ex-MI5 chief gives damning testimony to the Iraq Inquiry


Oct 8, 2009

Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of the British security service MI5 from 2002 to 2007, has given the most damning testimony yet to the Iraq Inquiry, also called the Chilcot Inquiry, into the United Kingdom's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She has stated that Saddam Hussein was not a credible terrorist threat to the U.K., though he might have used weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) if he had felt sufficiently threatened; that Iraq did not have the capability to mount attacks in the U.K. and there was no serious risk of Iraqi WMDs falling into other hands; that the CIA did not think there was a connection between Saddam and the al-Qaeda; and that the invasion of Iraq radicalised part of a generation of young British Muslims who saw the invasion as an attack on Islam. She also testified that MI5's domestic work had expanded sharply enough for the agency to receive an immediate 100 per cent increase in funding, and that invading Iraq had given Osama bin Laden his "Iraqi jihad" in the form of a foothold in that country.

Despite the authority of the Baroness's testimony, much of its content is already widely known. Another civil servant, Carne Ross, a former First Secretary at the U.K. Mission to the United Nations, has said the Blair government "intentionally and substantially" exaggerated the Iraqi threat before the invasion. These analyses raise serious questions about why the civil servants involved did not speak out more strongly or resign when political leaders dishonestly overrode their professional warnings and rushed headlong into the invasion with calamitous consequences. Tony Blair fabricated the case for war, and the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld simply created another intelligence body, which presumably told him what he wanted to hear. The political repercussions, however, continue. The day after Manningham-Buller's deposition to Chilcot, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the House of Commons that the invasion was "illegal." While he explained subsequently that he had spoken in a personal capacity, the fact that his comment came from the dispatch box during Prime Minister's Questions could render the U.K. more liable to charges under international law. The invasion of Iraq was a horrific set of war crimes. It also flowed from enormous failures on the part of several public institutions in two of the world's major democracies. The world owes it to the millions of innocent victims not to let the resultant political, legal, and institutional issues disappear.

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