It occurred to me that this story might not get all that much mainstream air time in the US, for reasons that will become obvious.
On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair‘s Labour government had knowingly “sexed up” the “September Dossier“, a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC’s chairman and director-general.
The reported intelligence in the run-up to the war, and the result of this enquiry, both stank to high heaven at the time, to many.
We’re a safe distance from those events now, Blair has his £5m per annum sinecure with JP Morgan, the political imperatives have changed, and you can’t kick the British establishment around, the way Blair and cronies did, without there being some scores to settle. So the official verdict, on the pre-war intelligence at least, is now somewhat different. From the FT:
So now we know. Iraq posed no real threat prior to the Anglo-American invasion of March 2003. There was no credible intelligence to suggest any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But what the assault on Iraq did do was proliferate jihadism across the Middle East and incubate Islamist extremism in the UK, leading to the London Tube and bus bombings five years ago and 15 other “substantial plots”.
Now we know? Hmm. Noted commie radical pinko Eliza Manningham-Buller, (I jest), weighs in with what has pretty much been the anti-war protesters’ view all along. FT again:
“Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director-general of MI5, the British domestic security service, told the UK war inquiry this week.
And the Hutton conclusion may or not have been right about Gilligan’s specific allegations, but it is now a matter of public record that there were attempts to manipulate the intelligence to show a greater threat from Iraq than actually existed. FT again (my emphasis):
…what makes Lady Manningham-Buller’s testimony so devastating is that this was the advice her service gave Tony Blair’s government at the time. Indeed, MI5 refused a request “to put in some low-grade” intelligence to beef up the September 2002 government document making the case for war “because we didn’t think it was reliable”.
A former UK diplomat, a Carne Ross, very angry about the victimization of David Kelly, described the manipulation process; FT again for the key summary:
Mr Ross…says containment of Saddam was working but neither the UK nor the US seemed interested in taking obvious steps to reinforce it. Instead, they gradually exaggerated the threat he posed, suppressing contrary opinion.
“This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty. But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies,” Mr Ross said.
“Lies”. Well, I did say, former diplomat. In fact he resigned from the Foreign Office in protest at the way the run-up to the war was conducted. He is slightly more indirect about the Hutton enquiry, but you don’t have to read very diligently between the lines to see that as the same sort of manipulation.
So…pending a similarly frank and revelatory enquiry in the States, I would recommend judicious scepticism about reports, let’s say, of alarming Iranian nuclear plans. If I understand the import of this enquiry testimony aright, I can’t imagine that supporting British intelligence will feature much in any such reports – the US will have to make its own evidence up next time. A chap can act as a poodle up to a point, but there’s a limit.
Of course you can transfer that scepticism across to anything else the adminstration of the day really, really wants to do. But I think many of you do that already.