Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Butler Report Finds Blair Did Not Lie-But Press Finds He Did Country a "Disservice"

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Butler Report Finds Blair Did Not Lie-But Press Finds He Did Country a "Disservice"

Article excerpt

European newspapers were divided over the Butler report's conclusion, presented on July 14, that intelligence used by the British government to justify invading Iraq was seriously flawed.

The "devastating" report had "ripped to shreds" Blair's case for war, wrote the UK's Daily Mirror the following day.

"Blair's credibility lies in tatters," wrote Germany's Berliner Zeitung on July 15. "His stubborn insistence that the Iraq war was right is merely an act of desperation,".

"In short, Lord Butler found the intelligence was generally weak, in some instances seriously flawed and, in the case of the infamous 45-minute warning, plain wrong," noted the UK's Guardian that day.

However, argued Germany's Der Tagesspiegel of July 15, Butler's investigation demonstrated that Blair did not lie. According to conclusions reached by U.S. and British commissions of inquiry, the claims made by Bush and Blair about Iraq's arsenal were based on intelligence reports, the newspaper pointed out. Hence, Der Tagesspiegel concluded, "The truth was distorted, the threat was exaggerated to demagogic ends, but they did not lie."

The same day, UK's Daily Telegraph also concluded that Blair had not lied, but said he had done the country "a disservice." The report had "exposed a cavalier attitude" at the center of government, said the newspaper, and "casts doubt on whether Mr. Blair can be trusted in future to secure parliamentary and public support for another war."

But, said Russia's Izvestiya of July 15, Lord Butler's findings were not fatal for Prime Minister Tony Blair or his closest aides. "There were no great revelations," it pointed out, "and Butler dealt no blows to their careers."

"Just the day before they came out, many political analysts were predicting that the report would be a political catastrophe for the prime minister," observed that day's Trud. But unsinkable Tony survived yet again."

However, Trud added, the report was damaging for the reputation of Britain' s MI6 intelligence service. While MI6's "might and omniscience have gone down in legend," it said, it now has "turned out to be an extremely mediocre spy service, which made scandalous mistakes."

The report raises the question of the role intelligence material should play in political decisions, Hungary's Magyar Hirlap of July 15 opined. "Is it really the secretly and nationally gathered intelligence which is the most important and all-deciding source of information," the newspaper asked, "or could it be that open, independent, international or more precisely multilateral control results in more effective and direct information?"

International sanctions and control had worked in Iraq, the paper argued, whereas the military intervention was based on "insufficient, unreliable and misinterpreted intelligence, tailored to the politicians' need for black-and-white and unrealistic simplicity."

Following the publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee report which found the CIA had fallen victim to "group think" and overstated the threat from Iraqi WMD, the July 10 LondonTimes thought there should be "reflection and reform within the intelligence community." Added the newspaper, "Above all, the failure of politicians to ask sufficiently robust questions about the intelligence they received should not be forgotten."

Can Another 9/11 Be Prevented?

Following the July 22 publication of the 9/11's Commission's final report, European newspapers asked whether attacks on the same scale could occur again.

As happened when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, wrote Spain's El Mundo on July 26, the U.S. had failed to imagine the possibility of such an attack. "If now it does not reform and coordinate its defense and police strategy, it will happen again, and probably it will be even worse," the newspaper said.

"The issue now is whether the right policies and systems are in place to prevent the next attack," the UK's Guardian wrote on July 23. …

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