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Revealed: How the road to war
was paved with lies
Intelligence agencies accuse Bush
and Blair of distorting and fabricating
evidence in rush to war
By Raymond Whitaker
27 April 2003
The case for invading Iraq to remove its weapons of
mass destruction was based on selective use of
intelligence, exaggeration, use of sources known to
be discredited and outright fabrication, The
Independent on Sunday can reveal.
A high-level UK source said last night that intelligence
agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious
that briefings they gave political leaders were
distorted in the rush to war with Iraq. "They ignored
intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a
threat," the source said. Quoting an editorial in a Middle
East newspaper which said, "Washington has to
prove its case. If it does not, the world will for ever
believe that it paved the road to war with lies", he
added: "You can draw your own conclusions."
UN inspectors who left Iraq just before the war
started were searching for four categories of
weapons: nuclear, chemical, biological and missiles
capable of flying beyond a range of 93 miles. They
found ample evidence that Iraq was not co-operating,
but none to support British and American assertions
that Saddam Hussein's regime posed an imminent
threat to the world.
On nuclear weapons, the British Government claimed
that the former regime sought uranium feed material
from the government of Niger in west Africa. This was
based on letters later described by the International
Atomic Energy Agency as crude forgeries.
On chemical weapons, a CIA report on the likelihood
that Saddam would use weapons of mass destruction
was partially declassified. The parts released were
those which made it appear that the danger was high;
only after pressure from Senator Bob Graham, head
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was the whole
report declassified, including the conclusion that the
chances of Iraq using chemical weapons were "very
low" for the "foreseeable future".
On biological weapons, the US Secretary of State,
Colin Powell, told the UN Security Council in February
that the former regime had up to 18 mobile
laboratories. He attributed the information to
"defectors" from Iraq, without saying that their claims
� including one of a "secret biological laboratory
beneath the Saddam Hussein hospital in central
Baghdad" � had repeatedly been disproved by UN
On missiles, Iraq accepted UN demands to destroy its
al-Samoud weapons, despite disputing claims that
they exceeded the permitted range. No banned Scud
missiles were found before or since, but last week the
Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon,
suggested Scuds had been fired during the war.
There is no proof any were in fact Scuds.
Some American officials have all but conceded that
the weapons of mass destruction campaign was
simply a means to an end � a "global show of
American power and democracy", as ABC News in
the US put it. "We were not lying," it was told by one
official. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." American and British teams claim they are
scouring Iraq in search of definitive evidence but none has so far been found, even
though the sites considered most promising have been searched, and senior figures
such as Tariq Aziz, the former Deputy Prime Minister, intelligence chiefs and the man
believed to be in charge of Iraq's chemical weapons programme are in custody.
Robin Cook, who as Foreign Secretary would have received high-level security
briefings, said last week that "it was difficult to believe that Saddam had the capacity to
hit us". Mr Cook resigned from the Government on the eve of war, but was still in the
Cabinet as Leader of the House when it released highly contentious dossiers to bolster
One report released last autumn by Tony Blair said that Iraq could deploy chemical and
biological weapons within 45 minutes, but last week Mr Hoon said that such weapons
might have escaped detection because they had been dismantled and buried. A later
Downing Street "intelligence" dossier was shown to have been largely plagiarised from
three articles in academic publications. "You cannot just cherry-pick evidence that suits
your case and ignore the rest. It is a cardinal rule of intelligence," said one aggrieved
officer. "Yet that is what the PM is doing." Another said: "What we have is a few
strands of highly circumstantial evidence, and to justify an attack on Iraq it is being
presented as a cast-iron case. That really is not good enough."
Glen Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who first pointed out Downing Street's
plagiarism, said ministers had claimed before the war to have information which could
not be disclosed because agents in Iraq would be endangered. "That doesn't apply any
more, but they haven't come up with the evidence," he said. "They lack credibility."
Mr Rangwala said much of the information on WMDs had come from Ahmed Chalabi's
Iraqi National Congress (INC), which received Pentagon money for intelligence-gathering.
"The INC saw the demand, and provided what was needed," he said. "The implication is
that they polluted the whole US intelligence effort."
Facing calls for proof of their allegations, senior members of both the US and British
governments are suggesting that so-called WMDs were destroyed after the departure of
UN inspectors on the eve of war � a possibility raised by President George Bush for the
first time on Thursday.
This in itself, however, appears to be an example of what the chief UN weapons
inspector Hans Blix called "shaky intelligence". An Iraqi scientist, writing under a
pseudonym, said in a note slipped to a driver in a US convoy that he had proof
information was kept from the inspectors, and that Iraqi officials had destroyed chemical
weapons just before the war.
Other explanations for the failure to find WMDs include the possibility that they might