MI6 Head explains the need to deceive the public over Iraq’s WMD

Tony Blair with President George W. Bush (George W Bush/White House Archives) and Richard Dearlove (Domusrulez – public domain via Wikimedia)

23 July 2002

On returning from Washington on 23 July 2002, the head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, was summoned by Tony Blair to join a hastily arranged meeting in the Prime Minister’s office. Also present were Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon,  Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, Cabinet Secretary Richard Wilson, Chief of the Joint Intelligence Committee John Scarlett and Chief of the Decence Staff Admiral Mike Boyce. The reason for the urgent meeting was so that Sir Richard could update the government on Washington’s real intentions towards Iraq. The MI6 boss explained that ‘Bush’s public statements that war would be a “last resort” were untrue. Military action was now seen as inevitable.’ Consequently, the task they faced would be to bring the public around to supporting the military option and in order to do that ‘the intelligence and facts’ about Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD would be ‘fixed around the policy.’1 Everyone in the room was sworn to secrecy and at the same time reminded that most of the Cabinet, some of whom might be squeamish about such a dishonest public relations campaign, were to be left in the dark. Deceit, disguised as pragmatic discretion, was of the utmost importance if Britain was to embark on a war which the vast majority of the population would otherwise be likely to oppose.


  1. Tom Bower, Tony Blair: The Tragedy of Power, Faber and Faber, London, 2016, p. 246.

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