On Sept, 24, 2002, then-British Prime Minster Tony Blair presented MPs with a government dossier claiming that Saddam Hussein was capable of launching an attack using biological or chemical weapons within 45 minutes — a claim that became one of Britain’s main justifications for joining the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The BBC reported shortly after the invasion that a source, now known to be Dr. David Kelly (who also subsequently committed suicide), had said the 45-minute claim was the “classic example” of how the dossier was “sexed up” to make the case to the British public.
While the British government officially withdrew the 45-minute claim in October 2004, new e-mails and memos just released by the British government provide further evidence that the September dossier Blair used to make the case for war was indeed “sexed up.”
Desmond Bowen, head of the Cabinet Office defense secretariat — in a memo sent and copied to 10 Downing Street 13 days before Blair’s presentation to parliament — expressed “grave reservations over the threat”:
“The question we have to have in the back of our mind is: ‘Why now?’ I think we have moved away from promoting the ideas that we are in imminent danger of attack and…intend to act in pre-emptive self-defence.”
Another memo dated a few days later, Sept. 16, showed an unnamed official mocking claims that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons, calling them “iffy drafting”:
“[Iraq] has assembled specialists to work on its nuclear programme’ – Dr Frankenstein I presume? Sorry. It’s getting late… We have suggested moderating the same language in much the same way on drafts from the dim and distant past without success. Feel free to try again!… Lots of ‘ranges’ close together – iffy drafting.”
An e-mail sent by then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s private assistant argued that the report should be made simple enough for the media to digest. “We need a very simple table somewhere… This should be brief enough to get on to the Sky wall – ie no more than five bullets,” it read.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat’s spokesman on foreign affairs, said the new memos “confirm” suspicions that the Blair government “deliberately tweak[ed]…the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq. “The jigsaw of how the public and some MPs were duped nears completion with this crucial revelation,” he said, adding that it “further strengthens the case for a full public inquiry.”