The Spectator

Letters | 4 July 2009

Spectator readers respond to recent articles

On the Iraq inquiries

Sir: Lest myths become accepted as facts, may I correct two aspects of John Kampfner’s article (‘The secret Iraq deal’, 27 June) about the Iraq Intelligence Review, which I chaired.

First, a myth has grown up that the Review’s criticisms of the government were originally more trenchant but were watered down following government pressure. The facts are that, as fair procedure required, we gave those affected by our criticisms an opportunity to respond and make some verbal amendments in response to their representations. But I do not recall any instances in which these affected the substance of the criticisms.

Second, John Kampfner reports me as saying at the launch of the Review report that I did not hold any single individual responsible for the failures of intelligence and that I later regretted my ‘timidity’. I stand by the remark which Kampfner quotes and have not subsequently regretted it.

House of Lords, London SW1

The British in Basra

Sir: May I refute your assertion (Leading article, 27 June) that ‘Basra had to be liberated from the Shiite militias… by Iraqi and American forces in an operation that the British were not even informed about until it was underway.’ At the time the operation was launched, I was commanding the British brigade in Basra and standing in as divisional commander. I had spent part of the preceding week in Baghdad helping Iraqis prepare to present a three-step plan to defeat the militia in Basra to their prime minister. The corps’ desire was for the operation not to start until the battle against al-Qa’eda in Iraq had progressed further. However, following his briefing, Mr Maliki decided he would go straight to Step 3 of the Plan, starting the following day (Sunday, 23 March 2008).

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