Kim Sengupta: Minister paints himself as source of caution

Share
Related Topics

Jack Straw was a man facing a "moral as well as political dilemma" in the run-up to the Iraq war. The support he gave to military action was "the most difficult decision" he had ever taken. It was an "error", he realised, not to be more precise about the claims made in the dossier used to justify the invasion and that has "haunted" him ever since. Regime change, he had insisted, was never the agenda.

That was the self-portrait the former foreign secretary produced at the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday, presenting himself as a source of caution and moderation at a tempestuous time, seeking to avoid over-egging the case for war, especially when it came to the "dodgy dossier".

A somewhat different picture emerges when one looks back to the documents unearthed by the Hutton Inquiry six years ago. There rests an email written by Mark Sedwill, then the foreign secretary's private secretary, now ambassador in Afghanistan, which describes Mr Straw's role in "hardening up" the dossier with a "killer paragraph".

In the memorandum copied to Alastair Campbell and John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Mr Sedwill said: " The Foreign Secretary has now had a chance to go through the draft dossier. He has endorsed the comments I made earlier on..."

The points endorsed by Mr Straw included: "The first bullet of para 6 the importance of weapons of mass destruction should be strengthened (my italics) to explain the centrality of WMD to Saddam Hussein's role – the projection of power etc.... Crucially the section should explain the role of the WMD in the political mythology which has sustained the regime."

Asked about the email at the time, Mr Straw said the reason for "strengthening" the dossier was that "I wanted to raise the prominence of Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations over 12 years". We know, of course, that there was no WMD and thus no "defiance" by Saddam. Mr Straw must have known that as well, as in a newly disclosed memo written in 2003, he seems to be casting doubt on the threat posed by the Iraqi dictator: "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing is not decided. But the case was thin." We have to accept Mr Straw's protestations that his attempts to make the supposed WMD arsenal central to Saddam's regime in the dossier was absolutely not an argument for regime change.

The Hutton Inquiry was about the death of Dr David Kelly, His suicide followed his name being leaked to the media. The government had denied being the author of the leak, but, in internal memorandums two of Mr Straw's senior advisors appeared to be pushing for Dr Kelly's name to be disclosed. Peter Ricketts, Mr Straw's political advisor, said: " I don't think there is a problem for us if the press name him Dr Kelly ... I suggest we leave it to John."

The John in question was John Williams, the head of the Foreign Office news department, who wrote "... I am very happy for him to be named. Nothing personal." The same day Dr Kelly's name was confirmed to journalists by the Ministry of Defence press office.

Mr Straw was not directly involved in this exchange of email. They were by his people during his watch as foreign secretary. Did he know about them? We have never found out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The Job:Te...

French Teacher for new post starting November 2014

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: the job ? We are looking for...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher Requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tory whips have warned the Prime Minister that he could face a Tory revolt over the European arrest warrant  

A bizarre front for the Tories’ campaign against Europe

Nigel Morris
 

Daily catch-up: EU news, and other reasons to be cheerful

John Rentoul
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker