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Wednesday, May 02, 2007 

Geoff Hoon: Intelligence reports misled us

George Tenet is not the only figure complicit in selling the invasion of Iraq who has been trying to burnish his reputation in regard to that fiasco. Today Geoff Hoon, then British Defense Secretary, gives a self-serving interview to the Guardian.

Hoon says nothing however about the July 23, 2002 war council whose deliberations are recorded in the Downing Street Memo. In fact, he has the gall to pretend that we don't know what he was told at that meeting.

Mr Hoon also expressed regret over the government's claim in the run-up to war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which, he now accepts, turned out to be false. He said he had "gradually come to the acceptance" the weapons did not exist. But he insisted the government had acted in good faith.

He still does not understand why the intelligence proved to be false. "I've been present at a number of meetings where the intelligence community was fixed, and looked in the eye and asked are you absolutely sure about this? And the answer came back 'Yes, absolutely sure'."

Mr Hoon added: "I saw intelligence from the first time I came into office, in May 1999 - week in, week out - that said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ... I have real difficulty in understanding why it was, over such a long period of time, we were told this and, moreover, why we acted upon it."

By contrast, here is what Richard Dearlove, the Head of MI6, told Hoon and others at the war council on July 23, 2002:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

It's worth emphasizing this: Insiders in the Blair government are still lying about what they knew about Iraq before the war, still trying to shift blame, still trying to convince us that they acted with integrity--and, therefore, still trying to convince us that the war was inevitable. They are suggesting that, had anybody else held the positions that they held, the same conclusions would have been reached. In other words, "mistakes were made" very much in the passive voice.

On the question of an apology, [Hoon] says: "That's the whole thing about apologising, and saying we were wrong. - it's quite hard. You can say "it did not turn out as we expected" and "we made some bad calls", but at the end of the day I defy anyone to to go through what we went through and come to a different conclusion".

Defy is the right term for it: Defy logic; defy all decency.


It's long been clear that those with direct access to actual intelligence estimates, as opposed to the junk that Tony Blair's government was feeding the public and Parliament, knew perfectly well that there was no substance to the allegations. As I've commented before, the evidence given last year to Parliament by the former First Secretary of the British delegation to the U.N., Carne Ross, negates the claims made by Hoon. From the Dec. 15, 2006 Independent:

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."...

The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.

It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.

The late Robin Cook, similarly, said in his memoir that that he asked for a private intelligence briefing before the invasion, which convinced him that there was nothing at all to the WMD claims that Blair and ministers such as Hoon were pushing.

Thursday February 20 [2003] ... John Scarlett, chairman of the JIC.. had come to brief me...

The presentation was impressive in its integrity and shorn of the political slant with which No 10 encumbers any intelligence assessment. My conclusion at the end of an hour is that Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.

Wednesday March 5: ...I saw Tony [Blair] privately shortly after we left the chamber. I started by observing that he'd gone out on a limb and the first piece of advice that I would offer is that he had to stop climbing further out on it, especially on Friday when Hans Blix presents his next report to the UN. "Britain has got to be seen on-side with Blix." If he needed months, we should be prepared to give him until autumn.

Tony was quite frank that he could not deliver that: "I don't know if I could do that. Left to himself, Bush would have gone to war in January. No, not January, but back in September."...

The most revealing exchange came when we talked about Saddam's arsenal. I told him, "It's clear from the private briefing I have had that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in a sense of weapons that could strike at strategic cities..." ...

There were two distinct elements to this exchange that sent me away deeply troubled. The first was that the timetable to war was plainly not driven by the progress of the UN weapons inspections. Tony made no attempt to pretend that what Hans Blix might report would make any difference to the countdown to invasion.

The second troubling element to our conversation was that Tony did not try to argue me out of the view that Saddam did not have real weapons of mass destruction that were designed for strategic use against city populations and capable of being delivered with reliability over long distances. I had now expressed that view to both the chairman of the JIC and to the prime minister and both had assented in it.

In short, Hoon is either a complete fool, and he slept through meetings such as the July 23, 2002 war council, or he's lying when he pretends that he never heard doubts expressed about the quality of the alleged evidence for Hussein's so-called WMD.


In the same Guardian interview, Hoon stresses that the occupation fell apart in the months after the invasion because the Bush administration failed to heed British advice. In particular Hoon urged Rumsfeld not to disband the Iraqi army...Hoon tells us.

Was it a failure of the British government, not to impress on the Bush administration the need to do some things and avoid doing others during the first months of the occupation? Well, no, Hoon assures the Guardian, it was a failure to communicate. Turns out, he says, that there is no British equivalent to the US Vice President; although Tony Blair, Hoon, and Jack Straw all pressed their American counterparts successfully on the major issues, there was nobody in the UK government to button-hole Cheney. That's Hoon's explanation of how Iraq became a quagmire, anyway.

But, again, Hoon is pretending that we don't have the Downing Street Memo. The last sentence from the report Dearlove delivered in Hoon's presense shows again that Hoon is trying to mislead.

There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

The occupation of Iraq did not fall apart merely because of mistakes in planning the Bush administration made after the fall of Baghdad. The occupation was pre-ordained to be a disaster if only because no serious planning was done in advance by the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld triumvirate. The British knew that planning was absent, but did not insist upon having a serious plan before the invasion.

crossposted at Unbossed

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 posted by : smintheus ::  # 10:32 AM  
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