Friday, July 23, 2010

Ex-MI5 chief's testimony on Iraq war

The recent head of the UK's Security Service has been testifying about her office's evaluation of terrorism and Iraq.
[Q. * * *] Can I just ask one final question, which is related to the things that Iraqis might have done, and this refers to the proposition that Saddam's regime were in some way responsible for providing support, potential support to Al-Qaeda, and even might have been involved in 9/11. Did you give any credence to these sorts of assessments?

BARONESS MANNINGHAM-BULLER: No. I think you have material suggesting that there had been intelligence on occasional contact in the past but I think -- I wrote this down when I was preparing for today -- there was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA. It was not a judgment that found favour with some parts of the American machine, as you have also heard evidence on, which is why Donald Rumsfeld started an intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment. But there were tiny scraps suggesting contact, usually when Saddam Hussein felt under threat, and the danger was that those tiny scraps of intelligence were given an importance and weight by some which they did not bear. So to my mind Iraq, Saddam Hussein, had nothing to do with 9/11 and I have never seen anything to make me change my mind.

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Were you given sight of some of the material produced by the Pentagon?

BARONESS MANNINGHAM-BULLER: I don't think I was. Probably a good thing; it would have made me cross.
Via Ricks, who also gives us this bit:
Lady M-B also mentioned that she went to see Paul Wolfowitz once to tell him that disbanding the Iraqi army and banning Baathists from public life was a mistake:

"SIR RODERIC LYNE: But you didn't convert him?

Snark aside, perhaps the most telling testimony is this:
Now, how significant in your view a factor was Iraq compared with other situations that were used by extremists, terrorists, to justify their actions?

BARONESS MANNINGHAM-BULLER: I think it is highly significant and the JIC assessments that I have reminded myself of say that.

By 2003/2004 we were receiving an increasing number of leads to terrorist activity from within the UK and the -- our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people, some British citizens -- not a whole generation, a few among a generation -- who were -- saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam.

So although the media has suggested that in July 2005, the attacks on 7/7, that we were surprised these were British citizens, that is not the case because really there had been an increasing number of British-born individuals living and brought up in this country, some of them third generation, who were attracted to the ideology of Osama bin Laden and saw the west's activities in Iraq and Afghanistan as threatening their fellow religionists and the Muslim world.
Were they entirely wrong? Given the obviously trumped up nature of the Iraq war, foreigners could be forgiven for assuming that the stated reasons were false, which left lots of room for the true reasons.

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