Saturday, 6 February 2010

Former No 10 Spin doctor "unrepentant" over Iraq War

By Sunil Patel

A former Number 10 spin doctor has admitted to being ‘unrepentant’ over the government's decision to go to war in Iraq.

Alastair Campbell told the Chilcot Inquiry into the war, that he saw nothing wrong with the personal role he played in ‘presentational support’ of the production of the September dossier dubbed the 'dodgy dossier'.

He refuted all suggestions the Iraq dossier had been ‘sexed up’ in order to strengthen the case for going to war in Iraq.

Mr Campbell defended ‘every single word in the dossier’ in his testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry.

He said, “At no point did anybody from the Prime Minister down say to anybody within the intelligence services, look, you have to tailor it to fit this argument, it just never happened.”

He added, “I don’t believe that the dossier in any sense misrepresented the position.”

There was a doomsday headline from the Evening Standards which  read ‘45 minutes from attack,’ the day after the Iraq dossier was published.

The headline referred to British troops stationed in Cyprus being under threat ‘active’ from Iraqi missile attack.

No action was taken either Alistair Campbell or his staff to dampen down the media hysteria surrounding the 45-minute claim.

And no corrections were made to the fact that 45-minute claim referred battlefield munitions and not the direct threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Mr Campbell told the panel, “So proactively, did we go to the Evening Standard and say, “Look, you got this wrong? “I didn’t.”

Inquiry member Sir Roderic Lyne had asked what evidence was there to suggest that Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological programme was ‘growing,’ as Tony Blair had referred to in a statement to parliament.

The committee member was looking for clarification on how the former Prime Minister had come to his conclusion as the word had not appeared within the dossier in relation to the issue of Iraqi WMD.

Mr Campbell responded, “Ultimately, the Prime Minister has to make judgements about that and that’s the judgement he made.”

Critics of the Iraq War have urged the inquiry members to scrutinise the private letters exchanged between former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush in 2002.

The ‘tenor’ of the correspondence between the leaders Tony Blair and George Bush indicated Britain would ‘stand shoulder to shoulder with the US’ by following them into any military action against Iraq, the former Daily Mirror journalist admitted to the inquiry.

Alastair Campbell was the latest high-profile witness to appear before the Chilcot Inquiry.

Under the terms of reference, the committee will be investigating the run-up to Iraq war, military action, and the aftermath.

They will focus on the period between the summer of 2001 to end July 2009.

Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon and former foreign secretary Jack Straw are due to give evidence to Iraq inquiry next week.

And Tony Blair will be expected to appear before the committee later in the month.

The final report by the Iraq inquiry is due to be published next year.

An inquiry into the Dutch support for war against Iraq has ruled it was illegal according to United Nations resolutions.

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