Letter to The Guardian:
You report (“Strength of Blair’s will drove UK towards Iraq war, Chilcot tells MPs,” 3 November; https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/02/tony-blair-psychological-dominance-key-in-uk-joining-iraq-war-says-chilcot) that “It later (ie after March 2003) emerged that Saddam had secretly destroyed his chemical and biological weapons.”
What Chilcot actually told MPs on the Liaison Committee was “undocumented dispatch and destruction of [WMD] materials took place on a considerable scale after the first Gulf war, and before the inspectors got back in.”
Both your report and Sir John Chilcot’s observation are misleading. This information did not come later, but before March 2003, indeed at least three weeks before Blair distorted the facts to spin Parliament into backing his ill-fated and illegal invasion of Iraq.
Julian Borger – now your World Affairs Editor- filed an intriguing story (“Defector’s testimony confuses case against Iraq, I March 2003, www.theguardian.com/world/2003/mar/01/iraq.julianborger) from Washington DC which included the following revelation: “The transcript of the interrogation of Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq’s weapons programmes and Saddam’s son-in-law [who defected in 1995 to Jordan] - leaked this week to Newsweek magazine (http://www.msnbc.com/news/876128.asp) and seen by the Guardian- reveal that Kamel told UN inspectors that Iraq had destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and abandoned its nuclear programme after the Gulf war.”
Borger opined that “The emergence of the classified statements weakens the case the US and Britain has tried to build against Saddam Hussein, in which Kamel’s defection has been used to bolster claims that Iraq still has thousands of tonnes of chemical and biological weapons for which it has not accounted.”
Despite it obvious and urgent importance, this story almost entirely disappeared from political discourse and scrutiny, and was not followed up in the Guardian, or indeed any other media, print, broadcast or electronic, subsequently in March 2003, as the drums of war beat louder
In light of this, how did Tony Blair report to Parliament - in the debate and fateful vote that finally took us to war - what the British Government knew of the Hussein Kamel claims?
”...In August, it provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.
Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. 18 March 2003 : Column 762 (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo030318/debtext/30318-06.htm#30318-06_spmin2)
A week later, Llew Smith MP, a Labour back bencher, and opponent of the war, for whom I then worked, asked Prime Minister Blair him a follow-up this question whether he would place in the Parliamentary Library the text of the interview, so the full context of Blair’s extract could be understood
Blair responded: “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 ona confidential basis The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” (emphasis added) (Hansard, 26 March 2003: Column 235W)
But Blair inexplicably did not find time or room to share with Parliament the other key revelation made by Kamel in that notorious interview, viz
“all weapons- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.” (source: http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf)
It was a disgraceful deception of Parliament; but other MPs should have been less gullible, more inquisitive, and have scrutinized Government assertions with greater commitment by demanding evidence. Pity they didn’t: if they had, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians - and 179 brave British military may still be alive today.
I provided all this evidence, with original primary sources, to Sir John. He ignored it all. His assertion to MPs this week about Blair, viz , “! absolve him from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive Parliament or the public—to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false.” Is thus both disingenuous and untenable.