More Whitewash, Jeeves?
July 12, 2004 1:57 AM   Subscribe

As the verdict of Butler Report into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, draws near in Britain, a senior intelligence source reveals that MI6 took the "rare step" of withdrawing the intelligence assessment that underpinned the claim that Saddam had continued to produce WMD (an admission that such information was fundamentally unreliable), however Blair did not tell the public "that the evidence of WMD was crumbling beneath him". [Watch the Panorama programme in question here for 7 days from 11-7-2004] The Dossier that Lord Hutton declared was not sexed-up (leading to senior BBC resignations), Dr Brian Jones (former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Ministry of Defence's Defence Intelligence Staff) says was sexed-up, and details exactly how.
posted by Blue Stone (26 comments total)
I'm rather looking forward to Gordon Brown taking over. He's an intellectual, and a pragmatist. He's not a warmonger. I expect major defence cuts.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:07 AM on July 12, 2004

*collective raspberry*
posted by ed\26h at 3:26 AM on July 12, 2004

It seems like it may come down to "What did Blair know, and when did he know it?" - a question I recall being asked of someone else, in years past.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:48 AM on July 12, 2004

You really think Britain can afford to cut defence spending, Pretty_Generic? So that'll be one pair of desert boots and flak jacket between every three soldiers instead of between every two?
posted by nthdegx at 4:05 AM on July 12, 2004

nthdegx - The US spends almost as much on defense (or "offense", as it were) than the rest of the World combined.

And yet, it's soldiers still lack basic equipment.

Even almost unlimited funding won't overcome warped spending priorities and corruption.
posted by troutfishing at 4:23 AM on July 12, 2004

I'm not sure the argument applies, because for Britain's international status it's defence spending isn't all that big. I really don't think we can begin to afford warped spending priorities or corruption. I know we're not trying to shoot missiles out of the sky, for one.
posted by nthdegx at 4:44 AM on July 12, 2004

You really think Britain can afford to cut defence spending, Pretty_Generic?

Possibly PG doesn't but Brown does. It's rumoured that Blair intervened in the current public spending round on the MOD's behalf.
posted by vbfg at 5:01 AM on July 12, 2004

I understand we've spent a quid or two on a certain war in a some middle-eastern country or other... a war I'm confident Britain wouldn't have joined if Brown was in charge, despite his (muted) public support for it. I like schools and hospitals.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:21 AM on July 12, 2004

Possibly, vbfg - but there's nothing in your link that confirms that a Brown regime would cut defence spending. Brown may be an intellectual and a pragmatist but infortunately for Labour he isn't a vote winner. The British might harbour all sorts of ill feeling toward Blair over the handling of Iraq, but they'd rather having a lying spinmeister in power than an apparently tight-fisted Scotsman with no appeal to the swing-voter, and no skill at carrying himself in public. I'm not saying that's what I think, by the way...

On preview: Pretty Generic, I agree with you! I'm much rather see the money spent on school and hospitals. But if Britain is to continue to opt in to the American frontline we need an increase in spending, not a decrease. Sure, that might all change under Brown, but I fear that along with it will come a hamfisted approach to foreign policy that will do us no favours across the Atlantic and probably not in Europe either.
posted by nthdegx at 5:26 AM on July 12, 2004

You're not taking into account that the Tories are too strong in the memory to be electable, and the Lib Dem leadership remain up creek sans paddle, much to my disappointment. I'd regard Brown as a shoe-in at a general election, and if Blair suffers some kind of camel-back-breaking, that's what will happen.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:32 AM on July 12, 2004

"You're not taking into account that the Tories are too strong in the memory to be electable"

We assume that at our peril, my friend.
posted by nthdegx at 5:42 AM on July 12, 2004

Possibly, vbfg - but there's nothing in your link that confirms that a Brown regime would cut defence spending.

Not beyond his attempt to cut defense spending, no, albeit with his Treasury hat on I admit.
posted by vbfg at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2004

You misunderstand me. I'm not saying Brown isn't doing it. I'm saying your link isn't relevant.
posted by nthdegx at 6:20 AM on July 12, 2004

To return to the Butler report for a moment, the Guardian has an interesting chronology of supposed leaks here.

Anyone want to bet against me that it won't get leaked in advance? Was anyone else outraged over the leaking of the Hutton report?

'Sides, I can't believe that we're discussing this. Butler won't criticise anyone personally, he'll pin the blame squarely on 'systemic failures' and no one has to walk the plank. Meanwhile in a parallel universe where Britain actually does have an ethical foreign policy Scarlett and Dearlove would be facing charges of criminal negligence.
posted by dmt at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2004

We don't spend much on the military compared to America; we also spend more on healthcare than North Korea and less on Catholic-related activities than the Vatican. It's not saying much.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:44 AM on July 12, 2004

I don't believe anyone made that comparison. You guys are great are putting words in eachother's mouths.
posted by nthdegx at 7:50 AM on July 12, 2004

I assumed you were making the comparison when you said that Britain's defence spending isn't all that big, considering. Looking at the figures, it's really rather large compared to most similarly-sized nations, and I'd like it to be smaller with increasing spending on things that are more beneficial to the taxpayer.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:09 AM on July 12, 2004

"...because for Britain's international status it's defence spending isn't all that big" is what I said. What other similar sized nations spend is irrelevant. What is relevant is the liklihood of having to go to war and I'm afraid, given our past, and given our relationship with the US, and our liklihood of engaging in peace keeping operations with NATO or the UN it is not a huge amount of money. Consider also that Britain spends money innovating in this area whereas other countries do not. A lot of money will be spent on domestic contracts, which in turn employ a lot of people (or taxpayers if you like) to their benefit. Consider also that a lot of the other countries spending on defence comes our way. This isn't by way of justifying defence spending - it's by way of saying the costs perhaps aren't so high as they seem.

If you compare how likely we are to enter a conflict in comparison to how likely France is, I'd argue they're the ones overspending on defence.

Just because the last Iraq war was unpopular, that is not to say we will have better to cause to enter a similar sized war in the near future that is not so unpopular. I certainly think defence money can be better spent, but I'm not sure right now is the time to decide that we need less of it - although of course I hope that is the case in the near future.
posted by nthdegx at 8:29 AM on July 12, 2004

I don't think we should try and maintain our current military standing in the world with a reduced budget, that would be silly. I, like many people, have grown tired and cynical with Britain's role as an unofficial global policeman, I feel it opens us up to terrorist attack, and I'd like to take a break from it. I'd also like to sell our nukes to America. When it comes to foreign policy, I'm increasingly of the Swedish or maybe even the Swiss persuasion.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:19 AM on July 12, 2004

Pretty_Generic: We have plenty of nukes, thanks.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on July 12, 2004

Come on, they're a lovely model. Hardly used. Feel the width!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:50 AM on July 12, 2004

FYI: Gordon has just announced a 1.4% increase in defence spending, though the MOD will also be expected to lose 15,000 workers. (On the plus side there's some positive stuff for sustainable energy - hurray!)
posted by biffa at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2004

Mmm. Lovely nukes. They're girthy!
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:13 PM on July 12, 2004

Back to the Butler report, Intelligence was flawed, but nobody is to blame. Certainly not John Scarlett. No evidence of "deliberate distortion or culpable negligence", just plain old unintended distortion and usual negligence then.

That's ok then.

Considering the number of people who died I have one word for Blair and his pals, shameless.
posted by fullerine at 8:29 AM on July 14, 2004

Accountability's for everyone else.

It's not remotely surprising. It's quite similar to the Hutton Report - lots of pretty damning details, but still the same happy ending for Blair; and "Honest Tony's Second-Hand Car Dealership" is still in business.

The dossier was misleading, but nobody's to blame - it wasn't deliberate. They were carrying the cut-up pieces of the document, all layed out on a tray, and somebody tripped, somebody sneezed, all the caveats and cautions were blown from the intelligence report and the resulting 'accidentally strong' case for war was dutifully typed up by the secretary, fed to the public and the House of Commons, as fact, and it was all an innocent accident.

Our government is a fookin joke.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2004

What a fucking farce. First the Hutton whitewash and now this? I'm with Happold: who says the establishment is a thing of the past? And what of the notion of Ministerial responsibility? At the very least, Hoon should have the decency to do a Captain Oates.

What really saddens me is that I'm sure that this won't make a shred of difference to the outcomes in the Birmingham and Leicester by elections tomorrow. Suffice it to say that whatever faith I may have had in the Blair administration is long since spent. Why can't the my Dems get their act together?
posted by dmt at 5:30 PM on July 14, 2004

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