Former senior British cabinet minister Robin Cook has accused the British government of making selective use of intelligence to justify its decision to support the war against Iraq.
Cook: Intelligence was like
Cook was speaking on Tuesday at the start of a parliamentary investigation into the use of intelligence on Iraq's alleged possesion of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The former foreign minister said he feared that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government had used intelligence reports about Iraq's alleged WMD programme "to justify a policy on which we had already settled".
Cook quit the cabinet in March ahead of the US-led war on Iraq in protest over Britain's stance.
On Tuesday he was the first witness to appear before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's inquiry into how intelligence was used in the months before the war.
Lawmakers are investigating allegations that intelligence on Iraq's alleged WMD was over-exaggerated in order to justify its staunch support of the invasion.
Cook said intelligence information was a bit like "alphabet soup".
"I fear on this occasion what happened is that those bits of the alphabet that supported the case were selected," he said.
Claire Short, who also resigned as international development secretary in protest of the war, said she believed that London and Washington had decided in 2002 to launch a war against Baghdad in early 2003.
Short, whose testimony followed Cook's, said this timetable led to the allegations of Baghdad's ties to al-Qaeda. It also cut short arms inspections in Iraq led by Hans Blix, she said.
Blair staunchly supported US President George W Bush in the run-up to the invasion, arguing that Iraq’s alleged WMD were a threat to global security.
Since the war and after, no WMD have been found so far. There is mounting international pressure on the US and Britain to turn up with the arms on which they based their war.
Blair is fighting off allegations that a Downing Street dossier was over-exaggerated to push forward the case for a war. The dossier’s most controversial clause claims Iraq could have deployed chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes.
The Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry is chaired by Labour parliament member Donald Anderson and will hear most of its evidence in public before publishing reports.
Blair has said he will not appear before the committee. The British Prime Minister ordered another investigation by parliament’s intelligence and security committee. Though it meets behind closed doors, Blair said its findings will be made public.