Saturday, July 10, 2004
Via Zemblan patriot J.D.: The Observer plugs a BBC interview with a "senior intelligence official" whose comments may prefigure the findings of the Butler report on England's pre-war intelligence, which is scheduled to be released next week:
Tony Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein posed a 'current and serious' threat to Britain is challenged by dramatic new allegations today that Britain's spy chiefs have retracted the intelligence on which it was based.It's widely assumed that, at the very least, several cabinet-level officials have their necks on the chopping block, although the general sentiment seems to be that Blair will be able to keep his job. That said, the British have an idiosyncratic tendency that's quite alien to American sensibilities -- that of holding the man at the top responsible for the disastrous consequences of his own mendacity:
The supposed proof that the Iraqi dictator held old stockpiles and was still trying, even in the run-up to war, to produce chemical and biological weapons became crucial to the Prime Minister's case for urgent military action rather than waiting for inspectors to finish their task.
Yet MI6 has since taken the rare step of withdrawing the intelligence assessment that underpinned Blair's case, according to a senior intelligence source interviewed by BBC1's Panorama tonight - an admission that it was fundamentally unreliable.
[Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee,] said the failure within British agencies did not let Mr Blair off the hook. "The buck stops there and I don't think that the political layer in any country can escape the consequences of a systemic failure," she said.But the criticisms above pale beside this pronouncement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who plainly feels that Mr. Blair is best-suited for a private-sector job shoveling lava in the fiery bowels of hell:
She refused to say whether Mr Blair should resign if the report found he had been wrong, but said: "He is making a distinction between what he genuinely believed and what turns out to be the case so he is at least open to the accusation of incompetence" . . . .
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday the former foreign secretary Robin Cook said the suggestion that there had been a "global" intelligence failure was "garbage"
"Nobody except Washington and London thought that Saddam was such a threat that we had immediately to go to war," he said . . . .
Mr Cook said John Scarlett had told him before the war that Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons of mass destruction that could be fired over long distances at strategic cities.
"I still find it perplexing why Number 10 came to a different conclusion."
Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, weighed into the debate, warning that Blair would be judged before God for his actions and suggesting he would be condemned to struggle with his conscience. Asked how Blair would have to account for himself to his Maker, Williams answered: 'At the judgment seat'. For Christians, that is the point of entry either to heaven or to hell. 'When you acknowledge that you have taken a risk which has not paid off, which has cost, and that cost does not seem be justified, that's the punishment,' he said.