Letter to the Guardian:
Your diplomatic editor's front page report ("Blair defiant on Iraq ahead of Chilcot report," 7 June, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/06/blair-camp-readies-its-defence-to-chilcot-report) cites a number of nameless, and faceless, "senior figures in the Blair entourage and "friends of the former prime minister" - all of whom might be Blair himself - to enlighten Guardian readers on Blair's likely response to criticisms in the Chilcot report.
Mr Blair has clearly abused, by briefing your diplomatic editor, the opportunity he was afforded by Sir John Chilcot (under the so-called Maxwellisation process) to see the sections of the report that criticise him as part of natural justice, in setting out on what your cartoonist Steve Bell accurately depicts today (8 June) as a dirty spinning muckspreader.
Your diplomatic editor writes that Mr Blair thinks it credible to argue that although no WMDs were found Saddam "retained the expertise and capacity to make such weapons."
However, this is literally incredible. But it takes more than a simple one line assertion to demonstrate this.There are extraordinary documented facts, the timeline of which is essential to grasp.
Gen. Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, in charge of Iraq's weapons programme, defected to Jordan on the night of 7 August 1995, together with his brother Col. Saddam Kamel.
Both were sons-in-law of the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Hussein Kamel took crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations’ inspection team looking for WMDs in Iraq.
Iraq responded by revealing a major store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb (on 20 August 1995). Hussein and Saddam Kamel surprisingly agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated by the thug and Saddam henchman known as ‘Chemical Ali’ on 23 February 1996).
Before their fateful return to Iraq, they were interviewed in Amman on 22 August 1995, 15 days after Kamel left Iraq. His interviewers were: Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of Unscom (from 1991 to 1997); Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; plus Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile team and former Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM.
During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid joined the discussion. Izz al-Din was Saddam Hussein's cousin, and defected together with the Kamel brothers. The full transcript of the interview may be read at: http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf. The key output was the documented revelation that : "all weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
Tony Blair, in a misleading statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003 said: "It was only four years later after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered." (www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page3088.asp)
Llew Smith, the anti-war former Labour MP, for whom I then worked, asked the Prime Minister about the information provided by Hussein Kamel on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and if Mr Blair if he would place in the House of Commons Library the text of the Kamel interview.
Mr Blair answered “Following his defection, Hussein Kamel was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” (Hansard, 26 March 2003: Column 235W)
But it was known to Blair and his security advisors that eight years earlier Saddam’s son-in-law Hussain Kamel had fessed-up in an interview with the UN’s international weapons inspectors and intelligence agents to the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological WMDs, and the nascent nuclear weapons programme too.
The question apologists for Tony Blair’s need to ask is: why did Mr Blair so blatantly disregarded this information when pressing for war, except for the obvious reason it undermined his stated reason to support an invasion?