The former First Secretary responsible for the Middle East, Carne Ross, confirmed to the Chilcot inquiry that the “Iraq WMD” story was a lie and that parliament and the controlled media were complicit in the deceit.
He also added, just as the BNP has said, that the individuals responsible for the lies should be held personally criminally liable.
In a lengthy written statement handed in to the inquiry, which can be found on its official website by clicking here, Mr Ross said that it “remains my view that the internal government assessment of Iraq’s capabilities was intentionally and substantially exaggerated in public government documents during 2002 and 2003.
“Throughout my posting in New York, it was the UK and US assessment that while there were many unanswered questions about Iraq’s WMD stocks and capabilities, we did not believe that these amounted to a substantial threat.
“At no point did we have any firm evidence, from intelligence sources or otherwise, of significant weapons holdings: most of the unanswered questions derived from discrepancies in Iraq’s accounting for its past stocks and the destruction of these stocks.”
Mr Ross said that before he took up the New York post, he was briefed by relevant departments in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 9FCO).
“At Non-Proliferation Department (NPD), which was responsible for the Iraq disarmament issue, I was told that the UK did not believe that Iraq possessed any substantial stocks of chemical weapons (CW), biological weapons (BW) nuclear weapons or the means to deliver them.
“None of the intelligence I saw subsequently in the 4 ½ years that I covered the issue, where I read on most days a thick folder of “humint” and “sigint” [intelligence terms for specific types of reports] relating to Iraq, or the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments, during this period, substantially changed this assessment,” Mr Ross wrote.
Mr Ross also dealt with the claim that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was somehow behind the attacks of 9-11, which was given as one of the major reasons for the invasion.
He pointed to a minute from the Political Director to the Foreign Secretary on 22 March 2002 which said that there was no evidence whatsoever of any connection between Al Qaida terrorists and the Saddam Hussein regime.
“This judgement is repeated in many different documents during this period,” Mr Ross added.
He also revealed how unproven allegations that Iraq possessed 12 dismantled Scud missiles (which, he points out, was also later to be proven false) were transformed, without any evidence at all, into intercontinental missiles in the infamous “Blair dossier.”
“In the September dossier, up to 12 Scuds became up to 20 Al-Hussain variant extended range Scud missiles, a significant increase, for which there was no corresponding basis in the intelligence data,” Mr Ross said.
“These Scud missiles were apparently the basis for the government’s claim that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes, although the dossier offered no explanation for the 45 minute claim. This claim also had no basis in firm intelligence. There were in fact no dismantled Scud missiles, of any variant, found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.”
Mr Ross gave another illustration of this process of what he called “deliberate public exaggeration.”
In March 2002, he said, a paper on Iraq’s WMD was sent to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) which included the claim that if Iraq’s weapons programmes remain unchecked, Iraq could develop a crude nuclear device in about five years.
“This was not and had not been the government’s assessment hitherto which was instead more or less the opposite, that if controls [i.e. sanctions] are lifted, then Iraq could develop a crude nuclear device in about five years.
“In other words, it had been the government’s assessment that sanctions were effectively preventing Iraq from developing a nuclear capability. The head of Non-Proliferation Department sent a minute to the Foreign Secretary’s Special [Political] Adviser of 13 March 2002 drawing attention to this discrepancy (the Head of NPD had not been consulted on the preparation of the PLP paper) which pointed out that the UK’s public formulation (“if controls were lifted..”) was based on JIC assessments.
“The minute was apparently ignored; the PLP paper was not corrected: indeed, it was later circulated as briefing for the Cabinet,” he said.
“The September ‘02 dossier uses an even starker formulation, namely that if “Iraq obtained fissile material and other essential components from foreign sources the timeline for production of a nuclear weapon would be shortened and Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon in between one and two years.
“This statement is purely hypothetical, and was as true in 1991 as it was in 2002; there was no evidence at either point that Iraq was close to obtaining the necessary material,” Mr Ross said.
“This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty. But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies,” he said.
Mr Ross pointed out that parliament and the mass media were complicit in these lies.
“Nor is it sufficient to rely upon parliament or the press to hold the government to account. Both institutions largely failed to do so in the run-up to the Iraq war, and largely aped and were led by the mendacities of those in government,” Mr Ross said.
He called for the introduction of measures which would hold “individual officials . . . personally and legally accountable for their actions in government.
“There is little such accountability today; instead officials are protected by anonymity, the secrecy cloaking so much of their work, and the legal immunity largely accorded to civil servants, including in conducting actions of such enormous import as sanctions or wars.
“If officials like me or my colleagues know that one day they might personally be held legally accountable for these actions, it should, one hopes, instill in them a greater sense of responsibility and integrity than that which is sometimes evident in the Iraq case.
“It goes without saying that the same legal accountability should also be applied to the political masters who make such decisions. The UK accepted this principle in recent negotiations on the powers of the International Criminal Court whose parties, including the UK, have recently agreed that the crime of aggression should be a prosecutable offence, including for heads of state,” he said.
The BNP first exposed the WMD story as a lie on its website long before it became fashionable to do so, and last year caused a media storm when it called for the politicians and civil servants responsible for the outrageous lies to be held criminally responsible for the war crime of invading Iraq.