The Butler Report, the official inquiry into how intelligence sources were
used by the Blair government to justify the war in Iraq, has produced nothing
surprising. It is another whitewash, just like the Hutton report. What is
amazing however is that it provides enough evidence to show that the government
did indeed lie to the British people, that it went to war under false pretences.
It lists a series of "shortcomings", exaggerations, etc., that should lead to
many heads rolling. Instead the very same report says that no one is really to
The report points out that British MI6 – the secret services – had based
their advice to the government on information that was ten years out of date and
on "sources" that proved to be completely unreliable. John Scarlett, chairman of
the Joint Intelligence Committee, had played a key role in drafting the
The role of Scarlett
Scarlett was a close friend – a "mate" – of Alastair Campbell and seems
to have had extraordinary influence inside the Blair government. He actually
recommended making changes to the Government dossier on Iraq and its alleged
weapons of mass destruction that made the report appear to be more convincing.
In the new jargon used to describe this method, the document was "sexed up",
i.e. exaggerated and falsified!
Anyone would have thought that Scarlett would be the ideal scapegoat upon
which to unload all the blame for these falsifications and exaggerations.
Instead he was appointed to succeed Sir Richard Dearlove next month as head of
SIS (Secret Intelligence Service or MI6 as it is better known). Everyone had
expected Dearlove’s deputy, Inkster, to take over when he resigned. Instead it
was Scarlett who leap-frogged over him, a clear reward fro having provided Blair
with the necessary "intelligence" with which to try and convince the British
people that the war was justified.
Scarlett’s job was clearly not to find the real information, not to discover
the truth about Iraq, but to provide Blair with what would seem convincing
evidence. This shows that it was not the evidence that led to war. No, the
decision to go to war was taken long ago. All that was needed was to fabricate a
convincing story. Thus we were told that Saddam Hussein definitely had weapons
of mass destruction, that he could use them against Britain or British targets
within 45 minutes.
The Butler report now says that the intelligence was flawed, based on totally
unreliable sources. It says the famous Government "dossier" was also unreliable
and dodgy. The 45-minute claim it says was simply wrong and the much-vaunted
link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda was unproven. It points out that the people of
Britain were misled. It says: "Language in the dossier may have left readers
with the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the
judgements than was the case."
We can remind our readers of how Blair, in the build up to the war, presented
his case. Speaking in Parliament on September 24, 2002 he said the following: "The
[intelligence] concludes that Saddam has existing and active military plans for
the use of chemical and biological weapons." The so-called "intelligence" was
never made public, but Blair assured us all that the evidence was there. On July
6 of this year he was forced to declare that, "I have to accept that we have not
found them. He may have removed or hidden or even destroyed those weapons. We
don’t know." So much for his sources of intelligence. We simply "don’t know".
Butler also has made some important criticisms about how the government
operates. He has stated that, "We are concerned that the informality and
circumscribed character of the Government’s procedures which we saw in the
context of policy-making towards Iraq risks reducing the scope for informed
collective political judgement." This refers to the fact that many decisions are
taken without even consulting all the Cabinet members, that meetings are held
without minutes being taken, and much discussion is informal and within the
walls of number 10, Downing Street.
This underlines what we have explained many times before. The British
parliament is referred to arrogantly by the British ruling class as the "Mother
of all Parliaments". This implies that it has a long and democratic tradition.
But over a period real power has been removed from parliament and concentrated
in the hands of the Cabinet. But even the Cabinet now is not consulted fully.
This started under Thatcher but has continued under Blair. There is an inner
clique that takes decisions even behind the back of the Cabinet itself. Some of
the people taking these decisions are not elected by anyone. They are merely the
handpicked cronies of Tony Blair.
Butler, a creature of the system
The absurdity of the situation is that this clique even decides who is to "investigate"
into its own behaviour. Lord Butler was chosen because he has a good track
record in burying and obfuscating the truth. Let us take a look at who this Lord
Butler is. Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary who resigned over Blair’s
plans to go to war, had the following to say about Butler:
"What a wonderful specimen of the British establishment is Lord Butler of
Brockwell. Urbane, unflappable and understanding. He should be put on display
somewhere as a prize example of our ruling classes." Referring to the flawed
intelligence Cook goes on to say, "This must be the most embarrassing failure in
the history of British intelligence. Yet according to Lord Butler, no one is to
blame. Everyone behaved perfectly properly and nobody made a mistake." (Quoted
from his article in today’s The Independent).
Butler is a former Cabinet secretary and knows very well the individuals that
he was called on to "investigate". He even promoted some of them when he was in
charge in the past! He served under five prime ministers, apparently being most
comfortable with John Major. And he has been involved in this kind of "Government
In the mid-nineties, under the Tories, there was an Arms-to-Iraq inquiry.
Butler gave a misleading answer to the Commons. When taken up on this he said
that. "It was accurate but incomplete… The purpose of it was to give an answer
which itself was true. It did not give the full picture. It was half an answer."
Incredibly he added that, "It is not justified to mislead, but very often one is
finding oneself in a position where you have to give an answer that is not the
whole truth." Butler was also involved in "investigating" sleaze allegations
under the John Major government. He interviewed Jonathan Aitken, who was later
sentenced to jail for perjury. Butler found no proof of wrongdoing!
Butler is indeed a very good example of the British ruling classes, as Robin
Cook mentions in his article. He studied at the public school of Harrow, then
went on to Oxford, and entered the civil service in the early 1960s. In the
1970s he was Edward Heath’s private secretary and then also served Thatcher
loyally. No wonder Blair chose him as the man to lead this latest inquiry. From
such a man no one can expect the truth on anything.
The results of his inquiry try to square the circle. The inquiry is forced to
make some very important revelations, from which many people in Britain will
draw their own conclusions. Butler realised this and said, "We realise that our
conclusions may provoke calls for the current chairman of the JIC, Mr Scarlett,
to withdraw from his appointment as the next Chief of the Secret Intelligence
Service… We greatly hope he will not do so. We have a high regard for his
abilities and his record."
Compare this to the treatment of Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies, the director
general and the chairman of the BBC who were forced to resign after the Hutton
report was made public. Although they were not directly responsible for the news
items, they were said to be responsible on the basis of collective
responsibility. Now the same concept is used in the case of the government, but
with the opposite effect. As there was a collective responsibility, the no one
is responsible. If this had been applied to the BBC Dyke and Davies would still
be in their positions.
The BBC was harassed and pressurised by the government simply because they
told the truth. But Scarlett not only is not harassed, he is promoted to head of
SIS! This shows the utter hypocrisy of this government. If you play their game
and help them in their deceit you go to the top and are rewarded. If you try and
tell the truth you are hounded and forced out of your job.
Blair has been forced to retreat and admit that there are no weapons of mass
destruction. He is forced to concede that there were some "mistakes". But he is
not prepared to apologise for going to war. He is not prepared to admit that he
lied to the British people. His excuse is that he based his position on the
information he had been provided. But everyone can see that that information was
really coming from the government itself. Scarlett merely provided the cover for
Now that it is clear that there were never any weapons of mass destruction
Blair has changed his position. The war was to remove a brutal dictator, who had
no respect for human rights, etc. So whatever the truth may be, the war will
always be justified in the eyes of Blair.
Decision to go to war taken long ago
What this confirms once again is that the decision to go to war was taken not
on the basis of any "intelligence" on Saddam’s weapons. The decision had nothing
to do with whether there were any weapons of mass destruction or with the brutal
nature of the Saddam regime. There are many countries that have far more
powerful and dangerous weapons than Iraq was alleged to have had. And there are
also plenty of brutal regimes around the world. If we were to apply the logic
that has been applied to Iraq then the USA and Britain should be at war with
half the world, but then they would be at war with their friends!
The reasons for going to war were economic and strategic, as we have
explained many times. The Middle East is in turmoil. It is extremely unstable.
What in the past would have seemed a very stable ally of the United States and
imperialism in general, Saudi Arabia, has now become very unstable. The regime
there could fall. In spite of it being a despotic regime, the United States
wants to bolster it. Saudi Arabia has the largest known oil reserves in the
world. Had the regime fallen while Saddam was still in power it would have
created serious problems in terms of the supply of oil to the West. But its fall
would also usher in a series of crises throughout the whole region. The US
administration under Bush decided it needed a strong military presence in the
region as a counterweight to any serious movement of the Arab masses. That is
why they went into Iraq and fabricated all the story about Saddam’s threat to
What the Butler report reveals is the real nature of bourgeois "democracy".
The masses have no real say in the important decisions. The major corporations,
the capitalists and their loyal servants such as Butler or Blair, take decisions
on the basis of the crucial interests of the rich who dominate the world. They
decide what is to be done and then they fabricate an excuse for doing it. They
are prepared to lie, cheat, cajole, corrupt and harass people to get their way.
This is not democracy; it is not genuine democracy. The majority do not
decide. But under capitalism it cannot be any other way. To ask the bourgeois
politicians to govern on the basis of transparency and truth is not to
understand the real nature of the system. When your task is to exploit the
workers of the world to the benefit of a handful of super-rich capitalists you
cannot do this by openly stating what you are doing. It needs subterfuge,
half-truths and lies.
But they will not be able to hide the truth forever. Although both the Hutton
report and this latest Butler report are attempts to let off the government,
millions of people in Britain no longer believe what their rulers are telling
them. This was revealed in the recent election results, where many either
abstained or looked for a political alternative. Blair may survive in the short
term, but he will pay heavily for his conduct in the coming period.
July 15, 2004