Yet even when apparently acknowledging reality, Blair cannot help spinning. For "may never be found" implies that they existed in the first place. It is well known that Saddam's regime had (and used) WMD in the 1980s. It is also well known that this did not deter either the UK or the USA supporting it (quite the opposite, in fact). However, by 2001 it appeared clear to Blair (like Colin Powel and Condi Rice) Saddam had been contained and disarmed of WMD.
However, once the Bush Junta's war drums started pounding, Blair quickly changed his tune. Sadly, the aftermath of the war proved pre-911 Blair (and the post-911 anti-war movement) right. How things have changed. Before the war, Blair was adamant that Saddam had weapons. He opined on March 18th last year that "we are asked to accept that, contrary to all intelligence, Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd." Apparently the "palpably absurd" is now the possible truth. And if they were "removed" why did no one notice? Iraq was being monitored for sometime before the invasion began. As for being "hidden," Blair seem quite blasé about this. Does he not worry that those who hid them will pass them onto the insurgency and terrorists attacking the occupying powers?
Quite simply, if you believe Blair now, you do so "contrary to all intelligence." He refuses to admit error. He asserted that "just because we haven't found stockpiles of WMD doesn't mean he was not a threat." Yet the war was sold previously on this basis, that Saddam had massive stockpiles of WMD and was a direct threat to the UK. The same story was spun in America, with the "liberation" (i.e. colonisation) of Iraq being tacked on when the other justifications were rightly dismissed.
Yet this is not the only area where Blair is trying to rewrite history. "I genuinely believe," he said, "that those weapons were there and that is why the international community came together as they did." Even if we recognise that "international community" simply means the world's ruling classes, Blair's rewriting of history is shocking. The ruling elites were deeply divided on the issue, with the governments of France and Germany reflecting the wishes of their populations and opposing the Bush Junta and its poodle. Blair did defend Britain's role as imperial poodle, saying other countries would "give their eye teeth" for it. Which seems to amount to giving taxpayers money and soldiers' lives to support US imperialism, which explains why so few states (even those in the "Coalition of the Killing") sent troops as part of the invasion force.
Blair could argue that while his belief that Saddam retained WMD was mistaken, it was one held other world leaders. However, such a claim is faulty. The obvious fact is that most of them opposed America's decision to immediately invade Iraq in "self-defence." Simply put, the intelligence simply did not justify it and, therefore, most countries wanted the UN weapons inspectors to finish their job. Something that the Bush Junta could not let happen.
So the "international community" did not "come together" -- except when millions of people took to the streets to protest against the war.
Yes, Blair is right to describe Saddam as an "evil person" and a "tyrant" that the world was well rid of, yet he was so when he was supported and armed by Britain and America in the 1980s. However, it seems incredulous to expect Blair (Mr "no reverse gear" unless you are big business or Bush) to "say sorry" over the Iraq invasion (as if that would make a difference!). If he admits that regime change was the real reason for the war, then he clearly admits to violating international law. WMD was the means by which the US's imperial agenda to reshape the Middle East in its interests could be sold to a disbelieving public.
Unsurprisingly, in the US the intelligence services are being set up as the fall guy. How convenient that the blame for the invasion -- in direct opposition to the overwhelming majority of the world -- can be laid at the door of the intelligence services and not government!
In Britain, Blair is being a bit slow in taking this route, denying he received "duff" intelligence (he also said the world was now safer, skilfully ignoring the fact that terrorism has increased and that his chancellor has just doubled the UK counter-terrorism budget due to increased threat of attack). This is probably due to his fanaticism and inability to admit being wrong. The CIA, however, has been accused by a senate inquiry of providing rubbish intelligence and so more or less single-handedly led a misinformed Congress and a misadvised Bush Junta into war.
Yet this is nonsense. The CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq was much criticised by the inquiry (which was the basis for an even more doctored, unclassified public version, created by the White House, which lost even the modest qualifications the CIA had left in). However, long before it was produced leading Junta officials were warmongering. Bush proclaimed his "axis of evil" in February of that year, clearly setting the stage for invading Iraq. The CIA document was an after-the-fact attempt to justify and bolster decisions already taken. Moreover, the Bush Junta has its own "intelligence" unit, the "Office of Special Plans" to create the kind of intelligence it wanted to hear. Not to mention the various memoirs showing that Iraq was in the Junta's sights within hours of the 9/11 attacks. Nor should we forget the neo-conservative "Project for a New American Century" which had argued forcefully for "regime change" in Iraq in May 1998. Once in office, the neo-cons carried out their plans.
So, in a nutshell, the urge for war had nothing to do with dodgy intelligence information nor Saddam's actual threat. It suited US imperial needs, or at least the section of US business party which was selected to occupy the White House in 2000. Excuses were needed (WMD, links to al-Qaeda, etc.) and that is what was provided. Paul Wolfowitz put it after fall of Baghdad, "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." By "everyone" he meant the Bush Junta. WMD were simply used to sell the war to Congress and the American public.
As such, it was not an intelligence failure. At least for the Bush Junta, it was an intelligence success. The majority of the American people believed them. The Bush Junta itself went to war for different reasons entirely.
One question remains whether the CIA's top officials volunteered or were forced on board by the Bush Junta. Given that the state bureaucracy can undermine the plans of any reformist government as required, it seems unlikely that the upper echelons of the CIA were coerced. One example should suffice.
Powell's presentation to the UN relied heavily on the claims of one especially dubious Iraqi defector, dubbed "Curve Ball" inside the intel community. Yet no one inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant, except a Pentagon analyst who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source. After reading Powell's speech, the analyst decided he had to speak up. He wrote an urgent e-mail to a top CIA official warning that there were even questions about whether Curve Ball "was who he said he was." Could the US government use him as the "backbone" for their claims on Iraq WMD? "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say," the official quickly responded, "The Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about."
So a top official at the CIA refused to do his job, saying that the government does not care about the truth of its case to the UN. This suggests a governmental climate in which intelligence is not wanted and the CIA simply followed orders. It is doubtful anyone will be sacked for all this, particularly those "few bad apples" which make up the Bush Junta.
This culture of "intelligence" was not unique to the US. Evidence unearthed by the Hutton inquiry shows that Blair knew how weak the evidence was. One official read an early draft of the September dossier and realised the lack of intelligence justifying war: "Very long way to go. I think. Think we're in a lot of trouble with this as it now stands." Blair's chief of staff acknowledged that a subsequent draft "does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam." One former deputy head of the defence intelligence staff thought Downing Street's last-minute call for more intelligence to put in the dossier reeked of "scraping the barrel" and when Blair told Parliament that the threat from Iraq was "current and serious" he could "almost hear the collective raspberry going up around Whitehall."
In other words, there was a systematic filtering out of evidence that went contrary to the government's case. That is, anything which pointed to a conclusion in-line with the available evidence. The infamous 45-minute claim, which appeared, without any qualification, four times in the government's September dossier is now admitted by intelligence officials to have "added nothing fundamentally new to the UK's assessment of the Iraqi battlefield capability." Similarly, the claim that Iraq "has continued to produce chemical and biological agents" had no evidence to back it up in spite being described in the dossier as "recent intelligence." Intelligence officials now say this was wrong. One former defence intelligence official has said he was "confused" and "couldn't relate to" Mr Blair's evidence to Hutton, notably the reference to a "tremendous amount" of information about Iraq's WMD programme. "Certainly no one on my staff had any visibility of large quantities of intelligence," he said.
So to sell a war he had decided to fight regardless, the Blair government took intelligence that was sketchy, qualified and circumstantial and transformed it into something concrete and definitive. Perhaps Blair will assert it was faulty when it reached him but that should not detract from what he did once he got his hands on it. For without this "enhancement," the case for war would have collapsed before rather than after the invasion and the deaths of tens of thousands.
And what of Lord Butler's report? Unsurprisingly, yet another appointed establishment figure has found Blair innocent. If only other criminals could specify the remit of the enquiry they face, allowing them to narrowing it down to a safe area of investigation. But only successful war criminals have that privilege.
According to the report, no one, least of all the head warmonger Blair, is to blame. This in spite of the Butler report stating that the March 2002 intelligence available was "insufficiently robust" to prove Iraq was in breach of the UN resolutions or to convince the UN. In spite of the fact some of the human intelligence about Iraq's WMD was "seriously flawed" and "open to doubt." In spite that fact that the "45 minute" claim in the September dossier did not state what exactly it referred to. In spite noting that the language of the dossier may have left readers with the impression that there was "fuller and firmer" intelligence behind its judgments than was the case. In spite of Blair's statement to MPs on the day the dossier was published reinforcing this impression. In spite acknowledging that the dossier went to the "outer limits" of intelligence available at the time.
Butler concluded that when Blair suddenly started focusing on Iraq in early 2002 the shift was not based on a change in intelligence. This did stop Blair constantly referring to the material crossing his desk. In fact, the intelligence services had received almost no new intelligence from within Iraq about WMD since 1998. This did not stop Blair claiming that "beyond doubt" Saddam had "continued to produce" WMD. In fact, the report says, "there was no recent intelligence that would itself have given rise to a conclusion that Iraq was of more immediate concern than the activities of some other countries." This did not stop Blair stating the threat posed was "imminent and serious."
All this and Blair did not mislead the country or Parliament! By omitting all those caveats from the dossier and speeches and by stating that the dossier was "extensive, detailed and authoritative," Blair (as Butler admitted) could have reinforced an impression among lay readers that "there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the judgments than was the case." Blair never sought to correct this impression or the lurid "45 minutes" headlines which accompanied the dossier. The facts were deliberately distorted, so distorted they were a deception. He hyped and spun what was included, in an obvious attempt mislead parliament and the public.
And, we should not forget, the country did not fall for it. Over a million marched against the war. So when the warmongers say "we were all duped" the facts are different. The public were not duped, their so-called representatives were.
Yet, in a way, the Butler report is right. The British state did not go to war due to the whims and eccentricities of the PM. The state bureaucracy is rarely browbeaten by politicians. The secret state hardly kow-tows to our elected "representatives." Big Business always acts to ensure its will is done. The long history of previous Labour governments should disabuse anyone who thinks that. Imperialism is a product of the capitalist system, not the fancies of individuals. Blair did misled the public but in so doing he was representing the interests of the ruling elite. As such, the state bureaucracy and secret state were simply doing their job. What is different is that a split in that ruling elite has exposed how badly they do it and what depths they will go to justify their actions to the public.
And now all the public justifications for war in Iraq are gone. They have been exposed as lies. The justifications for war have been continually revised as required. Now the only one left is the one Blair explicitly rejected before the war, namely regime change (and that violates international war). The anti-war movement has been vindicated.
When the BBC made a small mistake, Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies had to leave. When the government makes a "mistake," resulting in the invasion of another country, then no one is to blame. All we are left with is Blair, a wanker of mass destruction. He has waged numerous wars. Since September 11th, his wars have killed over four times the numbers of civilians killed in the Twin Towers. He dragged us into invading Iraq and he remains in office, shrugging off protest marches and election protests as irrelevances.
What a damning indictment of capitalist representative democracy. Little wonder Blair said he accepted full responsibility. It means nothing in this system. And that is why this system needs to be destroyed and replaced by another, more humane, one.