26 June 2003
‘The charge against the Government is not one of lying, but that it failed to tell the whole truth’
This is the London Independent’s incredible editorial headline today (26/06/03) over the lies told by the UK government to justify the invasion of Iraq. Okay, for the sake of argument, we’ll accept the Independent’s outrageous head and ask the question, what is the whole truth? What did the government fail to tell us?
Close reading of the editorial reveals the following supposed questions the Indy poses in its ‘hard-hitting’ editorial:
1. We’re ‘none the wiser as to why we went to war with Iraq.’
This is not a question, but a statement.
2. Alistair Campbell ‘did not tell us where the [WMDs] are.’
Again, this has nothing to do with ‘telling the whole truth’, but rather it undermines the entire rationale for going to war and if anything, it reinforces the fact that the government lied to us.
3. He (Campbell) ‘did not prove that any of them [WMDs] might have been handed over to al-Qa’ida.’
Is this something that has ever figured as central to the question as to why we went to war?
4. The closest the editorial gets to actually asking a question is when it says:
‘The point is that the material in them [the dossiers] did not tell the public the whole story, or anything like it.’
But this is merely a reiteration of its headline and gets no closer to finding out what the ‘whole truth’ is. The ‘whole story’ is that the government lied to us.
They then quote Robin Cook’s evasive, self-serving double-talk on the issue of the ‘truth,’ which at the end of it, leaves one utterly frustrated:
‘Intelligence, one should understand, comes in an enormous broad range…. I fear that on this occasion those bits…that supported the case were selected.’
Bits? What bits? The Niger bits, the 45 minute bits? The al-Qa’da bits? Cook also appears not have any grasp of the knowledge gathering process, especially in the electronic age. To say that intelligence gathering is ‘is bit like alphabet soup, you get all the letters of the alphabet,’ is disingenuous to say the least. Yes, it’s quite probable that large amounts of data can be collected, which has to be sifted first. If it’s documented in electronic format, then the sifting process can be speeded up considerably. Often, data might go through several iterations, each time refining the search or simply start looking for other kinds of information.
Gathering and assembling information can take many forms, depending on the nature and context of the demand. In the case of information such as human sources, as with the 45 minutes, one would want to see documented data to back up the assertion, and the more sources you have, the better. Without them, it’s just the opinion of one man, as in the case of 45 minutes, at least according to the intelligence sources themselves.
In the Niger example, it’s really quite straightforward, verification which in this case would start with the easiest thing to do, checking the documents’ contents against the reality it’s meant to represent, which is precisely what the UN did. It took a few hours.
Assembling a ‘manageable’ amount of information on for example, the Iraqi WMD programme, would probably start with all the UN inspection teams files since 1990-91 and spread out from there, determined in large part, by the quality and detail of the information, the ability to verify it and do follow-ups and so forth. It’s mainly an organisational process, that requires that the people doing the searching and checking, know what to look for, or can recognise when they see it. If you’re looking for a particular industrial or manufacturing process, there’s always some kind of ‘paper trail’ to follow, and in the case of Iraq’s CBW programme, as a lot of it came from the US and the UK to start with, it should be a piece of cake to find out exactly what capabilities it started with and take it from there. To describe this process as an ‘alphabet soup’ is ludicrous. All Cook succeeds in doing is mystifying an otherwise pretty straightforward process, especially with the resources the government has at its disposal.
‘That is not deceit, it is not invention, it is not coming up with intelligence that did not exist’
Oh really, so a set of fake Niger documents, a fake 45 minutes claim and a fake al-Qa’ida connection are not inventions? Well let me ask a question then; what are they if they’re not an invention?
Cook continues his cooking by concluding with the following:
‘I fear the fundamental problem is that instead of using intelligence as evidence on which to base the conclusion of a policy, we used intelligence as the basis on which we could justify such a policy.’
This is pure Alice in Wonderland logic. If the evidence did exist, then why wasn’t it used instead of a collection of fakes? Cook (and by implication, the Independent) just can’t bring themselves to admit that we’ve got a government of liars, who failing any real evidence to support an invasion, had to use faked evidence instead.
The editorial, adding insult to injury, goes on to say:
‘So the charge is not…that country was pushed into war on the basis of a deliberate lie. The charge is that the country was not being told the entire balanced [sic] truth about the threat from Iraq.’
And what is the ‘entire balanced truth’? Self-evidently, there was no evidence to support its claim, so where’s the need for ‘balance’. But instead of stating this it performs another bizarre twist of logic with the following:
”If we had been, [told the truth] then the case for allowing the inspectors to continue their work would have been overwhelming.’
But surely, the entire point of lying to us and using fabricated evidence is because the government had already made up its mind that it was going to invade Iraq. It lied because it knew it didn’t have the support of the British public because it didn’t have the evidence to convince us with, so it had to use invention instead.
And finally, what the Independent’s editorial conveniently omits from its ‘questions’ (which I actually failed to locate, but never mind), is the overwhelming evidence that the UK and the US as long ago as 1991 had decided to invade Iraq anyway.”