Live Blog – 12 January 2010

Tuesday 12 January 2010


(There was one evidence session today, scheduled for 10:00 – 13:00.)

Topic: (The inquiry now lists witnesses by relevant role, rather than by topic area.)

Alastair Campbell, Director of Communications and Strategy to the Prime Minister, 2001 – 2003
.

This morning’s hearing, as it happened


Today’s witness, from 10.00 – 13.00 is Alastair Campbell, formerly Tony Blair’s director of communications and strategy.

16.01 Chilcot winds up with a look at tomorrow.

15.58 Chilcot asks Campbell if he the panel have given him sufficient opportunity to make his reflections. Campbell says we have already learnt some of the wrong lessons in relation to strategic communications. Refers to Afghanistan. I hope that because of all the controversy we don’t go back to a way of communications that doesn’t understand the modern media. Also, I think ultimately, you can have all the advisers you want but it’s the guys you have elected at the top who have to make the decisions. I hope we don’t put a future generation of leaders in a position where the really difficult decision cannot be taken.

15.56 Freedman asks if this led to a focus on the war rather than the aftermath. Campbell says the aftermath did not become such a big issue as it might/should have done. Goes back to BBC/Gilligan report, which took over the debate.

15.54 Freedman asks about the intensity of debate early 2003. Did that make it difficult to have a real debate within government? Campbell says there were divisions in country and within parliamentary Labour party. No-one was saying let’s fundamentally re-evaluate the position. Obviously every aspect of policy was looked at.

15.52 Freedman asks when Campbell first realised how difficult the aftermath was. Campbell says early, seven days after the invasion. Scarlett says there are big problems withing ORHA.

15.48 Lyne asks if the policy was a success and if he has any success. Campbell says Britain should be really proud of what Britain has done. I don’t know, but I think it had an impact on Libya. I saw someone (Blair) of deep conviction making difficult decisions. Lyne asks him to look at loss of life, effects on stability of middle east, international terrorism within Iraq, do you think it was a success? I do, but I would add those caveats. Some progress on middle east. Loss of life, including British soldiers. But I saw Blair going on before September 11 about wmd. Could things have been differently? I was privileged that I was there and of the part I was able to play.

15.46 Queries Campbell’s claim that the diplomatic route had failed but other diplomats said the process had been cut short by US military timetable. Campbell says that Blair had reached a conclusion that having persuaded the US to go through the UN route, 1441 etc that any further problem was then end of it. Although Greenstock said there were only ever 4 votes on the UNSC, it was possible that the middle six would have come across, until the French.

15.43 Lyne asks did it go badly wrong? Campbell says yes but not for a single reason. Admits that he is talking beyond his expertise. Became a security problem. Initial problems were “sortable” until the security situation developed in the way that it did. From my point of view I sent half of my office over and was willing to go there. We did a plan of communications plan. CIC head went out. The bits that we were meant to do got filled.

15.42 Lyne asks if the UK government was originally not putting resources into it. Refers to Greenstock’s evidence that UK trying to get UN resolution put us in a good place post war but doesn’t know if it was relevant.

15.39 They are now talking about the communications aspects of the aftermath. Lyne refers to Maj Gen Tim Cross’s account of post-war concerns. Asks Campbell to recollect handling post-war. He goes back to pre-war planning for post-war. Lyne asks if there was a moment when he discovered that the Americans actually hadn’t been planning for the aftermath? Yes. Tim Cross made a big impact on me. We had constantly been saying is everything being done and getting reassuring noises back.

15.38 Campbell says that Short’s exclusion did not impact hugely on the aftermath. Did the circle of secrecy affect the MoD in its ability to plan? Campbell says that it was mainly about not disrupting the diplomatic strategy. I can remember before Crawford, Mike Boyce and his team were thinking about planning because the US were. Everyone was clear the issue was on the agenda. Refers to meeting pre-Crawford in diary. Lyne: were you encouraging Boyce to be more optimistic? Quotes from Boyce’s evidence re glass half full. Campbell says he doesn’t remember ever saying this.

15.30 Lyne: why was [Short] not involved? Campbell says good question and ideally she would have. Cabinet government involves putting together reshuffle. Individuals of variable competence, trustworthiness in PM’s eyes. Lyne: are you implying that [short] was not regarded as trustworthy and competent? When she was in support of a government policy, she was regarded as trustworthy, e.g. Kosovo. It was no secret that she was difficult to handle. Military found her difficult. Worries that things would get out. Lyne: because she was “difficult”, her department would not be included. She was not given Iraq Options Paper (2001/2?). Later (Sept 02) told she could not have intelligence briefing. What were the consequences of this for the government’s ability to plan for the aftermath?

15.24 They are back for the final session. Campbell says the “moral case” speech was the day of the march. Lyne asks about the way that the Cabinet was involved. Your diaries were pretty illuminating. Straw says Iraq was discussed a lot but Butler report said there was a lack of papers. Why? I don’t know. It is not my job… My sense is that there were a lot of meetings with the smaller group then a “war cabinet”. That certainly would have been serviced. Lyne: but the Cabinet had to take responsibility. Quotes Clare Short. Did the Cabinet in 2002, early 2003 at any stage have a properly informed debate about the strategy? Yes, I think the PM said in a different context that if the first he heard of a political issue was at cabinet, his systems would have failed. I have been at debates at Cabinet where those involved in it day to day were taking the lead. Other ministers were challenging. Charles Clarke and Chief Whip giving frank assessments. Trying to get through meetings effectively (quickly).

15.12 Gilbert asks another easy question. Not really a question: and you supported him. Gives Campbell a chance to blow his trumpet again. Then there is a ten minute break. Chilcot says another half hour to go, on the aftermath.

15.09 Gilbert asks what account was taken of the big march in 2003? “Ultimately it just made him [Blair] think more deeply about the issues.” Iraqis came to see him to stiffen his resolve. Then Blair made the “moral” case for war. Campbell is saying that people at the heart of government had family members on the march. Let’s do away with the conspiracy theories. It was all done in good faith.

15.06 Campbell is now asking about the day of the parliamentary debate and (not necessarily on the same day) a debate between two elderly women about 1441.

15.03 Gilbert asks about the impact of wmd and the “unrivaled barbarity” of SH. How did you assess the relative balance of these arguments? Campbell says they were both important. This has become a bit of a cosy chat, with Gilbert empathising with Campbell on the difficulties of getting the public onboard with a strategy to convince the public of the need for war.

15.01 Gilbert says that there was going to be a problem with gaining public/parliamentary support. At the end of 2002, Campbell proposed a new strategy. Can you tell us what that was? It really just involved him having a regular set of activities. Campbell now says there was and still is considerable support for the government’s position.

15.00 Gilbert asks Campbell a soft question about how he managed to get across the idea that it was about more than going along with the US. Campbell very grateful for the question.

14.59 A long ramble about Cheney’s plans to bring democracy. Puts in the context of a post-cold war single superpower world. US seen as bringing Americanisation.

14.55 Gilbert asks about October diary 02 entry “TB just wishes the Americans would do more”. Campbell acknowledges this. Gilbert asks what were the aspects of US actions that were unhelpful? They have a different system and didn’t understand the impact of statements beyond their shores. Bush was better than others. Long ramble about transatlantic relations.

14.49 Gilbert asks about the conditions set out in Blair’s agreement at Crawford. How did he try to bring public opinion round? The most important point was the dossier. Then there was the “masochism strategy”.

14.45 Lyne refers to Campbell’s evidence to FAC saying that Scarlett did not see Feb 03 paper beforehand. Some confusion over this. Agreed that Scarlett should have seen the dossier and vetted it. Q: the difficulty is that even Scarlett would not have picked up a plagiarised section. Campbell agrees. Lyne says that he is surprised that Campbell does not know if Scarlett saw the dossier.

14.44 Campbell claims there was no doubt internationally, e.g. Putin. Freedman points out that Putin publicly disagreed.

14.40 Freedman asks, as things aren’t found, it must have occurred to someone that hey weren’t there. Was that an issue? Did you raise it? That was a big issue. There was a date when Scarlett raised how big a problem was it re the military. I remember a discussion and feeling absolutely chilled. Our belief that they would find it was real, it was profound. Knowing as we did that this was hugely controversial, to be told that it was perfectly possible that you might have to accept there were no wmd. Freedman asks the obvious question: did this only become apparent after the fighting. Did the possibility at least occur to you after the fighting. Scarlett warned April 28 (02) Scarlett warned there might be no wmd.

14.36 Freedman says that Blair published the Feb 03 dossier as if it had a similar status to the September dossier. Campbell says he would defend the Sept dossier till the end of my days. But there was a mistake over attribution. Admits this may have led to a problem over trust. Talks about quality control issues.

14.33 Why was it considered that it was necessary to give it more time? Because people were saying give inspections more time. But Freedman says that it was published when the inspectors were not finding anything and doubts were being raised about the September dossier. Says that UNMOVIC was facing a pretty hopeless task. Also PM put in Commons library. Yes, that’s true. After limited attention…

14.28 Were people from your team involved? Yes and people from other countries, US, France, Spain. Did they do the February dossier? Yes. How did it come about? An SIS man who was an adviser said that there was info on obstruction and concealment. Discussed whether it could be used publicly. Word came back that it could. I commissioned at a certain point a paper on Iraq concealment obstruction etc. They started to work on that an produced a paper, which was fine. It went round the system. Does that include to the JIC? The answer to that is I don’t know. Then the decision was made, I think it was on the visit in February, that we would give this as a briefing paper to the Sunday journalists travelling to Washington. Relatively little coverage. It became better known when it became known that bits of it were taken from a journal.

14.26 Freedman asks about the Communications information Centre (CIC). Campbell says it goes back to Kosovo, losing propaganda battle. I was asked to help NATO establish a different comms model. The CIC its first incarnation was really post Sept 11. What that was about was having different timezones…

The CIC was the British element of that.

14.22 Freedman asks about the aftermath of the dossier. Was there a discussion about doing it again. Campbell again says it was unprecedented. Freedman asks about Campbell’s “help” to Blair afterwards. Freedman asks about Iraq communications group. After a bit of waffle, it evolved into a once a week meeting.

14.21 Campbell goes back to the claim that we are only having this discussion because of a thoroughly dishonest piece of journalism.

14.20 Prashar asks about unusual policy of publishing intelligence. Were the constitutional implications considered, regarding the cardinal principal of keeping intelligence secret? Yes, it was discussed and the implications were understood. Was the cabinet secretary consulted? He would have been involved. Prashar said “you blurred the lines” between intelligence and decision making. Campbell disputes this.

14.17 Lyne says that increasing concern does not equal “growing”.

14.16 See this on Comment is Free

14.12 Lyne asks what the basis for Blair’s claim that intelligence was “active, detailed and growing”. Doesn’t appear in JIC assessments. Quotes form Campbell’s diary re 23 July 2002. “He does not have nukes, he has some offensive capability”. Dossier refers to “continuing possession”, “continuing capablity to develop”, attempts to acquire. Was it correct to refer to Iraq’s wmd as growing? Campbell returns to claim that Blair was increasingly concerned. It may have been right that other countries were more advanced but Iraq was a unique threat because of use and defiance of UN. Lyne comes back to issue of containment. Campbell says it wasn’t working as well as had been!

14.11 Campbell says that you could have done more to say that caveats were important but effect would have been the same. Lyne says, if the JIC assessments did not justify “beyond doubt” and if JIC members said it was not justified, would you agree that parliament had been misled? NO, I wouldn’t.

14.10 Lyne goes through previous evidence and JIC assessments, including 9 September 2002 – “intelligence remains limited”. Lyne puzzled. Campbell has no explanation. Says that he suspects that Blair will say the same. Campbell says that was the judgement that Blair was led to make.

14.09 Lyne goes back to “established beyond doubt” claim in foreword. Says it is a very strong statement. Had JIC assessments used the words “beyond doubt” in describing intelligence on Iraq? Campbell says he did not know. If Blair had sat down… Why shouldn’t he believe it. Lyne asks what was the basis? Campbell says the basis was the intelligence assessments. Lyne says that doubts and caveats were in every JIC assessment? Campbell says it was Blair’s assessments. JIC talked about “step change”. Says this was in report 2001. COMMENT: Campbell can quote this but not the assessments that supposedly fed into the dossier.

14.00 Were back. More questions on the September dossier. Lyne goes back to what Campbell said about Blair’s press conference and his attempts to “calm down” the atmosphere. Campbell says the tone of the press conference was that questions needed to be answered. Lyne moves on to the “frenzy” after publication of the dossier. Campbell disputes word. Lyne says it was covered in a dramatic way. 45 minutes claim attracted attention. Did Campbell try to put people right on the 45 minutes? Did we try to get back to the Standard and say you got this wrong? I didn’t.

12.55 The morning session has closed. We will come back at 2 O’clock.

12.50 Freedman asks why the dossier was looked at so negatively. Campbell says it was because people would not accept the Hutton report. Says people do not regard the dossier negatively. If you have a media culture that decides that because an inquiry does not come up with what it has been telling its readers… Freedman says that the reason the dossier came to be controversial is because the claims turned out to be untrue. Campbell says that was because the intelligence was wrong.

12.46 Freedman says that 45 minutes claim did attract attention at the time of publication. Campbell says it was nothing to do with him. Freedman refers to Powell email about Standard headline on day of publication. Campbell implies that he wasn’t bothered. Claims he did not know what he replied. Freedman asks about Campbell’s reaction to publication of dossier. Campbell keeps going back to Gilligan story. It was an important moment. There is a risk that when international crises develop that government’s won’t take the decisions that they need to.

12.44 Freedman now refers to the “may” in the presentation of the 45 minutes claim. Campbell says he was just pointing out the inconsistency. Freedman asks if he was aware that people like the DIS’ Brian Jones was questioning the certainty. Campbell says that he was not aware of this.

12.43 Freedman asks about the way the published dossier eventually links the dossier with longer range weapons. Campbell again says no-one would be bothered if it were not for Gilligan.

12.42 Campbell says that it could have been clearer. You can go back, with the benefit of hindsight and rewrite every line.

12.40 Freedman is talking about the 45 minutes claim. Says it has been established that Campbell didn’t make it up etc. Points to distinction between munitions and drafting. Asks if Campbell and his team were aware of distinction and had input into its presentation. Campbell goes back and talks about the claim that the dossier was not a big thing. Claims that he was not aware of the 45 minutes at the time.

12.35 Campbell is insisting that he did not seek to rewrite the intelligence assessments, in spite of clear evidence that he did. Freedman is not having it. He keeps coming back to the JIC statement, versus, what Blair said in the Commons about a year or two. Campbell simply refuses to accept it. He says there is an argument to be had about whether intelligence material should be explained to the public. I think it is a good thing. He says it is only because of [Gilligan] controversy.

12.31 Campbell is asked about the nuclear timelines. Freedman puts it to him that the US position caused problems. Campbell says the latest Guardian story is a conspiracy theory. Freedman refers to 17 September, says that Campbell and Blair wanted “bomb 1-2 years”. Campbell is insisting on only talking about one email. Freedman quotes from email quoting “nothing much to worry about”. Shows Campbell how things changed after his emails. Quite a significant change. The intelligence we had was about 5 years. Then taking a specific scenario. Campbell insists that it was just about things not being clear. Freedman says there are more emails. Campbell is claiming it is just about clarity.

12.25 Campbell is being grilled about the foreword. Does not accept that it was overstated. Claims that Scarlett or JIC could have complained at any time. Chilcot comes back to Scarlett’s evidence that he couldn’t.

12.17 Campbell confirms that he wrote the foreword, based on a “verbal draft” from Blair. He was comfortable and would have seen drafts.

12.15 Freedman is asking about the role of intelligence officials being drawn into making a case. Not surprising that they want to help. Campbell doesn’t accept that Scarlett was under that kind of pressure. The reason we got to this place was because PM was concerned.

12.14 Campbell is repeatedly refusing to accept that the dossier overstated the case, in spite of what the Butler inquiry said. He has not accepted that the “established beyond doubt” was overstated, claiming that the dossier was the work of the JIC

(Chris Ames resuming blog)

12.12 AC – process needed presentational advice but at no time asked for intel to be beefed up.

12.06 LF – e-mails from others. One said draft was “intelligence light”. AC – didn’t agree with opinions. Thought draft was good. No suggestion that Peterborough was about to be nuked.

12.03 PM looking for material for inclusion in dossier. Others brought into process for this reason. JS had “silver pen”. LF – Williams? AC – Not first draft. After Sept 5/9 all to be used by JS as he saw fit.

11.57 Scarlett wanted ownership of final dossier but FCO wanted similar. PM wanted public to see what intelligence (JIC) was telling him. JS asked for presentational advice. AC chaired meetings because he was charged by PM to provide this advise.

11.50 March 02 paper. Why not published? Not the time to ‘ramp it up’.

11.48 AC – US position was in a different place re neocons etc. LF – production of dossier. AC – JIC paper re 4 countries was put to one side.

11.44 LF – Why was dossier necessary? AC – it was an exercise in openness. Part of thinking was ‘bringing forward the process’. PM wanted to set out reasons for his greater concern.

11.35 Back after break. Extension after lunch. RL – picking up earlier points. Letters from US. Who saw them? AC – went around system.

MG – Importance to PM of UN route – what if UN route failed? Discussions took place. Consensus? Best route as was established. PM had fear that if UN was not seen to act UN would be damaged. After 1441 and French issue action was the way to go.

(Andrew Mason taking over blog)

11.15 Break until 11.30

11.13 Did Blair tell Bush in writing that he would support Bush if he took military action? The tenor was the same: we will take action on wmd and if necessary, military action. Without conditions? Campbell rambles on about justification without answering questions. Blair trying to get resolved without a single shot.

11.10 Lyne goes back to Camp David. Need to confront Saddam. Did PM agree that Saddam needed to be confronted even if not supported by UN. Campbell tries to dodge question. Lyne asks again. Campbell goes back to Greenstock’s evidence. UN not a single body but a collection of nations. Lyne: you still haven’t answered my question. Campbell tries to make it about UN disagreeing. Lyne says it’s about not getting agreement. Campbell, rambles on about the usual stuff… but then when it came to the next step, elements of the UN. Lyne says he has “effectively” given an answer.

11.06 Lyne asks if Blair used the same line in the UK. Campbell keeps avoiding the question. Lyne says that is not the question that I asked. Campbell says it is not a significant change. Lyne asks if Campbell found the line again. Campbell says that Blair made clear throughout that if the diplomatic route does not lead to disarmament. Goes back to Greenstock. Lyne refers to documentary evidence that in March 2002 Manning went to Washington with changed instructions regarding regime change. LYNE IS REFERING TO DOCUMENTS BUT NOT QUOTING FROM THEM. Lyne quotes from Meyer’s evidence. Campbell says it was a different part of the timeframe but consistent. We are trying to get a diplomatic solution…

11.04 Lyne asks about post Crawford press conference and claims that all options were considered. At which meetings were such options considered? There were lots of meetings. Lyne: what were those strategic options? Campbell talks about running together of military and diplomatic track. Lyne: those are tactical options within a strategy. Were you not in a situation where containment had [worked]. Was that not an option that was discussed? Yes, I think that was discussed at Crawford. Goes back to immediately after Bush election. There was a sense that it was not sustainable in the long term. Talks about “calculus of threat”.

11.03 Lyne talks about post Crawford speech. “if necessary… regime change. The moment for decision not yet with us”. That language, would you not see that as a commitment to American people of commitment? I don’t see that as a significant shift. Goes back to 1998. Reads quickly, then slower. I don’t think post-Crawford speech was saying anything that wasn’t evident. Lyne: how is the US audience to interpret that? Probably in the same way as post Chicago.
Lyne: is he signalling to the American people that he supports regime change? Campbell says that it is about Britain supporting the US (over wmd) if it comes to it.

11.02 Lyne is asking if Blair had meetings asked ministers what were the options for dealing with Iraq? Yes.

10.57 Prashar says that privately Blair had a strong conviction about regime change but publicly talked about wmd. Campbell is now claiming that Bush would have accepted disarmament as regime change.

10.56 Campbell is still insisting that it was about dealing with wmd.

10.53 Prashar asks why the focus was on wmd. Campbell says there was not one issue. Whole panoply. Campbell: “why were wmd so central: Blair was convinced of it. Was the regime part of it of course? Would Blair want regime go rid of No. Was that the policy? No”

It seems that Prashar really doesn’t believe that it was about wmd. She asks if we put emphasis on wmd because of attorney general. Campbell denies this. Says Blair really thought Blair was a threat.

10.52 Prashar asks about US attitude of alright on the day. Campbell says he saw Manning’s testimony.

10.51 Was there agreement on post-invasion? It was always on the agenda. Was there proper planning? It was a long way off and Blair was trying to resolve it peacefully. If it came to military action, you would be into post conflict Iraq.

10.47 Prashar asks about rationale again. Did US and UK have different views? We were keener than them to talk about UN. Likewise, they were keener to talk about their policy of regime change. Prashar recaps: fundamental agreement but differences of emphasis. Did you and your colleagues discuss differences and implications downstream? Yes. Refers to Blair persuading Cheney. Bush picked brains about anti-americanism. Talks about three different strands of US government. Prashar: did you explore where differences were and what the implications were long term? This was an issue that was being played out in public domain. E.g. 2003 pursuit of 2nd resolution where clear it was for the UK.

10.44 Prahar asks about Camp David. What rationale were discussed for regime change? Campbell: this was a key moment. Bush was asking Blair to convince Cheney re PM. Meyer churlish. Prashar brings him back to question. Campbell says it was about the threat. Best way to take forward issue of disarmament. Back onto tensions within US system. What I think was the significance of the meeting was that Bush said we are going to UN, not to look for pretext for military action.

10.43 Prashar: At what point did Blair commit to Bush about regime change? It was his genuine belief that Saddam had to be confronted. HE IS SIMPLY AVOIDING THE QUESTION, TIME AND TIME AGAIN. “Right up to the end, he was trying to get a resolution.

10.41 Prashar asks about 23 July 2002. Had Blair made up his mind? If you look at transatlantic relationship, Blair would have said it was fundamentally important. Going back to 1998 desert fox. Does that mean you tailor your policy to suit theirs? No. Prashar: did they share the means to that end? Ultimately yes, but believed you have to go down diplomatic route, backed by threat of force. Goes back to 1998? speech.

10.40 Blair denies that there was any commitment from Blair.

10.38 Campbell talks about some PM planning for military action. Goes back to post 9/11. Bush said to Blair, there is some planning going on. Before we went to Crawford, PM had a meeting at Chequers. Mike Boyce set out his analysis.

This is the 2 April 2002 meeting where Blair said it was about regime change.

10.35 What exactly did PM commit UK to at Crawford? I was not at meeting/dinner. That evening I had a separate dinner with Rove, Rice etc. I do remember an awful lot of discussion about middle east. Took up a lot of discussion. In relation to Iraq, the following morning, there had been separate discussions with Manning. As far as they were recapped, PM shared US analysis re SH threat and defiance of UN. Threat was to UN. Refers to press conference afterwards.

Campbell is here talking about what Blair said at press conference afterwards. Bush said regime change was US Policy. Did PM make clear that this was not UK Policy? Yes. When Bush talked about military action, how did PM respond? Campbell says Bush was not talking about military action by regime change. In terms of context I am trying to give you, it wasn’t “come on Tony we’ve got to go to war”. It was about shared concerns about Iraq and wmd.

Campbell is here avoiding talking about what was said behind the scenes, talking about what was said publicly.

10.32 Prashar goes back to 7 March 2002. Cabinet division. I can’t remember in any detail but it was about raising concern. Iraq bubbling up. Ministers quite rightly raising concerns which PM would address.

10.30 Prashar goes back to Meyer’s evidence about new instructions March 2002 re regime change. They weren’t [at Crawford] to talk about sharpening sanctions. Campbell disputes Meyer’s evidence. Does not accept that Blair shifted his position. I agreed with PM’s views. Was not saying let’s have regime change. PM was clear policy was to pursue disarmament through UN. Calls Meyer’s evidence “overstated”.

This is important. Campbell is refusing to accept that Blair had signed up to regime change. He has called the Inquiry’s bluff. They have nothing to challenge him with without publishing documents.

10.28 Prashar asks about cabinet secretary. Campbell says they weren’t that kind of meeting.

10.27 Lyne is still asking whether Campbell’s role was unprecedented. Campbell says does not know about other governments. Most things came into public domain eventually. Lyne says helpful and hands over to Prashar.

10.26 Are you aware of any precedent for this level of closeness? Not aware and not unaware. Goes back to intelligence agencies’ understanding of communications issues.

10.22 Lyne refers to 12 September 2002 where Campbell was present where Dearlove presented new intelligence. Why should [you] have been at such a sensitive meeting? The short answer is because PM wanted me to be an I suspect PM as well. Heads of intel agencies at No 10 a lot. Also I was producing dossier. Lyne refers to need to know. Was this information that you needed to know? No, it was nonetheless helpful re the dossier. Did I need to know it, no. Would it have been more normal for head of JIC to convey it? May have happened. Why was Scarlett not at that meeting. I don’t know that he wasn’t. I do remember that Dearlove was accompanied by someone who explained what appeared to be quite sensitive information.

10.20 How closely did you work with the intelligence agencies? Most of the time I didn’t have much to do with them. Iraq and 9/11 were the two high points. Lyne quotes what Campbell told Hutton. Had access to intelligence reports? I did but I didn’t routinely see them. Intelligence agencies “got” this point about how communications was changing… Lyne: but you were able to seen intelligence assessments? If I wanted to. September 2002 dossier was a period of intense co-operation.

10.18 Lyne is recapping Campbell role. At meetings. Interdepartmental co-ordinating role, re Hutton. Title was strategy as well as communication. Campbell: I think that’s fair. Can I make a point about interdepartmental communication. We inherited a silo system, difficult to get departments to talk. Iraq modeled on Kosovo where departments were working together on the same page, in the same room

10.17 Was there any particular sounding board? Don’t know.

10.16 Were these meetings recorded? Not routinely. If there was something I needed to communicate… If it was something where I was required to start work on a speech… I would write or dictate.

10.14 Would Blair sometimes assemble you as a group during this time – or individually? Blair would work very hard at weekend, reading. Would also be phoning. People inside and outside circle, e.g constituency agent. Most Mondays would start with PM having sent a note out to “his inner circle”. Meeting on Monday morning. Re Iraq; Straw, Hoon, Boyce, Scarlett, sometimes Dearlove; myself, Powell.

10.13 What about Mandelson? Not as far as I’m aware. Brown? Absolutely. There were times when domestic policy was far more important in public debate. But Brown was part of circle of consultation as was Prescott.

10.12 Lyne refers to Foreign Affairs Cttee evidence present at all meetings. Campbell says that his input was on communications. Blair understood that on major issues, you have to have a communications element embedded in policy discussions.

10.10 Who were the most important policy advisers around 2002? I would put David Manning a lot higher than Powell and myself. Then Powell and I. Then Manning’s team, then Scarlett, Dearlove. In this particular context Straw and Hoon. Then Sally Morgan was very important re the political system. Blair used to have a circular conversation. Talking to different people all the time and absorbing.

10.07 Lyne asks what the strategy role was. Did you do whatever Blair said? Campbell starts talking about the changing role of the media. Lyne quotes from the diaries. How close were your relations with the PM? Very. You know the PM. He is someone who understood that the political job he had he could not do alone. Dependent on close and less close colleagues.

10.05 Lyne asks if Campbell was Blair’s longest serving adviser by the time he resigned. What was your actual role? My job was to work with the PM in particular but also other ministers regarding communication strategies. Just communication strategies? Political strategies. I would say that the communications bit was what I understood. He and I developed an understanding that strategic communications was the only way of dealing with the media.

10.03 The objectives will be key meetings, drafting of dossiers, and presentation issues. Much of this is familiar ground. Many of the relevant documents are already in the public domain. WE SHALL NOT BE DECLASSIFYING DOCUMENTS TODAY. Aarrgh!

10.02 Sir John sets out his introduction. Have almost completed the chronology. Now hearing from ministers and most senior decision makers. Our approach is to be to build on what we have already heard. Yet to conclude what formal lines of inquiry will be.

10.00 The Guardian are reporting that the Dutch Iraq Inquiry has found the war had no legal basis…
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Archived Comments


By Tony Simpson

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 10:46am

“… If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.”

TONY BLAIR 23 July 2002

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 11:01am

10.51. “Blair was trying to resolve it peacefully”

He was trying to resolve what peacefully? Did he think that a different regime could be installed in Iraq, one more friendly to the West, without a war? Pie-in-the-sky!

By Markirton

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 1:17pm

intelligence was wrong, (at last) I waited 7 years for Campbell to state this, now we can get to the truth, the JIC have a lot to answer for.

By chris lamb

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 5:22pm

It is good to hear more rigorous, forensic questioning from the Panel.

Some interesting admissions got through Campbell’s chronic and well rehearsed script;

a) his attempt to deny that the September 2002 WMD dossier was an assessment of an imminent threat. At the initial stage he called it merely a public expression of Blair’s concerns. However, before long it was being referred to as an assessment of a “current and credible threat”.

Why the reticence about admitting it as an assessment? Maybe because if it was conceded as a deliberate preparation of public opinion for the case for military force, questions would be asked about its credentials in international law.

It has no legitimacy in terms of UNSCR1441 and appears to be founded on the US doctrine of pre-emptive self defence (which Government legal advice has already conceded, had no basis in international law).

b) at 14.55pm, in response to questioning from Sir Martin Gilbert, Campbell admitted that the meeting at Bush’s Crawford ranch had discussed planning for a war from which the UN would be frozen out until the aftermath stage should it fail to support the US-UK line on Iraq.

He also admitted that US-UK military planning (involving Admiral Boyce) for the aftermath of a military invasion had taken place in March 2002.

This is yet more damning evidence of the complete disingenuousness of the Blair government’s case about “taking the UN route”. The UN route evidently involved prestacking the Resolution- UNSCR1441- with an automatic track to military action and/or freezing out the Security Council altogether if there was a danger of a majority decision opposing military force.

With delicious irony, Campbell even blustered at one stage that the French- for whom he could barely conceal his hostility- were seeking to tyrannize the Security Council into adopting its preferred option.

To be credible, the Chilcot Inquiry must probe with great forensic rigour the history of UNSCR1441, because the issue of the invasion’s legality mostly lies here.

By Stan Rosenthal

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 5:57pm

Once again we have a witness insisting (repeatedly) that Blair’s support for military action was conditional upon the US taking the UN route to disarm Saddam and once again it’s being reported as Blair signing up to regime change regardless.

And you’re telling me that you and the media are completely impartial about what’s being said at the inquiry?

By andrewsimon

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 6:22pm

Stan –

Did you fail to notice that the UN route as mandated by R.1284 (and as specifically recalled by R.1441) was cut short by preemptive military action, undertaken for the specific given reason that it had to happen before the weather got too hot?

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 6:31pm

The Guardian blog at 10.40 “Campbell says that Blair’s view was that it was important to support the US. But that does not mean he had committed to war at that stage.”

This makes no sense at all. In March/April 2002, Bush was making bellicose statements about Iraq and talking about attacking countries before they were threat. Blair went to Crawford to support the USA and, by doing so, would appear to be supporting the kind of statement that Bush was making at the time. What else was Blair supporting if not the kind of statements that Bush was making at the time? The absence of any clear statements about conditions and limits of Blair’s support to the USA implies that Blair had committed to Bush’s position.

By John Bone

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 6:34pm

Chris: what are you referring to at 14.55pm? Have you a quote?

By Iain Paton

Submitted on 2010/01/12 at 9:37pm

Here’s a question – as an official, was Campbell ever security vetted? In particular, Developed Vetting and further checks and clearances for sensitive and intelligence material?

I doubt it. He wouldn’t have passed the checks. Not for his mental health and alcohol issues, but for his serial deceit.

This is a glaring security breach that should be followed up. Perhaps not by the Inquiry but a Conservative government may wish to revisit this issue.

By chris lamb

Submitted on 2010/01/13 at 9:51am

Apologies, in examing the written transcript for Campbell’s evidence on the Inquiry web site, I discover that, in a rambling speech his reference is to Hillsborough on 08 April 2003 rather than to Crawford.

However, I do not withdraw my charge because the freezing out of the Security Council in the event of not producing the right decision for the US was strongly inferred in John Negroponte’s explanation of the vote for SCR1441.

Here he sets down the “automaticity” line devised by the US for OP4 that “every act of Iraqi non-compliance would be a serious matter…etc.” thus seeking to remove the requirement for a Security Council assessment of the seriousness of a violation.

He also stated that “the resolution did not constrain any Member State from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by that country (ie. Iraq) or to enforce relevant UN Resolutions…”.

Thus, the US was in two minds about reserving powers for itself to impose military force under either the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence or “automaticity”.

Goldsmith’s 07 March legal advice concedes that pre-emptive self defence had no basis in international law (paragraph 3). The recent Dutch judicial inquiry into the Iraq war found that the “automaticity” argument- delegating powers to individual Member States to initiate military force- was illegal under international law.

Further evidence that the US intended to freeze out the Security Council from any final decision about military force can be found in Goldsmith’s 07 March legal advice (paragraph 22)

“The US Administration insist that they made clear throughout that they would not accept a text which subjected the use of force to a further Council decision”.

The rapidity of the setting up of the Bush/ Blair Hillsborough “War Summit”- and the seemingly well developed and intricate discussions about the wording for an “aftermath” role for the Security Council- strongly suggest that both Powers knew well before hand that the UN would be frozen out of the war decision itself. Blair obviously was struck more strongly with the fear of the repercussions of operating outside of a recognized international law framework.

Other aspects of breaches of international law were raised in the Campbell hearing; notably the lamentable failure to plan for the humanitarian catastrophe that the war would unleash. There are international humanitarian laws concerning the minimizing of civilian deaths and casualties in a war zone. “Shock and awe” bombing in a highly populated centre of the country was hardly an apt strategy for this.

There is also a question under legality of whether the US-UK military strategy, including shock and awe bombing, was proportionate to the alleged threat posed by Iraqi weaponry and munitions at this stage.

To date, the Chilcot Inquiry has paid insufficient attention to the substance of the UNMOVIC and IAEA weapons inspectors reports (a criticism also made of the Dutch Government by the Dutch judicial inquiry). It is still to confirm whether Hans Blix will be giving evidence.

In future, I shall leave the transcripts of any hearing to the Digest’s journalists.

By chris lamb

Submitted on 2010/01/13 at 12:18pm

One thing the Inquiry seems to have missed from Campbell’s diaries is the entry for 09 March 2003;

“Later a call to go through the various UN scenarios: majority with no vetoes- fine; majority plus vetoes- manageable but difficult; no vote; no majority. If we get a second resolution we would put it to a vote quickly. We could live with a French veto, because people expected it, but we couldn’t live without a majority. If that happened, we would probably put it to a vote, and if we lost it, there was a danger we would lose the Prime Minister” (Campbell Diaries, p. 674).

This was on the eve of the Blair Government’s shift to adopting US “automaticity” (freezing out the UNSC from any war decision). It is midway between Goldsmith’s 07 and 17 March 2003 two sets of legal advice.

Is this not a clear admission from Campbell that the prospect of not attaining a majority vote in the Security Council (for reasons given) was a more powerful motive in adopting the constroversial US doctrine of “automaticity” than the threatened French veto (which was cited for propaganda purposes)?

Campbell’s diaries also show that “the UN route” of a second resolution was mostly for political effect rather than grounded on any strong legal principle. He even complains that the public expectations raised by the emphasis placed on obtaining a second resolution caused extra problems (eg. with winning support from local parties) given that the Government now legally considered this was not necessary at all (Campbell diaries, pp. 680-681).

By bb

Submitted on 2010/01/14 at 5:57am

Where does Sir Roderick interrogate AC on his instruction to John Scarlett as per your big revelation in the Guardian?

Dare we ask ourselves if your story was a beat-up? Or is Sir Rod a Blair Poodle?

By Chris Ames

Submitted on 2010/01/14 at 7:25am

bb thanks for your question. I’m not sure what a beat-up is. perhaps it is an Australian term?

I don’t think Lyne did make the link between Campbell’s memo to Scarlett and the changes to the nuclear claims although he did make the link between the Bush speech and the unjustified changes to the nuclear timelines.

I think Lyne has been easily the best questioner.

By barb bishop

Submitted on 2010/01/15 at 2:20am

beat up? Back in the fleet street days everybody would have known what that mean’t.

It means making a story out of nothing.

Must be very frustating publishing these scoops and then finding the Inquiry members don’t read the Graud? Then Chris Lamb finding the smoking gun of Bush and Blair nefariously plotting to dupe the UN at Crawford, only to discover that when hearing the evidence he had mentally replaced Hillsborough with Crawford the year before! Ah, wishful thinking.

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