Lord Butler’s report has, much like the earlier Hutton report, exonerated the government and individual members of the government from blame; in relation to taking the UK to war on the false premise of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Butler has achieved this neat side-step by working on two mistaken assumptions:
- He has assumed, that with respect to the evidence on WMD; all parties and processes connected with the collation, processing and dissemination of the evidence functioned unsatisfactorily. Therefore, if all were to blame, no one individual could be held personally responsible or singled out for blame. He assumes that the UK government still operates under the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility.
- Butler also noted that if Prime Minister Blair had not really believed that there were WMD, then he would never have used that as an excuse for war. Butler holds to the belief that once the lie had come out, after the war, the Prime Minister’s position would have become untenable; ie it would have been irrational for the Prime Minister to lie.
Unfortunately, the pretence of collective responsibility has long since been abandoned by Prime Minister Blair; who has little interest in the seeking the approval or counsel of Parliament, or his colleagues in the Cabinet.
However, Butler ignores one very salient point, that is exactly what has happened. There were no WMD, and the Prime Minister is having to explain how this “error of judgement” occurred.
Unfortunately they don’t.
Protecting individuals from specific blame is the act of an honourable man. Unfortunately, the politicians that he protects are not honourable; and have readily in the past sought scape goats to protect their own positions, when errors of judgement and incompetence threaten their privileged positions.
The argument that it would be irrational for Blair not to tell the truth, shows how little Butler understands Blair. Blair did not care whether there were WMD or not, the possibility of there being WMD was enough to use in his argument to take the UK to war.
Blair, as a lawyer, knew that whatever the outcome of the search for WMD he would always be given the benefit of the doubt; ie that he acted in the best interests of the country. It could never be proven that he had deliberately lied, it is after all still an essential part of the law that you are innocent until proven guilty.
I am afraid that Lord Butler, being a man of honour and integrity, inhabits a world that has long since ceased to exist; which is exactly why he was chosen to prepare the report.
An honourable man cannot be accused of deliberately colluding with the government in a cover up.