The Butler report has confirmed that intelligence reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in the run up to the Iraq war were "open to doubt" and "seriously flawed", and "insufficiently robust" to justify claims that Iraq was in breach of United Nations resolutions requiring it to disarm.
Since the conflict, some of the key claims (for example the claim that the Iraqis had recently produced biological agents) were withdrawn because they were unreliable, and the controversial claim in the dossier that some Iraqi weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes should not have been included.
The dossier published in September 2002 went to the "outer limits" of the available intelligence, and Tony Blair's statement in the Commons "reinforced the impression" that there was "fuller and firmer" intelligence behind the assessments in the dossier than was actually the case.
"Validation of human intelligence sources after the war has thrown doubt on a high proportion of those sources and of their reports, and hence on the quality of the intelligence assessments received by ministers and officials in the period from summer 2002 to the outbreak of hostilities."
"because of the scarcity of sources and the urgent requirement for intelligence, more credence was given to untried agents than would normally be the case."
In other words, there was so little information from credible sources that they included evidence from sources who could not be relied upon!
1) the government first considered in March 2002 that its previous policy of "containment" of Saddam might not be adequate and that stronger action - although not necessarily military action - might be needed.
2) "no recent intelligence that would itself have given rise to a conclusion that Iraq was of more immediate concern than the activities of some other countries".
3) Ministers were advised that military action against Iraq could only be justified if the country was held to be in breach of previous UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to disarm.
4) Officials also warned that for the Security Council to back the view that Saddam was in breach of his obligations it would need "incontrovertible" proof that Iraq was engaged in "large scale activity".
5) Finally, ministers were advised by officials "that the intelligence then available was insufficiently robust to meet that criteria".
Greg Dyke (the ex-director general of the BBC forced to resigned after criticism in the Hutton Report), has noted the reference to group rather than individual culpability. "I am fascinated by the concept that it is now going to be collective responsibility by such a large collective that no one needs to resign."
So was the war legal?
In March 2003, Lord Goldsmith (Attorney General) wanted a categorical assurance from No. 10 that Iraq was presently in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1441 of November 2002. He specifically requested "hard evidence of non-compliance and non-cooperation" with resolution 1441 after Britain and the US had failed to secure a second UN resolution.
The prime minister's private secretary wrote to the attorney general on March 15th, stating "It is indeed the prime minister's unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations, as in operative paragraph four of UNSCR 1441, because of "false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution." Not exactly hard evidence.
Lord Butler pointed out that this referred to a statement from Iraq on December 7 2003, which was considered by the joint intelligence committee on December 18. There was no other evidence. Lord Butler states "We find it odd that after the initial assessment of December 18, the JIC produced no further assessment."
Sir Menzies Campbell (deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats) noted "This raises a question about the legality of the war and it emphasises the view that we were going to war come hell or high water. The attorney general is in the clear because he asked for something and he got it. But No 10 is not in the clear. It gave an ill-informed judgment to the attorney general."
So what does Blair say
"I have searched my conscience, not in a spirit of obstinacy, but in genuine reconsideration in the light of what we now know, in answer to that question. And my answer would be: that the evidence of Saddam's WMD was indeed less certain, less well founded than was stated at the time."
i.e. he exaggerated the strength of the intelligence in his statement to parliament that there was "extensive" intelligence showing that the existence of weapons of mass destruction was "beyond doubt."
"But I cannot go from there to the opposite extreme ... For any mistakes, made, as the report finds, in good faith I of course take full responsibility, but I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all."
Blair did not put the war in these terms, and a war on these terms would be illegal under international law - hence all the pretence that the issue was around the breach of UN resolutions.
"We all acknowledge Saddam was evil and his regime depraved. The judgment is this: would it have been better or more practical to have contained him through continuing sanctions and weapons inspections; or was this inevitably going to be at some point a policy that failed? And was removing Saddam a diversion from pursuing the global terrorist threat, or part of it?"
Explain then our continuing support of the Israeli regime (legalised torture; intentional targeting of civilians; breaches of international law, UN Resolutions, and the Geneva Convention; the building of a wall in Palestinian territory in breach of international law), or that of Saudi Arabia (absolute monarchy with an appalling human rights record including one of the worst records for women's rights, and the breading ground for many of the world terrorist groups - such as Al-qaeda).
"I can honestly say I have never had to make a harder judgment. But in the end, my judgment was that after September 11, we could no longer run the risk; that instead of waiting for the potential threat of terrorism and WMD to come together, we had to get out and get after it ..."
However, September 11th has nothing to do with WMD - unless you consider a passenger flight to be a WMD, and Saddam Hussein has nothing to do with September 11th - the implication is that we can invade anyone we want to since the attack on the USA by one specific group of people!)
There are some additional quotes from sources on Iraq below:-
David Kelly's words (to Newsnight journalist Susan Watts)
"[The claim that Iraq could deploy chemical weapons within 45 minutes] was a statement that was made and it just got out of all proportion. You know someone, they, were desperate for information. They were pushing hard for information which could be released, that was one that popped up and it was seized on and it was unfortunate that it was"
March 15 2002 Confidential JIC report
"Intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes is sporadic and patchy. Iraq is also well practised in the art of deception, such as concealment and exaggeration. A complete picture of the various programmes is therefore difficult"
September 24 2002, published dossier on Iraq´s banned weapons
"Military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them"
September 9 2002, JIC report
"Intelligence remains limited and Saddam's own unpredictability complicates judgments about Iraqi use of these weapons [of mass destruction]. Much of this paper is necessarily based on judgment and assessment"
September 24 2002, the dossier
"What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he had been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme"