Major-General Michael Laurie, a former intelligence official involved in the dossier that's not already known as 'dodgy' and which was defended so passionately by 'tears on tap' Campbell has recently given evidence to the Chilcot inquiry:
In written evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Maj-Gen Laurie rejected Mr Campbell's claim that the dossier was not intended to make the case for war: "This was exactly its purpose and these very words were used."
Among former and current members of the BBC news department, the comments were received yesterday with mixed feelings that combined a sense of vindication with anger at the way the organisation's journalism has been treated. Mr Marsh said he was unhappy with the implications by Lord Hutton in his 2004 report that the staff on Today had shown a lack of professionalism. "This vindicates our position and shows Hutton was wrong in criticising Andrew, criticising me and criticising the Today team," he said. "Just flat wrong." Rod Liddle, a former Today editor who hired Mr Gilligan, said: "These comments tell us what we knew already – that the BBC told the truth, Gilligan told the truth and Alastair Campbell's outrage was confected and it was a lie."
While we're revisiting old lies, it's worth having a quick shufti at what David Aaronovitch had to say about the dossier and the wider case (such as it was) for war. After all, Aaronovitch certainly seems to consider himself an authority on who is or isn't lying, as the ex cathedra pronouncements throughout his voodoo theories book bear witness.
So his expert opinion on this little matter? We weren't lied to.
That's bollocks of course, but perhaps Aaronovitch suffered from the same problem that, if he is to be believed, afflicted the Blair government: The government didn't deceive anybody over Iraq and WMD, but was misled itself. I couldn't possibly comment - let the reader be the judge.
To assist in that process, here's a pertinent passage:
In May 2003, Andrew Gilligan famously asserted that 'a week before publication' (of the September dossier), Downing Street 'ordered it to be sexed up ... and ordered more facts to be discovered'. The following weekend in the Mail on Sunday, Gilligan elaborated: 'I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam's WMD. His response? One word ... Campbell.' For weeks, various parts of the BBC continued to make the claim that the complaint of government ill-doing came from the heart of spookery. News 24 on 4 June 2003, for example, began an item: 'An unnamed intelligence officer has told a BBC journalist that the government probably exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam in order to justify the war.'
This source was David Kelly and the recollection was Gilligan's. But around the same time, Kelly had had a conversation with Newsnight reporter Susan Watts. This conversation was taped. Kelly told Watts: 'You have to remember I'm not part of the intelligence community.' Watts asked him about WMD. 'My own perception is, yes, they have weapons,' said Kelly. 'A "clear and imminent threat?"' 'Yes.'
That's: Watts asked him about WMD. 'My own perception is, yes, they have weapons,' said Kelly. 'A "clear and imminent threat?"' 'Yes.'
And here's the full passage Aaronovitch is quoting, from the transcript of the interview:
SW: Do you think there ought to be a security and intelligence committee inquiry?
DK: Yes but not now I think that has to be done in about six months time when we actually have come to the end of the evaluation of Iraq and the information that is going to come out of it.
I still think it's far too early to be talking about the intelligence that is there, a lot of intelligence that would appear to be good quality intelligence, some of which is not and it takes a long long time to get the information that's required from Iraq.
The process has only just started I think one of the problems with the dossier - and again I think you and I have talked about it in the past is that it was presented in a very black and white way without any sort of quantitative aspects.
The only quantitative aspects were the figures derived essentially from Unscom figures, which in turn are Iraq's figures presented to Unscom - you know the inaudible litres anthrax, the 4 tonnes VX - all of that actually is Iraqi figures - but there was nothing else in there that was quantitative or even remotely qualitative - I mean it was just a black and white thing - they have weapons or they don't have weapons
That in turn has been interpreted as being a vast arsenal and I'm not sure any of us ever said that, people have said to me that that was what was implied.
Again we discussed it, and I discussed it with many people, that my own perception is that yes they have weapons but actually not inaudible [not problem] at this point in time
The PROBLEM [sic - TW] was that one could anticipate that without any form of inspection, and that forms a real deterrence, other than the sanctions side of things, then that that would develop I think that was the real concern that everyone had, it was not so much what they have now but what they would have in the future.
But that unfortunately wasn't expressed strongly in the dossier because that takes away the case for war [cough] to a certain extent.
SW: A clear and present, imminent threat?
And now a reverse-angle zoom shot of the two quotes (presented as one by Aaronovitch) in context:
First, Aaronovitch's 'My own perception is, yes, they have weapons,':
And the original: my own perception is that yes they have weapons but actually [not problem] at this point in time. The problem was that one could anticipate that without any form of inspection, and that forms a real deterrence...it was not so much what they have now but what they would have in the future.
And now, a super slo-mo hi-def split-screen replay of the second quote, side-by side with the original:
'A "clear and imminent threat?"' 'Yes.'
And the original:
[DK:]...it was not so much what they have now but what they would have in the future. But that unfortunately wasn't expressed strongly in the dossier because that takes away the case for war [cough] to a certain extent.
SW: A clear and present, imminent threat?
It's a mistake anyone could make.
UPDATE May 16 2011:
Bensix has politely pointed out that (as I should have guessed, and indeed checked) Aaro retracted the claim in question:
Two weeks ago, on this page, I attacked the notion that we had been lied to by Tony Blair about the threat from Iraq. My main argument was that scrutiny of the Joint Intelligence Committee reports in the period up to and including 2003 would have left a reasonable person to conclude that there was a significant threat from Iraqi WMD.
However, in one passage in the article, I quoted a transcript of a conversation between Dr David Kelly and the Newsnight reporter Susan Watts. In it, Kelly says: 'My own perception is, yes, they have weapons.'
'A "clear and imminent threat"?' asks Watts.
'Yes,' replies Kelly.
A reader subsequently wrote to The Observer's readers' editor, pointing out that the context of these remarks made it clear that Dr Kelly actually meant the opposite, that, in fact, there was little by the way of imminent threat. I went back to the Hutton documents, and the reader is right and I was wrong.
I am sorry about this; I should have been more careful. And although this doesn't affect the argument about the government lying, it does narrow the gap somewhat between the account of events supposedly given by Dr Kelly to Andrew Gilligan and that given by Kelly to Susan Watts.
Bensix also points out that Gilligan had some pointed remarks on the topic too.
It was a bit of a quick post, but I should have done me due diligence (not to be confused with Aaronovitch's kind of 'being more careful'). I think because I hadn't heard about this one before, I may have subliminally assumed that the transcript had only become widely available some time later.
So, ignore me.