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The most dangerous dossier is the one marked 'War'

08 December 2002

There are ominous signs that the British government is shifting the focus in the build-up to a possible war against Iraq. Until last week the only issue was supposedly whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This in itself is far from straightforward. Hawks in the US and Britain will still find an excuse for war even if the United Nations weapons inspectors fail to discover such weapons or Saddam hands them over. Yesterday the US administration was already rubbishing the dossier prepared by Iraq before a word of it had been read. Over recent days the whisperings have predictably started in the US and Britain suggesting that the UN's weapons inspectors are not up to the job either, implying they could by easily duped by Saddam.

As we demonstrate on page 17, the US and Britain have contrived a situation in which nearly all paths lead to a war. Almost certainly, President Bush and Tony Blair have sought such an outcome from the beginning, and the discussions between them have focused more on the best way to bring this about.

Last week though, the British government extended the terms of the debate by publishing a dossier on Saddam's abuses of human rights. There are some horrendous examples in the dossier confirming what everybody has always known: Saddam is an evil tyrant.

The dossier has been criticised by Amnesty International and questions have been raised about its accuracy, suggesting that the authors in Downing Street might have taken more care in checking the facts before rushing to publication.

There is also the broader question of why the British government, with plenty of other matters on its mind closer to home, should see its role as being the main propagandist in preparing the world for war.

What is most disingenuous about the dossier is the implication that here is another reason for war. Sadly there are abuses against human rights in many other countries as well. There would be wars galore if military action was the solution in each case.

The abuses of human rights, however appalling, are a diversion. The single issue must remain Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The issue must be resolved under the auspices of the UN. The British government should not move the goalposts.