How did we get into Iraq?
The Hutton inquiry has continued to fill the front pages and the lead stories in the media, showing once again how self-obsessed our media can be. The real story, as some commentators have kept reminding us, is not Campbell and Gilligan or even Kelly, but Iraq: how and why did we get into this mess? If our intelligence really convinced Blair and his key colleagues that Saddam’s WMD presented an immediate, current threat, how did the intelligence agencies get it so badly wrong? If, as Jonathan Powell pointed out in his email, it was clear before we went to war that the intelligence didn’t in fact support the proposition that Iraq represented a threat, let alone an immediate threat, why did our government base its case for war on the assertion that it did? At what point did Bush make a firm decision to launch a military attack on Iraq and when precisely did Blair commit himself, and us, to participating in it, whether or not it had UN Security Council authority? Were we already committed to the war when Blair was promising in his television broadcasts in January and February of this year that the only circumstances in which Britain would join in military action against Iraq without UN authority were if there was a majority in the Security Council in favour of authorising it but that majority was frustrated by "an unreasonable veto"? Had Blair warned the Americans at that time that unless those two conditions were satisfied, Britain would not take part in military action without the UN’s blessing? If so, what persuaded him to take us to war alongside the Americans despite the fact that none of his conditions had been satisfied — no UN authority, no majority in the Security Council in favour of authorising war, and no veto (reasonable or otherwise)? Why have so few of the government’s critics sought to confront Blair, every single time he goes on television or radio, or answers questions in the House of Commons or from the Select Committee chairpersons or at his monthly press conferences, with the plain fact that he broke those specific and emphatic pledges, and with the demand for an explanation of that breach of faith? I would have thought that these were much more interesting and pregnant questions than whether Alastair Campbell or some other functionary pressed the intelligence agencies to change the words "may have" to "have" in the draft dossier, and who first wrote in the bit about the 45 minutes within which the Iraqis could fire off their non-existent nuclear rockets in the general direction of London SW1 and New York’s upper east side.