Former MI5 chief exposes Blair’s Iraq War pretence
Robert Fox: Manningham- Buller’s damning indictment could be Chilcot’s most significant testimony
Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller has just driven a coach and horses through the Blair-Brown script for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. The former head of MI5, which she ran from 2002 to 2007, may prove the most significant witness of all – and her testimony is damning.
Appearing before the Chilcot committee today, she said the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq had "significantly increased" the internal threat inside this country from radicalised young Muslims. The operation meant "arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad".
Remember, Tony Blair and his neo-con pals in Washington said the move to topple Saddam Hussein was to make the world safer from jihadi terrorism. It did quite the opposite, according to Lady Manningham-Buller.
She didn't stop there. The intelligence case for the invasion of Iraq was "thin", she said, and she didn't feel it was justified. Yet Blair had told us throughout that the intelligence on the threat from Saddam was "overwhelming".
She said there was no evidence at all that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.
She also said that the planning and preparation for the aftermath of the attack was weak, and she personally had tried to persuade Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld's deputy and the ideologue at the helm in the US defence, not to disband the Iraqi army. Asked if she thought she had a chance of persuading him, she replied: "Not a hope."
Eliza Manningham-Buller showed her renowned strength of character and independence of thought in stating firmly and calmly her considered view of the crisis. It compares favourably with the near hysteria of Tony Blair's apocalyptic vision – which included the prospect of going to war again, this time against Iran, if need be - in his testimony to Chilcot.
Lady Manningham-Buller's testimony has derailed any possible outcome from the committee that might be favourable to Blair, Bush and Brown. If Chilcot reaches for the whitewash emulsion as Lord Hutton did in his inquiry into the death of Dr Kelly, he will now be laughed out of court.
Many feared that Chilcot was heading that way. None of the five committee members have any operational expertise, nor expertise in the Arab world and the Gulf region. The two historians have been notoriously Blairite.
The fact that earlier in this session the committee refused to hear Carne Ross, the deputy UK representative at the UN at the time of the Iraq invasion, on his subsequent experiences serving in Iraq, smelled of mischief afoot.
It looked very much as if the committee was straining to give a neutral or Scottish law 'not proven' verdict on the case for going to war, and then blaming the soldiers on the ground for cocking up the aftermath and occupation.
One military witness I know was accused by the committee of exaggerating the numbers of British casualties in Basra, in a summer when roughly one in two relief convoys to the city centre was taking fatalities. Commanders were accused of allowing militias to "rule Basra's streets". It had to be pointed out that militias per se were never illegal, and the British handed the police in Amarah to the control of an alliance of two leading Shia militias.
Eliza Manningham-Buller showed today that she is very much her father's daughter. Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller was Attorney-General in 1956 during the Suez crisis. He made it pretty plain soon afterwards that he thought that Britain's invasion of Suez ordered by Anthony Eden was illegal under international law and custom; this didn't stop him being promoted to Lord Chancellor as Lord Dilhorne.
Lady Manningham-Buller commented today that the desire of the Bush-Blair alliance to go to war in Iraq had led to the neglect of Afghanistan by the US and UK from early 2002 – the point when the Taliban started returning.
A modern vampire slayer, she has driven a stake through the heart of the whole notion of the Global War on Terror – or GWOT as Rummy and his pals called it. ·
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