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Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, since I intend to be critical of the Government's policy in some respects, I shall start by associating myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord King, about the performance of our armed services in Iraq. They are made up mostly of very young men and women. The task they are carrying outin this, if nothing else, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owenis necessary, thankless and dangerous. It has been carried out, for the most part, with very great care and in the best traditions of the British armed services. I ally myself with all noble Lords who have taken this opportunity to thank them for what they are doing.
It is particularly appropriate, from these Benches, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and his committee. I believe that they have done Parliament and the
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country a great service in their report. As the noble Lord well knowshe referred to itwe on these Benches thought that the terms of reference were too narrow, confined as they were to intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. We still think so. We still regret the absence of a synoptic overview of the origins and operation of what can be seen more clearly every day to have been one of the greatest disasters for British standing in the world since Suez.
Nevertheless, it is right to acknowledge that, far from producing what was widely, and unfairly, predicted to be an establishment whitewash, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, actually stretched the terms of reference as far as he could. In my view, he has produced, within constrained parameters, a powerful and damning report. Some people may say that it does not sound very damning, but that is because they do not speak mandarinthat elegant and carefully nuanced language which no doubt many of your Lordships speak. I confess that I do not, but I have had the benefit of a skilled translator. This is an example from paragraph 611, in which the noble Lord and his colleagues say:
"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 informal collective political judgment".
On the dossier, a close reading of the Butler report, as well as the sadly neglected appendices of the Hutton report, which bear close study, can leave no reasonable doubt that this was a piece of journalistically driven, politically inspired, public advocacy to make the case for the defence of the action which the Prime Minister had already agreed with the United States. It has been a tragedy for the JIC and the whole intelligence community that they allowed themselves to be used as builders' labourers, handing the bricks to those skilled builders of walls of spin who reside in No. 10.
As has been referred to several times in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, very chivalrously threw his protective cloak around John Scarlett. Here, perhaps, the system did close around its own, but I wonder whether even the noble Lord realised what his defence meant and what its significance is. If the JIC information was, at best, filleted and exaggerated and, at worst, misrepresented, and since we are told by the noble Lordand who would argue with him?not to blame John Scarlett, the chairman of the JIC, for that, it follows that the responsibility lies elsewhere. Where else does it lie but with that serial charmer, the Prime Minister, and his coterie of advisers, whose fingerprints are all over the e-mails? John Scarlett, like others before him, got too close to the sun. Thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Butler, his wings are still intact but the whole intelligence community today is the weaker for it.
I come back briefly to Al'Qaeda, to which the noble Lords, Lord Butler and Lord Howell, referred. That is one feature of the report which was "in clear". There was no co-operation between Al'Qaeda and the Saddam regime. This is important, because of the
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elision and confabulation that the US Administration has made from the beginning of the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq. The Minister will be well aware that public opinion polls in the United States throughout this year have shown that approaching two thirds of the US public, believe that Saddam was somehow involved in 9/11. Yet despite the clear conclusion of the Presidential Commission, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Butler, that that was not the case, as recently as two months ago, Vice-President Cheney was still asserting that there was indeed a connection between the two. Of all the political pressures on the intelligence community emanating from Washington, that which tried to establish this link between Al'Qaeda and Saddam was one of the most malign and distracting. I have good reason to believe that the British intelligence services were not immune to such pressure. That is all the more reason to welcome the clarity of paragraph 484 of the Butler report.
It is clearly high time for a total intelligence review. If we are serious about the so-called war on terrorisma phrase, incidentally, which I mistrust increasingly; it is time to disaggregate and focus on aspects of terrorism rather than aggregating it as one impermeable masswe need a comprehensive analysis of what we do and how we do it. Are we, for instance, relatively underinvested in human intelligence? Is there adequate inter-agency co-ordination and liaison? Is there, as other noble Lords have asked, adequate global co-ordination of intelligence agencies? How can members of the JIC be ring-fenced and firewalled from their mates in No. 10, to recall Alastair Campbell's phrase? I agree with other noble Lords that the omens are not good when the committee's advice on the chairman of the JIC was disregarded.
We must ask ourselves again whether our system of parliamentary supervision and oversight is adequate. As has been mentioned often in the House over the past year, it is certainly time to have a Civil Service Act, which would more clearly define the roles of advisers and officials. I look forward to the Government telling us when they will bring that forward.
Finally, the Prime Minister's technique with regard to Iraq, looking ahead to the election, reminds me irresistibly of Basil Fawlty"Don't mention the war". He tells us quite often that he would like to move on. I have no doubt that he would like to move on. How nice it would be if the past two years could be spun awayif we could spin away our damaged credibility in the world, the abandonment of the road map in the Middle East, and the clear and present danger of Iraq slipping into the hands of one or other set of mullahs and becoming a theocracy rather than the democracy that we all want. The accession to the cause of anti-Westernism of countless new young enthusiasts, who are therefore potentially a pool of terrorists, must concern us all.
Of course, we all want to move on. I agree that we have to stick with this course of action, now that we have embarked on it, but it would be difficult, if not
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impossible, for the Prime Minister to move on politically without some expression of contrition and regretan apology, if you likefor having misled Parliament and the public about the reason for going to war. I accept what the noble Baroness said, so let us not call that bad faith, let us call it over-enthusiasm. But whatever the reason, it is quite clear that Parliament and the public have been seriously misled.
The Observer on Sunday, although not necessarily a Bible in these matters, tells us that No. 10 aides are now saying that they would advise an apology from the Prime Minister. I may have sounded critical of the coterie in No. 10 earlier but it cannot always be wrong; in this respect, at least, I think it is right. I sincerely hope that its advice will be taken so that we can all move on and that the wishes expressed by the noble Baroness at the beginning of this debate may be realised.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the valuable report of my noble friend Lord Butler and his committee has done a lot to explain the workings of the intelligence system, and I congratulate them. Delving into the report, I was struck by the exposé in Chapter 1. Clausewitz's quote on war at the start of the chapter hits the nail on the head. This chapter is a valuable introduction to the intelligence process. Noble Lords who have held high ministerial or official office will be familiar with the JIC process; others should certainly study Chapter 1.
Assessments do not merely report facts; they try to foretell and foresee the future. The human element is always present and what a reasonable man might do will not be the inevitable choice of a dictator. So there will always be caveats, not solely because the available source material may be sketchy or incomplete, but because of the essential element of judgment about what the target will actually do. One example of this was the judgment about Saddam's intention to use chemical or biological weapons. The Prime Minister and other senior Ministers expressed the view, based on assessments, that that was likely. Noble Lords will recall the Prime Minister's foreword to the September 2002 dossier. He said:
"Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people . . . his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".
But, rather like the dog that did not bark in the night, scant attention seems to have been paid to another, by then historical, fact. Saddam possessed WMD during the first Gulf War but he did not use them, even though the coalition forces were invading Iraq as part of their strategy to drive his forces out of Kuwait. In the light of the experience of 1991, why, when Saddam faced once again a similar coalition of nations and another invasion of Iraq, was a presumption of use rated likely by 2002? Indeed, the presumption of possession of WMD now seems demonstrably wrong. But, of course, the UK Government's rationale for embarking on military
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operations was disarmament, not regime change, although, to give him his due, the Prime Minister said in his Statement:
Nevertheless, I have reservations about a policy of major pre-emptive action against a nation state that is not posing an imminent threat to our interests. In the run-up to hostilities, with our Armed Forces committed, it was not the right time to air them.
I have listened to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, with great interest. There seems to be a presumption, even international agreement, that if the United Nations is confronted by a material breach of a resolution and has authorised all appropriate measures necessary to deal with the breach, this legalises the use of force in all circumstances against the offender. But is a UN resolution directing a country to take steps to correct a material breach within its own territory to be treated in the same way as a material breach of failure to withdraw forces from a neighbour's territory?
In 1991, Iraq was in material breach as its forces were in neighbouring Kuwait. But in the case of its failure to respond to Resolution 1441, Saddam might have argued that, as he had already disposed of his WMD stocks, he could not be in major breach of a resolution requiring him to dispose of them. Noble Lords will recall that the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General required the Prime Minister,
I also noted that the Chief of the Defence Staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, was concerned about the legal position before ordering military action, as has already been mentioned. I fully share his concern to be satisfied about the legality of pre-emptive action. I suggest that, in the relative calm of the present military situation, greater clarity about a policy of pre-emptive action and its legality is required. Is there a legal distinction between the use of air power to carry out occasional punitive raids and the full-scale assault of another country followed by prolonged occupation? It is a slippery slope and every pre-emptive operation must have its own exit strategy in place.
I turn to the present unsettled state in Iraq. Regrettably, the terms of reference of my noble friend Lord Butler did not require his committee to examine assessments and papers relating to the post-hostilities phase. The committee only touched on this in the commentary about the machinery of government. I am sure that it was a confident UK assessment that the weight of coalition air effort, followed by overwhelming use of ground forces, would soon overrun Iraqi defences and eliminate all but some sporadic opposition. But the pre-hostilities statements by the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers painted a rosy picture of Iraq following regime change and the removal of Saddam. Was this just blind faith
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or was it based on a close and careful review of the likely political and other developments within Iraq? Certainly, nothing that was said before hostilities gave any sense of the chaos, and continuing security problems, that still confront the Iraqis today.
"Iraq deserves to be led by someone who can abide by international law, not a murderous dictator; by someone who can bring Iraq back into the international community where it belongs, not leave it languishing as a pariah; by someone who can make the country rich and successful, not impoverished by Saddam's personal greed; and by someone who can lead a Government more representative of the country as a whole while maintaining absolutely Iraq's territorial integrity.
Where is that someone who can make Iraq rich and successful and who is representative of the country as a whole? It would be interesting to learn how the Prime Minister was persuaded that the removal of Saddam was going to bring a quick peace and stability and prosperity to a people who had been terrorised for so long. We have seen the difficulties that nations emerging from under the heel of the Soviet Union had in overcoming their fears of repression and a permanent lack of freedom. Surely it was expecting far too much of Iraqis, given the different strands of race and culture within Iraq's borders, to be better at moving from dictatorship to democracy than ex-Warsaw Pact countries. On this, not only the Iraqi people, but the whole world, were misled. It is a serious blot on the Government's and the coalition's handling of the whole Iraqi affair.
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