthen the grip of American imperialism over the Middle East and Central Asia, source of the bulk of the world’s oil and gas supplies.

This fact was immediately recognized by the most fervent defenders of the Bush administration’s aggression, including Senator John McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent in the presidential election, other congressional Republicans, and the right-wing press. The Wall Street Journal, for instance editorialized in praise of Obama’s Camp Lejeune speech, calling it “Obama’s Bush Vindication.”

The Journal gushed: “Mr. Obama delivered a sober speech, offering a policy worthy of the Commander in Chief he now is.” It singled out “Mr. Obama’s implicit repudiation of his own positions as a candidate” by agreeing to keep a large US military presence in Iraq, as many as 50,000 troops, after the nominal August 2010 withdrawal date, an action that seeks to maintain “the strategic advantage” of a US puppet regime in the Persian Gulf.

As Obama explained in his speech, a major reason for the redeployment of some US forces out of Iraq is to have sufficient military power available to confront both “the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan,” and “comprehensive American engagement across the region.”

Millions of Americans voted for Obama, not because they believed that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the pursuit of broader imperialist goals, but because they regarded the unprovoked invasion and conquest of a sovereign nation as a crime, and opposed the predatory character of American foreign policy as a whole.

Their voices have not the slightest impact on the formulation of policy in the Obama White House. As the events of last week demonstrate, it is the military-intelligence apparatus that calls the shots here. Obama did not make an independent decision as commander-in-chief, but rubber-stamped the course backed by one faction of the military establishment against the other.

According to press accounts that followed Obama’s speech at Camp Lejeune, the 19-month “withdrawal” plan selected by Obama was the preferred option of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gates confirmed, in an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, that the Iraq field commanders, headed by Gen. Raymond Odierno, preferred a 23-month schedule for withdrawal, while the Pentagon brass, concerned about the need for troops in Afghanistan and being stretched too thin to engage in other potential conflicts, opted for the shorter timeframe.

Obama did not replace any of the Bush administration’s principal military decision makers when he took office. Instead, he retained Gates, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Odierno and General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command and architect of the “surge” in Iraq.

His embrace of militarism was demonstrated in the very fact that Obama chose to give the speech at a Marine base to an audience of uniformed troops, not in a civilian setting or through a televised White House address. The effect was to suggest that in the America of 2009, decisions on war and peace are of concern primarily to the military, with the American people relegated to the role of bystanders.

The whole process demonstrates the erosion of American democracy. The American people cannot, through voting in election after election, effect any change in the foreign and military policy of the government. The war in Iraq goes on, and the war in Afghanistan is being escalated, regardless of popular sentiments.

A bigger liar than Bush

September 11, 2008

McCain (and Palin) are setting a record for outright lies. But what is to stop them?

Michael Tomsky | The Guardian, Sep 11, 2008

In 2002 and 2003, the Bush administration knew something about the media that the media still don’t fully understand about themselves. If you’re in a position of power and you want to say something, just say it, no matter what, and the media will repeat it and repeat it.

Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction to speak of? No matter. Just say he did. He wasn’t six months away from nuclear capability? So what—just assert that he was. He wasn’t tied to 9-11, there was no famous Prague meeting? No problem. Suggest there might have been. Muddy it up. Good enough.

Bush and co. knew that the media are constitutionally unequipped to call a lie a lie. People in the media like to flatter themselves as truth-tellers and the people’s watchdogs and all that, but the fact is that except in very rare circumstances, there’s no such thing as “objective truth” in the media, particularly the political media. There’s just what one side says and what the other side says. This is especially so on cable television.

The Bush people manipulated this. But the McCain campaign has taken it to extremes that make even Dick Cheney look like a wallflower. The number and intensity of outright lies, even for jaded observers, is just staggering.

There’s Sarah Palin’s lies about the bridge and earmarks. There’s an unbelievable one I mentioned yesterday about Obama’s alleged opposition to combat systems. There’s the flatly false assertion to middle-class audiences that Obama will raise their taxes, even though his tax plan does no such thing.

Now there’s this incredible McCain education ad that tries to argue that Obama wants to pervert kindergartners. The legislation, in Illinois, was in fact designed to allow local school boards to teach “age appropriate” sex education – and to teach children about how to identify sexual predators!

And then there’s this silly pig-lipstick business, which I wouldn’t even dignify by mentioning except that, obvious as it was that Obama was talking about McCain and not Palin, the McCain camp has now created something called the “Palin Truth Squad” that was formed to push the lie that Obama was talking about Palin. I’ll say that again: a “truth squad” created for the express purpose of pushing a lie.

And where is the truth squad of the press, the people’s watchdogs? Mostly enjoying the show, hyping the “mudslinging” between the two sides, which of course “both sides” are guilty of. Nonsense. Obama and Biden distort certain things about McCain’s record – that whole 100 years in Iraq business is a stretch. But McCain did say it, so it’s only a stretch, not a fabrication.

McCain and Palin are engaged in serial total fabrications. And almost no one calls them on it. The New York Times, which found the space to run a puffy piece on Palin’s family on its front page the other day, hasn’t found similar space to run a story under a headline like, “McCain-Palin Claims Stretch Credulity, Some Say.”

CBS and CNN have finally gotten around to running reports that pretty much state outright that Palin is lying about the bridge. ABC’s Jake Tapper plainly called out the “truth squad” on the lipstick story. McClatchy did a strong fact-check of the McCain education ad. But for the most part, the media treats it all as entertainment, a matter of which side has seized the offensive.

The McCain team knows all this. So they consciously promote lies, knowing that no real mechanism exists to stop them from doing so.

The Obama team should have been doing a stronger job of push-back these last few days. It was only after Obama himself said Palin was lying about the bridge that a few media outlets started pursuing that angle. That’s how the game is played, and the McCain strategy will be a test of their ability to hit back fast and hard.

But this race is now a test of the media too. You’d think after being told in the run-up to the Iraq war a bushel of things that didn’t end up being true that they printed anyway, they’d have given some thought to the question of how not to let themselves be manipulated like that again. But it is happening again, and the media are getting played in exactly the same way.

And what does all this say about John McCain? In 2000, when he was running against George Bush in the South Carolina primary, he was smeared by outright lies charging among other things that he’d fathered an out-of-wedlock black child. The man who “directed communications” for Bush’s 2000 South Carolina effort was Tucker Eskew. McCain confidants have long held Eskew partly responsible for those smears.

Last week, McCain hired him, to staff up Palin. That just about says all we need to know about today’s McCain.

Now let me ask you. What is more revealing of a candidate’s “character”: The fact that a candidate used a phrase as old as the hills, a phrase the other candidate himself has used (see Jake Tapper above), or the fact that a candidate would hire someone he once regarded as having helped spread vile innuendo about him and his family?

Deeper and deeper we go into the hall of mirrors…

White House ‘buried British intelligence on Iraq WMDs’

August 6, 2008

August 6, 2008

George W Bush and Tony Blair

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Tony Blair and George Bush both saw intelligence contradicting the rationale for invading Iraq, a new book claims

MI6 told Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq that a high-placed Iraqi source said that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence was passed to the US but was buried by the White House, according to a new book.

The book claimed that the former Prime Minister sent a top British spy to the Middle East in 2003 — three months before the invasion — to dig up enough intelligence to avoid war but that President Bush and Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, dismissed any claims or possible evidence that would stop military action.

In The Way of the World, the Pulitzer prize-winning author Ron Suskind also claimed that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a backdated, handwritten letter purportedly from the head of Iraqi Intelligence to Saddam. The letter, which came to light nine months after the invasion, was meant to demonstrate a link between the Baathist regime and al-Qaeda.

The forgery, adamantly denied by the White House, was passed to a British journalist in Baghdad and written about as if genuine by The Sunday Telegraph on December 14, 2003. The article received significant attention in the US and provided the White House with a new rationale for the invasion, Suskind claimed. The White House called the allegation absurd.

Suskind said that at the beginning of 2003 MI6 sent one of its top agents, Michael Shipster, to the region. Mr Shipster held secret meetings in Jordan with Tahir Jalil Habbush, the head of Iraqi Intelligence. The meetings were confirmed by Nigel Inkster, former assistant director of MI6.

Mr Inkster also confirmed that Mr Shipster was told by Mr Habbush that there were no illicit weapons in Iraq. Mr Inkster refused to comment last night.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of British Intelligence, was also interviewed by Suskind. The author said that Sir Richard confirmed the Shipster meetings and report. He added that he asked why Mr Blair had not acted on the intelligence.

Sir Richard was quoted as saying that the mission was an eleventh-hour “attempt to try, as it were, I’d say, to diffuse \ the whole situation”. He added: “The problem was the Cheney crowd was in too much of a hurry, really. Bush never resisted them quite strongly enough.”

Suskind wrote that Sir Richard flew to Washington in February 2003 to present the Habbush report to George Tenet, then the Director of the CIA. The report stated that according to Mr Habbush, Saddam had ended his nuclear programme in 1991 — the same year that he destroyed his chemical weapons programme — and ended his biological weapons programme in 1996. These assertions turned out to be true.

Mr Tenet briefed Mr Bush and Condoleezza Rice, at the time his National Security Adviser.

Suskind wrote: “The White House then buried the Habbush report. They instructed the British that they were no longer interested in keeping the channel open.”

Rob Richer, a former CIA officer in the Near East division, told Suskind: “The Brits wanted to avoid war — which was what was driving them. Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the very first days he was in office.”

Mr Habbush was put on the White House’s list of most-wanted Iraqis but according to Suskind he was paid by the CIA in October 2003 to write the forged letter to Saddam, dated July 1, 2001, saying that the putative September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had trained for his mission in Iraq. This was the letter publicised in The Sunday Telegraph.

Of the forgery allegation, Mr Tenet said: “There was no such order from the White House to me or, to the best of my knowledge, was anyone from the CIA ever involved in any such effort.” Of Mr Habbush, Mr Tenet said that the claims in the book were a complete fabrication. He said that Mr Habbush had “failed to persuade” the British that he had “anything new to offer by way of intelligence”.

Delving deep

Ron Suskind was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000

His serialised stories, following a religious student from a blighted inner-city school to the Ivy League Brown University, won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1995

His 2004 book The Price of Loyalty penetrated the inner sanctum of the Bush Administration

Excepts of his last book, The One Percent Doctrine, were published last month in Time magazine

Source: www.ronsuskind.com


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