On reading the British Government Dossier on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction…

I hereby declare my intention to read through the British Government’s much promised dossier on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, which is freely available from a number of different governmental and non-governmental sites. [Download the PDF (428kb)] This document is supposed to clarify why some kind of action against Saddam Hussein is of the utmost importance. However, I’m about a third of the way through John Pilger’s The New Rulers of the World, and am increasingly suspicious of Governmental motivations (both in the US and UK) with regard to this conflict. I’ve downloaded the document, and will be posting my ill-educated and worthless opinions of it as I proceed.

Foreword: The document starts with a two page foreword by Tony Blair which details the particularly unusual circumstances surrounding the release of the document. He states that the document is based on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). The material it collects is normally secret, and it is apparently “unprecedented for the Government to publish this kind of document”. The introduction further states that Mr Blair believes that it demonstrates without doubt that Saddam Hussein (referred to regularly as simply “Saddam”, which seems odd to me – as if he’d refer to the US’s government as “George”) has continued to build weapons of mass destruction. But he also states:

“I believe people will understand why the Agencies cannot be specific about the sources, which have formed the judgements in this document, and why we cannot publish everything we know. We cannot, of course, publish the detailed raw intelligence.”

This is both totally expected, and utterly frustrating. Because at heart it leaves the document as inevitably a set of assertions. Assertions presented without substantial back-up or evidence. And although of course everyone understands why such information can’t easily be published, it unfortunately leaves the door open for doubt and suspician over its validity.

Finally, a comparison from the introduction. Tony Blair: “Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people.” American researchers John Mueller and Karl Mueller (from Pilger’s book): “Economic sanctions have probably already taken the lives of more people in Iraq than have been killed by all weapons of mass destruction in history.”

From the Executive Summary: When it comes to summarising the position of the document, the Executive Summary is brief, clear and startling reading. Whether or not it accurately represents the situation is of course inevitably a matter of faith in the legitimacy and accountability of our leaders. If it is accurate, then it is fairly chilling. The first three points detail what presumably amounts to previously public information about Iraq’s continued development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The fourth point outlines what are perceived to be his attitudes towards these weapons, while the fifth asserts there is evidence that the regime is covering up new developments in them.

The sixth is the most startling point. It outlines a set of judgements or predictions about Iraq, which include that they have a wide range of protocols, mechanisms and military arrangements for the use of chemical and biological agents, developed mobile laboratories, tried covertly to acquire materials for nuclear devices including attempts to get “significant amounts of uranium from Africa”, illegally kept and further developed long-range missiles and learnt how to conceal sensitive equipment and documentation from inspectors.

The seventh point is merely a statement of the source of these judgements, the eighth a statement that Iraq are breaking the law, the ninth a statement that declares the risks of keeping Hussein as leader, and the tenth declares that Iraq funds its programs via illegal activity with an income of $3 billion in 2001.