Memorandum from Andrew Wilkie
1. For most of the last four and a half
years I've been employed as a Senior Intelligence Analyst at the
Australian Office of National Assessments, initially as a Senior
Strategic Analyst, more recently as the Senior Transnational Issues
Analyst. Prior to that I was a Lieutenant Colonel of infantry
in the Army.
2. ONA is the senior Australian intelligence
agency responsible for providing assessments to the Prime Minister
and senior ministers on any offshore issue of importance to Australia.
3. I resigned on 11 March this year out
of concern for the Australian government's support for an invasion
4. There has been some suggestion by the
Australian government since I resigned that I was not involved
in the Iraq issue. This assertion is inaccurate.
5. For a start, because of my military background
I was required to be familiar with any issue likely to lead to
war, and I was routinely employed as a military analyst. Hence
I'd covered the Kosovo and Afghanistan conflicts, and was on standby
to cover Iraq once the war began. In fact only half an hour before
I resigned I was involved in an Iraq National Intelligence Watch
Office planning meeting.
6. I've also worked specifically on Weapons
of Mass Destruction. For instance, in 1998 I prepared the formal
ONA assessment on WMD and terrorism, and represented ONA at the
annual quadripartite working group on WMD held that year here
at GCHQ in Cheltenham. More recently, in December 2001 I represented
ONA at the annual Australian intelligence agencies WMD working
group held at the Australian Secret Intelligence Service training
7. My public observations about Iraq's links
with al Qaida are also I believe reasonably well informed. During
1999 I was the only ONA analyst covering global terrorism, while
more recently I've been involved in the issue to a lesser degree
but including responsibility during 2002 for briefing on two occasions
the peak Australian Federal-State coordinating body for politically
motivated violence, known as SAC-PAV.
8. Finally, in my former core role as the
Senior ONA Transnational Issues Analyst I was involved routinely
in matters relating to Iraq. This provided me with virtually unrestricted
access to the intelligence database on that country, a privilege
not accorded to many other people in ONA given the careful compartmentalisation
of intelligence in force there. In particular, my formal December
2002 assessment on the possible humanitarian implications of a
war in Iraq required me to research in detail the threat posed
by Saddam Hussein, including his WMD programme.
9. I resigned from ONA because of my strong
believe that an invasion of Iraq at that time would be wrong.
It had nothing to do with whether or not the war would be quick
and successful or slow and disastrous, but everything to do with
my assessment that invading Iraq would not be the most sensible
and ethical way to solve the Iraq issue.
10. At the time I resigned I put on the
public record three fundamental concerns. Firstly, that I believed
Iraq did not pose a serious enough security threat to other countries
to justify starting a war. Secondly, that the risks of a war were
not justified. And thirdly that supporting a war would be dumb
policy given that options short of war were yet to be exhausted.
11. Obviously my first concern is the most
relevant today, and it's useful to understand that I put on the
public record at the time I resigned my assessment that Iraq's
conventional armed forces were weak and no threat to anyone, that
Iraq's WMD programme was disjointed and contained, and that there
was no hard evidence of any active cooperation between Iraq and
al Qaida. I believe that any lingering questions about my understanding
of the Iraq issue should be silenced by the accuracy of my pre-war
12. I've been asked since I resigned why
I chose not to express my concerns in ONA itself. My answer is
that, just as I came to understand my personal concerns, so too
I came to understand that my position was too radical for ONA's
politically correct position on Iraq. So I either had to shut-up
and put-up, or do something about it. I obviously chose the latter,
knowing that I'd have only one shot at it so I'd better make it
count. By doing what I did I hoped to stay true to my personal
beliefs while at the same time re-energising the political and
public debate in Australia about the war.
13. Most recently, I've travelled to London
for this enquiry out of a genuine interest in helping the UK public
to get to the bottom of the mess, and also out of hope that by
doing so I might help to unlock the political and public debate
in Australia about the misleading justification for the war.
14. Frankly, I'm not going to let go of
this. Too many people are dying in Iraq, too much damage has been
done, too dangerous a precedent has been set, too many brave soldiers
have been put at risk, too much money has been spent, and there
is now too much extra risk of terrorism. Some Australians have
I fear become de-sensitised to habitual government dishonesty.
I'm not one of them.
15. So what was it about the UK's approach
to the Iraq war in particular that concerned me? Well it's important
that I point out that there was no single issue, or shocking secret
report, or classified intelligence assessment, that I can refer
to in order to prove my assertion that the Iraq WMD threat was
blatantly exaggerated for political purposes. It's not that simple
or dramatic. Rather, I believe that the British government, like
its American and Australian counter-parts, was guilty of playing
out the exaggeration over many months in sometimes bold but often
more subtle ways.
16. I want to make it very clear that my
opposition to this war was in no way intended as an endorsement
of Saddam Hussein. He is clearly a horrid person and one who had
to be dealt with eventually. His demise is a good thing, though
I strongly object to the notion that his removal has somehow justified
any government dishonesty before the war.
17. And I am not saying that Iraq did not
have a WMD programme. The accumulated evidence on this is so extensive
that the existence of some programme was almost a certainty. In
all probability at least some evidence of it will probably be
found eventually in Iraq.
18. Nor am I saying that British, American
and Australian intelligence agencies did not over-estimate to
some degree the Iraq WMD threat. This is an important aspect of
the matter and one that I'm sure will be considered in the various
capitals in due course.
19. What I am saying, quite simply, is that
the British, American and Australian governments grossly exaggerated
the threat posed by Iraq's WMD programme in order to justify the
war. Each government of course had its own reasons for doing this;
though for all their position had clearly been contaminated by
years of building frustration with Saddam Hussein, a strong sense
of unfinished business after the 1991 Gulf War, and the costs
and risks of the grinding containment operations. London and Canberra
in particular were driven by their strong desire to stay in step
with Washington, at any cost.
20. In the UK the exaggeration of the Iraq
WMD threat was achieved through a string of public statements,
nowhere more apparent than in the September 2002 Dossier entitled
"Iraq's Weapons of Mass DestructionThe Assessment
of the British Government."
21. I found this document to be fundamentally
flawed because of the way in which it filled the significant intelligent
gaps that existed on Iraq with piles of arguable information based
on worst-case assumptions finely tuned to the UK government's
pre-determined commitment to support a US invasion of Iraq.
22. Two key intelligence gaps are especially
important here; the pre-1991 Gulf War WMD which to this day remain
unaccounted for, and the question mark over exactly what mischief
Iraq got up to between the withdrawal of UNSCOM in 1998 and the
arrival of UNMOVIC in November 2002.
23. In regard to the WMD unaccounted for,
the Dossier implies that Iraq could have still had up to 360 tones
of bulk chemical agent, up to 3,000 tonnes of pre-curser chemicals,
enough growth media to produce tens of thousands of litres of
biological agent, and over 30,000 special munitions suitable for
delivery of chemical and biological agents.
24. This list appears to me to be simply
ridiculous, not least because no-one, not even the Iraqis themselves,
seem to know exactly how much chemical and biological agent was
ever produced by Iraq, exactly how much was used during the 1980-88
Iran-Iraq War, or exactly how much was destroyed outside of UNSCOM
25. The list of unaccounted for material
also seems to me to be absurd because it fails to properly consider
the critical issues of agent purity and degradation over time.
The simple fact of the matter is that most chemical and biological
agents soon break down unless produced to a very high level of
purity and then effectively stabilised. But Iraq always had great
difficulties achieving high levels of agent purity, and British
claims about Iraq having the knowledge and capability to add stabiliser
is, in my opinion, unsubstantiated by hard intelligence.
26. The exception to all this is of course
mustard gas, which can remain potent for many years. But this
is a pretty crude agent that needs to be used in vast quantities,
in ideal conditions, to be effective as a WMD. The limited quantities
identified in the list of agents unaccounted for do not satisfy
this criterion. In fact, the 550 shells mentioned by Colin Powell
during his address to the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003
would between them amount to no more than a couple of tonnes of
agent capable only of attacking one small military target.
27. In my opinion, the importance of this
whole pre-1991 weapons issue has been a gross exaggeration. It
could never have been a key component of some more recent massive
WMD programme posing an imminent threat to us all.
28. Which brings me to the matter of what
Iraq could have got up to between 1998 and 2002. And this is where
I find the British statements particularly unconvincing.
29. Much of the basis for the claims about
Iraq recommencing the production of chemical and biological agents
relate to the rebuilding of facilities previously associated in
some way with Iraq's WMD programme as well as the building of
30. But the British material fails to include
any hard evidence that such facilities were again involved in
the actual production of WMD. In fact the September Dossier sometimes
suggests quite the opposite. For instance, it refers to the Tarmiyah
chemical research centre, but notes that it undertook research,
development and production of the chemicals needed for Iraq's
civil industry, which could not be imported because of international
31. An important issue here is the technical
and practical difficulties of rebuilding, hiding, supplying and
operating chemical and biological facilities on such a scale as
to constitute a genuine national WMD programme. The governments
in London, Washington and Canberra would have you think this is
not too difficult for an evil dictator with lots of oil money.
But this is downright misleading. For the Iraqis to rebuild their
WMD programme since 1998, virtually from scratch, would have been
an enormous undertaking. Remember that even the United States
never perfected the weaponisation of anthrax.
32. Not helping the UK government's case
here is the inaccuracy of some of its material. For example, the
September Dossier singles out the Amariyah Serum and Vaccine Plant
west of Baghdad as a facility of concern; despite reports that
journalists were allowed into the buildings at the plant within
hours of the Dossier's release, only to find empty fridges.
33. Of course the issue of accuracy is especially
relevant to the by now well-known and discredited claim that Iraq
was seeking to procure uranium from Niger. My understanding of
this matter is that the CIA knew as far back as early 2002 that
the uranium purchase story was false.
34. Not that this stopped the African uranium
story from helping to underpin the case for war in London, Washington
and Canberra. Just like how the story about the thousands of aluminium
tubes was given a central role, despite the fact that the International
Atomic Energy Agency had serious concerns about the whole story
since December 2001. Or the fact that the gas centrifuge that
might just have been made with the tubes would have sucked up
enormous quantities of uranium and electricity, and required a
vast and obvious industrial complex. Mind you the story was just
too attractive to leave out of the case for war. Plus it was a
rare opportunity for the Australian Prime Minister to be a player
given the involvement of Australian intelligence agencies in this
35. These matters are not recounted with
the benefit of hindsight. Rather, these are the sorts of issues
which contributed to my decision before the war to resign. And
I was not alone. The sorts of doubts I had were shared by others,
so much so that the strong, unambiguous language contained in
the September Dossier, and other statements, seems to have been
more the work of salespeople than professional intelligence officers.
36. The claim that the Dossier and other
statements reflect accurately the view of the UK Joint Intelligence
Committee just doesn't ring true to me. I saw countless JIC assessments
whilst at ONA, in fact ONA is routinely invited to comment on
them when they are in draft form, but never did I see such a string
of unqualified and strong judgments as was contained in the September
Dossier. Remember that the JIC process, by design, produces a
compromise intelligence assessment. So its output is full of terms
like "probably'' and "could". Contentious issues
are either dropped or heavily qualified. But all of this had been
cut from the Dossier, like it was always dropped from the public
statements made by the political leadership in London, Washington
37. This issue isn't particularly headline
grabbing, but it goes to the heart of the deception over Iraq.
I emphasise that the intelligence agencies were producing measured
assessments. All it took to completely distort their work was
for the politicians to drop a few words like "uncorroborated
evidence suggests", and to insert a word or two like "massive"
to create an entirely new threat.
38. A troubling aspect of the Coalition's
case for war is the misleading way in which Iraqi dual-use facilities
and materials were invariably referred to during the lead up to
the war. Such sites and materials fill all countries; why there
would be dozens and dozens of facilities within a few miles of
the House of Commons that are capable of producing deadly chemical
and bacteriological agents. And in numerous places in the United
Kingdom there would be stored many of the potential ingredients
for such brews. This situation is repeated throughout the United
States and in Australia.
39. So I think it was preposterous how the
governments in London, Washington and Canberra made such a big
deal over Iraq dual-use sites and materials, often in the absence
of any corroborating intelligence. The reports were sometimes
just plain wrong. For instance, the British and American governments
made much of the Fallujah II chlorine and phenol plant, despite
the fact that UNMOVIC had found it to be inoperative.
40. Of course one of the reasons for such
inaccuracies was the flood of disinformation that came out of
Iraq in recent years from opponents of the regime desperate for
US intervention. Such poor human intelligence would once have
been discarded by competent intelligence agencies. But the apparent
direct political interference with intelligence agencies in the
US, and more subtle political pressure apparently applied in London
and Canberra, meant that the rules were different with Iraq. Intelligence
that once would have been discarded was now usable, with qualification.
The problem was that the juicy bits of intelligence most in accord
with the governments' positions were being latched onto and the
qualifications were being dropped.
41. I think a big problem for the British
and Australian governments now is the fact that their intelligence
agencies were making it very clear before the war that the US
was intent on invading Iraq for many strategic and domestic reasons,
not just because of WMD and terrorism.
42. If you superimpose this insight over
the case for war being made in London and Canberra, you come up
with a very interesting situation indeed. Now the repeated justifications
for the war look much more hollow. No longer could it appear that
we all got the WMD issue terribly wrong. Much more likely is the
proposition that the British and Australian governments were deliberately
intent on using WMD to exaggerate the Iraq threat so as to stay
in step with the US.
43. Of course there's a danger of getting
so close to the detail and fancy language that you loose sight
of the obvious. Please remember that we were all sold this war
on the basis of an imminent threat from Iraq's massive WMD programme.
This has not been found, and whatever might still be found can
now not match the pre-war description. So the issue is not whether
the pre-war assessments and rhetoric were right or wrong. They
were wrong. It's as simple as that. The issue now is why they
where so wrong. It was either an intelligence failure or a policy
failure. I think it was the latter.
44. Against this backdrop I'm sure you'd
understand my position that the British claim of Iraq getting
WMD away in 45 minutes is absurd.
19 June 2003