Will MI6 “fix” intelligence on Iran?

By:    Ray McGov­ern, former CIA ana­lyst and Annie Machon, former MI5 intel­li­gence officer

Recent remarks by the head of MI6, Sir John Saw­ers, leave us won­der­ing if the Secret Intel­li­gence Ser­vice is pre­par­ing to “fix” intel­li­gence on Iran, as his imme­di­ate pre­de­cessor, Sir John Scar­lett, did on Iraq.

Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in cre­at­ing “dodgy dossiers” hyp­ing the threat of non-exist­ent “weapons of mass destruc­tion” is well known.  As for Saw­ers, the red warn­ing light for politi­ciz­a­tion blinked brightly on July 4, as he told Brit­ish seni­or civil ser­vants that Iran is “two years away” from becom­ing a “nuc­le­ar weapons state.”  How did Saw­ers come up with “two years?”

Since late 2007, the bench­mark for weigh­ing Iran’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram has been the unan­im­ous assess­ment by all 16 U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies that Iran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restar­ted it.  Those judg­ments have been reval­id­ated every year since — des­pite strong pres­sure to bow to more omin­ous — but evid­ence-light — assess­ments by Israel and its neo-con­ser­vat­ive sup­port­ers.

Intel­li­gence Can Make a Dif­fer­ence

The 2007 the US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate helped to thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney admin­is­tra­tion.  This shines through in George Bush’s own mem­oir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-pop­ping declar­a­tion: ‘We judge with high con­fid­ence that in fall 2003, Tehran hal­ted its nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram.’”

Bush con­tin­ues, “But after the NIE, how could I pos­sibly explain using the mil­it­ary to des­troy the nuc­le­ar facil­it­ies of a coun­try the intel­li­gence com­munity said had no act­ive nuc­le­ar weapons pro­gram?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Hands tied on the mil­it­ary side, US cov­ert oper­a­tions flowered, with $400 mil­lion appro­pri­ated at that same time for a major escal­a­tion of the dark-side struggle against Iran, accord­ing to mil­it­ary, intel­li­gence, and con­gres­sion­al sources cited by Sey­mour Her­sh in 2008.  This clandes­tine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with com­puter vir­uses, the murders of Ira­ni­an sci­ent­ists, and what the Israel­is call the “unnat­ur­al” demise of seni­or offi­cials like Revolu­tion­ary Guards Major Gen­er­al Has­san Moghad­dam fath­er of Iran’s mis­sile pro­gram.

Moghad­dam was killed in a large explo­sion last Novem­ber, with Time magazine cit­ing a “west­ern intel­li­gence source” as say­ing the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast.  More threat­en­ing still to Iran are the severe eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, which are tan­tamount to an act of war.

Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu and pro-Israel neo-con­ser­vat­ives in the U.S. and else­where have been push­ing hard for an attack on Iran, seiz­ing every pre­text they can find.  Net­an­yahu was sus­pi­ciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claim­ing that Iran was behind the tra­gic ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of Israeli tour­ists in Bul­garia on July 18, des­pite Bul­gari­an author­it­ies and even the White House warn­ing that it is too early to attrib­ute respons­ib­il­ity.

Netanyahu’s instant indict­ment of Iran strongly sug­gests he is look­ing for excuses to up the ante.  With the Per­sian Gulf look­ing like an acci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen, stocked as it is with war­ships from the U.S., the U.K. and else­where — and with no fail-safe way of com­mu­nic­at­ing with Ira­ni­an nav­al com­mand­ers — an escal­a­tion-gen­er­at­ing acci­dent or pro­voca­tion is now more likely than ever.

July 23: Mark­ing a Day of Infamy

Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an import­ant date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for Brit­ish intel­li­gence on Iraq.  On July 23, 2002 at a meet­ing at 10 Down­ing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dear­love, briefed Tony Blair and oth­er seni­or offi­cials on his talks with his Amer­ic­an coun­ter­part, CIA Dir­ect­or George Ten­et, in Wash­ing­ton three days before.

In the offi­cial minutes of that brief­ing (now known as the Down­ing Street Memo), which were leaked to the Lon­don Times and pub­lished on May 1, 2005, Dear­love explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”  While then-For­eign Sec­ret­ary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dear­love explains mat­ter-of-factly, “The intel­li­gence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that any­one hic­cupped — much less demurred — at mak­ing a case for war and fur­ther­ing Blair’s determ­in­a­tion to join Bush in launch­ing the kind of “war of aggres­sion” out­lawed by the post-world war Nurem­berg Tribunal and the UN treaty.

Helped by the acqui­es­cence of their chief spies, the Blair gov­ern­ment main­lined into the body polit­ic un-assessed, raw intel­li­gence and forged doc­u­ments, with dis­astrous con­sequences for the world.

UK cit­izens were spoon-fed fake intel­li­gence in the Septem­ber Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier”, based largely on a 12-year old PhD thes­is culled from the Inter­net — all presen­ted by spy and politi­cian alike as omin­ous pre­mon­it­ory intel­li­gence.

So was made the case for war. All lies, res­ult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands dead and maimed and mil­lions of Iraqis dis­placed — yet no one held to account.

Sir Richard Dear­love, who might have pre­ven­ted this had he had the integ­rity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full hon­ours and became the Mas­ter of a Cam­bridge col­lege.  John Scar­lett, who as chair of the Joint Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee signed off the fraud­u­lent dossiers, was rewar­ded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knight­hood. George W. Bush gave George Ten­et the Pres­id­en­tial Medal of Free­dom — the highest civil­ian award.

What need have we for fur­ther proof? “So are they all, all hon­our­able men” — remin­is­cent of those stand­ing with Bru­tus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Anthony to expose them and stir the appro­pri­ate pop­u­lar reac­tion.

Therein lies the prob­lem: instead of being held account­able, these “hon­our­able men” were, well, hon­oured. Their soft land­ings offer a nox­ious object les­son for ambi­tious bur­eau­crats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the pre­vail­ing winds.

Ill-got hon­ours offer neither deterrent nor dis­in­cent­ive to cur­rent and future intel­li­gence chiefs temp­ted to fol­low suit and cor­rupt intel­li­gence rather than chal­lenge their polit­ic­al lead­ers with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integ­rity? In this milieu integ­rity brings know­ing smirks rather than hon­ours. And it can get you kicked out of the club.

Fix­ing Intel­li­gence on Iran

Are we in for anoth­er round of “fix­ing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon.  Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Net­an­yahu, cit­ing the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia, has already provided what amounts to a vari­ation on Dearlove’s ten-year old theme regard­ing how war can be “jus­ti­fied by the con­junc­tion of ter­ror­ism and weapons of mass destruc­tion.”

Accord­ing to the Jer­u­s­alem Post on July 17, Net­an­yahu said that all coun­tries that under­stand that Iran is an export­er of world ter­ror must join Israel in “stat­ing that fact clearly,” in order to emphas­ize the import­ance of pre­vent­ing Iran from obtain­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon.

Appear­ing yes­ter­day on Fox News Sunday and CBS’s Face the Nation, Net­an­yahu returned to that theme. Put­ting the blame for the ter­ror­ist attack in Bul­garia squarely on Iran (and Hezbol­lah), Net­an­yahu warned of the increased dangers that would accrue if Iran acquired nuc­le­ar weapons. “What would be the con­sequences if the most dan­ger­ous régime in the world got the world’s most dan­ger­ous weapons?”.

Will MI6 chief Saw­ers mod­el his con­duct on that of his pre­de­cessors who “jus­ti­fied” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intel­li­gence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Par­lia­ment­ary over­seers should demand a brief­ing from Saw­ers forth­with, before erstwhile bull­dog Bri­tain is again dragged like a poodle into anoth­er unne­ces­sary war.

Annie Machon is a former intel­li­gence officer in the UK’s MI5 Secur­ity Ser­vice and Ray McGov­ern is a fomer U.S Army Intel­li­gence Officer and CIA ana­lyst.

The spies and Libya — time to dust off their conscience

As I’ve men­tioned before, the former heads of UK intel­li­gence agen­cies have a charm­ing habit of speak­ing out in sup­port of the rule of law, civil liber­ties, pro­por­tion­al­ity and plain com­mon sense — but usu­ally only after they have retired. 

Per­haps at their leav­ing parties their con­sciences are extrac­ted from the secur­ity safe, dus­ted off and giv­en back  — along with the gold watch?

DearloveEven then, post-retire­ment, they might try to thrice-deny poten­tially world-chan­ging inform­a­tion, as Sir Richard Dear­love did when ques­tioned by the fear­less and fear­somely bright Silkie Carlo about the leaked Down­ing Street Memo at his recent speech at the Cam­bridge Uni­on.  (The links are in two parts, as the film had to be mirrored on You­tube — Dear­love claimed copy­right on the orgin­al Love Police film and had it taken down.)

And “out of con­text”, my left foot — he could poten­tially have saved mil­lions of lives in the Middle East if he’d gone pub­lic with his con­sidered pro­fes­sion­al opin­ion about the intel­li­gence facts being fit­ted around a pre­con­ceived war policy in the run-up to the inva­sion of Iraq.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if these esteemed ser­vants of the state, replete with respect, status and hon­ours, could actu­ally take a stand while they are still in a pos­i­tion to influ­ence world events?

Eliza_Manningham_BullerMy former boss, Bar­on­ess Eliza Man­ning­ham-Buller, has been unusu­ally voci­fer­ous since her retire­ment in 2007 and elev­a­tion to the peer­age.  She used her maid­en speech to the House of Lords to object to the pro­posed plans to increase police deten­tion of ter­ror­ist sus­pects without charge from 28 to 42 days; she recently sug­ges­ted that the “war on ter­ror” is unwinnable and that we should, if pos­sible, nego­ti­ate with “Al Qaeda” (well, it worked with the Pro­vi­sion­al IRA); and that the “war on drugs” had been lost and the UK should treat recre­ation­al drug use as a health rather than a crim­in­al issue. She steals all my best lines.…

But cred­it where cred­it is due.  Des­pite the fact that she used the full power of the Brit­ish state to pur­sue ter­ror­ist sus­pects up until 2007 and invest­ig­ate drug bar­ons in the 1990s, she did appar­ently try to make a stand while en poste in the run-up to the Iraq War.  Last year she gave evid­ence to the Chil­cot Enquiry, stat­ing that she had offi­cially briefed the gov­ern­ment that an inva­sion of Iraq would increase the ter­ror­ist threat to the UK.

So it’s obvi­ous that once a UK Prime Min­is­ter has come over all Churchil­lian he tends to ignore the coun­sel of his chief spooks, as we’ve seen with both the Down­ing Street Memo the Chil­cot Enquiry. 

With that in mind, I’ve read with interest the recent press reports that the UK author­it­ies appar­ently knew about Col­on­el Gad­dafi retain­ing stock­piles of mus­tard gas and sar­in (des­pite the fact that the world was assured in 2004 that it was his renun­ci­ation of WMDs that allowed him back into the inter­na­tion­al dip­lo­mat­ic fold) . 

So the key ques­tion is surely: is this anoth­er erro­neous45 minutes from attack” moment, with Gaddafi’s alleged stock­piles of WMD a per­fect scare­mon­ger­ing pre­text to push for a full-on régime change in Libya; or is this genu­ine, and we were all lied to about Gaddafi’s destruc­tion of his WMD stock­piles for eco­nom­ic advant­age and fat, juicy oil con­tracts?

The Wall Street Journ­al recently ran an art­icle quot­ing the con­cern of “gov­ern­ment insiders” about Gaddafi’s poten­tial future ter­ror­ism threat against the West, up to and includ­ing WMDs, should he cling on to power.  Well, yes, it would hardly be sur­pris­ing if he were now to be as mad as a wasp with his ex-new best bud­dies.  Des­pite the sor­did rap­proche­ment in the last dec­ade, he has been for much of his life an invet­er­ate enemy of the West and spon­sor of world­wide ter­ror­ism.

Rather than wait­ing for his “K” and his retire­ment, would it not be won­der­ful if the cur­rent head of MI5, Jonath­an Evans, could extract his con­science from that dusty secur­ity safe and make a use­ful and informed state­ment to shed some light on the mess that the Liby­an war is rap­idly becom­ing?  He could poten­tially change the course of world his­tory and save untold lives.

Alleged Wikileaks source, Bradley Manning, faces the death penalty

Bradley_manningAlleged Wikileaks source US Private Brad­ley Man­ning is now charged with “aid­ing the enemy”, amongst a bewil­der­ing array of 22 new charges.  This is appar­ently a cap­it­al offence, although the US mil­it­ary has cosily said that they wouldn’t push for this bar­bar­ic sen­tence.

So just life without the hope of parole then.….

Put­ting aide the minor ques­tion of wheth­er the USA should even be entitled to call itself a mod­ern demo­cracy when it still has the death pen­alty on its books, let’s just remind ourselves of what Man­ning is alleged to have revealed: the “Col­lat­er­al Murder” mil­it­ary shoot-up, where inno­cent chil­dren, civil­ians and journ­al­ists were gunned down by US forces in a par­tic­u­larly nasty snuff video game that was then delib­er­ately covered up by the Pentagon for years; many oth­er hein­ous war crimes and records of daily bru­tal­ity in Afgh­anistan and Iraq; and an “embar­rass de richesses” of dip­lo­mat­ic cables.

I think “embar­rass” is the key word here, on so many levels, and goes a long way to explain­ing the USA’s des­per­a­tion to des­troy Wikileaks founder, Juli­an Assange, by any means neces­sary.

But the phrase from the list of charges against the hap­less Man­ning that leaps out at me is “aid­ing the enemy”.  If — and it’s still a big leg­al if — Man­ning was indeed the source of all this cru­cial inform­a­tion, whom was he actu­ally aid­ing?

Inform­a­tion that has appeared on Wikileaks over the last few years has been eclect­ic, inter­na­tion­al and very much in the pub­lic interest.  It’s covered such nas­ties as Trafigura, the BNP, Sci­ento­logy, Cli­mateg­ate, Guantanamo, the Aus­trali­an inter­net black­list, Sarah Pal­in, and much more.

It’s cer­tainly not just restric­ted to the inform­a­tion that hit the head­lines last year about the US hege­mony.  How­ever, there is no doubt that it was the release of the Afghan, Iraq and dip­lo­mat­ic files that stirred up this par­tic­u­larly unpleas­ant hor­nets’ nest.

As glob­al cit­izens I would sug­gest that we have every right to know what is done in our name. But, hav­ing said that, accord­ing to these new charges against poor Brad­ley Man­ning, the bene­fi­ciar­ies of Wikileaks — ie all of us —  have now become the enemy.

When did we, the people, the glob­al cit­izenry, become the enemy?  It seems that our esteemed rulers are at last show­ing their true col­ours.…

On that note, do have a look at this video of former MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dear­love, speak­ing recently at the Cam­bridge Uni­on Soci­ety.  An inter­est­ing per­spect­ive on the Brit­ish Establishment’s line on Wikileaks and Juli­an Assange:

Spy Chiefs attack UK Police State

DearloveSir Richard Dear­love, ex-head of MI6 and cur­rent Mas­ter of Pem­broke Col­lege, Cam­bridge, has been much in the news recently after gra­cing the Hay on Wye book fest­iv­al, where he gave a speech.  In this, he is repor­ted to have spoken out, in strong terms, against the endem­ic and all-per­vas­ive sur­veil­lance soci­ety devel­op­ing in the UK

Ex-spy chiefs in the UK have a charm­ing habit of using all these sur­veil­lance meas­ures to the nth degree while in the shad­ows, and then hav­ing a Dam­as­cene con­ver­sion into civil liber­ties cam­paign­ers once they retire.  Eliza Man­ning­ham-Buller, the ex-head of MI5, used her maid­en speech in the House of Lords to argue against the exten­sion of the time lim­it the police could hold a ter­ror­ist sus­pect without charge, and even Stella Rim­ing­ton (also ex-MI5) has recently thrown her hat in the ring.  They nick all my best lines these days.

Wouldn’t it be great if one of them, one day, could argue in favour of human rights, pro­por­tion­al­ity and the adher­ence to the law while they were still in a pos­i­tion to influ­ence affairs?

Dear­love him­self could have changed the course of world his­tory if he had found the cour­age to speak out earli­er about the fact that the intel­li­gence case for the Iraq war was being fixed around pre-determ­ined policy.  As it is, we only know that he objec­ted to this because of the notori­ous, leaked Down­ing Street Memo.

The Guard­i­an news­pa­per repor­ted that Dear­love even touched on the real­ity of obtain­ing min­is­teri­al per­mis­sion before break­ing the law.  Which, of course, is the ulti­mate point of the 1994 Intel­li­gence Ser­vices Act, and does indeed enshrine the fabled “licence to kill”.  It states that MI6 officers can break the law abroad with impun­ity from pro­sec­u­tion if, and only if, they obtain pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion from their polit­ic­al mas­ter — in this case the For­eign Sec­ret­ary.

How­ever, accord­ing to The Guard­i­an, he seems to have mis­un­der­stood the spir­it of the law, if not the let­ter:

He said that the intel­li­gence com­munity was “some­times asked to act in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. When it does, it asks for leg­al opin­ion and min­is­teri­al approv­al … It’s about polit­ic­al cov­er”. 

Moment­ar­ily put­ting aside the not unim­port­ant debate about wheth­er the spies and the gov­ern­ment should even be allowed tech­nic­ally to side-step inter­na­tion­al laws against crimes up to, and includ­ing, murder, I am still naively sur­prised by the shame­less­ness of this state­ment:  the notion of min­is­teri­al over­sight was put in place to ensure some kind of demo­crat­ic over­sight and account­ab­il­ity for the work of the spies — not to provide polit­ic­al cov­er, a fig leaf.

I think he’s rather giv­en the game away here about how the spies really view the role of  their “polit­ic­al mas­ters”.

The Media and the Spies

The UK main­stream media has made much this week of Home Sec­ret­ary Jac­qui Smith’s asser­tion that MI5 had not reques­ted the government’s pro­posed exten­sion of the impris­on­ment without charge of ter­ror­ist sus­pects from 28 to 42 days.

This state­ment has caused a furore in the UK, and there is a chance that the PM may lose the key vote in Par­lia­ment on this amend­ment tomor­row.

In fact, such has been the uproar that the Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al of MI5, Jonath­an Evans, is repor­ted by Reu­ters to have made a rare pub­lic state­ment:

Since the secur­ity ser­vice is neither a pro­sec­ut­ing author­ity nor respons­ible for crim­in­al invest­ig­a­tions, we are not, and nev­er have been, the appro­pri­ate body to advise the gov­ern­ment on pre-charge deten­tion time lim­its,” he said in a state­ment on the MI5 web­site.

We have not, there­fore, sought to com­ment pub­licly or privately on the cur­rent pro­pos­als, except to say that we recog­nise the chal­lenge posed for the police ser­vice by the increas­ingly com­plex and inter­na­tion­al char­ac­ter of some recent ter­ror­ist cases.”

What par­tic­u­larly strikes me about this is an appar­ently insig­ni­fic­ant phrase, “raised pub­licly or privately”.

In con­trast to the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police Com­mis­sion­er Sir Ian Blair, who admit­ted to “unin­ten­tion­ally mis­lead­ing” the par­lia­ment­ary Joint Com­mit­tee charged with assess­ing the need to increase the deten­tion lim­it, Evans had refused to give evid­ence about the 42 day issue. So he has cer­tainly not raised this in a pub­licly account­able way.

It’s the word “private” that intrigues me. It reeks of sotto voce dis­cus­sions between old school chums at the grander gentlemen’s clubs in Lon­don: of unat­trib­ut­able brief­ings between anonym­ous MI5 officers and chosen journ­al­ists; and of cosy lunches with Fleet Street edit­ors in the DG’s din­ing room at Thames House, MI5’s Lon­don HQ.

While Evans denies using this meth­od­o­logy around the 42 day issue, his state­ment con­firms that such private dis­cus­sions do indeed play a part in influ­en­cing policy decisions and media per­cep­tion.

I saw this approach first-hand in the 1990s dur­ing the whis­tleblow­ing years. In fact, it was then that MI5 stepped up its charm offens­ive with politi­cians and journ­al­ists. It was dur­ing one of the first of these cosy media lunches in Thames House, hos­ted by the then DG Steph­en Lander, that the respec­ted BBC Dip­lo­mat­ic Edit­or Mark Urb­an asked a fate­ful ques­tion about the Gad­dafi Plot and was reportedly told by Lander that “he was not here to answer half-baked ques­tions from smart-arse journ­al­ists”. So there were cer­tain short­falls in the charm, even if the lack of account­ab­il­ity held up well.

But there are oth­er, more sin­is­ter ways for the spies to manip­u­late pub­lic opin­ion. MI6 has a sens­it­ive sec­tion called Inform­a­tion Oper­a­tions (I/Ops), which exists purely to set the news agenda for the spies. I/Ops man­ages this either by mas­sa­ging the facts, spin­ning the tone of the story or, more wor­ry­ingly, plant­ing false stor­ies in a qui­es­cent press.

In the 1990s there was a fam­ous case. Col­on­el Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al Islam, applied for a visa to come to Bri­tain. I/Ops planted a com­pletely false story in The Sunday Tele­graph that he was involved in money laun­der­ing with Iran and, lo and behold, MI5 had the per­fect excuse to deny him a visa. Al Islam sub­sequently sued the news­pa­per which, faced with Shayler’s evid­ence, settled out of court.

A few months ago the ex-head of MI6, Sir Richard Dear­love, gave a talk at the LSE about the intel­li­gence agen­cies and the media. I went along to have a laugh, and was gra­ciously allowed to ask a ques­tion. Nat­ur­ally I raised the issue of I/Ops, its rela­tion­ship with the media, and wheth­er such a role was accept­able in a mod­ern demo­cracy.

In the con­text of the talk, what could have been more per­tin­ent? How­ever, Dear­love declined to answer. In fact, he went so far as to say that such a mat­ter was “with­in the ring of secrecy”. At which point a journ­al­ist from a pres­ti­gi­ous nation­al news­pa­per who was sit­ting next to me, turned and said glee­fully that this at last proved that I/Ops exis­ted. Grat­i­fy­ing as this was, I shall reit­er­ate my ques­tion: is the role of I/Ops accept­able in a mod­ern demo­cracy, where we are sup­posed to enjoy free­dom of inform­a­tion, trans­par­ency and account­ab­il­ity from the powers-that-be?

The (Il)legal Road to War

Yet anoth­er art­icle has appeared about the mess that is the wars in Afgh­anistan and Iraq. Max Hast­ings, writ­ing in the Daily Mail yes­ter­day, described how our sol­diers in Afgh­anistan feel that the con­tin­ued con­flict is point­less if there is no clear polit­ic­al strategy to resolve the situ­ation.

The Brit­ish army is over­stretched, appar­ently at the behest of the USA. Accord­ing to the art­icle, our mil­it­ary badly needs to redeploy both nor­mal troops and the SAS from Iraq to Afgh­anistan, but the US is unwill­ing to allow this to hap­pen for polit­ic­al reas­ons. The Amer­ic­ans also appear to be mak­ing shame­less use of the SAS.

So, let’s remind ourselves of how we got into this mess. At an inform­al meet­ing with Bush in 2002, Blair uni­lat­er­ally com­mit­ted this coun­try to sup­port the Amer­ic­an inva­sion of Iraq. Without the sup­port of Blair, Bush could not have pre­ten­ded that he had a mean­ing­ful inter­na­tion­al coali­tion to invade Iraq.

Hav­ing made this prom­ise, Blair needed to deliv­er. Intel­li­gence mater­i­al, rather than being used to inform policy mak­ing, was manip­u­lated to fit around pre-determ­ined decisions. This was sum­mar­ised clearly by the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dear­love, in the notori­ous leaked “Down­ing Street Memo”, in which he is quoted as say­ing that the intel­li­gence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Fol­low­ing on from this came the Septem­ber Dossier, which not only placed undue emphas­is on the claim that WMD could be launched against Brit­ish interests in 45 minutes, but also the fake intel­li­gence that Sad­dam was try­ing to pro­cure urani­um from Niger. And finally, we had the Dodgy Dossier of Feb­ru­ary 2003, based largely on a 12 year old PhD thes­is culled from the inter­net, but which also con­tained nug­gets of raw intel­li­gence from MI6. Inter­est­ingly, it has been estab­lished by the For­eign Affairs Select Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment that Blair did not have pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion from MI6 to pub­lish this intel­li­gence, which leaves him wide open to pro­sec­u­tion under Sec­tion 1(1) of the 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act.

These are the false asser­tions that inex­or­ably took this coun­try to war. But even if these claims had been true, aggress­ive war is illeg­al under both inter­na­tion­al and Brit­ish law. A raft of legis­la­tion pro­hib­its our coun­try enga­ging in any mil­it­ary action except in self-defence:

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death EstimatorThe Gen­er­al Treaty for the Renun­ci­ation of War (Kel­logg-Bri­and Pact)
The United Nations Charter
The Nurem­burg Judg­ment
The Nurem­burg Prin­ciples
The Rome Stat­ute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court
The UK’s Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court Act 2001

The Iraq and Afghan wars are unwinnable and illeg­al. It is time for the people of the UK to inform them­selves of the laws of war and demand that they be upheld. We are all equal under the law – even the former Prime Min­is­ter. Every day we delay res­ults in the deaths of more of our ser­vice­men and of yet more inno­cent people in the Middle East.

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