Sunday, February 17, 2008

Better late than nev-, well, actually not

Truth, all too often, is what is considered foolish at the time, revealed afterwards, and conventional wisdom later on. Not that we didn't know it all along, but welcome on one part of the Iraq story to Stage Two. This is from The Independent (UK) for Sunday:
The government official who wrote the first draft of the "dodgy dossier" that helped propel Britain into war in Iraq today admits, "We were wrong."

John Williams, a former Foreign Office aide, said last night that publication of his document would expose how members of Tony Blair's team were locked in a mindset that made military action inevitable. ...

The Williams draft was written in September 2002, only days after Mr Blair, then Prime Minister, announced that the Government would publish a dossier of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his weapons. ...

Mr Williams, press secretary to three foreign secretaries, said that the dossier would show how wrong the Blair team was about Saddam's alleged possession of WMD. Mr Williams said: "The argument was that here was someone who had been known to possess illegal weapons. We regarded him as a threat." He added: "The document will show the mindset that everyone had. It was wrong and we know that now."
The "dodgy dossier" is the one that made the false claim that Saddam Hussein could launch a chemical/biological attack within 45 minutes of giving the order. (Among other false claims, that is.) The dossier was, Williams essentially admits now, based on a creationist-style argument: The conclusion came first and the evidence was chosen to fit. (Or if you prefer a different image, an Alice in Wonderland argument: "Sentence first! Verdict afterwards!")

The Labour government had resisted release of the draft for years but was finally told by the UK's Information Tribunal the last week of January that it must comply with a freedom of information request by a UK researcher.

In arguments that will be amusingly familiar to Americans, the government had argued that release of the draft would "inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and ... frank exchange of views." The Tribunal rejected the argument, saying "We believe that the Williams draft might be capable of adding to the public's understanding of the issues in question."

In fairness, I have to note that the government denies that the Williams draft was used in the final dossier. But also in fairness I then have to wonder why, if it was so irrelevant, they have been so determined to keep it under wraps.

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