Did the September dossier present
complete and accurate information?
101. We summarised the weapons of mass destruction
claims made in the September dossier (and those made in the IISS
publication) in our Report of last December on Foreign Policy
Aspects of the War against Terrorism.
Then, we concluded that "evidence of Iraq's retention and
continued development of weapons of mass destruction is compelling,
and a cause for considerable concern" and we commended the
Government for producing the dossier.
Robin Cook was in no doubt that the dossier had overstated
The plain fact is a lot of the intelligence in the
September dossier has turned out in practice to be wrong. I think
it is important that we fasten on how wrong it was, why it was
wrong, and were there other parts of intelligence around which
might have suggested more caution?
Even Jack Straw would have preferred the judgments
and the claims in the dossier to have been better supported:
I was satisfied that the available intelligence justified
the judgments that were made. Would I, in an ideal world, have
preferred more intelligence? For sure, because the only reason
we had to rely on intelligence was because of the highly secretive
and mendacious nature of the Iraqi regime.
The need to ensure that evidence is up-to-date was
emphasised by Dame Pauline Neville Jones:
I would have wanted to go back a bit to see the consistency
of the evidence and whether we really had an audit trail of evidence
that did not have breaks in it so that you did not somehow suddenly
get a period when those previous judgments did not seem to be
supported or where there were gaps in the picture, because that
would have made me worry.
102. Former UN arms inspector Terence Taylor had
no doubt that Iraq retained WMD:
there was substantial, I would say overwhelming,
evidence, a mountain of evidence, that Iraq had research, development
and production facilities and useable weapons and almost certainly
operational biological and chemical weapons. If I were sitting
in a position in early March 2003, that would be a conclusion
and I think I would be irresponsible if I came to some other conclusion.
103. Mr Taylor was of the opinion that the dossier
was substantially accurate:
In its main substance, it seemed to me to be very
accurate. Of course, I was not party to intelligence information
myself, so I was judging it from open sources and from what I
knew and from what I could judge. I suppose it is fair to say
that I am an insider in many ways and, having studied the information
in detail, I think that in main substance, the UK Government's
dossier was correct.
104. When asked whether he thought Iraq had continued
to produce chemical or biological weapons after 1998, Dr Tom Inch,
a Deputy Director of Porton Down in the early 1990s, was more
circumspect: "I do not think that there is any compelling
evidence to say that they did, but again there is no compelling
evidence to say that they did not." Andrew Wilkie, who claimed
to have had access to relevant intelligence, said that
what we have found so far is much closer to
my claim that it was a disjointed and contained WMD programme
and not the sort of big national programme that was sold to us
as the justification for the war.
in retrospect it [the
September dossier] is a lousy document because this document led
us to expect that the troops would go into Iraq and encounter
and uncover a huge WMD programme.
105. Dame Pauline Neville Jones also had doubts:
I do not draw the conclusion because they have not
been found they will not be found or do not exist. I am surprised
they have not been found
. What I cannot help feeling is
if they had been more operational they would have found something
106. A member of the Cabinet until the decision to
go to war was taken, Robin Cook told us that "frankly I am
rather surprised we have not discovered some biological toxins
or some chemical agents. Indeed, in my resignation speech I said
they probably are there. The position actually has turned out
to be even less threatening than I anticipated at the time I resigned."
107. Dame Pauline Neville Jones agreed that the absence
of significant weapons finds in Iraq increases the cynicism of
the British public as to the motivation behind the decision to
go to war, saying: "That is why it is very important to establish
what went on."
We conclude that continuing
disquiet and unease about the claims made in the September dossier
are unlikely to be dispelled unless more evidence of Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction programmes comes to light. We
recommend that the Government in its response to this Report set
out whether it still considers the September dossier to be accurate
in respect of material in it not already referred to in our earlier
recommendations above, in the light of subsequent events.