UK Iraq policy a ‘rank disaster’ 1


From BBC Online

…the measure of success in foreign policy should be “minimisation of suffering” and “if that is your measure, our policy has been a rank disaster in the last few years in terms of blood shed. By that measure that invasion has been a much greater disaster even than Suez,”

A high ranking British diplomat, who quit over the war with Iraq, has called policy in the region a “rank disaster”. Carne Ross told MPs the intelligence presented to the public about weapons of mass destruction was “manipulated”.

He also added that “the proper legal advice from the Foreign office on the legality of the war was ignored”. Mr Blair has always defended the war’s legality and the Butler inquiry said there was no evidence of “deliberate distortion” of intelligence on WMD. During his 45-minute evidence session Mr Ross also attacked the “politicisation” of the diplomatic service, and claimed promotion depended on agreeing with Mr Blair.

Mr Ross, who said he had been a friend of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly and had a hand in drawing up one of the government’s weapons dossiers, said he accepted the prime minister was ultimately responsible for foreign policy. But he added: “Policy making in the run up to the Iraq was, I think, extremely poor in that I don’t think the proper available alternatives to war were properly considered.

“I think the presentation of intelligence to the public on weapons of mass destruction was manipulated and I think that the proper legal advice from the foreign office on the legality of the war was ignored.”

‘Creeping politicisation’

Mr Ross, who was head of strategy for the UN mission in Kosovo, and also played a leading role in devising policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, said decision-making power was concentrated in the hands of too small a group. And there was a “political element at work in promotions to the most senior levels of the foreign office”. He said he had also noticed a growing tendency for officials “to tell ministers what they wish to hear in order to advance one’s own individual prospects”.

He told MPs: “There is a kind of subtle and creeping politicisation of the diplomatic service that in order to get promoted you have to show yourself as being sympathetic in identifying with the views of ministers and, in particular, the prime minister.

“Secondly, and this was the case in the Conservative government before Labour took office, decision-making powers have become increasingly concentrated in Number 10… the Foreign Office has become subsidiary to Number 10.”

On Iraq, he said the measure of success in foreign policy should be “minimisation of suffering” and “if that is your measure, our policy has been a rank disaster in the last few years in terms of blood shed”.

By that measure that invasion has been a much greater disaster even than Suez,” he added.

Mr Ross said Foreign Office officials had been split over the invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Government hangs on to its right to declare war without parliamentary involvement. The Guardian reports that the government was accused yesterday of giving a “temporising and woolly” response to an inquiry by an all-party committee of peers into the role of parliament over the deployment of British forces overseas.

Lord Holme, chairman of the Lords constitution committee, said the government’s response to its report, Waging War: Parliament’s Role and Responsibility, demonstrated “a complete failure on the part of the government to give any real consideration to our key recommendation – that the role of parliament in the deployment of forces outside the UK should be established in a new convention”.

The government says in its response: “The ability of the executive to take decisions flexibly and quickly using prerogative powers remains an important cornerstone of our democracy”. However, it adds: “Whilst the government could in theory deploy the armed forces overseas without the support of parliament, it would be almost impossible to identify a set of circumstances which would allow the government to act without parliamentary support.”


One thought on “UK Iraq policy a ‘rank disaster’

  • The Laughing Cavalie

    As a former Ambassador and, presumably, once in favour with the Dear Leader could you tell us more about the politicisation of the Foreign Office and, especially, the Diplomatic Service.

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