date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 18:01:46 +0100
from: "Tony Blair" <tony.blairatXYZxyzly-new.labour.org.uk>
subject: Butler Report
to: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>
I made a statement to Parliament on Lord Butler's Report on intelligence and weapons of
mass destruction today. The report is comprehensive and thorough. I wanted to set out the
important points and implications of my statement on the Butler Report.
The Report specifically supports the conclusions of Lord Hutton's inquiry about the good
faith of the Government in compiling the September 2002 dossier. In fact Lord Butler said
in his press conference today, "We have no reason, we've found no evidence to question the
Prime Minister's good faith".
The report makes specific findings that the dossier and the intelligence behind it should
have been better presented and had more caveats attached to it. It reports doubts on the 45
minute intelligence and says it should have been included in the dossier in different
terms. It expressly supports the intelligence on Iraq's attempts to procure uranium from
Niger in respect of Iraq's nuclear ambitions.
The Report finds there is little - if any - significant evidence of stockpiles of readily
deployable weapons. However, it concludes Saddam Hussein had "the strategic intention of
resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear
weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were
eroded or lifted". He was carrying out "illicit research and development, and procurement,
activities". He was "developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under
relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions."
Throughout the last 18 months there have been two questions. One is an issue of good faith,
This is now the fourth inquiry that has dealt with this issue. This report, like the Hutton
inquiry, the reports of the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Foreign Affairs
Committee, has found the same thing. No-one lied. No-one made up the intelligence. No-one
inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services. Everyone
genuinely tried to do their best in good faith for the country in circumstances of acute
difficulty. That issue of good faith should now be at an end.
But there is another issue. I expected to find actual usable, chemical or biological
weapons shortly after we entered Iraq. UN Resolution 1441 in November 2002 was passed
unanimously by the whole Security Council, including Syria, on the basis Iraq was a WMD
Lord Butler says in his report: "We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at
this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or
even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found."
I have to accept as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of
invasion Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.
The second issue is therefore this: even if we acted in perfectly good faith, is it now the
case that in the absence of stockpiles of weapons ready to deploy, the threat was
misconceived and therefore the war was unjustified? I have searched my conscience in the
light of what we now know, in answer to that question.
Saddam retained complete strategic intent on WMD and significant capability; the only
reason he ever let the inspectors back into Iraq was that he had 180,000 US and British
troops on his doorstep; he had no intention of ever co-operating fully with the inspectors;
and he was going to start up again the moment the troops and the inspectors departed; or
the sanctions eroded. Had we backed down in respect of Saddam, we would never have taken
the stand we needed to take on WMD, never have got the progress for example on Libya, that
we achieved; and we would have left Saddam in charge of Iraq, with every malign intent and
capability still in place and every dictator with the same intent everywhere immeasurably
For any mistakes made, as the Report finds, I take full responsibility. But I cannot
honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake. Iraq, the region, the wider
world is a better and safer place without Saddam.
Iraq was the one country to have used WMD recently. It had developed WMD capability and
concealed it. Action by UN inspectors had by the mid to late 1990s reduced this threat
significantly; but as the Report shows by the time the inspectors were effectively blocked
in Iraq (at the end of 1998) the JIC assessments were that some chemical weapons stocks
remained hidden and that Iraq remained capable of a break-out chemical weapons capability
within months; a biological weapons capability, also with probable stockpiles; and could
have had ballistic missiles capability in breach of UN Resolutions within a year.
This was the reason for military action, taken without a UN Resolution, in December 1998.
Subsequent to that, the Report shows that we continued to receive the JIC assessments on
Iraq's WMD capability.
We published the Spetember 2002 dossier in response to the enormous parliamentary and press
clamour. It was not, as has been described, the case for war. But it was the case for
enforcing the UN will.
The Report states that in general the statements in the dossier reflected fairly the
judgements of past Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessments. The Report, however,
goes on to say that with hindsight making public that the authorship of the dossier was by
the JIC was a mistake. It meant that more weight was put on the intelligence than it could
bear; and put the JIC and its Chairman in a difficult position.
It recommends in future a clear delineation between Government and JIC, perhaps by issuing
two separate documents. I think this is wise, though I doubt it would have made much
difference to the reception of the intelligence at the time.
The Report also enlarges on the criticisms of the Intelligence and Security Committee
(ISC) in respect of the greater use of caveats about intelligence both in the dossier and
in my foreword and we accept that entirely. The Report also states that significant parts
of the intelligence have now been found by the Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) to be in
I accept the Report's conclusions in full. Any mistakes made should not be laid at the door
of our intelligence and security community. They do a tremendous job for our country. I
accept full personal responsibility for the way the issue was presented and therefore for
any errors made.
As the Report indicates, there is no doubt that at the time it was genuinely believed by
everyone that Saddam had both strategic intent in respect of WMD and actual weapons.
On the sparse, generalised and highly fragmented intelligence about Al Qaida prior to
September 11th, it is now widely said policy-makers should have foreseen the attacks that
materialised on September 11th 2001 in New York . I only ask: had we ignored the specific
intelligence about the threat from Iraq, backed up by a long history of international
confrontation over it, and that threat later materialised, how would we have been judged?
I know some will disagree with this. There are those who were opposed to the war and remain
so now. I only hope that now, people will not disrespect the other's point of view but will
accept that those that agree and those that disagree with the war in Iraq, hold their views
not because they are war-mongers on the one hand or closet supporters of Saddam on the
other, but because of a genuine difference of judgement as to the right thing to have done.
There was no conspiracy. There was no impropriety. The essential judgement and truth, as
usual, does not lie in extremes.
We all acknowledge Saddam was evil and his regime depraved. Whether or not actual
stockpiles of weapons are found, there wasn't and isn't any doubt Saddam used WMD and
retained every strategic intent to carry on developing them. The judgement 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?
I can honestly say I have never had to make a harder judgement. But in the end, my
judgement was that after September 11th, 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. One part was removing the training ground of Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The
other was taking a stand on WMD; and the place to take that stand was Iraq, whose regime
was the only one ever to have used WMD and was subject to 12 years of UN Resolutions and
weapons inspections that turned out to be unsatisfactory.
Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future. But both at least now have a
future. The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favour of the
removal of Saddam is Iraq.
I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed
forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved,
the prospect of democracy and liberty.
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