THE spooks are on the offensive. In their eyes, it still remains to
be seen whether Tony Blair lied to the British public by claiming that
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), but as the Prime
Minister's own intelligence officers now say, Parliament was misled and
subjected to spin, exaggeration and bare-faced flim-flammery.
is now seven weeks since the war in Iraq ground to a confused,
stuttering halt and still not one WMD has been found. A couple of
possible mobile bio-weapons labs have been located, but a close
examination showed they hadn't seen so much as a speck of anthrax or
nerve gas. Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made clear before the
invasion that the UK was entering the war to disarm Saddam. We were
specifically told this was not a battle about regime change, but a
battle to 'eradicate the threat of weapons of mass destruction'.
it was the ultra-hawkish US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who let
the cat out of the bag when he said on Wednesday: 'It is possible Iraqi
leaders decided they would destroy (WMDs) prior to the conflict.' If
that was true then Saddam had fulfilled the criteria of UN resolution
1441 and there was absolutely no legal right for the US and UK to go to
war. Rumsfeld's claim that Iraq might have destroyed its weapons makes
a mockery of the way the US treated the UN's chief weapons inspector Dr
Hans Blix. The US effectively told him he wasn't up to the job and the
Iraqis had fooled him .
To add to Blair's woes, Paul Wolfowitz, US
deputy defence secretary and the man credited with being the architect
of the Iraqi war, told American magazine Vanity Fair last week that the
Bush administration only focused on alleged WMDs because it was a
politically convenient means of justifying the removal of Saddam. 'For
bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass
destruction,' the leading neo-conservative hawk said, 'because it was
the one reason everyone could agree on'.
Then to cap it all, a
secret transcript of a discussion between US Secretary of State Colin
Powell and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw came to light on Friday showing
that, even while they were telling the world that Saddam was armed and
dangerous, the pair were worried that the claims about Iraq's WMD
programme couldn't be proved. Powell reportedly told Straw he hoped
that when the facts came out they wouldn't 'explode in their faces'.
how on earth did the British people come to believe Saddam was sitting
in one of his palaces with an itchy trigger finger poised above a
button marked 'WMD'? And if there were no WMDs, then why did we fight
the war? The answer lies with Rumsfeld.
With September 11 as his
ideological backdrop, Rumsfeld decided in autumn 2001 to establish a
new intelligence agency, independent of the CIA and the Pentagon,
called the Office of Special Plans (OSP). He put his deputy, Wolfowitz,
in charge. The pair were dissatisfied with the failure of the CIA among
others to provide firm proof of both Saddam's alleged WMD arsenal and
links to al-Qaeda.
Regime change in Iraq had been a long-term goal
of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Even before Bush took over the presidency in
September 2000 the pair were planning 'regime change' in Iraq. As
founders of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), one of the
USA's most extreme neo-con think-tanks, the pair were behind what has
been described as the 'blueprint' for US global domination -- a
document called Rebuilding America's Defences.
Other founders of the
PNAC include: Vice-President Dick Cheney; Bush's younger brother Jeb;
and Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. The Rebuilding America's
Defences document stated: 'The United States has for decades sought to
play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the
unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the
need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends
the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.'
The PNAC document
supports a 'blueprint for maintaining global US pre-eminence,
precluding the rise of a great-power rival and shaping the
international security order in line with American principles and
It also calls for America to 'fight and decisively win
multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars' and describes US armed
forces as 'the calvary on the new American frontier'. The UN is
sidelined as well, with the PNAC saying that peace-keeping missions
demand 'American political leadership rather than that of the United
That was the policy blueprint, but to deliver it Rumsfeld
turned to the Office of Special Plans. Put simply, the OSP was told to
come up with the evidence of WMD to give credence to US military
But what do conventional intelligence experts make of
the OSP? Colonel Patrick Lang is a former chief of human intelligence
for the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the 1990s. He
was also the DIA's chief of Middle East intelligence and was regularly
in Iraq. He said of the OSP : 'This office had a great deal of
influence in a number of places in Washington in a way that seemed to
me to be excessive and rather ill-advised.
organisations of the intelligence community have very rigorous rules
for how you evaluate information and resources, and tend to take a
conservative view of analytic positions because they're going to
dictate government decisions.
'That wasn't satisfactory in Secretary
Rumsfeld's Pentagon so he set up a separate office to review this data,
and the people in this office, although they're described as
intelligence people, are by and large congressional staffers. They
seemed to me not to have deceived intentionally but to have seen in the
data what they believe is true. I think it's a very risky thing to do.'
of the OSP intelligence was based on debriefings with Iraqi exiles -- a
tactic, says Lang, which is highly questionable as the exiles have
clear, personal agendas that might taint their claims. But even if the
US was using selective intelligence to justify war against Iraq, does
that mean that Tony Blair was also being briefed with OSP intelligence
? According to Melvin Goodman, veteran CIA analyst and current
professor of national security at the National War College in
Washington, the answer is an unequivocal 'yes'. Goodman says that there
is 'no question' that Blair was 'brought along at the highest level' by
Bush and Rumsfeld, adding that the Prime Minister was 'vulnerable
because of his own evangelical bent' over bringing democracy to the
That US view has been corroborated by British
intelligence sources who have confirmed to the Sunday Herald that the
UK government was being influenced by the selective intelligence
emanating from the OSP. Senior UK intelligence sources representing a
range of views from across all the spying services said: 'There was
absolute scepticism among British intelligence over the invasion of
Iraq. The intelligence we were working on was basically of a technical
nature coming from satellite surveillance and eavesdropping. The only
real Humint (human intelligence from agents) that we had was from Iraqi
exiles and we were sceptical of their motives.'
It was this
'tainted' information which was used to compile the crucial dossier on
Iraq which Blair presented to MPs last September. The most sensational
part of the dossier claimed that Iraq could deploy chemical and
biological weapons within 45 minutes -- a claim based on one single
Iraqi defector. A British intelligence source said: 'The information
had been lying around for ages. The problem was we didn't really trust
the defectors as they were working in their own self-interest and
really doing their master's bidding -- by that I mean us, the UK. They
also had one eye to the future and their role in any new Iraqi
The British intelligence source said the best Humint on Saddam was held by the French who had agents in Iraq.
intelligence was telling us that there was effectively no real evidence
of a WMD programme. That's why France wanted a longer extension on the
weapons inspections. The French, the Germans and the Russians all knew
there were no weapons there -- and so did Blair and Bush as that's what
the French told them directly. Blair ignored what the French told us
and instead listened to the Americans.'
Another source -- an
official involved in preparing the Iraqi dossier for Blair -- told the
BBC: 'Most people in intelligence weren't happy with [the dossier] as
it didn't reflect the considered view they were putting forward.' Other
sources said they accepted there was a 'small WMD programme' in Iraq,
but not one that would either threaten the West or even Saddam's
neighbours. Another said they were 'very unhappy' with the dossier,
others said they were 'pissed off' and one described the claim that
WMDs could be ready in 45 minutes as 'complete and utter bollocks'.
Sunday Herald was told: 'The spooks were being asked to write this
stuff. The dossier had been lying around for about six months. When it
came time for publication Downing Street said it wasn't exciting or
convincing enough. The message was that it didn't cut the mustard in
terms of PR as there wasn't much more in it than a discerning newspaper
reader would know.
'The intelligence services were asked if there
was anything else that could be added into it. Intelligence told
Downing Street that the 45-minute claim hadn't been added in as it only
came from one source who was thought to be wrong.
services were asked to go back and do a rewrite even though Downing
Street was told the 45 minute claim was unconvincing.'
intelligence source was quoted as telling the BBC that they had been
asked to rewrite the dossier as well to make it 'sexier'. The
intelligence source said the dossier had been 'transformed' a week
before publication. Blair has rejected each and every one of these
claims as 'completely absurd'.
In a further curious twist, an
intelligence source claimed the real 'over-arching strategic reason'
for the war was the road map to peace, designed to settle the running
sore of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The source said: 'I believe
that Britain and America see the road map as fundamental. They were
being told by Ariel Sharon's government that Israel would not play ball
until Saddam was out of the picture. That was the condition. So he had
Meanwhile, the blame game is now well and truly under
way and someone is going to end up carrying the can. Jane Harman, the
senior Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said:
'This could conceivably be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time
... It was the moral justification for war. I think the world is owed
CIA director George Tenet has just over a month to
get his act together before the House and Senate Intelligence
committees start hearings into the nature of intelligence and the Iraq
war. Like Downing Street, the Pentagon strongly denies it manipulated
Here in the UK, more than 70 MPs have signed an early
day motion calling on the government to justify its case for war by
publishing the intelligence on which it was based. Labour rebels are
threatening to report Blair to the Speaker of the Commons for the
cardinal sin of misleading Parliament. This would force Blair to answer
emergency questions in the Commons.
The government, however, has hit
back by starting to spin against its own intelligence agencies -- a
potentially deadly tactic. One senior minister was quoted as saying
anonymously: 'If we don't find weapons of mass destruction, it will be
Britain's biggest ever intelligence failure. We would have to look at
the whole set up of how we gather intelligence in the future. It would
have serious consequences.'
Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence
minister who is organising the backbench protests, said: 'The only
cogent reason that was offered for the war was weapons of mass
destruction, which the government said could be utilised within 45
minutes. It seems to me that, at the very least, evidence was used
selectively from intelligence reports to fit the case.' He added that
failure to prove the case for war was built on solid ground would
'shatter trust' in the government. 'Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff
Hoon are all barristers,' Kilfoyle said. 'They know very well a case
based on this sort of information would be laughed out of court.'Five steps to the world according to Bush
ultra-hawkish neo-conservative think-tank, the Project for the New
American Century, was set up in 1997 by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld,
Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush (George W's brother) and Paul Wolfowitz. Its
over-arching aim is the establishment of a 'global Pax Americana' -- a
re-ordered world squarely under the control of the USA. To achieve this
grand strategic goal, the PNAC says these steps must be achieved:
- Saddam deposedAfghanistan invaded
- Arafat isolated
- Syria cowed
- UN sidelined
- Iran punished
As the world has seen, nearly all of these aims have been achieved.
2. The Office of Special Plans
This new intelligence agency was set up in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks by US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
by the failure of conventional spying organisations such as the CIA to
come up with proof that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was
linked to Osama bin Laden, the OSP cherry-picked intelligence from
mountains of raw data to build the intelligence picture its political
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