There were only two credible reasons for invading Iraq: control over oil and preservation of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Yet the government has kept silent on these factors, instead treating us to the intriguing distractions of the Hutton and Butler reports.
Butler's overall finding of a "group think" failure was pure charity. Absurdities like the 45-minute claim were adopted by high-level officials and ministers because those concerned recognised the substantial reason for war - oil. WMD provided only the bureaucratic argument: the real reason was that Iraq was swimming in oil.
Some may still believe the eve-of-war contention by Donald Rumsfeld that "We won't take forces and go around the world and try to take other people's oil ... That's not how democracies operate." Maybe others will go along with Blair's post-war contention: "There is no way whatsoever, if oil were the issue, that it would not have been infinitely easier to cut a deal with Saddam."
But senior civil servants are not so naive. On the eve of the Butler report, I attended the 40th anniversary of the Mandarins cricket club. I was taken aside by a knighted civil servant to discuss my contention in a Guardian article earlier this year that Sir Humphrey was no longer independent. I had then attacked the deceits in the WMD report, and this impressive official and I discussed the geopolitical issues of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and US unwillingness to build nuclear power stations and curb petrol consumption, rather than go to war.
Saddam controlled a country at the centre of the Gulf, a region with a quarter of world oil production in 2003, and containing more than 60% of the world's known reserves. With 115bn barrels of oil reserves, and perhaps as much again in the 90% of the country not yet explored, Iraq has capacity second only to Saudi Arabia. The US, in contrast, is the world's largest net importer of oil. Last year the US Department of Energy forecast that imports will cover 70% of domestic demand by 2025.
By invading Iraq, Bush has taken over the Iraqi oil fields, and persuaded the UN to lift production limits imposed after the Kuwait war. Production may rise to 3m barrels a day by year end, about double 2002 levels. More oil should bring down Opec-led prices, and if Iraqi oil production rose to 6m barrels a day, Bush could even attack the Opec oil-pricing cartel.