Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Iraq Dossier: Source Q?

I see, in between the Northern Rock problem, the papers are reporting upon the FoI release of a draft 'Iraq dossier' written by Jack Straw's former press officer a few days before the JIC's first draft appeared which carried the infamous 45 minute claim. Of the papers I have read they all appear to have carried out comparison 'analysis' and noted that the two reports have strikingly similar wording. Thus, by implication, the newly released draft was not, as the Government says, the press officer working off his own back, but was instead part of the spin operation leading to the final dossier that was released. Oh the lies! Oh the spin!

John Baron, the Tory MP that pushed for the document's release has said that 'the Government must now explain why key passages of both documents are similar or identical'. Why it requires the Government to offer an explanation is beyond me I'm afraid because I can think of an obvious one in a flash. Source Q. I'm sure anyone mildly interested in theology will be aware of Q but if not here are basic details. Q is considered to be missing source for the Gospels. A missing source you see makes sense because there are certain, some might even say 'strinking' similarities between certain section of the Gospels. This suggests that there is a missing source, could be written, might just be spoken, but missing it is.

Now lets go back to the dossiers whilst keeping Q in our mind. It's probably fair to say that the Foreign Secretary' press officer come spin doctor, along with the JIC were privy to the same documents. As such it's also fair to say that they may both have used the same documents when they came to write their dossiers. So consider this, there is a Q document somewhere that they both used. Accepting this does not mean nothing was 'sexed up' in the final document. The point though is that similar wording in the JIC dossier to that of this earlier dossier does not mean, by necessity, that the former is a pre-cursor to the latter. It's entirely possible they both copied chunks from someone else.

I know this doesn't fit with the anti-war lobby's theme about the Iraq War all being based on some dark evil spun lies, but if you strip away political subjectivity and apply a bit of historical objectivity to the two documents it does not take a genius to come to the conclusion that the people that 'wrote' both probably did so on the basis of cut and pasting from the same raw intel report and then did a bit of rewording to make it read in a satisfactory way to their own personal style.

Instead of assuming that the released report is a piece of primary evidence and the JIC is a secondary piece in the 'big spin lie' narrative, it's more sane and sensible to consider the far more probable possibilty that both are secondary evidence based upon a primary source written by some spook analyst and distributed through the relevant upper echelons of the intelligence community.


Anonymous said...

Unlike the gospels, this would not exactly be difficult to verify. If there is such a document, why not release it?

Perhaps the case for war was not "based on some dark evil spun lies". However, if it had been, I would expect the government to behave in just the way it is now behaving.

America went into Iraq because of Bush's childish, cowboy-like desire to show his strength, combined with a naive view that everyone loves Americans if only they're given the chance. We went into Iraq because of a not yet fully understood desire of Tony Blair's to be someone on the world stage by associating himself with Bush - and, in a way, with the history of Thatcher's liberation of the Falklands.

Alex said...

Possible but implausible. After all, at the time they were written nobody thought thiswould be investigated, so put yourself in the shoes of the author of the second draft. Do you start from scratch or do hack about the first draft?

Theories about mysterious spooks and missing Dead Sea scrolls! Whatever next? You'll be telling us that Saddam's nukes are all buried in a field outside Damascus.

dizzy said...

It's not implausible at all. The poitnm is they both probably hacked an even earlier document. The refernce to Source Q was obviously meant to allude to how you evaulate evidence.

Cranmer said...

It is quite possible to reconstruct Q from its evident deployment in the synoptic gospels. While an intact Q may indeed be missing as a document, it manifestly exists in fragments which scholars have painstakingly been able to piece together. Of course there are some pieces of the jigsaw missing, but the theological flavour of Q is observable to those who have eyes.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Cranmer. Q is, for the most part, a different kettle of fish to this government document. Although, I can see where you're coming from in terms of the overarching metaphor. Still - if there is a government 'Q' - why not release it? Freedom of Information?

Geoffers said...

Usually, the simplest explanation that fits the observed facts is the preferable one. So, as plausible as the idea of Q might be, I don't like it.

This draft has been eked out of the Government despite their best efforts, suggesting that they thought it important. Add the fact that this draft wasn't made available to the Hutton Enquiry and I think you have grounds to suspect that this draft, written by a press officer instead of a spook, is the basis of the later dossiers. Which, if true, would make liars out of a whole passel 'o' critters.

Anonymous said...

Yes DIzzy of course...er..... do you feel well? That might even have been written by TIm Ireland....

dizzy said...

Did you never learn how to assess the possibility of primary, secondary and tertiary evidence at school? There are two options. The first is that it was a big conspiracy of spin. The second is that two people happened to lift the similar sentences from the same source and one of them did then spin it. Not difficult to get, and the latter is far less extravagently conspiratirial than the former.

If it was written by Tim ireland it woudl be accusing them of smearing him too.

Alex said...

Your theory is sort of undermined by the Hutton report:

'I am seen by some as a major contributor to the dossier.'
John Williams, authour of the frist draft

'This [draft dossier]has been significantly recast, with considerable help from John Williams... I know that John Williams is also looking at
the text, and may offer further views from New York.'

John Scarlett 10/9/02


"Significantly recast" doesn't sound like "drawn from a similar source" to me; sounds more like "hacked about".

And as for "bif conspiracies of spin", John Williams now thinks that he was part of one:


Benedict White said...

Dizzy you make a good point. As you say, if the documents are similar there are three explanations, the most ridiculous of which is that by coincidence two parties used several passages which are exactly the same because that is just how they write. The two more reasonable ones are, as you highlight, that the now known to be latter was an evolution from the former which has been denied, or they are both in fact drawn from the same primary source.

It seems to me that this is a good time to note the governments denial that A led to B, accept it, and point out that in that case the clear implication is that there is another document, can you confirm its existence, and can we have a copy please.

I do suspect it contains a bigger stinkpot, and surely all the people who want to hang this government can accept that getting a bigger stinkpot is a good idea?