Thursday, December 24, 2009


Jack Straw faces Iraq inquiry grilling over Tony Blair letter

Claims that PM was told UK should not assist in overthrow of Saddam

Patrick Wintour, political editor, Wednesday 23 December 2009 22.00 GMT

The former foreign secretary Jack Straw is to face potentially explosive questioning at the Iraq inquiry next month over a private letter he sent to Tony Blair on the eve of the invasion, urging the prime minister to look at options apart from pressing ahead with British military involvement in the attack.

It is understood that the inquiry is to receive a copy of the personal letter sent by Straw, written after discussions with Sir Michael (now Lord) Jay, the Foreign Office permanent secretary, on 16 March 2003, two days before the Commons voted to back the war.

Straw was yesterday named by the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as one of its star witnesses next month. Ten serving or former cabinet ministers have been called, including Tony Blair, the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith and the former defence secretary Geoff Hoon.

But the inquiry has controversially decided not to cross-examine Gordon Brown before the general election, on the basis that it would be wrong to interrogate any serving minister still holding ministerial responsibility for Iraq. Straw is not exempted on this basis because he is now lord chancellor, with responsibility for the justice system.

It has been claimed that in the letter Straw suggested the UK should offer the Americans "political and moral support" in their campaign against Saddam Hussein, but not military backing.

He reportedly urged Blair to tell George Bush that British troops would help clear up the mess and keep the peace once the war was over, but could play no part in Saddam's overthrow.

The US president had offered Blair the chance to pull out, and the then chief of the defence staff, Lord Boyce, has told the Chilcot inquiry that the US invasion would not have been delayed by more than a week if British military forces had been held back at the last minute.

Downing Street has never denied the existence of Straw's letter, but claims he did not oppose British involvement in the war, and instead merely set out the options for how the UK could remain involved in Iraq's reconstruction in the event of MPs voting to oppose British military involvement.

The dispute over the letter's precise contents and motives is one of the great mysteries of the high politics of the British invasion. If Straw did urge restraint at the last minute, it will place an extra onus of responsibility on Blair himself for the decision to go to war. It will also raise questions as to why Straw decided to defend the war so strongly subsequently.

In public Straw has always argued that the invasion was lawful and that Iraq is a better place for the downfall of Saddam. He has also maintained that the whole of the western intelligence community genuinely believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

But it is known that in common with the then US secretary of state, Colin Powell, he challenged the way in which the neo-con Bush administration viewed regime change in Iraq and its optimism that the fall of Saddam would not lead to a civil war between Sunnis and Shias.

Chilcot's treatment of the Straw letter will also be a major test for the legitimacy of the inquiry itself, which has been criticised for repeatedly failing during examination of witnesses to refer to written documentation made available by Whitehall. Since July, the inquiry team has received more than 40,000 government documents, including 12,000 from 10 Downing Street.

In his closing remarks before the end of the pre-Christmas hearings, Chilcot said: "The inquiry will increasingly wish to draw on government records which are currently classified – in some cases highly classified – in its questioning. Where we do, we will seek the necessary declassification of records in advance of the relevant public hearings, with a view to making the written records publicly available."

As well as the prime minister, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and Douglas Alexander, the development secretary, have all been excused for the moment and will not give evidence until after the general election, because the inquiry wants to remain "firmly outside party politics".

When Brown is questioned, he will have to answer claims that British confusion over whether to take responsibility for southern Iraq stemmed from Treasury resistance to funding the reconstruction.

The inquiry has broken new ground by revealing the lack of serious postwar planning in the UK, Whitehall's late awareness of the implications of the US defence department taking responsibility for reconstruction, and the collective failure of Whitehall in the days before the war to consider whether delay was necessary. Civil servants under cross-examination have repeatedly admitted that they struggled to influence US thinking, and sometimes revealed deep disdain for American methods.

Others to appear in January or February include the former defence secretaries John Reid and Des Browne, and a former legal adviser at the Foreign Office, Elizabeth Wilmshurst – who resigned after Goldsmith's final advice to the government reversed her legal opinion. Lord Jay, the former Cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull, Alistair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, have also been summoned to appear.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Blair sold Iraq on WMD, but only regime change adds up

The PM seems to have deployed arguments as they suited him. Our weapons inspections were telling another story

Hans Blix, Monday 14 December 2009 21.00 GMT

Before the Iraq war was launched in March 2003 the world was given the impression by the US and Britain that the goal was to eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Recent comments by Tony Blair suggest, however, that regime change was the essential aim. He would have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even if he had known that there were no WMD, he said, but he would obviously have had to "deploy" different arguments. Must we not conclude that the WMD arguments were "deployed" mainly as the best way of selling the war? Blair's comments do not exclude a strong – but mistaken – belief in the existence of WMD even when the invasion was launched. However, given that hundreds of inspections had found no WMD and important evidence had fallen apart, such a belief would have been based on a lack of critical thinking.

How could the issue of – non-existent – WMD mislead the world for more than 10 years? At the end of the Gulf war in 1991 the UN security council ordered Iraq to declare all WMD and destroy them under international supervision. However, Iraq chose to destroy much material without any inspection, giving rise to suspicions that weapons had been squirrelled away. These were nurtured by the frequent Iraqi refusals throughout the 90s to let UN inspectors enter sites and by evasive and erroneous responses to inspectors' inquiries.

What other reason could there have been than to prevent inspectors getting evidence of existing weapons? It is possible that Saddam wanted to create the – false – impression that he still had WMD. What seems more likely to me, however, was a sense of hurt pride, a wish to defy and the knowledge that some of the inspectors worked directly for western intelligence – perhaps even passed information about suitable military targets.

Only in September 2002, when the US had already moved troops to Kuwait, did Iraq say it was to accept the inspection that the UN demanded. By that time a new US national security strategy declared that it could take armed (pre-emptive or preventive) action without UN authorisation; many in the Bush administration saw UN involvement as a potential impediment.

Many are convinced that the American and UK military plans moved on autopilot, and the inspections were a charade. I am sure that many in the Bush team felt that way. It seems likely that British and American leaders expected that UN inspections would again be obstructed or that Iraqi violation of the draconian new resolution 1441 would persuade the security council to authorise military action to remove the regime. For my part, I tended to think of the war preparations rather as a train moving slowly to the front and helping to make Iraq co-operative. If something removed or reduced the weapons issue, the train, I thought, might stop.

For the UK to join the US on an unpredictable UN line was a gamble – and in the end it failed. Inspections did not turn up any "smoking guns" and gradually undermined some of the evidence that had been invoked. Iraq became more co-operative and showed no defiance that could prompt the authorising of armed force. Thus, while the train of war moved on, the UN path pointed less and less to an authorisation of war.

What could the UK have done to avoid this development? It could have made a condition of its participation in the enterprise that the movement of the military train be synchronised with the movement on the UN path. With inspections just starting in the autumn of 2002 the military train should have moved very slowly. We have heard that Karl Rove had said that the autumn of 2003 was the latest time for invasion. Why so fast then in 2002? As the then German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said: what was the sense of demanding UN inspections for two and a half years and then let them work only for a few months? Of course, if regime change – and not WMD – was the main aim, the steady speed becomes logical.

The responsibility for launching the war must be judged against the knowledge that the allies had when they actually started it. The UK should have recognised that no smoking gun had been found at any time, and that in the months before the invasion evidence of WMD was beginning to unravel. As we have heard recently: out of 19 Iraqi sites suspected by the UK – and suggested to the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission for inspection (Unmovic) – 10 were actually inspected, and while "interesting", none turned up any WMD. This warning that sources were not reliable seems to have been ignored. Intelligence organisations seem to have been 100% convinced of the existence of WMD but to have had 0% knowledge where they were. Worse still: the uranium contract between Iraq and Niger that George Bush had given prominence in his 2002 state of the union message was found by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be a forgery.

The absence of convincing evidence of WMD did not stop the train to war. It arrived at the front before the weather got too hot and the soldiers got impatient waiting for action. The factual reports of the IAEA and Unmovic did, however, have the result that a majority on the security council wanted more inspections and were unconvinced about the existence of WMD.

At the end the UK tried desperately to get some kind of authorisation from the security council as a legal basis for armed action – but failed. Confirming the fears of Dick Cheney, President Bush's vice-president, the UN and inspections became an impediment – not to armed action, but to legitimacy.

Unlike the US, the UK and perhaps other members of the alliance were not ready to claim a right to preventive war against Iraq regardless of security council authorisation. In these circumstances they developed and advanced the argument that the war was authorised by the council under a series of earlier resolutions. As Condoleezza Rice put it, the alliance action "upheld the authority of the council". It was irrelevant to this argument that China, France, Germany and Russia explicitly opposed the action and that a majority on the council declined to give the requested green light for the armed action. If hypocrisy is the compliment that virtue pays to vice then strained legal arguments are the compliments that violators of UN rules pay to the UN charter.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Blair: I would have invaded Iraq without WMD threat

James Cusick

Published on 12 Dec 2009

Tony Blair has admitted for the first time that he would have ordered British troops to invade Iraq alongside United States forces even if he had known Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.

The former prime minister has always defended the legality of the war as being based on the argument that both the UK and the US believed the threat from Saddam’s WMD contravened United Nations resolutions.

However, his revelation, in a BBC interview to be broadcast today, that he would have removed the Iraq leader whether he had WMD or not, and “deployed different arguments” to justify military action, will re-ignite the debate that Mr Blair lied to Commons ahead of the invasion in 2003.

In the BBC programme “Fern Britton Meets …Tony Blair” the former PM speaks about Saddam and says his threat to the wider Middle East region was enough. “I would still have thought it right to remove him,” he says.

“Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.”

Mr Blair describes the development of Saddam’s WMD programme as “obviously one” of the threats.

The Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcott is scheduled to take evidence from Mr Blair early next year. His comments to the BBC now puts centre stage the issue of what the former prime minister knew in advance of the invasion.

The inquiry recently took evidence from Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK’s UN ambassador in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Sir Jeremy told the inquiry that the invasion was “because of their [Iraq] contravening of UN declarations on weapons of mass destruction, and nothing else.”

Mr Blair’s comments that other arguments to invade would have been deployed are in direct conflict with Greenstock and others on the issue of WMD. The former ambassador said he regarded the military action as being legal but of “questionable legitimacy”.

Britton is told by Mr Blair that he did not think Iraq would be better off if Saddam and his two sons were still in charge. He says: “I sympathise with the people who were against it for perfectly good reason and are against it now, but for me, in the end, I had to take the decision.” He later says: “You’ve got to work out what is right.”

During a debate in the Commons on March 18, 2003, the former foreign secretary Robin Cook said the issue of Iraq’s WMD had not been resolved by the UN’s weapons inspectors.

Cook later gave an interview in which he said Mr Blair knew at the time of the Commons debate that the claims of WMD in Iraq were not true. He believed that if the Government had been forced to withdraw the dossier it had drawn up in late 2002 as evidence of Saddam’s WMD programme, Mr Blair’s position would have been untenable.

Cook also believed that if Mr Blair had revealed any doubts about Iraq’s WMD or offered other arguments to justify the military action, he would have made it impossible for the then attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, to offer full legal cover for the decision.

On the eve of the invasion, the head of the Army asked Downing for assurances that the war was legal.

In the BBC interview, Mr Blair acknowledges there are families who blame him for the deaths of their loved ones. He tells Britton: “That’s the responsibility you carry. But … there’s no point in going into a situation of conflict and not understanding there is going to be a price to be paid.”

The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said that Mr Blair would not have obtained the support of the Cabinet or Parliament for war if he had been so open about his view on regime change at the time.

“In spite of experience, in spite of the benefit of hindsight, Mr Blair still does not realise just how much of a foreign policy disaster Britain’s involvement in the military action against Iraq turned out to be,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that if Mr Blair had told his Cabinet what he is now saying, he’d have found it very difficult to keep all of them - he did of course lose Robin Cook and eventually Clare Short.

“But the one place he would have undoubtedly failed would have been in the House of Commons. He would not have obtained the endorsement of the House of Commons on March 18, 2003 if he had been as frank with the House of Commons then as he appears to be willing to be frank with the BBC now.”

Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesman said: “Tony Blair appears to be re-writing history before he is called before the Iraq inquiry, but his admission now raises crunch questions for the current prime minister. Would Gordon Brown still have bankrolled the war had he known there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

“The heat is now on Gordon Brown, as the Chancellor who wrote the cheques for this disastrous and illegal war.

“Tony Blair took us to war on a false prospectus, and Gordon Brown bankrolled it - both men should appear side by side when they give evidence, so that we can get to the truth behind the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times.

“This inquiry will be judged on the answers that it provides, and these fundamental questions must be addressed.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


A very British inquiry: a chat in a Whitehall club

The Chilcot inquiry met its first 'hostile' witness, Sir John Scarlett, former head of MI6

Simon Jenkins, Tuesday 8 December 2009 22.34 GMT

The Chilcot inquiry today met its first "hostile" witness, Sir John Scarlett, former head of MI6. Mastermind of Saddam's threat of weapons of mass destruction and thus architect of Tony Blair's case for the Iraq war, he entered the inquisition room like a small, well-bred bull, ready for battle. Within seconds he was wandering round the ring, lost and searching for a matador. The inquiry appeared to have gone on strike.

Scarlett duly droned for a third of his allotted time on the structure of the joint intelligence committee.

The inquiry members looked to the ceiling, gazed at their feet, even seemed to fall asleep. Scarlett teased them with tales of dossiers and spin, with murmurs of American pressure, aluminium tubes and the clear impression that weapons inspectors were spies. They barely noticed. He failed to mention Alastair Campbell or Tony Blair. He did all he could to cause a fight, but he failed. He walked out unmarked. Chilcot is an inquiry with much to prove.

For two weeks, the investigation into the alleged failures of the 2003 invasion of Iraq has dealt with processes and procedures. One elegant mandarin after another has paraded, well-rehearsed, before it. Rarely do more than a few onlookers grace the airless room, overwhelmed by infantile government security. At one session a group of bemused tourists declared it "at least better than the House of Lords". This may be merely a prologue to the star turn, Blair, who is not due until next year. But Scarlett was the star's apprentice, and the place was for once packed and expectant.

When pressed on being told to "firm up" the intelligence of weapons of mass destruction in 2002, Scarlett was left to declare blandly that that is what he did. When asked if there was any coercion from America, he said no.

When asked if perhaps the September dossier, and its 45-minutes warning, was confusing, he said probably. When asked if he might have disapproved of Blair's "without doubt" interpretation of it, he said maybe.

I never thought I would cry "send for a lawyer" but the inquiry desperately lacks a skilled cross-examiner, someone who at least knows the word supplementary. The inquiry's two historians, Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Laurence Freedman, appear to be researching their next book. Lady Prashar is interested only in "clearing things up". The diplomat Sir Roderic Lyne occasionally leaps to inquisitorial life, but not when faced by the head of MI6. This was like a private conversation in a Whitehall club.

For all that, a picture is starting to emerge from Chilcot. It is of 2002 and an ever more lonely Blair, desperate to be "a serious player" on the world stage. He is trapped between what his Washington ambassador, Sir Christopher Meyer, eulogised as his "enormously close relationship" with George Bush, and British lawyers telling him an invasion would be illegal, British generals saying an occupation would be a shambles and cabinet colleagues thinking him mad. (I hope we hear from some of them.)

The inquiry so far has been dominated by two themes, the chaos of the American occupation of Baghdad, and the zeal of the Foreign Office to drive a stake through Blair's heart at the nearest crossroads, for destroying Britain's reputation in the diplomats' beloved Middle East. Rarely can Whitehall's finest have turned so savagely on a recent boss. The FCO's chief, Sir Peter Ricketts, was blunt: "We quite clearly distanced ourselves from talk about regime change," which Blair had mooted as early as 1998. His colleague, Sir William Patey, said that when Bush came to power, "we heard the drumbeats from Washington … and our policy was to stay away from that part of the spectrum. It had no basis in law." The illegality of the invasion is a leitmotif, yielding Chilcot's one inadvertent scoop, a leak of a letter submitted by the then attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, to Blair in 2002. This declared that the invasion had "no legal basis for military action … as things stand you obviously cannot do it." When Blair ignored the letter and banned Goldsmith from cabinet, the attorney general reportedly threatened to resign and famously lost three stone in weight. Just two weeks before the invasion, Goldsmith was still warning the cabinet, as well as the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce, that British soldiers could be "arraigned before the international criminal court" if they went to war. This led Boyce to demand "unequivocal advice" that the war was legal. Goldsmith duly changed his mind. The then lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, has publicly dismissed the spin put on the letter as "totally false". Since he and Goldsmith cannot both be right, their cross-examination in the new year should be the next test of Chilcot's muscle. They should be forced to appear together.

The spilling of Blair's blood so far has come not from the inquiry but from the witnesses. Bush is portrayed as treating Blair as a patsy. One official after another has rubbished Blair's claim that intelligence indicated "beyond doubt" that Saddam had mass destruction weapons and intended to use them. Since the phrase was not Scarlett's, the finger points to Blair's Downing Street team. It remains to be seen how many will be called to give evidence. The Butler report on WMD intelligence omitted all mention of Blair's spin doctors.

The chief respite for Blair has come from his foreign policy aide, Sir David Manning, and from Meyer. The former offered a model display of graded loyalty to his boss. Manning stressed Blair's commitment to "the UN route", to giving the weapons inspectors enough time and to ensuring cover for public opinion back home. This contrasted with Meyer's evidence, that Blair had been gung-ho for regime change since 1998 and that his bond with Bush at the Crawford meeting in April 2002 was probably "signed in blood".

Blair's lack of influence in Washington is becoming ever more stark. Only the possibility that he might lose a Commons vote on going to war seems to have moved Bush to attempt another UN resolution. As the aid department's Sir Suma Chakrabarti said yesterday, he and his colleague could not believe America's lack of concern for the UN, indeed for world opinion, believing that "rationality would break out at some stage". It did not. The Americans did not care what their allies did or did not do. It was Blair who seemed desperate, according to the deputy chief of the defence staff, Sir Anthony Piggott, to do "something meaty on the ground".

Blair's eagerness seems to have cost Britain all leverage. Meyer was forced by Lyne to confront the central question, whether Blair could have avoided going to Iraq without damage to British interests. Meyer's answer was yes. Bush even phoned Blair to suggest he could "sit out the war", while the Pentagon's Donald Rumsfeld was happy to go in alone. But Blair wanted too much to be there. So far, said Meyer, "we had underestimated the leverage at our disposal". Now it evaporated.

Meyer has been the undoubted star of the show so far. In a startling but unnoticed revelation, he mentioned that Blair refused even to use his good offices with Bush to lobby for relief from tariffs on Britain's special steel or seek domestic slots for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin planes. Blair was hugely popular but his clout in Washington was exhausted. Thanks to him the pre-Iraq phase was an awful episode in British diplomacy. No wonder the Foreign Office wants history to free it of blame.

More serious was the frustration clearly faced by the army. Admiral Lord Boyce told the inquiry that he was banned by the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, from actively preparing for invasion since it might suggest Britain was not serious about seeking the abortive UN resolution. In the understatement of the inquiry, Boyce said he found this ban, just months from a putative invasion, "very frustrating". He could not even talk to his own head of logistics. Boyce added that he found the whole American approach "anorexic", largely because of "disfunctionality" between departments in Washington. He himself had sometimes to act as go-between. This led to the Americans being desperately understaffed on the ground when trouble began in late-2003. While the lack of post-invasion planning is hardly news – there is a shelf of memoirs on it – Whitehall's desperation to put its warning of chaos on the Chilcot record is palpable.

The FCO's Iraq expert, Edward Chaplin, spoke of neo-con Washington's "real blind spot", indeed its "touching faith", that there would be "dancing in the streets after the invasion … all sweetness and light". Major General Tim Cross, stationed in Baghdad, said he told Blair that post-war planning was "chaotic", but Blair just stared. On his arrival in the city after the invasion, Cross told of his "amazement" at the shambles that greeted him. Entire government departments were being run from single tables in Saddam's palace corridor, those in charge changing by the week.

The purpose of this inquiry remains obscure. Its tales are familiar to those who have followed the war, and such interest as exists comes largely from hearing the old tales from the horses' mouths. Sir John Chilcot treats witnesses like a therapist with a nervous patient. The absence, at least so far, of any Iraqis, Americans, foreigners of any sort or even British politicians has become glaring. If this is to be a first rough draft of history, it is so far a highly partial one.

Chilcot emphatically rejects being cast as a court, let alone a foretaste of a Nuremburg trial. It is a far cry from the scrutiny of America's Capitol Hill or the milder forensic thrust of a Hutton or a Butler. This appears as a very British inquest, an intrusion into the private grief, or perhaps the self-styled triumph, of one man, Tony Blair.

But who knows? Perhaps still waters yet run deep.

The glaring MI6 man in shiny suit and cheap shirt

By Quentin Letts

Last updated at 7:26 AM on 09th December 2009

At the Hutton Inquiry six years ago John Scarlett was a faintly sinister figure, tanned, bespectacled, exotic.

At the Iraq Inquiry yesterday, Sir John, as he is now, looked and sounded more humdrum. He mumbled. Looked small and pale in his seat. A man reduced.

The good news was that your sketchwriter made it into the actual inquiry room this time. Boy, the officials are twitchy, though.

Onlookers are not allowed to take in any form of electronic device, even switched off.

They're worried about unapproved recording, apparently, even though the inquiry is being televised.

Once admitted, you're not allowed out, either. Crossed legs time. One young woman - looked like the blonde from Abba - went bright pink in the face.

The five inquiry members, led by Sir John Chilcot, filed in promptly at 2pm, not quite like gameshow contestants.

Then Sir John entered via a side door marked by an emergency exit sign. Hah! Old MI6 gambit. Enter via the exit, at a tangent.

Shiny suit, cheap shirt, routine polka-dot tie. Even less hair than in 2003 and now grey.

Small hands. Occasional emphatic words released out of the lower left of the mouth. Faintly flushed cheeks.

He glared up at Chilcot, eyeballs almost half-mooning under the top eyelids.

The inquiry members began by pouring themselves great dollops of Malvern water. Our man Scarlett had his own supply. Six bottles, no less.

'There will of course be limits to what we can discuss, to avoid damaging national security,' said Chilcot, who lacks only a snowy moustache to bear a resemblance to Corporal Jones of Dad's Army.

If this was a cue to say little of interest, Sir John Scarlett duly obliged.

He gave us a long, unnecessary description of the raison d'etre of the Joint Intelligence Committee - the body he chaired when we were being taken to war by Blair and Campbell and Co.

Ah, yes, Alastair Campbell. The man who once described John Scarlett as his 'mate'. Yesterday they contrived to mention his name not once.

'I was responsible for the presentation of intelligence assessments,' said Scarlett. Yet this was not entirely true.

He may have been responsible for its presentation to the Prime Minister.

But did Campbell not have a hand in its presentation to the British public? The inquiry did not ask.

Sir John peered hard at the inquiry members. His expression? That of a man looking through a keyhole.

If his prolonged glance was inspired by incredulity, you couldn't blame him.

Lady Prashar sucked in her cheeks like a cat on its litter box. Historian Sir Martin Gilbert twitched and blinked and grinned, like a park-bench hobo.

Sir Laurence Freedman mushed his hands into his face, sniffing his fingers. Later he closed his eyes. Not the only person in the room to do so.

Ex-ambassador Sir Roderic Lyne was the liveliest of the inquiry members. Not that he was aggressive.

That's not the inquiry's way. It's all greatly more yarny than that. Sir John's answers stretched on for minutes. I almost said 45 minutes.

That figure - so notoriously misreported with regard to Saddam's missiles - did come up.

Sir John felt that claim had been 'lost in translation'. Nothing to do with Downing Street spin doctors wilfully mistreating? Again, no one asked.

From time to time Sir John consulted his notes. From my perch about ten feet away, I caught sight of hand-scribbled notes in the margins.

I am pretty sure they were in green ink, though it may have been turquoise. In a moment of stress he scratched the top of his right hand.

Answering questions about some ex U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, he quickened his delivery markedly, to the point he was jabbering.

Daylight does not penetrate the inquiry room. In any sense. Sir John spoke in jargon, sprinkling acronyms liberally, talking about 'tasking' and 'product'.

Then he said that a late dismantling of weapons by the Iraqis was 'not a game-changer'.

Now I wonder where he picked up that horrid Americanism.