Andrew Buncombe of the London Independent reviews the new "big impact" plan designed to counter critics of the Iraq invasion in an effort to convince the public that Saddam Hussein was in fact developing weapons of mass destruction. [Includes transcript]
A new article in the London Independent by Andrew Buncombe titled "Blair and Bush Join Forces to Spin Away Weapons Issue" begins:
“The British and US governments are drawing up a controversial new strategy to convince the public that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction–an admission that they have so far failed to make a convincing case.
“The 'big impact' plan is designed to overwhelm and silence critics who have sought to put pressure on Tony Blair and George Bush. At the same time both men are working to lower the burden of proof–from finding weapons to finding evidence that there were programs to develop them, even if they lay dormant since the 1980s.
- Andrew Buncombe, journalist with the London Independent. He recently wrote "Blair and Bush Join Forces to Spin Away Weapons Issue"
AMY GOODMAN: Here on Democracy Now!, the war and peace report. The British and U.S. governments are drawing up a controversial new strategy to convince the public that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction, admission they have so far failed to make a convincing case. The big impact plan is designed to overwhelm and silence critics who have sought to put pressure on Tony Blair and George Bush. That’s how the latest piece begins in "The Independent" of Andrew Bunkun. Blair and Bush joined forces to spin away weapons issue. He joins us on the phone right now. Welcome to Democracy Now! Andrew.
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: Hi, how are you?
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you explain what this so-called big impact plan is?
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: Well, I can and I can’t. I mean, I can explain what the idea of it is, my concern is, one thing I can’t do is actually explain to you what they’re going to put in it. The idea is quite simple. Officials here in Washington and in London feel that the Downing Street and White House have failed to make the case about W.M.D., as I suspect, most of us are fully aware. And they say that while saying they claim they have found certain evidence, it’s come out piecemeal, and bit by bit, and hasn’t had any impact. Now, I’m not sure about that. I can think of one instance perhaps, of something that was even vaguely, looked like credible evidence, to start off with. That’s those two mobile pieces that practically everyone now conceives were for making helium. The idea is that they’ll gather whatever they have, they will collate it and put it together. Then later this year, perhaps as early as next month, they’ll deliver this in one big go, I think something similar to what Colin Powell did before the U.N. on, I think February the 5th it was, when he made his notorious, infamous presentation. So that’s the idea anyway. The idea to put it all together, have it in one big go. Like I said, I mean, that does imply that they have stuff to put in it which I think will come as surprise to many of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of the former U.N. Weapons Inspector, David Kay?
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: That’s right. Mr. Kay, a former weapons inspector, went into private consulting, for a company called SAIC which did a lot of work for the C.I.A. He was appointed in June by George Tenet to head what is called the Iraq Survey Group. This is the group looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction. That job is taken over from the Pentagon basically because the administration here didn’t feel that enough priority or importance was being attached to it. Now it has to be said that since Mr. Kay took over, as far as we know the results have been no better. You’ll recall back that during the build up to the war, Rumsfeld and others were talking of hot sites and specific information about locations of places they thought W.M.D. were. Well, and the troops have been there now for three months and nothing’s still been found. So whether or not this is going to be any different if Mr. Kay stays longer, I’m not sure. He was in Washington getting evidence to close door session of congress. When he came out afterwards this was when he started telling reporters, expect—American people should not be surprised by surprises, whatever that is MEANT to mean.
AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now! We’re speaking to Andrew Buncombe who has written a piece in the British newspaper, The Independent, "Blair and Bush Join Forces To Spin Away Weapons Issue". It’s been very interesting to listen to the administration add the word "program" now, every time they say weapons of mass destruction.
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: Absolutely. The language, any student of the language would be fascinated by the way in which London and Washington have gone through somersaults over the last 18 months. As you point out the most recent term has been on the addition of "program". I mean, I can remember sitting watching some Sunday morning talk show with Cheney on it, talking, I think it’s probably "Meet The Press", it usually is, talking quite clearly about Saddam’s reconstituting his—not just his weapons, his nuclear weapons, he said that back in September, I think. Now it’s changed to weapons program. Well we know that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. That’s been well detailed and well documented. The point he says it was also brought to a halt back in the 1990’s. If Mr. Kay finds evidence of a weapons program dating from then, what’s that going to tell us? Is that going suddenly be a sign of some justification?
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, being that you are from a newspaper in Britain, the latest on the David Kelly story.
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: Well, this seems to just go on and on, doesn’t it?
AMY GOODMAN: David Kelly of course being the man that the British government said committed suicide, the weapons inspector who was the source for the BBC story, on saying that the British government had exaggerated the threat of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal.
ANDREW BUNCOMBE: That’s right. I think it’s worth pointing out that the climate in Britain is extremely different to what it is in Washington here. People think that Bush has been getting a hard time. Well, he’s been getting nothing like the time that Blair has had and rightly so I think most people would say. Kelly, this is back—this was the source we think used by the Bbc to make one of the stories that government had overexaggerated claims of the threats from Iraq. Indeed, it took his life. A great deal of soulsearching since then, Tony Blair is likely to be called before a public inquiry and he’s going to have to give evidence. His Defense Secretary Jeff Hoon is going to have to give evidence, his Director of Communication Arthur Campbell likely will have to give evidence. Most people think that the last two names Hoon and Campbell basically are going to have to go so heads will roll. Blair is, probably safe in his job but who knows.
If suddenly public turn against him and the party feels that he’s no longer a benefit but actually hinderance to them, things happen very quickly in British politics, like we saw back in 1990 with Mrs. Thatcher—went from being the heroine of the conservatives, to very quickly being dumped. Who knows, it could happen with Blair yet.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Andrew Buncombe of The Independent, the British newspaper.
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