Memo To: US & British Editors
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Damned Good Question
In a conversation with Dr. Gordon Prather today, I realized he has made a connection between the apparent falsification of evidence re Iraq by President Bush's team and by Prime Minister Tony Blair's team that has escaped the attention of the news media on both sides of the pond. Dr. Prather, a nuclear physicist by training, was the U.S. Army’s chief scientist in the Reagan administration and has been following this story closely from its beginning. I asked him to develop his insight on the parallel fudging of facts in logical steps and here is what he has written:
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By Gordon Prather
We've long had a "special relationship" with the Brits. We've even gone to war on their behalf on several occasions, despite a traditional American reluctance to engage in wars where our National Security is not at stake.
We came to the aid of the Brits in 1917, tipping the balance of the Great War - which had begun in 1914 -- in their favor.
We came to the aid of the Brits in 1942, tipping the balance of Hitler's War - which had begun in 1939 -- in their favor.
Some historians have reckoned that in order to convince Americans that our National Security was at stake -- when it actually wasn't -- first President Wilson, and then President Roosevelt, actually conspired with the Brits to influence US public opinion.
Will historians someday conclude that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair conspired last year to convince both Brits and Americans that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to both Brits and Americans when, in fact, he was not a threat at all to either?
Last summer President Bush directed that a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) be prepared, setting out the threat that Saddam's nuke and chem-bio weapons posed to us.
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post revealed last week that a special high-level group of Bush advisors - called the White House Iraq Group (WHIG)- was established last September to review and comment on the draft Iraqi WMD NIE. We're told the draft NIE didn't make the case that Saddam was an immediate threat to US National Security. So WHIG members actually went over to CIA headquarters, met several times with CIA analysts, and got them to make the threat - especially the nuke threat -- more immediate.
Now, we are learning -- as a consequence of the Brit hearings into the suicide of Dr. David Kelly, a key contributor to Blair's Iraqi WMD Dossier - that almost exactly the same thing went on in the UK at almost exactly the same time.
* Sometime last summer, Blair instructed his staff to draft a Dossier on Saddam's WMD suitable for convincing Parliament that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the UK.
* A first draft Dossier was prepared by Blair's staff, under the direction of Blair's Communications Director, Alastair Campbell, and submitted in early September to Blair.
* The first draft didn't convince anyone, so Blair ordered it revised. Campbell emailed Blair's Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell confirming his understanding that the revised Dossier was to contain 'real intelligence information".
* A few days later Powell - apparently replying to Campbell's email -- provided even more specific instructions as to how the Dossier was to be revised. Powell effectively told Campbell that the revised Dossier had to characterize Saddam and his WMD as posing an 'imminent threat' to UK.
* Campbell -- as instructed -- proceeded to incorporate 'real intelligence information', obtained mostly from formal UNSCOM-IAEA reports submitted between 1991-1999, but supplemented by educated guesses of what Saddam had been up to since 1998, obtained in interviews with the likes of former UNSCOM inspector Dr. David Kelly.
Obviously, since UNSCOM-IAEA hadn't considered Saddam an imminent threat in 1998, if the revised Dossier was to characterize Saddam as posing an 'imminent threat' to the UK in 2002 -- as ordered by Powell -- that characterization had to be based on the educated guesses of Kelly and his colleagues.
So what did the late Dr. Kelly have to say to BBC reporters a few weeks ago - just before his suicide -- about the treatment last September by Campbell of his input and that of his colleagues? He thought Campbell had portrayed their guesses -- about what Saddam might have done or could do -- as matters of fact.
"I think that was the real concern that everyone had. It was not so much what they [the Iraqis] 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 to a certain extent." [emphasis added]
Whether the late Dr. Kelly ever actually said that Campbell had 'sexed-up' the Dossier is irrelevant. It is obvious that Dr. Kelly believed that if his input - and that of his colleagues - had been faithfully portrayed, Blair's Dossier of last September could not have been used as an excuse for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
That is almost exactly what so-far unnamed US intelligence analysts are saying about Bush's NIE of last September.
So, why are the US and Brit media elite covering the obviously coordinated Blair-Bush activities of last September as if they weren't coordinated? Why are they not breathlessly reporting that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair apparently conspired last year to convince both Brits and Americans that Saddam Hussein was an immediate threat to both Brits and Americans when, in fact, he was not a threat at all to either?
That's a damned good question.
Once we have got an answer to that question, we can then demand to know why the media coverage there has been to date has focused on the conspiracy of last summer -- not the conspiracy there must have been in mid-March of this year to go to war on the basis of the by-then thoroughly discredited Brit Dossier and US National Intelligence Estimate.
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[There are varied accounts of Alastair Campbell's testimony Tuesday in London, denying he had done anything more than recommended changes in "presentation" of the dossier. The most thorough account is in the Scotsman, where e-mails sent to Campbell indicate he did more than simply fuss about presentation. JW]