document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war
By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith
Independent" --- -- The Government's case
for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the
publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony
Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass
A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for
military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator
at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because
he was threatened with being charged with breaching the
Official Secrets Act.
In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped
negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes
it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein
possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that
during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her
Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any
other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its
Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among
British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by
Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".
He also reveals that British officials warned US
diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would
lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I
remember on several occasions the UK team stating this
view in terms during our discussions with the US (who
agreed)," he said.
"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US
raised the subject, that 'regime change' was
inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would
collapse into chaos."
He claims "inertia" in the Foreign Office and the
"inattention of key ministers" combined to stop the UK
carrying out any co-ordinated and sustained attempt to
address sanction-busting by Iraq, an approach which
could have provided an alternative to war.
Mr Ross delivered the evidence to the Butler inquiry
which investigated intelligence blunders in the run-up
to the conflict.
The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence
being made public, but it has now been published by the
Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs
sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would
not breach the Official Secrets Act.
It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord
Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of
significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW
[biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the
Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was,
moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time
in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an
attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he
Mr Ross's evidence directly challenges the assertions by
the Prime Minster that the war was legally justified
because Saddam possessed WMDs which could be "activated"
within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British
interests. These claims were also made in two dossiers,
subsequently discredited, in spite of the advice by Mr
His hitherto secret evidence threatens to reopen the row
over the legality of the conflict, under which Mr Blair
has sought to draw a line as the internecine bloodshed
in Iraq has worsened.
Mr Ross says he questioned colleagues at the Foreign
Office and the Ministry of Defence working on Iraq and
none said that any new evidence had emerged to change
"What had changed was the Government's determination to
present available evidence in a different light," he
Mr Ross said in late 2002 that he "discussed this at
some length with David Kelly", the weapons expert who a
year later committed suicide when he was named as the
source of a BBC report saying Downing Street had "sexed
up" the WMD claims in a dossier. The Butler inquiry
cleared Mr Blair and Downing Street of "sexing up" the
dossier, but the publication of the Carne Ross evidence
will cast fresh doubts on its findings.
Mr Ross, 40, was a highly rated diplomat but he resigned
because of his misgivings about the legality of the war.
He still fears the threat of action under the Official
"Mr Ross hasn't had any approach to tell him that he is
still not liable to be prosecuted," said one ally. But
he has told friends that he is "glad it is out in the
open" and he told MPs it had been "on my conscience for
One member of the Foreign Affairs committee said: "There
was blood on the carpet over this. I think it's pretty
clear the Foreign Office used the Official Secrets Act
to suppress this evidence, by hanging it like a Sword of
Damacles over Mr Ross, but we have called their bluff."
Yesterday, Jack Straw, the Leader of the Commons who was
Foreign Secretary during the war - Mr Ross's boss -
announced the Commons will have a debate on the possible
change of strategy heralded by the Iraqi Study Group
report in the new year.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited