Friday, August 26, 2005

45 Minutes To Doom

Michael Smith, the British journalist who broke the Downing Street Memo (memo, minutes, or memos) story, wrote another exclusive article for Raw Story which sheds more light on the origin of Prime Minister Tony Blair's since-discredited claim that Iraq possessed the capability to launch chemical and biological weapon attacks within 45 minutes.

Just like in America the blame was assigned to the intelligence services, even though, just like in America, the intelligence community wasn't in total agreement and the Administration cherry-picked the intelligence they wanted to hear.

From "Downing Street reporter dissects pre-war Iraq intelligence":

"But amid the confusing, and often uncertain, intelligence reports on Iraq it was a detail that Mr Blair and his advisers, not least Alastair Campbell, his Director of Communications, knew the public would understand. Despite the conclusions of the Intelligence and Security Committee, there is no doubt that as far as Campbell and Blair were concerned, it was the sound bite that would sell the war to some of the many people who remained unconvinced, not least a large number of backbench Labour MPs. It would only take Saddam 45 minutes to fire his chemical or biological weapons."

"Put at its simplest, as Campbell knew the tabloid headline writers would, British bases in Cyprus were '45 minutes from doom.'"

Here's a screenshot I snagged of The Sun's September 25, 2002 headline from the Hutton Inquiry pdf:

On that benchmark day for democracy and journalism, George Pascoe-Watson, The Sun's Deputy Political Editor, did his best Judith Miller:

"British servicemen and tourists in Cyprus can be annihilated by germ warfare missiles launched by Iraq, it was revealed yesterday."

"They could thud into the Mediterranean island within 45 MINUTES of tyrant Saddam Hussein ordering an attack."

"And they could spread death and destruction through warheads containing anthrax, mustard gas, sarin or risin."

"The terrifying prospect was raised in Downing Street's dossier on Saddam's arsenal, which also revealed he could be just 12 months away from having nuclear weapons."

Check out the rest of Smith's lengthy article, with some sharp looking illustrations to learn more about the "sexing-up" of a "may be" into a "definitely."


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