Thursday, August 25, 2005

Raw Story: Exclusive: Downing Street reporter dissects pre-war Iraq intelligence

How Tony Blair stovepiped and misinterpreted intellegence analysis to scare the shit out of Britons!

There was of course nothing sub-conscious about the way in which the 45-minute claim was hardened up. The source did not specify the precise context for this timing and no-one in either British spy agency MI6 or the JIC Current Intelligence Group on Iraq seemed to know.

But among military intelligence experts on artillery and missile systems, the figures rang some very loud bells. They appeared to be straight out of the old Soviet artillery and rocket troops manual.
The most likely systems the Iraqis would use to deliver chemical or biological weapons were all Soviet-made mortar, artillery and missile systems.

These included the al-Hussein surface-to-surface missile. This was an Iraqi version of the Scud missile, which was the Soviet army-level surface-to-surface missile system. In common with all other Soviet workers, Red Army troops were given 'norms' for the time it should take them to perform particular tasks. The 'norm' for the time it should take for warheads to be moved from a forward storage site to the missile firing point and the missile to be ready to fire was 45 minutes.


t is not clear whether the Prime Minister spotted the 45-minute claim when it first landed on his desk in the shape of the original CX report from MI6. But it had certainly caught his eye in the days following its first mention in a draft of the dossier circulated on Sept. 9, 2002. At this stage it was only mentioned twice and, since it was not qualified, couched in very cautious terms. The Sept. 9 draft said the intelligence merely 'suggested' Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.

But amid the confusing, and often uncertain, intelligence reports on Iraq it was a detail that Mr Blair and his advisers, not least Alastair Campbell, his Director of Communications, knew the public would understand. Despite the conclusions of the Intelligence and Security Committee, there is no doubt that as far as Campbell and Blair were concerned, it was the sound bite that would sell the war to some of the many people who remained unconvinced, not least a large number of backbench Labour MPs. It would only take Saddam 45 minutes to fire his chemical or biological weapons.

Put at its simplest, as Campbell knew the tabloid headline writers would, British bases in Cyprus were '45 minutes from doom.'

Blair got a boost in the polls since the recent bombings in London. People approve of this deportation of radical clerics, but this hasn't translated into approval for the war, so this boost is likely temporary. In the meantime there is still an impeachment movement going on.

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