Britain Releases Secret File From Before Iraq War
LONDON - The British government released a once-secret draft document on Monday that was drawn up to justify going to war in Iraq, succumbing to three years of pressure from freedom of information campaigners.The 32-page document, written by a former director of communications at the Foreign Office, cites intelligence sources to state that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and could easily use them since it had done so before.
Yet the document, amended in the margins, makes no mention of Saddam Hussein being capable of launching weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, a false claim later used in another government dossier to make the case for going to war.
"Saddam remains the only man to have used chemical weapons to wage war on civilians: so far," the author of the document, former journalist John Williams, wrote in late 2002.
"It is not speculative to suggest he would do so again if he could: he has done it. And we know that he is now re-equipping himself with chemical weapons, while seeking to extend the range of the missiles that would carry them."
The much-disputed 45-minute threat was made in what came to be known as the "dodgy dossier", a document the BBC subsequently alleged was "sexed up" to make the case for war stronger.
A hunt for who might lie behind the BBC's reporting ensued, and a government weapons expert, David Kelly, later committed suicide, prompting a high-level inquiry into the affair.
Britain had sought to prevent Williams' draft being released because it argued that those who draft policy documents should not fear that their ideas might end up being made public.
But a freedom of information tribunal eventually ruled against them and last month ordered the draft to be released. The Foreign Office published it on its Web site on Monday.
Because Williams' draft makes no mention of the 45-minute claim, but a later government dossier did, it had been suggested that some degree of "sexing up" must have taken place.
But the government said several people were working on draft documents at the same time and it was another dossier, drawn up by the Joint Intelligence Committee, that ultimately was used to make the case for going to war.
"The document produced by John Williams ... was not commissioned as part of the formal drafting process and was not used as the basis for the dossier the government subsequently published," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
As well as the claims about chemical and biological weapons -- which were false as no such weapons were found after the invasion of Iraq -- Williams' draft accused Iraq of having government-run "rape squads" to intimidate the population.
"Rape is a standard method of intimidation by the regime," his document says. "The government personnel card produced here (picture) identifies its holder, Aziz Saleh Ahmed, as a 'fighter in the popular army' whose activity is 'violation of women's honour: in other words, he is a professional rapist."
A parenthetical note adds: (any more on these people? This is the ghastly single image of oppression we must get into people's minds)."
Editing by Charles Dick
© 2008 Reuters