Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spooky Collusion

The row in Britain over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- or their absence -- intensified last week. Journalists accused the authorities of having "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's illegal weapons, published last September, by inserting a line about Saddam Hussein having a 45-minute capability.

British ministers and officials, in turn, accused the government-owned BBC of an "inadequate piece of journalism," while the BBC said it was standing by its story.

During the invasion by U.S.-led forces in March, Hussein did not use weapons of mass destruction at all. And now, after more than two months of intensive searches, coalition soldiers have failed to find any such weapons. It would seem evident that Britain and the United States invaded Iraq using an erroneous pretext.

When the British dossier on Iraq was published last year, the evidence presented in the document did not match the conclusions, that Hussein clearly did not have any serious long-range mass destruction capabilities and that his short-range capacity was extremely limited.

Although the British government is adamantly refusing to admit the facts, it is clear its dossier was essentially a propaganda-laden sham, full of conjecture.

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

For the general public this may be something new and disturbing, but not for veterans of Cold War spy games. Numerous films and books, produced over the past decades, have portrayed the intelligence services of East and West as omniscient, omnipotent, ruthless organizations that fought a vicious worldwide cloak-and-dagger battle.

Ruthless they maybe were and are, but the omniscient and omnipotent part is like the Iraqi dossier -- a conjured projection.

When I talk to veteran spies or read the dossiers they have produced (some of them are now partially declassified), time and again I'm appalled by the poor quality of the material. Even tabloids would think twice about publishing some of these stories -- so incredible and unsubstantiated are they.

But, of course, spy organizations' output is never intended for publication -- it is always top secret and for a good reason. British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a strategic mistake when he published his "sexy" Iraqi dossier for all to see.

During the Cold War, the military and political establishments of East and West wanted their intelligence services to produce evidence that the other side was armed with the best weapons possible, and that the enemy was at least 10 times stronger numerically and ready to pounce any minute.

True intelligence reports that exposed the real weaknesses of the opposing military machine or disclosed the lack of genuine aggressive intentions in the West (or East) were dismissed out of hand as disinformation specially planted by the enemy. Intelligence officers that had the folly to seek and report genuine findings were regularly reprimanded or dismissed by their superiors.

Now the Cold War is long over and with it the need to produce a constant stream of fictitious "evidence" to support the nonstop arms race and maintain allied cohesion in the face of the enemy. But the intelligence services of East and West are still staffed by essentially the same people as before: professionals when it comes to producing a top secret equivalent of the U.S. National Enquirer.

Last April, President Vladimir Putin publicly ridiculed Blair about the failure of the allies to find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in occupied Iraq. He joked: "If need be, we would have found them long ago."

He certainly would have. When Russian forces were preparing to invade Chechnya in September 1999 (preparations were commenced at least half a year in advance, as with the war in Iraq), a plausible pretext also arrived in time -- the invasion by Chechen rebels of neighboring Dagestan and a series of mysterious explosions of working-class apartment blocks in Moscow. (During planning and preparation for the war in Chechnya, Putin was head of the Federal Security Service.)

The British are lucky to have the BBC. It's impossible to imagine that Russia's state-run television channels could launch an investigation or air any program exposing the shams that led to the invasion of Chechnya, or even question obvious contradictions in the official version of events.

Only public exposure can break up the system of collusion of unscrupulous spooks with government officials to conjure up pretexts for more wars and arms procurement. But in Russia there is little hope it will ever happen.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.