Campbell has second thoughts about his evidence

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ALASTAIR Campbell has had second thoughts about some of the evidence that he gave to the Chilcot inquiry last week when he said that he stood by every word of the September intelligence dossier.

In the course of his questioning at the inquiry, it was established that while the members of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had told the inquiry that the intelligence on Iraq was ‘sporadic, limited and patchy’, the prime minister, Tony Blair, in the foreword to the September 2002 dossier had written that the evidence had established ‘beyond doubt’ that Iraq had wmds that could be used against targets as far away as Cyprus, at 45 minutes notice, and that Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in a year.

Blair then addressed parliament making these claims to get the support of the House of Commons for the war.

At the inquiry, Campbell was asked by the ex-ambassador to Russia, Sir Roderic Lyne, ‘So if the JIC assessments. . . were not to correspond to the phrase “beyond doubt”, and if members of the JIC. . .

were to say that “beyond doubt” was not a phrase that was justifiable, would you at that stage say that Parliament had been misled by the prime minister saying “beyond doubt”?’

He replied: ‘No, I wouldn’t.’

After the session, Campbell grasped that he had opened up the situation, and that the inquiry would have to decide whether his estimation that Blair had not deceived parliament was correct or not, and what to do about their conclusion.

The next day, Campbell wrote to the inquiry attempting to throw up a smokescreen. He wrote: ‘Reading the transcript, it would appear that I am saying it would not matter if it transpired that JIC members had made clear at the time of the assessments, and in preparation of his presentation of the September dossier to parliament, that the prime minister was not entitled to make a judgement that the claims being made on WMD, in the relevant sentence from the foreword Sir Roderic Lyne read to me, were “beyond doubt’’.

‘That is clearly not correct. Indeed, I say elsewhere in my evidence that if Sir John Scarlett had said to the prime minister that he could not make the claims he did about WMD, the prime minister would have accepted that without question.

‘I thought I was being asked whether, if it was not stated in the JIC assessments that the case as put by the prime minister was “beyond doubt’’, would that mean he had misled parliament.

‘The reason I said “No, it wouldn’t’’ is because, as I stated elsewhere in evidence, the PM would be entitled to make the judgement he did based on the assessments that he saw and had had explained to him, and those words did not have to be in the assessments for him to make that statement.

‘Reading the bald words on the page gives the wrong impression of what I was saying in response to what I thought I was being asked in a question which contained a number of points in parentheses, and I would be grateful of the opportunity to make that clear to the committee.’

However, the damage has been done. The latest YouGov poll for the Sunday Times on the issue shows that the majority of the people, 52 per cent, do believe that Blair was deceiving parliament and that 23 per cent of those polled believe that he should stand trial for war crimes.

It has also emerged that Foreign Secretary Straw warned Blair in a private letter dated 25 March 2002 that there were serious political risks in his relationship with the US president over Iraq. ‘The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few. The risks are high, both for you and for the Government. . . I judge that there is at present no majority inside the Parliamentary Labour Party for any military action against Iraq.’

Straw, advised Blair about the ‘potential elephant traps’ over the legality of any military action, saying that toppling Saddam would not, in itself, justify any invasion, and that only a clear new UN Security Council Resolution could justify the war in international law.

The noose is now beginning to tighten around the necks of the cabal of war criminals whose illegal war killed and made refugees of millions of people.

They should be packed off to the Hague!