LONDON - The long-awaited inquiry report into intelligence failures that led
Britain to join the invasion of Iraq reveals what went wrong, but stops short
of saying who went wrong.
The 196-page report
by Lord Butler discloses "serious flaws" in intelligence that led
to Britain's involvement in the war. Key intelligence relied on third hand sources
and was unreliable, the report says. And yet the report does not blame the intelligence
services, because intelligence was pushed to "outer limits but not beyond."
The report says there is no reason that John Scarlett, head of the joint intelligence
committee who put together the intelligence on Iraq should not be appointed
head of MI6, Britain's external intelligence agency, as planned.
The report also points out that the dossier presented to the public did not
contain the caveats and qualifications that had been included in the reports
that the intelligence services handed to the government.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Parliament after the report was tabled Wednesday:
"Don't blame the intelligence community, blame me."
Blair was saying the right thing but several opposition leaders said he was
not doing the right thing. And the report itself does not blame Blair for any
"The report talks of lies, but does not say who the liars are,"
Mustafa Alani, Iraq expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) told
IPS. "It is good news for Blair but bad news for democracy and for a system
Going to war is the most crucial decision any government can make, Alani said.
"At the end of the day Britain's decision has been shown to be based on
a set of assumptions. This is very serious. You cannot justify the most important
decision you take on just an assumption."
That view was expressed in the House of Commons but to no effect.
"Somehow, no one is to blame for all of this," Welsh nationalist
leader Elfyn Llwyd said to Blair. "Why don't you take responsibility and
do the honorable thing?"
Opposition leader Michael Howard said: "When presenting your case to
the country, you chose to leave out those caveats, qualifications and cautions
(of the intelligence services) – at issue is the prime minister's credibility.
The question he must ask himself is, does he have any credibility left?"
Former Tory chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) Kenneth Clarke
pointed out how Blair had misled the parliament and the country, as brought
out in the Butler report.
"Do you believe that if you had come to this House and if you had used
the actual language of the intelligence assessment you had read when you made
the case for war, you would still have won the vote that carried this country
to war?" Clarke asked. "I must tell you I do not think you would have
Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who resigned his cabinet post over
the decision to invade Iraq added: "Had we done so we would have been spared
the unavoidable conclusion from the content of the Butler Report that we committed
British troops to action on the basis of false intelligence, overheated analysis
and unreliable sources."
But Blair remained defiant. "No one lied," he said. "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."
Blair said Britain had been right to invade Iraq. "I cannot honestly
say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all. Iraq, the region,
the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam."
Officials are talking of a shake-up in the intelligence services, but not
a shake-up in the government.
Alani says Blair's future will rest on how the situation plays out within
Iraq. "If there are positive developments, those would justify the mistakes
of the government," he told IPS. "But if the situation deteriorates,
then the mistakes of the government and this whole issue will be forced again
to the front."