Sunday, July 11, 2004
Britain's Butler Report expected Wednesday
There were rumors that Prime Minister Blair almost stepped down last month. Meanwhile Britain is about to see the results of the Butler report, which investigated the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
The close timing of the release of the report of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee with the release of the Butler report wll invite comparisons of the reports and reactions to them. The Butler report’s release comes on the eve of what the BBC describes as two “key by-elections.”
The BBC drops two hints, which if true, will certainly contrast the Butler report with our homegrown version.
The roles of the Prime Minister Mr Blair, the Foreign Secretary Mr Straw and the defence Secretary Mr Hoon in accepting the intelligence are likely be examined.
It has also been reported that the Attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who issued a legal ruling approving the war, will be mentioned.
The U.S. Senate report studiously avoided inquiry into the role of the Bush administration in shaping, interpreting and misusing CIA intelligence so as not to appear “political.”
As for the Butler report, some fear a whitewash, beginning with the constitution of the committee. In addition to Lord Butler, there is Sir John Chilcot, a Northern Irish top-level bureaucrat, Labour MP Ann Taylor, Conservative MP Michael Mates, and Field Marshal Lord Inge. Their biographies have been conveniently assembled here and include a listing of their clubs.
The Conservatives agreed to put Mates on the panel with the understanding that “Butler will look at the conduct of ministers,” but the actual instruction for the group was to
investigate the accuracy of intelligence on Iraqi WMD up to March 2003, and to examine any discrepancies between the intelligence gathered, evaluated and used by the government before the conflict, and between that intelligence and what has been discovered by the Iraq Survey Group since the end of the conflict.
With respect to whitewashing the role of the administration,1 the Butler report will be compared with that of Bush’s Intelligence Commission, which is not due to report until after the election.
“The intelligence services will be scapegoated, on both sides of the Atlantic,” predicted Prof Scott Lucas, an intelligence expert at Birmingham University. “It is too easy to lay the blame at their door. The question is whether the intelligence services will take that without a fight. I don’t think they will.”[back]