Once again, journalists are hounding Tony Blair about the rush to war. On the strength of one lousy Downing Street memo, they are contesting his plea of innocence against scurrilous charges that he sexed up intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
But as the Prime Minister has often repeated to those who would listen -- he was taken in by reasonable intelligence that turned out to be wrong. Tony didn’t lie -- he just made a bad call on the strength of the information that was available at time. He made the momentous decision to go to war based on his fear that Saddam was intent on invading England and had the capability of launching chemical weapons against the British homeland on 45 minutes notice.
In a recent White House Press conference, a reporter questioned Tony Blair about the pre-invasion Downing Street Memo. The now famous document reveals that, “Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of removing Saddam through military actions.
Blair denied that anything of the sort had taken place. He was emphatic in his answer. “Well, I can respond to that very easily. No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all. And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations. And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution to give a final change to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so. And that was the reason why we had to take military action. But, all the way through that period of time, we were trying to look for a way of managing to resolve this without conflict.”
Of course, those who recall the actual sequence of events leading up to the invasion might be inclined to refresh Tony’s memory. Iraq agreed to let inspectors in and allowed them unprecedented free access. But an impatient Bush declared that Hans Blix was taking entirely too much time to discover the WMD arsenals and demanded an end to the United Nations’ search so he could proceed with the invasion. As it turned out, Iraq was probably the only nation in the region that didn’t possess weapons of mass destruction.
But for the sake of argument, put aside the Prime Minister’s faulty recollection of events that led to the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq. Tony continues to maintain that he acted on what he believed to be solid intelligence. To buy into Tony’s tall tale, we would have to believe that he was ignorant of the Office of Special Plans (OSP) -- a boiler room operation in the Pentagon that was set up to manufacture intelligence on the fabled WMDs. In the unlikely event that Blair knew nothing about this neo-con scam, one would expect him to make an effort to track down the source of the “faulty intelligence” that led him astray.
Perhaps Tony and his government should consider making contact with a journalist who goes by the name of Jim Lobe. He claims to have special insight into how the OSP plumbers operated.
Two years ago, Jim Lobe ran a series of widely distributed investigative articles about a shadowy Pentagon intelligence operation that was set up to confuse innocent souls like the Prime Minister. “An ad hoc office under US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith appears to have acted as the key base for an informal network of mostly neo-conservative political appointees that circumvented normal inter-agency channels to lead the push for war against Iraq. Retired intelligence officials from the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have long charged that the two offices exaggerated and manipulated intelligence about Iraq before passing it along to the White House.”
If Blair can’t get an appointment with Jim Lobe, he might consider tracking down another individual who has inside information on the OSP -- retired Lieutenant-Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski. Or he could have one of his kids print a few articles easily available on the Internet. I highly recommend this link.
To believe the “intelligence failure” alibi, one has to digest the unlikely notion that Tony and MI6 agents had no idea about the OSP neo-cons tasked with cooking up intelligence, leaking it to their media operatives and stove piping it to the White House. Naturally enough, the American account of how the CIA made the same exact mistakes avoids any mention of the OSP. The various American commissions that investigated “intelligence failures” were very specific in their criticism of the CIA. But if one reads these reports carefully enough, they might notice generic references to the “intelligence community”, a convenient dodge to prevent a separate probe of the rogue OSP intelligence operation that Wolfowitz and Feith set up in the Pentagon.
How likely is it that Tony Blair and his government didn’t know about these Likudnik operatives or their agenda or their role in deliberately corrupting intelligence to market the Iraq war? Is it possible that the produce of the OSP fib factory was swallowed whole by British intelligence? Is it plausible that Blair didn’t know that graduates of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) staffed the OSP? Were British spooks unaware that the AEI was a front for the Israeli Lobby? How likely is it that MI6 didn’t have the resumes of Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Lewis Libby and Elliot Abrams?
Perhaps some enterprising British journalist should consider probing what the Prime Minister knew about the OSP? What did Tony know about this rogue intelligence operation and when did he know it?
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