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Thursday, October 14, 2004
Bliar’s last line of defence

In his article, Scarlett must go in The Grauniad today, Timothy Garton Ash argues that:
John Scarlett, the head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, should resign. He should resign because he was, in his previous job as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), directly responsible for the false prospectus on which Britain went to war in Iraq.
He goes on to explain that:
The September 2002 dossier, of which Scarlett claimed bureaucratic "ownership", made intelligence-based claims about the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction which the Iraq Survey Group has conclusively established were wrong. The prime minister, the foreign secretary and other cabinet ministers have now admitted as much.
Now, here’s an interesting observation:
Lord Hutton famously concluded that the prime minister's desire to make the case as strong as possible "may have subconsciously influenced" Scarlett. Whether the influence was conscious or subconscious, it seems a fair bet that finding yourself in that charmed but also embattled inner circle of power, behind the door of 10 Downing Street, with the prime minister's favour depending on your coming up with the intelligence goods, and your own future appointment as head of SIS depending on the prime minister's favour, might turn even the strongest head. This is speculation on my part.
OK, so let’s speculate a bit further. Let us suppose that Bliar’s appointment of Scarlett had a bit more to it than as a natural promotion for a capable officer and as a reward for conniving at ‘sexing up’ the evidence for WMDs.

Doesn’t the very appointment act as a line of defence for Bliar? The more fire Bliar comes under, the more he will be able to push the ‘guilty’ Scarlett into the firing line. If Scarlett stays, Bliar will be able to continue to hide behind him. If Scarlett has to go, it’s possible that his demise will take some of the heat off Bliar himself, just as Tenet’s departure partially exonerated Bush.

Is it possible that Scarlett’s scalp, called for here by Garton Ash, will assuage those calling for Bliar’s, too? I doubt it but keeping Scarlett as Head of SIS makes the impeachment process more drawn out and difficult for those who want the Bliar nailed once and for all. Do we really have to shoot a monkey, albeit a significant one, to get at the bloody organ grinder?

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