Blair: Tense about Tenses By William Bowles

9 July 2003

Backtracking like crazy, the UK government is in a real dilemma. The US which, as we all know, lives on another planet, has let the cat out of the bag and left Blair swinging in the wind with its acknowledgement that the infamous ‘Niger’ fakes were long known to be fakes, indeed well before the UK’s September 2002 document.

Tense about tenses
So now, Blair is changing the tense of his statements. The original document contained the following specific references to ‘African’ uranium:

“sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it;

Uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq;”

Now Blair says:

“I’m not going into the details of what particular intelligence it was, but there was intelligence judged by the joint intelligence committees at the time [my emph. WB] to be correct.”

So is Blair saying that it’s no longer correct? No way José! Now Blair tells us that he has other documents proving that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger:

“[That] came from separate intelligence. In so far as our intelligence services are concerned, they stand by that.”

But of course, Blair refuses to produce this separate ‘intelligence’ in spite of UN Resolution 2441 binding the UK and US governments to hand over any evidence to the Security Council that has a direct bearing on the search for WMDs. And remember, it took months for the USUK alliance to hand over the fakes to the UN according to the IAEA and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why. The IAEA finally got hold of the fakes on March 23 2003, only days before the invasion.

But now Blair tells the Commons liaison committee that the September document was “right at the time.”

Even weirder is the claim by the UK government that it has no idea where the forged Niger documents came from, in spite of reports going back more than a year that they came from an Italian intelligence service who claim they got them from an “African diplomat,” although the most likely source is the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi’s US puppet organisation which was the source for a lot of information of dubious provenance on Iraq including the following from Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq:

“During my service as a UN weapons inspector, I had responsibility for liaison with Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress to gather “intelligence information” derived from Chalabi’s erstwhile network of defectors and in-country sources. This information turned out to be more flash than substance. For example, there was the “engineer” who allegedly worked on Saddam Hussein’s palaces who spoke of a network of underground tunnels where crates of documents were allegedly hidden during inspections. Inspectors did find a drainage tunnel. However, despite the fact that no documents were discovered, Chalabi took the tunnel’s existence as confirmation that documents also existed, and spoke as if they were an established fact.”

Plausible denial is the name of the game, with documents being passed from one government to another in a classic ‘shell game’ move. But whether the forged documents first went to US or UK intelligence services is neither here nor there. With both Bush and Blair using the same reasons as part of the justification for invasion, it’s obvious that both had access to the same information, forged or otherwise. What has changed is that Bush and Blair can’t get their stories in sync.

The minutes on the minutes
So too, the same shell game has been played with the 45 minutes to lift-off fiction. For the record, the September document felt it important enough to mention the 45 minute story no less than four times:

“And the document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.”

“Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;”

“The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so;”

“Intelligence indicates that the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.”

When challenged, Blair’s response is to tell us that they had “seven months to disperse and hide them.” Moreover, Blair is playing the same game with tenses on this issue when he told the liaison committee that:

“I certainly would want to reiterate the validity of that intelligence as we received it last September [my emph. WB].”

An interestingly, not a single document validating the 45 minute claim has ever been produced, nor have the media challenged the UK government to produce one.

Theatre review or political analysis?
The critical issue here is that regardless of how much information is revealed as to the duplicity of both the US and UK governments over the reasons for the invasion, the media lets them off the hook every time!

The BBC for example, refers to Blair’s “robust defence” of his position (Radio 4 08/07/03). Now I know the BBC loves the sound of its own voice, but what the hell does “robust defence” mean?

The Independent talks of “Blair on the offensive over missing WMD” (09/07/03) and its editorial reads more like a theatre review than an analysis of Blair’s squirming when it says:

“The Prime Minister produced a bravura performance, one of his strongest ever…he was defiant, fervent, the embodiment of conviction, when he insisted that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction and that those weapons would be found.”

And to add insult to the injury it inflicts on our intelligence, it goes on to say:

“And he [Blair] deserves to be given his due for submitting himself to this twice-yearly grilling — the first prime minister to do so.”

Well excuse me! I didn’t realise that invading and occupying a foreign country under false pretences, killing innocent people and wrecking its economy actually meant that Blair had to be answerable for his actions, even if it is only twice a year. It’s this kind of student journalism which has people viewing the political process with such cynicism, when the ‘experts’ are reduced to writing theatre reviews rather than serious analysis of critical issues. By transforming such an important issue into one which centres on the individual rather than the policies, we not only learn nothing but we are led to believe that strategic policies are the work of one man, namely, the defective Blair.

Wood for the Trees
The basic problem however, is that while everybody is scrabbling around trying to figure out who said what and when to whom, or what document is what, the essential issue — why we invaded Iraq — vanishes completely. To get to the heart of the issue it’s best to refer to the horse’s mouth for an answer, in this case, the Heritage Institute, one of the main think tanks that supplies strategic thinking (and many of the main players) to the Bush administration. In a document published on September 25, 2002 (just two days after the infamous UK dossier was published) entitled:

“In Post-War Iraq, Use Military Forces to Secure Vital U.S. Interests, Not for Nation-Building by Baker Spring and Jack Spencer Backgrounder #1589”

We read that the main reasons for invading Iraq are:

“To make it clear that a post-war U.S. military operation in Iraq is not a nation-building exercise, the Bush Administration should state that the U.S. military will be deployed to Iraq to secure the vital U.S. security interests for which the campaign is undertaken in the first place. Specifically, these war aims should be to:

  • Protect the American homeland, people, and institutions against attack, which will require the U.S. military to destroy Iraq’s terrorist infrastructure and weapons of mass destruction programs;
  • Prevent the rise of Iraq as a dominant and hostile power in the Persian Gulf region, while not allowing its elimination to become an opportunity for domination by a hostile Iran;
  • Protect Iraq’s energy infrastructure against internal sabotage or foreign attack to return Iraq to global energy markets and ensure that U.S. and world energy markets have access to its resources.”

It goes on to say that:

“Post-war military activities should be focused on securing war aims, not on administering the country or creating a new government.”

And if you’re still not sure what the real objectives are, the same document goes on to say the following:

“A U.S. and allied military presence in post-war Iraq would, by definition, not be an extended operation in which making peace was the goal. Rather, it would be an exercise involving a residual force tasked with achieving the three specific war aims described in this study. The post-war military force in Iraq would be tasked primarily with confronting any remnant elements of Saddam’s deposed regime and deterring other regional powers from exploiting the situation for purposes injurious to the interests of the United States and its allies.” – Source:

Well there’s nothing like spelling it out in clear and concise language. One wonders whether Blair has read this and other documents that lay out the strategic objectives of the US imperium. Unlike the craven Blair, hiding behind a smokescreen of ‘honesty’ and ‘sincerity’, the US policymakers have no such reticence in laying out the real reasons for all to see. I leave it to the reader to judge for themselves whether the arguments advanced by the Bush posse are the ones that have driven the invasion or it’s those posed by Blair, which seeks to present the invasion as being based upon a series of faked documents or false assertions, which it now has no other choice but to continue to support.

The government – with the media’s complicity – have also managed to separate the ‘coalition of the willing’ by completely divorcing the two, down to the reasons for the invasion. How does the UK government square its interpretation of events with that which is now spilling out into the open in the US? Will they be challenged on the totally contradictory positions of the two governments? Ultimately, and ironically, it has been the US position which is the more ‘honest’ about its reasons for invading (the Heritage Institute notwithstanding), having long demonised Saddam after dumping him as an ally.

Some other relevant sources:

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