by Chris Ames
Today’s Guardian carries a conversation between LibDem Menzies Campbell and former Labour minister Charles Falconer to mark 10 years (almost) since the publication in September 2002 of the notorious dossier on “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Sadly, even ten years on Falconer feels the need to dodge the truth.
When Falconer claims that “Scarlett made himself the effective guardian of that document”, ie the dossier, Guardian journalist Oliver Laughland intervenes to observe:
But subsequent reporting last year unearthed a memo from Scarlett to Tony Blair’s foreign aide, which refers to the “benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD, Iraq is not that exceptional”. Doesn’t this suggest a deliberate misleading?
This is a reference to my story for the Observer last year, which revealed that:
The senior intelligence official responsible for Tony Blair‘s notorious dossier on Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction proposed using the document to mislead the public about the significance of Iraq’s banned weapons.
Sir John Scarlett, who as head of the Joint Intelligence Committee was placed “in charge” of writing the September 2002 dossier, sent a memo to Blair’s foreign affairs adviser referring to “the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional”.
But Falconer has no interest in addressing this point, acknowledging the undeniable reality that someone who refers to “the benefit of obscuring” something is proposing a “deliberate misleading”. He says:
“I honestly don’t think so. The point that Scarlett is making in that memo is that there are other countries with maybe more developed WMD than Iraq, and we’re doing nothing about them.”
This is the kind of evasion by obfuscation that politicians engaged in and it is very sad that Falconer still thinks he can get away with it. He is basically lying. In the memo Scarlett is not saying that Britain is doing nothing about countries with maybe more developed WMD, he is proposing limiting a paper about four countries alleged to have WMD to Iraq only, to stop people asking why Britain and the US were only targeting Iraq. It was deliberate misleading and the myth that Falconer is still relying on – that Scarlett was an honest broker – was shattered. The Scarlett memo is here on the Digest.
There is one reference to the Inquiry, when Campbell observes that it is “– judging by the kind of questions that were being asked and some of the rumours emerging – unlikely in its conclusions to remedy that very perception Charlie has just described.” What Charlie Falconer has just said, is that:
It [the dossier] has had a hugely damaging effect on politics. I supported, and continue to support, the use of force. But in terms of people’s trust in politicians, the impression is that the government misled the country in relation to the reasons for war and embarked on it when there wasn’t a proper justification. A as history adjudges the intervention as being both wrong and based on false facts, people hold government, and to a wider extent parliament, in less high standing than before. They believe you can’t trust what the government says about important issues; they think the Commons and the Lords are not very good at forcing governments to do the right thing. That absolutely undermines the basis of our democracy.
If there is any honesty or regret in what Falconer says here, he has undermined it by continuing to play the politicians game of evasion, obfuscation and lying.