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29 January 2010

The “growing“ threat from Iraq? Nonsense

Blair evades and distorts once more.

By Mehdi Hasan

One of the quotes Sir Roderic Lyne has raised again and again at the Iraq inquiry is this claim, made by Tony Blair, in parliament, on 24 September 2002:

His weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing.

What evidence or intelligence did the former premier have in his possession to suggest that the Iraqi WMD threat was “growing”? As Andrew Sparrow over at the Guardian live blog points out: “At previous hearings, Lyne has suggested that there is no evidence to support this claim, which Blair made when he presented the September dossier to parliament.”

Lyne finally got to confront Blair with this quotation, and with this question, a few minutes ago. Blair’s response is worth noting.

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First, he referred to having “believed” it was “growing”. As I have asked before, who cares what he “believed”? This is not about his mindset, his thought processes, or his emotional or psychological state. This is about the evidence presented to him and the manner in which he relayed the evidence to parliament and the public.

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Oh, and at the time, and in that statement, he didn’t say that was his “belief”, he simply stated, as a matter of fact: “His weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing.”

Second, he tries to justify the claim by citing an intelligence briefing in early September that referred to the existence of “mobile” laboratories for the production of biological weapons (a claim which, he concedes, turns out to have been false). But here is the exact wording of the JIC assessment itself:

Iraq has developed for the military, fermentations systems which are capable of being mounted on road-trailers or rail cars. These could produce BW agents.

Notice the “could”.

Here is how the claim appeared in the Blair/Campbell/Scarlett dossier on 24 September 2002:

Iraq has developed mobile laboratories for military use, corroborating earlier reports about the mobile production of biological warfare agents.