IRAQ WAR: Governments change, Cabinet Offices don’t. From now on, they should.

Now that the liars are out of office,
it’s time we were told the truth about Iraq’s invisible WMD

In October 2002, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the media, “Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that support the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we have not received any such information from our partners as yet.”

This is about as unequivocal as anything Russian ever gets, but during the previous month Tony Blair and his fellow liar Alastair Campbell were busy fabricating sorry, preparing the now infamous dossier on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of something we’re not sure about but by God it all sounds nasty.

Iraq Inquiry Digest website
founder Chris Ames is still trying manfully to find out who said what about Tony Blair’s foreword to the September 2002 dossier on “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction” as it was being drafted. This isn’t merely an academic try to complete his footnotes: Chris is a journalist concerned about the Inquiry having singled out as unjustifiable Blair’s claim that intelligence had ‘established beyond doubt’ that Iraq had wmd. Chilcot has in turn heard conflicting evidence about whether intelligence officials felt able to warn Blair off the claim.

But the Cabinet Office is playing silly buggers. It’s obvious that Joint Chiefs did not want Blair to claim that reports had established Iraq’s possession and continuing production of wmd ‘beyond doubt’. But the public still doesn’t know exactly what they say about it. And with anything involving Tony Blair, there’s usually a very good reason why not.

Chris submitted another FOI request about the matter earlier this week, and the Cabinet Office blocked it. Chris writes quite correctly that the CO’s offences were not saying within the 20 days that they had the information; not stating early enough what exemption under the Act they were relying on; and not giving an estimate for how long it all might take.

These are all procedural points, but they illustrate the type of games the Cabinet Office plays: not confirming that you have the information requested is just plain filibuster.

The Guardian however now has an an angle on the issue. Yesterday, the paper reported that ‘Highly critical comments by a senior army officer asked to conduct a study of the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq have been suppressed on the orders of the country’s top defence officials’. The MoD (the brave department that told The Slog several times it was about to leak damning stuff about the dossier, but never did) continues to say whatever newspaper of either the Left or Right wants to hear.

Thus, it told the Telegraph that the supposedly suppressed document ‘was still in the drafting process and would be made available’; but then told the Independent that the report ‘had been sent back for redrafting after a series of factual errors were spotted’. So a case of miswriting, perhaps. Or misdrafting. Or both.

We have a new Government in power now. Chilcot is due to start holding open sessions again next month.Before the General Election, Nick Clegg accused Gordon Brown of “suffocating the Inquiry by imposing on it a protocol restricting its ability to publish and quote from key documents”. Mr Clegg is now the Number Two man in a sweep-Westminster-Clean Coalition.

I think it behoves him to give the people of Britain an assurance that mendacious bureaucrats will no longer be allowed to subvert the Freedom of Information Act in this (and many other) matters.

The Slog is indebted to Chris Ames for his diligent and dedicated reporting
of this case.