Chris Ames’s Iraq Inquiry Digest (so-called). Spinning by triangulated omission?


Comment at end

Or –

11th May 2011,

Catch up time.




The ‘Three views on spin’ post at Chris Ames’s so-called Iraq Inquiry Digest reminded me of something I’ve had sitting neglected in draft.  But before I complete that particular post I’d like to  mention Mr Ames and his mode of argumentation.

In his hunt-the-WMD-or-uncover-the-LIES-or-spot-the-SPIN game Mr Ames concentrates on the “spin” angle. Linking that element to the “lies and “wmd”, as is the digest’s raison d’être, he contrasts the evidence of “anonymous witness Mark Allen SIS4″ with that of David Omand.  Sir David Omand held the post of Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office from June 2003 until he retired in April 2005.



SIS4/David Omand/Freedman & Blair

They used to call Tony Blair, indeed still do, the master of triangulation. Chris Ames’s post, like Blair’s political credo,  is constructed geometrically.


Thus, in triangular fashion it gives the immediate if false impression that it is fair and balanced, and therefore amounts to an unquestionably admirable piece of work. But a look at the sides and the angles quickly shows that this triangle is hardly equilateral.

It could pass for an isosceles triangle, of two equal lengths. Two sides against Blair, one for.

Lawrence Freedman/Tony Blair c/w SIS4 c/w - David Omand

But I lean more to the view that Mr Ames’s construction is an obtuse triangle, where one of the angles is more than 90 degrees providing us with one short side to the construction. That short side is the evidence (or ‘spin’ as Mr Ames refers to anything which he finds a touch disagreeable) which empathises with the former prime minister’s position over Iraq.


SIS4’s selected evidence passes without criticism, and is considered worth mentioning twice at Ames’s piece – start and end.  The selected exchange between Sir Lawrence Freedman, where Freedman’s points are made with far more weight and prominence than Blair’s is the clearest evidence of the imbalance of this triangulation.

Still not convinced? Then let’s do another little mathematical calculation. Freedman’s word count in Ames’s piece is 72, compared with Blair’s of 23. More than three times.  And that’s only ONE side of the triangle, the longest side in my illustration.

So much for a so-called “Iraq Inquiry Digest“. More indigestible than palatable.

As far as Ames is concerned SIS4, the “anonymous witness” (not a politician, so obviously more trustworthy!) had an opinion of greater worth and value than those of Omand or Blair. His (quoted) words are not questioned or criticised. Ames also manages to opine that Chilcot himself disagreed with Omand. Amazing how mind-reading develops organically when one becomes a convinced WE ALL KNOWer.

“Omand’s view, with which John Chilcot openly disagreed, is that it is legitimate to base a case for war on the misrepresentation of intelligence which is, in SIS4’s words, incapable of sustaining the weight put upon it.”

By contrast the civil servant understood the politician’s predicament in this world where undeciding and hesitant politicians are regarded as weak. David Omand comes in for criticism in Ames’s post, in relation to his comparison with the so-called views of Chilcot.

And then there’s one of the Chilcot Inquiry panel – Sir Lawrence Freedman.  Part of the exchange between Sir Lawrence Freedman and Tony Blair in January of LAST year, January 2010 is included. This serves to make the point presumably, that a disinterested but informed outsider has doubts.  And that, as a disinterested outsider, his doubts should (clearly!) have more validity than the opinions or actions of mere politicians and their servants.

[Aside: Presumably it is perfectly au fait with current thinking for Ames to disclose the name of witness SIS4 on the grounds that this is the internet, so a values-free, lawless zone?

At his blog post of 6th May – “Who Is SIS4?” – Ames very kindly, helpfully, clever so-and-so like, blames Paul Waugh’s speculation saying:  “In his blog in January, The compelling evidence of SIS4, Paul Waugh speculated that this very important but anonymous witness was Sir Mark Allen, a former director of MI6/SIS.”]


The reason I suggest “spinning by omission” is that, as Ames himself points out in his response to Stan Rosenthal, readers have to come to such places as this blog in order to read full, unedited transcripts of Tony Blair’s words. I really do NOT just choose the ‘supportive’ parts of Blair’s record.  Perhaps Ames should cease selecting what he can spin as unsupportive.

Ames’s selective quote on, you’ve guessed it, WMD, follows.

‘And finally, there is this exchange from January 2010: (on page 106/249, Tony Blair’s 2010 evidence)

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Indeed, and this indicates, perhaps, a problem going back to the dossier and the specificity there. If it had been said that there was a continued intent of Saddam Hussein to have a weapons of mass destruction programme, then that might have — that would undoubtedly have had a degree of credibility, but the problem was that the specificity was that it was there, it had been reconstituted and the weapons were there.

RT HON TONY BLAIR: But this is, as I say — and I think, Sir Lawrence, you are absolutely right. This is absolutely at the crux of it.’

From this exchange, Ames concludes this.

‘Here are three views on the tendency to over-egg the intelligence case on wmd, with Blair coming as near as he has ever done to admitting that he took Britain to war on a false pretext. The context of Blair’s response was his more recent justification of the war on the basis that Saddam Hussein would have remained dangerous, even if he didn’t actually have the weapons that Blair claimed he had. Omand’s view, with which John Chilcot openly disagreed, is that it is legitimate to base a case for war on the misrepresentation of intelligence which is, in SIS4’s words, incapable of sustaining the weight put upon it.’

I have two observations on this:

  • 1. This from Blair – “This is absolutely at the crux of it” is only a partial quote. Mr Blair had not finished arguing his point. Ames suggests, by adding no more of Blair’s response, that Blair agreed with Freedman. In fact exactly the opposite was the case. A dreadful piece of literary licence. Or worse – bending and SPINNING the truth.
  • 2. This selected and partial quote is from 2010 and makes no reference to Blair’s 2011 evidence which casts much more light on the WMD issues and the reasons for pursuit of Saddam. I will write on this in another post.

Of course Mr Ames uses the part(s) he believes serves his purposes. But his digest is no more a disinterested record or “digest” of the Iraq Inquiry than my blog is a site dedicated to Gordon Brown.

I am not the only one, surely, to notice the spinning by omission which is frequently employed at Mr Ames’s so-called “digest”?


Mr Blair’s continuing line of argumentation, where it is clear that he is not “coming as near as he ever has to admitting … on a false pretext” is never alluded to in Ames’s selective point scoring.

This, pasted from the Iraq Inquiry’s own records, is that particular section in context [From page 106 of 249 pages here of the January 29th 2010 transcript from Tony Blair’s evidence]:

4 SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Indeed, and this indicates, perhaps,
5 a problem going back to the dossier and the specificity
6 there. If it had been said that there was a continued
7 intent of Saddam Hussein to have a weapons of mass
8 destruction programme, then that might have — that
9 would undoubtedly have had a degree of credibility, but
10 the problem was that the specificity was that it was
11 there, it had been reconstituted and the weapons were
12 there.

13 RT HON TONY BLAIR: But this is, as I say — and I think,
14 Sir Lawrence, you are absolutely right. This is
15 absolutely at the crux of it.

16 SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: It is a problem, and I do want to
17 get on to Dr Blix now because it is a problem — and we
18 discussed this a lot with Lord Goldsmith as well — that
19 it is true that the issue of material breach was around
20 the question of non-cooperation with the inspectors,
21 rather than hiding particular weapons —

22 RT HON TONY BLAIR: Well, sorry. Just — it is really very
23 important to get this right. It is absolutely clear
24 from the Iraq Survey Group, and indeed the Butler Report
25 deals with this, that he was concealing material he
1 should have delivered up to the UN, that he retained the
2 intent, not merely in theory, but was taking action on,
3 for example, dual-use facilities that were specifically
4 in breach of the United Nations Resolutions.

5 SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: I’m not actually disagreeing that
6 there were significant elements of material breach in
7 Saddam’s behaviour. This is really as much about the
8 diplomacy and what is going on in New York as it is
9 about what is going on in Iraq.

[See more from this section at and around page 106 here of the January 29th 2010 transcript.]

If Chris Ames is really trying to sound balanced in his great Iraq Inquiry digest game he should at least include the context and the retort of Blair. Not a few words which he interprets as being as near as Blair has come to a confession.

In the next post I wish to highlight to the interested reader something which may or may not have appeared at Ames’s site.  If it did, forgive me if I imagine it may have been glossed over. Or spun.


1. As Twitters espouse to their little heart’s content and bloggers opine in their immaculate ignorance, Privacy law situation is crazy, says culture secretary.

‘Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said Parliament, not judges, should make decisions about privacy issues.

He said it was a “crazy situation” that super-injunctions were banning newspapers from publishing stories which were freely available online.’

2. Meanwhile in the Lords tonight, not yet findable online, the government lost the vote regarding its proposal to set fixed terms for this and ALL ensuing parliaments. This is a policy neither of these two parties put to the voters in 2010. I am so pleased to hear this news from the Lords. It is THE most illiberal constitutional proposal I have yet to hear from this Liberal/Conservative government.  Whatever else we do there is NO way we should tie ourselves to this particular (presently imploding) government for 5 years, or in fact to ANY future government. If we don’t think it’s working we must be free to kick it out!

Labour MP, David Cairns dies, aged 44

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said Westminster, politics and the Labour party would all be poorer without Mr Cairns.

“David’s life was dedicated to public service. He was a committed and conscientious constituency MP, an excellent government minister and a passionate campaigner for social justice, equality and opportunity,” he said.

“But more than that, David was, quite simply, a good man, with time for everyone and a wonderful sense of humour, which made him a delight to be around.”

According to the Public Whip site David Cairns strongly supported the Iraq war and in 2003 and subsequently voted against the continuing calls by some for further inquiries into issues surrounding the Iraq war.

David Cairns MP, Inverclyde voted strongly against this Commons proposal –  Iraq Investigation – Necessary


Next post: ‘Iraq Inquiry Update 2. Tony Blair’s “may have been” on WMD was missed by the press. His Weapon of Media Destruction not noticed. Why not?’

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