Earlier, I talked about the administration not so subtly replacing the pre-war allegations of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction with post-war allegations of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs. Apparently, Tony Blair is also with this program. According to a story in The Independent, Blair faced over an hour of questioning by the House of Commons Liaison Committee. The Independent reports that during that meeting,
The Prime Minister insisted, however, that the intelligence he published last September that Saddam could deploy WMD in 45 minutes had been right at the time.
During the same session, in response to a question of whether he would “concede that, if no weapons of mass destruction were found, the case for war was faulty,” Mr Blair replied:
“I don’t concede it at all that the intelligence at the time was wrong. I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes.”
Then Blair was given another chance to revisit his “deployed in 45 minutes” claim, to which he replied
“I certainly would want to reiterate the validity of that intelligence as we received it last September”
I like the phrasing, “would want to”, as in “I would want to reiterate the validity if it were in fact valid” instead of simply saying “I want to reiterate the validity…” Here’s Blair, continuing directly:
“That intelligence, I have no doubt at all, was valid intelligence.
I also, however, draw attention to the fact that we said in the September dossier, not once but several times, that the moment he (Saddam) realizes inspectors may come back in, then he will engage in a programme of concealment.
And that we believe, incidentally, from the information we are getting now, is precisely what he did.”
“One advantage of this programme of concealment is that it places an inhibition on his ability to use these weapons quickly”…”I simply tell you my view is that I’m very confident that they will find the evidence that such programmes existed and that Saddam was developing them but tried to conceal them.”
But, the inspectors were in Iraq until March 17th, 2003. So if Blair’s explanation is correct, then Saddam clearly did not pose an imminent threat when the war started. Saddam’s ability to quickly use his WMD was “inhibited” while the inspectors were in Iraq.
Blair would probably be better off once again following Bush’s lead and not speaking to Parliament on the issue.
Again, I’m not saying a war on Iraq was necessarily wrong, just that this war on Iraq, premised as it was on an imminent threat and purportedly certain evidence of actual WMD–not WMD programs–was wrong. For comparison, imagine that when the bombing campaign in Bosnia ended we learned that there had not actually been any ethnic cleansing. Clinton then could have claimed that Slobodan Milosevic was nevertheless a really bad guy, and Clinton would have been been entirely correct. But would that have prevented Congressional hearings and a full scale investigation into why the United States went into war under false pretenses?