Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Kamel that broke Straw's back

Letter to The Independent on 27 October:
Despite several analytical articles on Monday (26 October), including your editorial
and several letters from correspondents on Tuesday (27 Oct.) none has really understood the problem  with  Tony Blair’s purported apology  over last weekend on CNN television, on which he allegedly “apologised  for the fact the intelligence we received [on Saddam’s WMDs] was wrong.”

The intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was not “wrong” or “overstated” (as your leader put it) or "doubtful" ( as Sir Menzies Campbell asserted): it was correct, but shamelessly cherry picked by Blair and his political sidekick, Jack Straw.

The now retired MP Jack Straw, Blair’s own Foreign Secretary at the time of the invasion  of Iraq made his own swansong Parliamentary intervention on Iraq earlier in the year during a debate on the Chilcot report delay, asserting:

  “For the avoidance of doubt the whole Security Council judged in November 2002 that there was a threat to international peace and security from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction."
The firebrand George Galloway – then a Respect MP-  who had correctly predicted  mass chaos in Iraq if the invasion went ahead, bellowed back: “Because they believed you and Colin Powell.” (29 January 2015: Column 1035 et seq)

Wind-back 12 years: the  3 March 2003 edition of  the US magazine Newsweek reported in an article ‘The Defector’s Secrets’ - which went almost entirely unreported in the UK- that:

 “Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.Kamel was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and had direct knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.”

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 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 on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.”  (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.”
Full text at:

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.

 And many more would not be maimed for life.

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