On ABC radio recently, John Howard claimed that "everyone agreed Iraq had WMD". Is this claim correct, or just another example of "truth overboard"?
Let's be quite clear about one thing, there was no unanimous agreement that Iraq did in fact possess WMD. While Britain, Australia and America all insisted Iraq had reconstituted its arsenal of WMD, they could not provide any credible evidence to support that claim.
The UN weapons inspectors were given unprecedented powers to inspect facilities, interview officials and search for evidence of WMD in Iraq. The Security Council urged all governments to provide any information that would assist the inspection process.
Despite these efforts, combined with intensive satellite surveillance and intelligence gathering by the CIA and MI6, the UN weapons inspectors and other independent experts were unable to find any evidence to support the claim that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD.
In December 2002, just weeks before the invasion of Iraq, chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the UN Security Council "UNMOVIC at this point is neither in a position to confirm Iraq's [disarmament], nor in possession of evidence to disprove it."
Again in February, 2003, Blix told the Security Council that UNMOVIC had found no evidence of WMD in Iraq, challenged several claims made to the UN by Secretary of State Colin Powell and accused the US administration of withholding intelligence information.
Intelligence agencies were equally equivocal, but Messrs Bush, Howard and Blair ignored all these uncertainties, caveats and qualifiers, instead they selected the most dramatic and often unsubstantiated accusations in their effort to justify aggression against Iraq.
Hans Blix, Scott Ritter, Rolf Ekeus, Joe Wilson, Greg Theilmann, Ray McGovern, Andrew Wilke, David Kelly... there were many experts who did not agree, but Howard can say "everyone agreed" and the media just lap it up, it seems no one wants to challenge the lies, the deceit, the misrepresentations that have become daily fare from the Howard government.
To their credit, both the Age and the SMH published articles on August 18, that revealed Blix had told Howard there was no evidence of WMD in Iraq as early as January, 2003. Yet Howard continues to insist that everyone agreed Iraq possessed WMD.