Anorak News | Lord Butler Did It

Lord Butler Did It

by | 3rd, February 2004

”IRAQ? Oh, we thought you meant Iran.’

‘Does a crossbow count, sarge?’

Britain’s spooks are busy rehearsing their excuses after news that the Government will today announce an inquiry into the intelligence failure in the run-up to the war with Iraq.

Tony Blair may have no reverse gear, but he executed a pretty neat handbrake turn in bowing to pressure for the investigation into the continued failure to find Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

However, the Times says the formal announcement of the panel, to be chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler (a man of impeccable integrity and impartiality, at least until he produces a report that we don’t like), was delayed after failure to agree its terms of reference with opposition parties.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy wanted the inquiry to look at the political decisions leading up to war as well as the intelligence material – a demand likely to be rejected by the Government.

But the Guardian says the inquiry has the potential not only to embarrass the Prime Minister but also to provoke ‘a serious disagreement’ between the Government and the intelligence agencies.

‘They [the intelligence agencies] were obliged to construct and underwrite a public, politically driven case for war,’ the paper says, ‘which, if it turned out to be flawed (as it has) would, they suspected, inevitably rebound on them (as it is doing now).

‘Blaming only the spooks, like blaming only the BBC, is like beating the waiter over the head because the chef has overcooked the joint.’

Tony Blair’s reluctance to allow an inquiry was effectively undermined by President Bush’s decision to concede one to his critics, leading to headlines in the anti-war Indy and Guardian that he had caved in or that the inquiry had been forced upon him.

The pro-war Telegraph sees it differently, arguing that Blair is merely following Bush’s lead and insisting that any inquiry ‘must not be a proxy committee of inquiry into the rights and wrongs of the war itself’.

‘This has to be an inquiry into how politicians interact with spies,’ it says, ‘and the related matter of the culture of the intelligence services.’

And a test to see how many spooks can pick out Iraq on a blank map of the region.’

Posted: 3rd, February 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink