John Simpson’s cock and bull story
On the 4th
anniversary of the invasion of
“I’ve gathered from government sources over a period
of time that British intelligence had two or three agents on the fringes of
Saddam Hussein’s inner circle here [in Baghdad]. But they weren’t close enough to Saddam to
know the best-kept secret of his rule: that at some stage in the 1990s, he got
rid of most of his weapons of mass destruction.
But why should he want to keep that a secret? British officials believe
it’s because he was afraid his neighbour,
Reading that, you would
never guess that, time without number in the years before the invasion,
On many occasions,
John Simpson says that Saddam
Hussein “got rid of most of his weapons of mass destruction” at some stage in
the 1990s, and kept this a secret from everybody but his inner circle. The latter is simply untrue. It was well known to UN inspectors that
One doesn’t need a deep
throat in the British intelligence services to know that
Hussein Kamel says all destroyed
Nor, apparently, does he
know that MI6 had intimate contact with a member of Saddam Hussein’s inner
circle in August 1995. This person told
MI6 in August 1995 that
The person in question
was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, who left
He even gave a TV interview with CNN on 21 September 1995. Asked by Brent Sadler:
“Can you state here and now - does
A transcript of this interview can be read on CNN’s website  today.
Hussein Kamel said the
same thing to a UNSCOM/IAEA team, led by the then head of UNSCOM, Rolf Ekeus,
which interviewed him in
“All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.” (p13).
On chemical weapons, he said:
“All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons.” (p13)
Earlier (p7), he
described anthrax as the “main focus” of
Asked about the 819
“Not a single missile left, but they had blueprints and molds [sic] for production. All missiles were destroyed.” (p8)
The BBC’s World Affairs Editor apparently knows nothing of this.
Hussein Kamel valuable informant
In the months before the US/UK invasion of Iraq, the US and UK Governments continually cited Hussein Kamel as a valuable informant about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” and as proof that interrogation of Iraqis who participated in these programmes, rather than detective work by UN inspectors, was the way to locate and destroy them.
On 18 March 2003, for example, Prime Minister Blair told the House of Commons :
“In August , it [
“Kamal also revealed
Plainly, in the Prime
Minister’s opinion, Kamel had provided valuable, and reliable, evidence about
Iraq Study Group
After the invasion, the
CIA established the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to find
“Following unexpectedly thorough inspections, Saddam
ordered Husayn Kamil in July 1991 to destroy unilaterally large numbers of
undeclared weapons and related materials to conceal
It seems that Hussein Kamel told the truth in August 1995.
Why did the BBC not tell us?
A member of Saddam Hussein’s
inner circle defected in August 1995 and said on the public record that
One might expect a senior
correspondent like John Simpson, with a long history of covering
Instead, John Simpson’s contribution
to informing the British people about
“They spent eight frustrating years combing
(Compare that to the
words of Rolf Ekeus, the first head of UNSCOM, who was asked at a seminar at
Harvard on 23 May 2000, if he thought
“I would say that we felt that in all areas we have
The invasion of
I have good reason to remember John Simpson’s words because I made a formal complaint to the BBC about them on the grounds:
that the inspectors were not thrown out by
(2) that the statement that UN inspectors “suspected Saddam had kept much of his deadly arsenal intact” was contrary to what they had written in their reports.
I asked that these errors of fact be corrected.
A year later, on 19 April 2004, the BBC’s Head of Programme Complaints finally conceded that “the phrase ‘thrown out’ should not have been used in relation to that withdrawal” and a note to that effect appeared in the BBC’s Complaints Bulletin. No correction was broadcast. However, I was told:
“On your other point, about the inspectors suspecting ‘that Saddam had kept much of his deadly arsenal intact’ you made a strong case for thinking that viewers would not have appreciated the extent to which Saddam’s arsenal had in fact been depleted (though ‘much’ is an indefinite term). However, I remain of the view that John Simpson’s words were defensible as an encapsulation of information he had been given in lengthy conversations with one of the inspectors.”
Apparently, the BBC considers that the appropriate way to establish what UN “inspectors suspected” in December 1998 is talk to just one of them in 2003 and take that as the opinion of them all, without checking this single source against the plethora of official reports by inspectors in 1999 and earlier, in which a very different view was expressed.
(My complaint to the BBC, and the extensive correspondence which followed, is posted on my website . It took nearly six months before I got an initial response, which contained a factual howler, and rejected both elements of my complaint. My reply pointing out the howler was ignored until I wrote to the Director General six months later. Apparently, there had been a lot of illness in the BBC Complaints Department which had delayed the BBC’s reply. )
Four years later nothing has changed. John Simpson presents as fact a cock and bull story derived from “government sources”, designed to excuse the Government for taking military action against Iraq for having “weapons of mass destruction”, when it had none. According to the Simpson story, the Government had no way of knowing that Iraq had no “weapons of mass destruction” in March 2003, since “at some stage in the 1990s” Saddam Hussein secretly “got rid of most of them”, and British agents weren’t close enough to Saddam to learn about this “best-kept secret of his rule”.
The fatal flaw in Simpson’s story is that Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law told MI6 about this “best-kept secret of his rule” in August 1995.
4 May 2007
Labour & Trade Union Review
 See www.publications.parliament.uk