Letters: Tony Blair and the evidence of the Iraq defectors

These letters appear in the 26th January issue of The Independent

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In his magisterial “The Iraq Report” (24 January), Andy McSmith says: “In order to have lied, Blair would have had to have known that Saddam Hussein really had ordered the destruction of Iraq’s stockpile of illegal weapons... But the intelligence services had no network to speak of within that tightly ruled country... Consequently, the spooks relied heavily on Iraqi exiles.”

This is only partly accurate. I submitted a memorandum to the Chilcot inquiry on what Tony Blair and Jack Straw must have known about Iraqi WMDs, and when they  knew it: these are the documented facts:

General Hussein Kamal, former director of Iraq’s Military Industrialisation Corporation, in charge of Iraq’s weapons programme, defected to Jordan on 7 August 1995, with his brother, Colonel Saddam Kamal. Both were sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein. Hussein Kamal took crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to Unscom, the UN inspection team looking for WMDs in Iraq.

Iraq responded by revealing a major store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb. Hussein and Saddam Kamal, surprisingly, agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated by the Saddam henchman known as Chemical Ali on 23 February 1996.

Before their fateful return, they were interviewed in Amman on 22 August 1995. The interviewers were Rolf Ekeus, former executive chairman of Unscom; Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and head of the inspections team in Iraq; and Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led Unscom’s ballistic missile team. During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid (transliterated as Major Ezzeddin) joined the discussion. Izz al-Din was Saddam Hussein’s cousin, and defected with the Kamal brothers. 

The key output from this was the documented revelation that “all weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed”. Tony Blair, in a misleading statement to the Commons on 25 February 2003, said: “It was only four years later, after the defection of Saddam’s son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered.”

Former Labour MP Llew Smith, for whom I then worked, asked him about the information provided by Hussein Kamal on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and if Mr Blair would place in the House of Commons Library the text of the Kamal interview.

Mr Blair answered: “Following his defection, Hussein Kamal was interviewed by Unscom and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.”

But I believe it was known to Mr Blair and his security advisors that eight years earlier Hussain Kamal had fessed up to the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological WMDs, and the nascent nuclear weapons programme too. If this were so, why would he blatantly disregard this information when pressing for war, except for the obvious reason that it undermined his stated reason to support an invasion?

Dr David Lowry

Former director, European Proliferation Information Centre, Stoneleigh, Surrey


British don’t mourn King Abdullah

I would suggest a modification of your headline “Britain mourns a tyrant” (24 January). It is Britain’s power elite that mourns the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This is because, in its value-distorted world view, the promise of more loot from oil and gun-selling trumps the Saudi kingdom’s medieval cruelty and the hacking off of a woman’s head in its repressive female-fearing male dictatorship.

I doubt British citizens mourn the death of King Abdullah.

Jim McCluskey

Twickenham, Middlesex


“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” said Hillary Clinton in a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US Secretary of State and revealed through WikiLeaks. 

At the news of the death of King Abdullah, President Obama said he had “valued King Abdullah’s perspective” and Prime Minister Cameron is apparently “deeply saddened” and says that the former king will be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths”.

Abdullah, Obama, and Cameron shared the same perspective – support for terrorism when it aided their shared interests, and condemning terrorism which impeded those interests.

Louis Shawcross


County Down


Your sneer at the US and UK for mourning King Abdullah highlights the fact that we can apparently do nothing right when it comes to dictatorial regimes.

It seems that we’re wrong to support them as friends and allies; wrong to try to ignore them; wrong to do vital and lucrative business deals with them; wrong to jeopardise our economic and security interests by opting not to do business with them; wrong to  subject their long-suffering citizens to UN sanctions; and wrong to send our armies to oust them. We can’t win!

Keith Gilmour



If, as a spokesman for Westminster Abbey believes, failure to fly the Union Jack at half-mast would be a “noticeably aggressive comment” on the death of King Abdullah, where in the scale of malign commentary would he rank public decapitation?

Dr John Doherty



An unfortunate juxtaposition

I found your front page on 24 January somewhat unfortunate. The headline read “Britain mourns a tyrant”; the picture above showed a well-known statue of Sir Winston Churchill.  I know that Churchill wasn’t popular in all quarters, but really...

Tom Campbell



There has been much outpouring of gushing praise to mark the life of Winston Churchill as we commemorate his death  50 years ago. But he was far from the paragon of virtue some would have us believe.

His finest hour aside, let us not forget that he believed that women shouldn’t vote, telling the House of Commons that they are “well represented by their fathers, brothers, and husbands”. He was also fiercely opposed to self-determination for the people of the Empire, advocating the use of  poison gas against “uncivilised tribes” in Mesopotamia in 1919.

For much of his career he was also a disastrous politician. In 1915 he had to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty after the disaster of Gallipoli. His decision in 1925 to restore Britain to the Gold Standard caused a deep and unnecessary recession. That led directly to the General Strike in 1926, in which he was reported to have suggested using machine guns on the miners.

While we must celebrate his role as a brilliant war leader, let us not forget another, rather more chequered past.

Alex Orr



Windfarm no threat to Jurassic coast

It is a bit of a stretch to say that the proposed Navitus Bay wind farm will have much effect on the Jurassic Coast, located as it would be at the far-eastern end and almost as near to the Isle of Wight (“Jurassic Coast windfarm is ‘like bulldozing Buckingham Palace’”, 24 January).

It will change the view from Durlston Head but it will not be very obvious going west between there and Lulworth Cove. Beyond Lulworth all the way to Exmouth, which comprises most of the Jurassic Coast, I reckon you will struggle to see it except in the most favourable conditions.  From Sidmouth you cannot even see the granite mass  of Portland unless it is  very clear.

If you really want to know what spoils the Jurassic Coast, look a few yards inland as you pass Ladram Bay on the coastal path. Ask yourself how it was that a large and still-developing static caravan park and associated facilities were ever allowed at this attractive location.

The coast is attractive because of its varying geology, its steeply undulating coastline and differing coastal communities. Looking out to sea is not especially inspiring. A wind farm at one end is hardly a big deal, and far better than on land.

Brian R Sheldon

Sidmouth, Devon


In his account of the Navitus Bay wind farm, Tom Bawden appears to have given more powers to The French Lieutenant’s Woman than John Fowles intended if her view from Lyme Regis’s Cobb was framed by the Isle of Wight to the left and Old Harry Rocks to the right. Perhaps there’s a new adaptation that I’ve not seen – transporting the Cobb to Bournemouth.

David Stone

Weymouth, Dorset