End Evil

The 45 Minute Claim

Would you buy a used car from these men?

Blair claimed to MPs yesterday that he was unaware that the intelligence that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes referred only to battlefield munitions, not any missile capability. His spokesman claimed

"The 45-minute point played little part subsequent to the dossier in the discussion about Iraq. There were two questions in 38,000 written parliamentary questions about it. The prime minister and the government believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was able to deploy them both in a tactical and strategic way. We never claimed in the dossier that the 45 minutes referred to ballistic missiles in this way."

However, Robin Cook, has challenged this statement. He said that on March 5th he discussed Iraq with Blair. When he asked Blair "Do you never worry that he might use them against British troops?" Blair responded "Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use."

In the preface to the dossier, Mr Blair said the intelligence contained in it "discloses that his [Saddam's] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".

The dossier, published in September 2002, actually states that Iraq could "deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so".

It was only when the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, gave evidence to the Hutton inquiry last August that it was disclosed that the 45-minute claim referred only to battlefield munitions (i.e. rockets or mortar shells).

The head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, also told the Hutton inquiry that the way the claim was presented in the dossier had been open to "misinterpretation".

Both Mr Scarlett and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, admitted to the inquiry that they had been aware that the press reporting had been wrong but had made no attempt to correct it.

Hoon has also claimed that he did not see the incorrect headlines until the Panorama programme about the dossier. However, during the Hutton enquiry, he admitted that he did know about the headlines.

When asked who was to blame for not informing Mr Blair that the 45-minute point referred only to battlefield weapons, Mr Hoon stated "I don't believe there is a question of blame. As far as I'm concerned, this was not a matter of great public concern at the time."

What a bunch of liars.

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