Leading article: Dodgy timing

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The Independent Online

As good days to bury bad news go, yesterday must have been among the best, what with the fall-out from the nationalisation of Northern Rock, the Prime Minister's press conference and the Chancellor's emergency Bill introduced in the Commons. So it may not have been entirely coincidental that yesterday also witnessed the release, a couple of days sooner than promised, of an early draft of the dossier detailing the supposed threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

It goes without saying that publication was hardly prompt and the Government resisted disclosure to the last. In the end, it was thanks to the persistence of a private individual and the Information Commissioner's ruling that this draft has seen the light of day.

So now we have seen the draft, what have we learnt? That the then director of news at the Foreign Office, a former Daily Mirror journalist, played a key part in helping the Government present its case; that there was much perverse wishful thinking and many false assumptions on his part and on the part of ministers; that the dossier was far from being the pure, unadulterated distillation of intelligence data they wanted us to believe, and that the eye-catching "45 minute" warning must have been added later. We have also learnt that, far from deliberately misleading us with falsehoods, at least this drafter, John Williams, and his ministers actually believed the truth of what they were serving up. We knew this before, of course – or we feared we did.

But, five years after the start of the war, it is still shocking to be reminded of the grievous mistakes of those in power and the impunity they have enjoyed ever since.

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