The Butler Report is a perfect example of the POSIWID of prejudice. Its very title – the failure of intelligence - is a dead giveaway. Its POSIWID is simply to establish that the invasion of Iraq was an intelligence-based exercise and that the intelligence was insubstantial. In fact it was entirely political. As such it had a perceived need for an intelligence fig-leaf. And consequently a need for fig-leaf reports.
As with Butler, as with everyone, my prejudices are important to me. Mine are mine though and most of them have stood the test of time. I nurture them and in return they nurture me back. Life just wouldn’t be the same without them. Would I, for example, stop thinking Lawson, Lamont, Howe, Barber and the like were not just totally incompetent chancellors but irresponsible and venal wasters to boot if I didn’t have anti-Tory prejudices taken in with my long-ago mother’s milk?
Wobbly as they might be, prejudices give us a platform to stand on while we look at the world. They make Schadenfreude possible and that’s enough to make them priceless. Even the downside – that everyone’s entitled to his prejudices – is no big deal, more of an upside really. You can’t really have one without the other.
Take Iraq on this day of the Butler Report (Bastille Day on which President Chirac wonderfully had the British Grenadiers leading France’s parade down the Champs Elysee). Personally, I was, and am, prejudiced against the invasion and when Bush’n’Blair come over all ‘we didn’t find any WMD but you have to admit the world’s a better place without Saddam and we’d do it all again’ my prejudices turn to outrage. When they say ‘we need to deal with the reality on the ground’ all I hear is them saying ‘we got away with it. We won. You guys lost’. For them the pressure is on me to let things go, to forgive and forget. (That’s to forgive an illegal invasion and forget the rule of law – some prejudices these.)
Iraq was less than eighteen months ago but exactly the same line is spouted by the wife of US Ambassador John Negroponte, newly installed as Iraq’s de facto ruler, about events of twenty odd years ago. In an interview with the Washington Post (29 June 2004) Mrs Negroponte said she was tired of talking about those days (when her husband oversaw the CIA's Central American civil war and deceived congress with the arms to Iran scam). “I want to say to those people: ‘haven’t you moved on? To keep fighting all that is old hat’.”
The thing with prejudices though is that they never get to be old hat. Not if they’re worth having in the first place they don’t. So me, I’ll take Butler's POSIWID for what it is, confirmation that ‘the intelligence community’ is precisely as good as LBJ reckoned the CIA was when he was president. He said they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel.