Title:                      Intelligence

Author:                 Susan Hasler

Hasler, Susan (2010). Intelligence. New York: Thomas Dunne Books-St. Martin’s Press

LCCN:    2010002340

PS3608.A847 I58 2010


Date Posted:      April 24, 2017

Review by Patrick Anderson[1]

Susan Hasler, who toiled at the CIA for 21 years, has written a first novel called Intelligence (an ironic title if there ever was one) that’s a biting satire of the agency she once called home. Maddie James, Hasler’s 38-year-old heroine, is a little bit crazy. Her work as an “alchemist” in the “Mines”—an analyst for the CIA—has left her that way. Among the things that drive her mad are her pantyhose, her nutty mother, her worthless ex-husband and her mostly nonexistent sex life. She talks a lot to her pet rabbit, Abu Bunny, and bases some of her predictions about possible terrorist attacks on nightmares that have their origins in her having been terrified by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz when she was 6.

But Maddie’s biggest frustration is that, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, she and her fellow alchemists were right. They insisted that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks and possessed no weapons of mass destruction, but the Bush administration ignored them and persisted in launching a war against the wrong country. The novel’s biggest villain is an unnamed “VP” who battered CIA directors into submission and forced alchemists like Maddie to suffer in silence. Be it noted that Hasler resigned from the CIA in 2004, the year after the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

The main action of the novel comes a few years later in the Bush administration, when Maddie and her fellow alchemists become convinced that a new attack on American soil is at hand. They have a certain amount of chatter to go on—fragments of intercepted cellphone talk—and are trying desperately to connect the dots. We readers know Maddie and her fellow alchemists are right because Hasler takes us into the mind of a young Arab who is planning a suicide attack here in Washington. This young man, after a wretched childhood, seeks peace in jihad. He is thrilled by the prospect of taking thousands of Americans to their deaths and indifferent to his own: “For what I must do,” he thinks, “my individual, personal life has to be abandoned like the useless trivia that it is.”

As Maddie and her friends attempt to thwart this plot, the author treats us to a take-no-prisoners portrait of the CIA. Although right about the Iraq war, Maddie and her fellow analysts are mostly hapless eccentrics. (One is a “licensed opossum rehabilitator.”) Even their sex lives are presented as comic relief. Hasler saves her most pointed attacks for the agency’s political masters. The thuggish VP and the president himself are only glimpsed from afar (a report that “The President doesn’t want to hear this” dooms their impassioned case against the invasion of Iraq); but two others, a woman and a dead man, are roasted at length.

The dead man is a former CIA director who sounds a lot like William J. Casey, the Reagan pal who headed the agency when Hasler joined it in 1983. This character is presented as a cynical manipulator who twisted facts to suit his political ends—and his sins are rewarded with an inglorious death by doughnut. (“The man collapsed at his desk, falling forward into a large powdered doughnut filled with raspberry jam.”) The other villain is a woman called Dr. Beth Dean (a.k.a. Death Bean), a comely young Bush foreign-policy adviser who is “a rich, spoiled political appointee” and sports “a blond helmet” and “the requisite triple strand of Republican pearls.” Is it my imagination, or is this woman still out there making anti-Obama pronouncements on cable news shows?

Along the way, Hasler offers mostly despairing insights into the CIA. Maddie says, “If there is one hard lesson I’ve learned in this town, it’s that ass-covering trumps national security every time.” “There are no policy failures, only intelligence failures,” Hasler tells us twice, meaning that the White House and Congress never make mistakes, only drones like Maddie. The terrorist attack that Maddie is trying to prevent leads to a spectacular event—no more details will be revealed here—that the Bush administration tries to use to justify an invasion of another Middle Eastern country. Is history about to repeat itself? Or will Maddie and her fellow alchemists be able to prevent another disaster?

Of course, if you think the invasion of Iraq was necessary, even wise, you’ll hate this novel. But if you think it was a tragedy brought about by top-level arrogance and deceit, you’ll probably savor Hasler’s bitter comedy. It’s a very funny book about a deeply unfunny slice of recent history. Read it and weep—but you’ll be laughing too.

[1] Patrick Anderson, Washington Post (July 5, 2010). Anderson reviews thrillers and mysteries for The Post. Downloaded April 24, 2017


Title:                      Duty

Author:                  Robert M. Gates

Gates, Robert Michael (2014). Duty : Memoirs of A Secretary At War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

LCCN:    2013026348

E897.4.G37 A3 2014


Date Updated:  June 23, 2015

Reviewed by Greg Jaffe[1].

Maybe it was the time of year, just before the Christmas holidays. Maybe it was the setting—a bare-bones combat outpost in the violent mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Maybe it was the strain of more than four years of signing deployment orders that he knew would lead to the deaths of more young Americans. But in December 2010, speaking to troops clustered around him, Robert M. Gates was overcome by an uncharacteristic flood of emotion.

The soldiers in their dirt-splattered uniforms had been ordered to stop whatever they were doing and listen to the defense secretary, who, with his neatly parted white hair, khakis and starched button-down shirt, looked as if he had helicoptered in from another planet. “I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you,” Gates said. “I feel the sacrifice and hardship and losses more than you’ll ever imagine. I just want to thank you and tell you how much I love you.”

It is impossible to imagine former wartime defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney or Robert McNamara ever telling his troops that he loved them.

As a military reporter who covered Gates throughout his nearly five-year tenure and witnessed many of his increasingly emotional thank yous to troops in Afghanistan, I often wondered what was going on inside his head: He rarely showed anger or frustration. “I have a pretty good poker face,” he explains in his new memoir, Duty.

While his rivals at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon loudly staked out their positions, Gates held back his opinion. The uncertainty about where he stood was a source of his power, allowing him to swoop in at the last moment and broker a bargain, usually on terms that were most acceptable to him. Unlike his predecessors, he had a reputation for quietly and ruthlessly holding subordinates accountable. He fired senior people, including Gen. David McKiernan, his top wartime commander in Afghanistan, whom Gates thought wasn’t up to the job—the first such dismissal since the Korean War.

In his new book, which has nearly 600 pages of text, Gates takes the reader inside the war-room deliberations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and delivers unsentimental assessments of each man’s temperament, intellect and management style. “It is difficult to imagine two more different men,” Gates writes.

Gates left Washington in 2011 with a reputation as a steady, sober-minded member of the foreign policy establishment who had served eight presidents and was admired equally by Republicans and Democrats. The next time Gates visits the capital, his reception may not be quite so warm. Duty is his second memoir, and this time he cuts loose.

He slams Congress for its grandstanding and gridlock. “I would listen with growing outrage,” he writes, “as hypocritical and obtuse American senators made all these demands of Iraqi legislators and yet themselves could not even pass budgets.” He describes members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee as “rude, nasty and stupid.”

Joe Biden haters will enjoy Gates’s description of the vice president as loud, garrulous and obsessed with politics over substance. “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates writes. He accuses the vice president of poisoning Obama’s relationship with his generals: “I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, ‘the military can’t be trusted.’ ”

Gates admires Obama’s decisiveness and smarts, but accuses him of sending troops to fight and die in support of a strategy in Afghanistan that, according to Gates, the president himself believed would fail. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates writes.

He recounts his thoughts during a tense 2011 meeting with Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, in the White House Situation Room: “As I sat there I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

The critique will infuriate the parents and spouses of troops who were killed trying to execute Obama’s Afghan war strategy. But Gates doesn’t prove his damning accusation and can be maddeningly self-contradictory in his criticism of Obama. He describes the president’s decision to send 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan as courageous and politically unpopular. “Obama overruled the policy and domestic political concerns of his vice president and virtually all the senior White House staff,” Gates writes. Why would the president pursue a politically unpopular strategy that he believed would fail? Gates never attempts to explain the contradiction.

Though he decries Obama’s White House staff as the “most centralized and controlling” since the Nixon administration, he offers little substantive criticism of the president’s big decisions on Afghanistan. Hawkish Republicans and some in the military slammed Obama for putting firm limits on the number of troops he was willing to send to Afghanistan and for setting a withdrawal date, saying the timelines and troop caps betrayed a lack of resolve and emboldened the enemy. Gates, however, dismisses this argument, writing, “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”

Gates’s problem with the president is less about strategy or substance than about heart. “I myself, our commanders, and our troops had expected more commitment to the cause and more passion for it from him,” Gates writes. He compares Obama unfavorably with Bush, who “had no second thoughts about Iraq, including our decision to invade.”

No civilian in Washington was closer to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than Gates. As Washington and the rest of the country were growing bored with the grinding conflicts, he seemed to feel their burden more acutely. He describes how his trips to Afghanistan and Iraq wore on him: “On each visit I was enveloped by a sense of misery and danger and loss.” His anger at Obama, Congress and even some in the Pentagon seems to spring from his belief that they didn’t match his sense of mission in Afghanistan. They didn’t feel the sting of the troops’ deaths with the intensity that he felt.

More than 3,800 soldiers and Marines died on Gates’s watch in Iraq and Afghanistan. The losses are small compared with the numbers in the Civil War, World War II or Vietnam. But for Gates and his generals, they were extraordinarily difficult to bear. Gates spent most of his evenings as defense secretary alone, writing condolence letters to the families of the deceased. He asked his staff for a picture of the soldier and some hometown news clippings so that he would be able to personalize his message. It was a major change from the early days of the war, when Rumsfeld relied on an autopen machine to sign the letters—a practice he abandoned after lawmakers publicly flayed him for it.

Like Gates’ profession of love for the troops in Konar, his descriptions of the guilt and pain he felt from these losses are touching, heartfelt and occasionally a little over the top, especially when he recounts his predawn jogs around the Mall in Washington: “I would ritually look up at that stunning white statue of Lincoln, say good morning, and sadly ask him, How did you do it?”

McNamara published his autobiography, In Retrospect, two decades after the Vietnam War as a kind of pre-death-bed confession. “We were wrong, terribly wrong,” he wrote of his and his colleagues’ mistakes. Rumsfeld’s autobiography, Known and Unknown, was fueled by his desire to settle scores with his Bush administration foes and shoot back at critics of his tenure as defense secretary.

Gates, widely considered the best defense secretary of the post-World War II era, seems to have been driven by a desire to sort through all of the anger, frustration, sadness and guilt that he held inside during his tenure. The book comes off a bit like an extended therapy session.

In public Gates was always polite and in control. His private and deep sense of obligation to the men and women he was sending to war made him an effective defense secretary. He fought to buy special mine-resistant vehicles for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan over the objections of many of his generals, who didn’t want to spend the money. He forced the Air Force to scale back its plans to buy high-tech fighter jets and instead to boost spending on surveillance drones that were desperately needed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He insisted that the military add field hospitals and helicopters in Afghanistan to ensure that every wounded soldier or Marine would receive treatment within an hour of his injuries. Military doctors insisted that two hours was fast enough. Gates imagined a wounded soldier waiting for a helicopter in the dirt and dust, and told the military doctors and generals to make it an hour.

There are moments when Gates seems to realize that he let his pain, guilt and frustration overwhelm his judgment in the latter days of his tenure. “My fuse was really getting short,” he writes. “It seemed like I was blowing up—in my own, quiet way—nearly every day, and no longer just in the privacy of my own office with my staff.”

Like most soldiers, journalists and civilians who passed through Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates still seems to be struggling to make sense of his war years and the toll they took on him. He says he is “indescribably proud” of the U.S. military’s efforts to stem the chaos in Iraq and believes that the American war effort in Afghanistan is on a path to reasonable success. He also carries the heavy burden of knowing that troops were killed and maimed following his orders.

This confusing, frustrating and sometimes fascinating book is best summed up by a pair of conflicting statements Gates uttered during his tenure. In a meeting with Obama’s national security team a few days before the president’s inauguration, Gates described being defense secretary as “the most gratifying experience of my life.” Only days earlier, in an e-mail to a friend, he confided: “People have no idea how much I detest this job.”

[1] Greg Jaffre in The Washington Post (published: January 7, 2014). Greg Jaffe covered the Pentagon for The Washington Post and is a co-author of The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army.

The War After The War

Title:                      The War After The War

Author:                  Anthony H. Cordesman

Cordesman, Anthony H. (2004). The War After The War: Strategic Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington, D.C.: CSIS Press, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

LOC:       2004011306

DS79.76 .C677 2004

Date Posted:      April 1, 2013

This book is an examination on how the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will play out. The author explains that even with winning the war, the US will have to deal with the fallout from the destruction of the countries. About this book, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to the President said, “The most incisive analysis of U.S. strategic blunders in Iraq.”

The United States still has every chance to achieve some form of victory in Iraq and Afghanistan if it persists, commits the necessary resources, and accepts the real-world limits on what it can do. But the United States can also lose the peace in both countries as decisively as it won the wars. No one can predict how the combination of nation building, low-intensity combat, and Iraqi and Afghan efforts to recreate their nations will play out over the short term. Regardless, the United States must reshape much of its approach to both countries if it is to win even a limited form of victory. More generally, it must react to the strategic and grand strategic lessons of both conflicts to reshape its defense and foreign policy, as well as the way the U.S. government is organized to deal with terrorism and asymmetric warfare. Following up on his widely praised 2003 book, The Iraq War, Anthony Cordesman[1] now focuses on the war after the war, the lessons to be learned from the “post-conflict” periods, and how they all fit into the broader context of the continuing war on terrorism.

[1] Anthony H. Cordesman hold the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS and is a national security analyst for ABC News.

Beyond the Iraq War

Title:                      Beyond the Iraq War

Author:                  Michael Heazle

Heazle, Michael;(2006) and Iyantul Islam. Beyond the Iraq War: The Promises, Pitfalls, And Perils of External Interventionism. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

LOC:       2006005891

E183.8.I57 B49 2006

Date Posted:      March 29, 2013

This book takes a look at the circumstances under which invading Iraq, and any other country, would have been most effective versus how the US handled the invasion. It examines the cost-benefit relationship for the decision, and the fallout once the decision has been made.

Kevin Rudd[1], writing in the foreword to the book says, “The main lesson from the Iraq experience so far has been the enormous costs of military intervention. The effects of a doctrine of interventionism on both the target country and the international political environment in general are profound and far-reaching. As a test case, Iraq has demonstrated a clear need for both the costs and benefits and the circumstances under which intervention should occur to be much better defined and understood. Careful evaluation of the thinking and goals behind the Iraq intervention, the difficulties it faces, and its status as a “test case” for dealing with conventional and non-conventional threats alike is required. This volume on the promises and perils of interventionism, therefore, is both timely and significant.”

This book critically analyses the topic of US-led external interventions in the affairs of developing countries by using one of the most contested experiments of modern times, namely, the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. The March 2003 invasion of Iraq has so far failed to deliver the benefits and outcomes its supporters anticipated, prompting international discussion as to whether the promises of externally-led nation-building (as an attempt to mould rogue states in a democratic, market-friendly fashion) are outweighed by the kinds of pitfalls and perils of intervention that have come to characterize the Iraq experience. This book identifies and addresses the major issues emerging from the current debate including the evolution of external interventionism as an idea, an explanation of what went wrong in post-Saddam Iraq and why the Iraq experiment is flawed by the Bush administration’s refusal to address long standing political and historical grievances among Muslims as part of the “War on Terror”. The contributors assess the troubled relationship between Islam and the West, the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, foreign policy debates in the US, and how economics and politics are juxtaposed in a highly contentious manner in any project of externally-driven nation-building.

Beyond the Iraq War brings together scholars and practitioners in an attempt to move beyond the polemical dimensions of the existing debate and provide a balanced analysis of what the Iraq enterprise can tell us about the brand of external interventionism espoused by the Bush administration and also the lessons it holds for any future interventions into the affairs of states. It combines a mix of disciplines, most notably international relations and economics as well as theory and empirical evidence. The book is written in a non-technical, but rigorous, manner in order to make complex and diverse issues accessible to the general reader.

This fascinating and scholarly work will appeal to academics and scholars in the fields of political economics, political science and international relations. Policymakers, journalists and media commentators will also find this work to be of great interest and value.

[1] Michael Rudd has been MP, Australian Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security

Scott Report

Title:                      Scott Report

Author:                  Sir Richard Scott

Scott, Richard (1996). Return to An Address Of The Honourable The House of Commons Dated 15th February 1996 for The Report of The Inquiry into The Export of Defence Equipment And Dual-Use Goods to Iraq And Related Prosecutions (5 Vol.) London: HMSO

LOC:       96203602

KD373.M38 S37 1996

Date Posted:      March 27, 2013

The Scott Report was a judicial inquiry commissioned in 1992 after reports of arms sales in the 1980s to Iraq by British companies surfaced. The report was conducted by Sir Richard Scott, then a Lord Justice of Appeal. It was published in 1996. Much of the report was secret.


In the late 1980s, Matrix Churchill, a British (Coventry) aerospace quality machine tools manufacturer, that had been bought by the Iraqi government, and was exporting machines used in weapons manufacture to Iraq. According to the International Atomic Energy Authority, its products later found in Iraq, were among the highest quality of their kind in the world. They were “dual use” machines that “could” be used to manufacture weapons parts. Such exports are subject to government control, and Matrix Churchill had the appropriate government permissions, following a 1988 relaxation of export controls. Crucially, however, this relaxation had not been announced to parliament – indeed, when asked in parliament whether controls had been relaxed, the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry replied incorrectly that they had not.

Matrix Churchill was contacted by HM Customs and Excise, under suspicion of exporting arms components to Iraq without permission. They had this permission but this was denied by the government, in line with the most recently announced policy on the matter. Matrix Churchill’s directors were therefore prosecuted in 1991 by Customs and Excise for breaching export controls.

The trial did not go well for the government—public interest immunity certificates obtained by the government to suppress some critical evidence (supposedly on grounds of national security) were quickly overturned by the trial judge, forcing the documents to be handed over to the defense. The trial eventually collapsed when former minister Alan Clark admitted he had been “economical with the actuality” in answer to parliamentary questions over export licenses to Iraq.

The Report

The Scott Report represents possibly the most exhaustive study produced to that date of the individual responsibility of ministers to Parliament. Scott comments on the difficulty of extracting from departments the required documents (some 130,000 of them in all) and notes how Customs and Excise could not find out what Ministry of Defence export policy was, and how intelligence reports were not passed on to those who needed to know. The Economist commented that “Sir Richard exposed an excessively secretive government machine, riddled with incompetence, slippery with the truth and willing to mislead Parliament”. The report characterized the nature of the government as:

The main objectives of governments are the implementation of their policies and the discomfiture of opposition; they do not submit with enthusiasm to the restraints of accountability—governments are little disposed to volunteer information that may expose them to criticism…. The enforcement of accountability depends largely on the ability of Parliament to prize information from governments which are inclined to be defensively secretive where they are most vulnerable to challenge.

Scott identified three main areas of democratic concern. First, the Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939 was emergency legislation passed at the outbreak of the Second World War. It allowed the government to issue regulations which were not subject to resolutions in Parliament, for the duration of the emergency, which would make it a criminal offence to export particular goods to particular countries. While the Act should have been lapsed in 1945, it remained in force, and had been modified in 1990 so as to become part of the Import and Export Control Act 1990.

The second area was the failure of ministerial accountability; the principle that “for every action of a servant of the crown a minister is answerable to Parliament”.

The third area was that of Public Interest Immunity certificates, which had been issued during the Matrix Churchill trial. As a result of these certificates, innocent men were in danger of being sent to prison, because the government would not allow the defense counsel to see the documents that would exonerate their clients. While some of these contained potentially sensitive intelligence material, many were simply internal communications: the certificates were intended to protect the Ministers and civil servants who had written the communications, rather than the public interest. Scott states:

The government is entirely frank in its desire to continue using ‘class’ claims in order to protect communications between ministers and civil servants from disclosure in litigation. One argument put forward is that, unless these communications are protected, the necessary candour between ministers and civil servants will suffer. I have to say that I regard this ‘candour’ argument as unacceptable.


The publication of the report was seen by many as the nadir of the 1990s Conservative governments of the UK. Prior to the report’s publication, those ministers who were criticised were given the opportunity to comment and request revisions. The 1,806 page report was published, along with a press pack which included a few relatively positive extracts from the report presented as if representative of the entire report, at 3:30pm. Given a then largely pro-government press, this proved effective at stalling an extensive analysis in the media.

The report had to be debated in parliament. Ministers criticized in the report were given advanced access to the report and briefed extensively on how to defend themselves against the report’s criticisms. In contrast, according to senior Labour MP Robin Cook, the opposition was given just two hours to read the million-plus words, during which scrutiny they were supervised and prevented from making copies of the report. Finally, the Prime Minister, John Major, stated that a vote against the Government would be in effect a vote of no confidence, ensuring that Conservative MPs would not vote against, while a vote for was a vote exonerating the Government of any wrongdoing. Robin Cook worked with a team of researchers to scrutinize the report, and delivered “what was regarded as a bravura performance”. Nonetheless, the Government won the vote 320-319.

Betrayed – The Real Story

Title:                      Betrayed – The Real Story

Author:                  David Leigh

Leigh, David (1993) and Richard Norton-Taylor. Betrayed: The Real Story of the Matrix-Churchill Trial. London: Bloomsbury

LOC:       96160612

KD 373 M37 L44 1993

Date Posted:      March 27, 2013

This is the Preface from Betrayed The Real Story of the Matrix Churchill Trial, re-typed by Clarion directly from a printed copy of the book.

Britain secretly helped to arm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The facts about this were concealed until the Matrix Churchill trial took place. The trial began at the Old Bailey before a jury on 12 October 1992. The three defendants, accused of illegally exporting munitions machinery to Baghdad, had been charged twenty months earlier, in February 1991. But extraordinary delays had stopped their case from being heard in public until well after the general election of April 1992 which confirmed John Major—victor of the Gulf War against Iraq—in office. The eventual trial of the three men was scheduled to last until Christmas. But four weeks later after a memorable cross-examination of Alan Clark, a former minister of the Crown, it abruptly halted. The prosecutor of the charge brought by HM Customs had not even finished presenting his case: but the jury was discharged and the three defendants in the dock formally acquitted. That afternoon’s splash front page in the London Evening Standard accurately conveyed a sense of the storm that was about to break: ‘”IRAQI ARMS DEAL TRIAL COLLAPSES. Three cleared as ex-Minister’s evidence is called inconsistent.”

Alan Moses, QC for HM Customs, told the judge that the Crown could no longer continue with the case because Alan Clark’s evidence under oath was “inconsistent” with what he had originally told Customs investigators in a witness statement. Clark’s testimony had been elicited by Geoffrey Robertson QC, counsel for the main defendant, with the help of a stack of Whitehall documents of the type normally kept secret in Britain—briefings prepared by top officials for Ministers; records of meetings of those Ministers; and, most secret and unprecedented of all, records from Britain’s two intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6. John Major’s Cabinet Ministers had signed orders concealing all this information from the court—Ministerial orders eventually overturned by the judge. Intelligence officers, as well as senior civil servants and government Ministers, were forced to come to the Old Bailey to testify.

The outcome of the case caused a political crisis. Quite how big that crisis is has so far been concealed, because the Prime Minister felt he had no alternative but to bow immediately to opposition demands for a judicial inquiry into the biggest scandal of the Conservative administration. Lord Justice Scott, a senior High Court judge, has been authorised to conduct an inquiry which begins later this year. His terms of reference enable him to sit in private to investigate the circumstances in which Britain secretly armed Iraq.

It was the extraordinary history of the Matrix Churchill trial which brought to light what happened. The conduct of the case was a legal tour de force. Government Ministers have been since all too anxious to muddy the waters—claiming the outcome of the case had nothing to do with the secret Whitehall files. They also said that Ministers never tried to suppress the truth. This book simply documents what happened and what facts really have emerged. They make startling, and sometimes bizarre, reading.

There has never before been such authentic and detailed material available about the operations of the British secret services and their influence on Whitehall—right down to verbatim copies of their own agents’ reports and their internal memoranda. Was the chief defendant betrayed by MI6? Was the foreign Secretary betrayed by his colleagues? And were the victims of Saddam Hussein betrayed by the British government? HM Customs’ determination to investigate and prosecute the defendants did not succeed in convicting them. But it did surgically slice open the underbelly of government, to reveal corruption within. Had the trial occurred earlier, it would have been much more difficult for John Major and the Conservative Party to win the last general election. It remains to be seen how much effect it will have on the next one.