We have already commented on the craziness of the firestorm now engulfing Tony Blair over allegations that he “doctored” or “sexed up” intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war. The original BBC report, which was the principal source of the controversy, challenged only a single item in the dossier released by the British government. That was the claim that Iraq could be ready to use its chemical weapons in 45 minutes. And even as to that statement, the claim by the BBC’s still-anonymous informant was not that the statement was false, but only that it was based on a single source, whereas everything else in the dossier was supported by at least two sources.
Today the British government released more information on the source of the 45-minute intelligence. He was a “serving Iraqi officer with a record for providing reliable data over years. The information was analysed by Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee and immediately distributed to some cabinet ministers at the end of August, a few weeks before the compilation of the government’s WMD dossier.”
Surely this is one of the most absurd teapot tempests of modern times. The suggestion that Saddam’s ability to fire his weapons within 45 minutes–as opposed to an hour and a half, two hours, or whatever–was the key to going to war with Iraq is nonsense. The obvious reality is that the governments of both the U.S. and the U.K. had reliable intelligence from many sources that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was prepared to use them. Indeed, Iraqi officials threatened to use them in the weeks before the war started. After the war began, as we noted at the time, chemical/biological weapons suits and written instructions for the use of chemical weapons were discovered, and captured Iraqi soldiers related plans to use chemical weapons. Since then mobile biological laboratories and other evidence of Saddam’s banned programs have been discovered.
In that context, for left-wing critics to try to destroy Tony Blair on the ground that the “45 minute” claim had only one source is ridiculous.
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