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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

MORE NON-REVELATIONS ON IRAQI WMDS. TODAY: ROBIN COOK CONFIRMS WMD-CASE while insisting it was illegal, immoral, unwise, blah blah blah. Well, well, the angry redheaded Robbin returns. In fact he's cooled down a little and this article of his in the Groan is an instructive read. While it is presented as another one of those pieces that claim to expose the faulty nature of the Iraqi wmd-argument, it actually does nothing of the sort, even though Cook doesn't notice so himself. There's a lot of non-sense about what a great idea the containment was and more assorted stuffings that I can't be bothered to look into. But here is Cook and the main point, i.e. the weapons for mass destruction:
My briefing took place in February at my residence at Carlton Gardens, where I was visited by John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. We spoke for almost an hour and - as always - I found him professional, dispassionate and frank in his replies. When I put to him my conclusion that Saddam had no long-range weapons of mass destruction but may have battlefield chemical weapons, he readily agreed.
When I asked him why we believed Saddam would not use these weapons against our troops on the battlefields, he surprised me by claiming that, in order to evade detection by the UN inspectors, Saddam had taken apart the shells and dispersed them -with the result that it would be difficult to deploy them under attack. Not only did Saddam have no weapons of mass destruction in the real meaning of that phrase, neither did he have usable battlefield weapons.
But what this proves, dear Robin, is the exact opposite of what you claim. Intelligence thought Saddam had weapons, but that they weren't in a condition to be put into effective battlefield use. A conclusion any reasonable oberserver, including myself (ok, perhaps I wasn't always reasonable), concluded from the Blixing around in Iraq between October 2002 and March 2003. In fact this underlines why the invasion was timed correctly. If Bush and Blair had sent our forces into an Iraqi battlefield in the certain conviction that chemical and biological weapons would be used, they should have been certified criminally insane and kicked from office for starters. The whole point was that we would remove Saddam while he only had wmd programmes and ready-to-build kits of weapons, before we had to fight him when his weaponry was ready. I'm sure an argument could be mounted against that point, though I can't see what it would be.
As for the wmds, as far as we can tell (see my postings here,here and here), John Scarlett was right. Whether the CIA was right, despite the recent heavy criticism, I can't say, as I didn't really follow the mechanics of the American end of this whole endeavour.
Whatever, toppling Saddam was just and necessary, and the finer arguments over whether Blair lied, mislead or was disinterested in the precise details of Iraqi weaponry, changes nothing. This is an entirely domestic issue about the credibility and effectiveness of Tony Blair's Government, a point on which he has already as good as lost.


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