A moment of truth and the need for truthWhat we think
THIS weekend a pall of silence and self-reflection hangs over the Prime Minister, his spin doctor, the MoD and the media. Each one must ask this question: how did the war over the truth of Iraqs WMD capability end with the death of Dr David Kelly?
For anyone who saw Tony Blair speaking from Tokyo yesterday it was clear that though he was reading an autocue his tortured expressions showed that his mind was elsewhere. After finishing his prepared speech about UK-Japan issues, the first question from the British press pack was: do you have the death of Dr Kelly on your conscience? With the same pained expression we first saw when he addressed the nation after Princess Dianas death, Blair sidelined the question by simply stating again that his thoughts were with the family and that he had nothing to add to his statement about a judicial inquiry.
This is a very different Blair to the swagger and hyperactive-mode we saw when the Prime Minister when he addressed the US Congress on Thursday night. If he thought that by wooing America and receiving 17 standing ovations (which by his own admission would not happen back in the UK), he was slowly putting the disastrous few weeks of the war over weapons of mass destruction behind him in time for his Barbados holiday (courtesy of fellow Christian Cliff Richard), then he was wrong. Within hours of leaving Washington, the ego landed with a deafening thud when, on the flight to Tokyo, the news of from the UK of Dr Kellys death came through.
Before we return to Dr Kelly, let us not fall into the trap that Blair and his chief advisor Alastair Campbell have set us in these past few weeks. The central charge against Blair is that he misled us about Saddam Husseins WMD capability and the immediate threat he posed to Iraqs neighbours and British and US interests. We were told of an arsenal which could be unleashed within 45 minutes: so did Blair and Campbell carefully constructed a decoy to throw us off the scent? Did they want to shift the agenda from the government not telling the truth to the BBC not telling the truth? To achieve that, did they unleash a war of words?
If so, why was it so critical to shift the agenda? The issue goes to the very heart of the crisis that Blair now finds himself impaled upon: whether or not he misled the British public. He said as much when he suggested the allegations made by the BBC and its reporter Andrew Gilligan were the most serious charges he had faced because they went to the heart of the matter: whether we could trust the Prime Minister. The defence of the Prime Minister became the paramount question for No 10. And when Blairs back is against the wall he wheels out his chief rottweiller, Alastair Campbell. The problem with Campbell is that, however decent a person he is in private, he is frequently an overbearing bully who takes no prisoners when he is in full fury.
Yet while Campbell was trying to hack chunks out of the BBCs ring of steel defences around its stories, Blair gave the game away in Washington when he told his audience and President Bush that, whatever the issue with WMDs I am confident that history will forgive us. That is the best we will get for now as an admission that he may have got it wrong on the WMD issue. He also by the way let slip another mask. Claire Short had told us that underlying all of Blairs key decisions was an obsession with how they would play with his place in history. Here is the moral Achilles heel of a conviction politician. The ends must not justify the means, and that may well be his undoing. And it was precisely this that the BBCs line of enquiry was trying to get to the heart of: namely was Blair telling the truth when he tried to persuade us that there was a prima facie case for war (cue: dodgy dossier et al)?
The old maxim that in war truth is the first casualty may well be the case again. The absence of truth has led to the death of a respected scientist, a microbiologist who has tried his best in the past to truthfully advise the government on Iraqs WMD proliferation and arms control since the first Gulf war.
Although the government has acted quickly and ordered a limited independent judicial inquiry, to be headed by Lord Hutton, there should be no premature celebrations that a long-called-for investigation will now take place. It will not. Lord Huttons inquiry will not be extensive, but it will be quick and relatively thorough. Expected to take weeks rather than months, it will not be the kind of comprehensive investigation many had hoped for. It will be limited in its scope with its time-line parameters limited to what lay behind the Kellys death.
But how limited can a search for the truth be? Kelly is dead, and we need to learn what events and pressures led to his death. Among a jigsaw of facts that might be pieced together to give a true picture of just what was happening to Kelly, it needs to be once and for all established: was the dead man Gilligans source? Kelly no longer has a right of reply and his name should not be dragged through mud simply because it is convenient to do so. Thus, it should be asked what events led up to Gilligan meeting with Kelly? We need to learn what happened to the doctor when he was being debriefed by the MoD after admitting he did speak to the BBC. It is said he was held in a safe house for five days simply because his home was surrounded by journalists. So what happened during these days?
In addition, Downing Street needs to be pressured into giving its side of this story: if there was no sexing up, was there use of impact information to highlight a particular point? In other words having accepted that Kelly cannot tell the truth for himself, can we speak to people who should know? And the BBC Today programme also needs to be investigated by the inquiry team. Only those with nothing to hide will be free to side-step the committee grilling.
So let us first be clear on this. A death has occurred. To begin limiting the scope of an inquiry, before most have thought through a chain of events, is wrong. Lord Huttons task is to try and uncover the truth, not search for an actualiti that will offend nobody and please all. Let the inquiry detail this sequence of events: a war is called, troops invade, the army fight through the streets and villages of Iraq relatively quickly. But if in retrospect in post-war examination, there are question marks over the reasons offered for going to war in the first place, only a government with something to hide would fear a larger inquiry.
There is an old phrase: Suppose they gave a war, and nobody came? Well a war was thrown and people both came and died. Gilligan and the BBC are blaming the government for overstating its case.
But we need to know what Gilligan told his bosses at the BBC, and we need to know how the BBCs internal machinery tried to offset the legal difficulty it got itself into. We also need to ask searchingly whether Gilligan was partially culpable through his articles in the Mail on Sunday which, through some of the detail, too closely identified his source, and the same goes for a Newsnight programme by Susan Watts. By putting together all the clues it could only add up to one person and Kelly probably felt his cover had been blown.
But having refused a full independent judicial inquiry over Iraq and our reasons for going to war, how will this inquiry make a difference? Would a detailed coroners inquiry have sufficed? Or are the government pretending to give in to public demand, when not giving in at all? The reality is that this inquiry must make a difference. If there was no Iraq war, perhaps Dr Kelly would still be alive. If this is indeed the case, then the run-in to the war is crucial and cannot be overlooked by a narrow narrow-minded inquiry. In principle, the reasons behind David Kellys death and the death of any soldier in the Gulf have much in common they are casualties of war who in death needed to be treated with respect. A limited, quickly blitzed Q&A will not be accepted as a full inquiry. We need truth and justice, and we need it unlimited, we do not need it in conveniently sized limited portions. Let the government be brave enough to recognise that Kellys death is a question that requires other questions to be answered if anything is to made sense of. Dr Kelly deserves to be buried with the truth, rather than more political conveniences. A failure to do so carries one fatal risk for the government: the truth will come out at some stage, a truth that, without spin, could well bury a prime minister and some of those around him.
20 July 2003How did it get to this?
THE e-mail dropped into Alastair Hays in-box at 11.17am on Thursday morning. It was from his old friend Dr David Kelly. It read simply: Many thanks for your support. Hopefully, it will soon pass and I can get back to Baghdad to get on with some real work.
Just over three-and-a-half hours later, Kelly walked out of his home in Southmoor near Oxford. On Friday morning, he was found dead beneath a copse of trees at Harrowdown Hill, just a few miles from his house. Kelly had taken the drug coproxamol, a codeine-based prescription painkiller regularly used in overdoses, and slit his left wrist with a knife.
Hay had known Kelly for years. Last September, Kelly had been there for his friend when Hays wife, Wendy, took her own life. To Hay, Kelly was a man of impeccable integrity. He had served his country quietly and bravely as one of the backroom boys a government scientist, weapons inspector and advisor on bio-weapons to both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.
Like all of Kellys friends, Hay is casting about for blame. Suicide, they say, wasnt in Kellys nature: he was a stoic; a thoughtful, unhurried man; a man of science and a man of intellect. To friends and family, Kelly was a man caught up in a game beyond his ken: politics. And they believe it was politics which drove him to suicide.
Ive known David for years, said Hay, a chemical warfare expert and professor of toxi cology, and he is the one person Id seek out if I wanted a question answered about bio-weapons or Iraq. His knowledge was exceptional and you always knew youd get an honest answer. You never felt David was giving you a line. He was honest.
The way he was identified and then used like a ping-pong ball must have put him under intolerable pressure. He was a man of such integrity that if he felt he was the source [of Andrew Gilligans controversial story] it would have been important for him to stand up and say it could have been me. Many people wouldnt have done that, but David would it was his nature.
To be used in the way in which he was by those politicians is inexcusable. They have to search their consciences. The whole weight of the government was placed on David it just wasnt right. Politicians thrive on that kind of rough and tumble, but David was a consummate scientist. He was always truthful and up front, and to be singled out in the way he was is a scandal.
What we know for sure is that Kelly met the BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan at the Charing Cross Hotel in London on May 22. There they discussed Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, the government dossiers on the threat of WMDs from Saddam and the role of Alastair Campbell, Blairs director of communications, in the preparation of intelligence for public consumption. A week later, Gilligan broadcast his Radio 4 report that a British official involved in the preparation of last Septembers dossier on Iraq claimed the document had been sexed up to woo the country into war. Kelly later informed his superiors in the MoD that hed had an unauthorised meeting with Gilligan. On Tuesday, he appeared before the foreign affairs select committee (FAC), was ruthlessly grilled, and denied that he was Gilligans primary source. On Thursday, he killed himself.
But what drove this man to take his own life? There are at least three possibilities. The first puts the government and the BBC fully in the spotlight. Could it be that his hounding and brutalisation at the hands of the MoD and FAC drove him to take his own life? If he wasnt the primary source for Gilligan, did the BBCs failure to rule him out as the mole compound his sense of fear and isolation, leading him to consider suicide as the only way out?
The second possibility is that this man of integrity and loyalty to Britain knew he wasnt the primary source for the Watergate-style revelations made by the BBC but still felt unable to reconcile himself to the bit-part role he had played in the whole affair. He had, after all, told Gilligan that the claim that Saddam could deploy WMDs in 45 minutes [the central allegation in the entire dispute] may have been added to the dossier for impact.
Thirdly, there is the chance that Kelly was indeed the primary source for the BBC report. Did he underplay his role when he gave evidence to the FAC? Was he indeed terrified that his true part in the affair would come out? It is also possible that while Kelly may have been the primary source for the allegations, the BBC exaggerated, or sexed up, the conversation that took place between the two men, making it more explosive than the true statements told to Gilligan by Kelly.
If Kelly was the primary source for the 45-minute claim, it is not hard to understand why he would have been reluctant to admit it to the FAC. The committee itself may have accepted the claim had been given undue prominence in the governments dossier, but Kelly may well have assumed his political masters would take a dim view of his conversation with the BBC reporter. He would have been a scared man facing ruin for doing the decent thing. Who wouldnt play semantics and, perhaps, tell a white lie to protect themselves and their family in such circumstances?
After Kelly came forward to tell his bosses that he had spoken with Gilligan he was brutally interrogated for four days by MoD officials. It would have been a gruelling and frightening experience. No Whitehall mole-hunt is carried out with kid gloves on. He was threatened with charges under the Official Secrets Act and the withdrawal of pension rights.
When Kelly stepped forward on July 3 to say he had spoken to Gilligan, the MoD and Number 10 leapt at the chance to use Kelly to discredit the BBC. It was agreed that the MoD would release a statement, without naming Kelly, saying an official had admitted meeting Gilligan. Yet on July 9, Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, wrote to the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies naming Kelly in confidence and asking if he was Gilligans source.
Alastair Campbell is suspected of being behind the huge clues emanating from Downing Street which were given to specialist journalists about the identity of the mole such as describing his area of technical expertise which would have allowed reporters to work out who the source was in little or no time. In fact, it was little more than a game, played out between government and press, and both seemed to enjoy the sport, not thinking of the fate of the quarry. Within hours, Kellys name was public knowledge. The government took the decision to confirm Kellys name, if journalists put it to the MoD. The Times established Kellys identity after an absurd game of elimination. More than 20 names, the paper said, were put to the MoD before Kellys name cropped up and was then confirmed. The Financial Times and The Guardian also named him.
On Friday, July 10, at the morning Downing Street press briefing, journalists were told unequivocally that Kelly was Gilligans source. The MoD then said that Kelly would appear before the FAC. MPs on the FAC received a letter from Geoff Hoon, reminding them that Kelly wasnt a politician and was a man unused to such scrutiny. It didnt seem to matter one iota. With hindsight, Andrew MacKinlay, one of the Labour members on the FAC, must recall his questioning of Kelly with horror. Even by the standards of most committee hearings, it was brutal and humiliating. Shouting at Kelly, MacKinlay demanded to know what other journalists the scientist had spoken to. He then proceeded to insult and bully Kelly, saying: I reckon you are chaff; you have been thrown up to divert our probing. Have you ever felt like a fall guy?
With resignation and acceptance of the fact that he was being made to twist in the breeze to save the political careers of others, all Kelly could say to MacKinlay was: I accept the process that is going on.
When Kelly walked into committee room 15 to face humiliation at the hands of men like MacKinlay, he was flanked by two MoD police officers, who sat behind him scribbling notes and watching their charge closely. Such treatment hardly paints a picture of a man not being pressurised and intimidated by his bosses.
What of the BBC? If Kelly was seen as the trump card by the government to discredit the organ isation, then he was equally viewed by the BBC as a trump card against the government. In an article for the Mail on Sunday, Andrew Gilligan disclosed that he met his source at a London Hotel. This revelation, to an increasingly scared and isolated Kelly, may have made him feel more exposed and at risk than ever before. The BBC also said the source was a British official who was involved in the preparation of the dossier.
It is a matter of strict ethics that journalists never reveal their sources. When Gilligan was hauled before the FAC for a second time on Thursday he was told he must name his sources under parliamentary privilege. He rightly refused. If sources arent protected, no whistleblower would ever come forward to reveal government wrong-doing.
There is some strong evidence that Kelly was indeed the source. Gilligans report referred to the source, saying that there was a 30% chance Iraq had bio-weapons. It was a statistic used regularly by Kelly and would have alerted his colleagues to the possibility that he was the mole.
Yet despite this, Kelly was effectively cleared by the FAC when the committee members ruled that it was most unlikely he was the source but that wasnt to be the end of Kellys torment. The government wouldnt let go, insisting that they would continue to believe Kelly was the mole unless the BBC said otherwise. Kelly was truly powerless now. Ben Bradshaw, the ultra-loyal Blairite, waded-in accusing Kelly of being the source and saying he wouldnt change his mind until the BBC cleared Kelly. Blair backed Bradshaw up, saying the BBC had to come clean. The BBC, of course, refused to play a game of identifying their source by a process of elimination.
Kelly couldnt even return to his own home until Thursday. Keen to rip him to shreds, but not willing to listen to what he was saying, the members of the FAC got a hint of what terrible pressure Kelly was under when he told them that because of the media pack, hed been holed up in an MoD safehouse away from his family.
When he did manage to return home, he phoned the Hinds Head, his local pub, to say he would miss the cribbage game he regularly played, and at around 3pm the same time that Andrew Gilligan was recalled by the FAC and found to be an unreliable witness Kelly said goodbye to his wife, Janice, telling her he was just going for a walk. A neighbour saw him walk out of his 18th century farmhouse. He had a smile on his face. Just a few hours before he left, Kelly sent another e-mail, this time saying he was waiting until the end of the week before judging how his appearance before the FAC had gone, and referring to many dark actors playing games.
What is forgotten amid the talk of moles, WMDs, journalistic ethics and government bully-boy tactics, is the truth about what kind of man Kelly was. Scott Ritter, the former American chief weapons inspector, who worked with Kelly in Iraq, had nothing but respect for his one-time colleague. He was the UK governments go-to-guy for bio-weapons, Ritter said, explaining that Kelly was instrumental in exposing Iraqs bio-weapons programmes up to 1991. It was a real feather in Davids cap.
He was a darn good man and a darn good professional and its a darn shame that this happened. Its a tragedy. He did great things for peace and security and his passing at any time would be tragic, but in these circumstances its just terrible.
Kellys death is a huge loss to the UK. Former colleagues who worked with him at Porton Down, Britains chemical and biological research centre, say that by the time he rose to be head of microbiology he was without doubt one of the world leaders in his field. His brain was filled with Britains secrets and he laboured in his countrys interests. It was he who helped develop UK defences against bio-attack from enemy nations.
Tom Mangold, a journalist and close friend of the Kelly family, spoke to Kellys wife Janice after her husband went missing. She told me that he was very stressed, unhappy and angry after his experience at the committee hearing, Mangold said, adding that his friend felt physically sick at his treatment at the hands of politicians.
Mangold said that although Kelly came from the hard working-class area of the Rhondda Valley in Wales, hed risen to be the weapons inspectors weapons inspector. During his time with UNSCOM, he was personally loathed by Saddam, said Mangold, for his unstinting efforts to uncover Iraqi WMDs.
He had one ambition left and that was to go back to Iraq as part of a new inspections team this was his last year of public service and he wanted to fulfil that ambition. He would have found evidence of weapons programmes, but he knew there were no actual weapons left.
David spoke to lots of journalists, not for self-aggrandisement, but because he wanted them to report WMDs properly. He thought he was the primary source of Gilligans report, but when he read the transcript, he didnt recognise himself in it. He didnt make the 45-minute claim to Gilligan. We actually laughed about the 45-minute claim together. David realised a firestorm was coming when he heard Gilligans report. It made allegations of Watergate proportions.
Most of Mangolds wrath is reserved for the FAC and the BBC. He referred to Andrew MacKinlay as a buffoon, adding: David did great things for Britain that few people know anything about.
Suicide just wasnt David. He could handle the worst that the world could throw at anyone. He fought the Iraqi intelligence services and won. This was a man who discovered that Iraq had imported 32 tonnes of bio-growth material. He wrote the book on bio-weapons. Its a hard field and he wasnt a fragile man. But I dont think he could have stood the thought of not going back to Baghdad to finish his work and that these events had somehow put all this in jeopardy.
The BBC, the press in general, the members of the foreign affairs select committee and the govern ment must all scratch their consciences this weekend. David deserved much better than this.
Kellys family share the same anger. His brother-in-law, Derek Vawdrey said yesterday: Im so upset that I can hardly get my thoughts together, but those who are responsible for what has happened to Dai can be sure that we will not let the matter rest here. It should never have happened to him. Some people have a lot to answer for. Dereks wife and Kellys sister, Sandra, added: I think the politicians, especially the government, have a lot of questions to answer.
Weve just been been watching Tony Blair on the television news offering his sympathies to the family, but it is a bit late in the day now. Now, we just want to be left in peace.
In February this year, Kelly gave his daughter Ellen away at the local church. Later this year, he was going to do the same again for her twin sister Rachel. But in October, Rachel will have no father beside her as she walks down the aisle. To his friends and family, all the war stands for has now been boiled down into the life and death of David Kelly. In war, innocence is lost; David Kelly, to those who loved and admired him, is a lost innocent.
Additional reporting by Torcuil Crichton in Southmoor
David Kelly: A Life
DR David Kelly, 59, was the MoDs chief scientific officer and senior adviser to the proliferation and arms control secretariat, a post he held for more than three years.
He worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq following the first Gulf war between 1991 and 1998 and was a senior adviser on biological warfare for the UN. He once said: When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, little did I realise that Saddam Hussein would dictate the next 10 years of my life.
He also led all the visits to and inspections of Russian biological warfare facilities from 1991 to 1994. Kelly rose through MoD ranks as an arms control expert at the Porton Down research centre in Wiltshire, where he became head of microbiology.
Part of his job was to brief journalists on defence issues, but he was unused to the media glare. He told the House of Commons select committee that he could not even get into his Oxfordshire home because of the press outside.
He was married to Janice and had three daughters, Sian, 32, and 30-year-old twins Rachel and Ellen.
20 July 2003
Sunday Herald - 20 July 2003 Blair on brink as Kelly family point finger
TONY Blair faces the biggest political crisis of his six-year premiership with calls for him to resign while in Oxfordshire the body of Dr David Kelly was formally identified and it was said that he took the powerful painkiller coproxamol and then slit his left wrist with a knife.
The governments chief bio- warfare expert and former weapons inspector in Iraq took his own life after finding he had been outed by Whitehall as the possible source behind BBC claims that the government sexed up reports that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in just 45 minutes.
Yesterday afternoon, Kellys family wife Janice and grown-up daughters Sian, Rachel and Ellen issued a statement through Thames Valley Police which was both a thinly-veiled attack on the government and the media, and a tribute to a man described routinely by friends and colleagues as a scientists of impeccable integrity.
Kellys brother-in-law, Derek Vawdrey said: Those who are responsible for what has happened can be sure that we will not let the matter rest here. Dereks wife and Kellys sister, Sandra, added: I think the politicians, especially the government, have a lot of questions to answer.
Kelly sent e-mails shortly before he took his life talking of many dark actors playing games. The words are taken to be a reference to officials at the MoD and within the intelligence agencies.
He also sent an e-mail to his close friend, scientist Alastair Hay, saying: Many thanks for your support. Hopefully, it will soon pass and I can get back to Baghdad to get on with some real work. This was a reference to his ambition to return to Iraq and complete his work as a weapons inspector.
Kellys death has now plunged the Blair government into its worst crisis since it took power in 1997 with Tony Blair facing sustained calls for his resignation .
Clearly feeling the pressure, a tired-looking Tony Blair fielded rough questioning from journalists at a press conference in Tokyo. Asked if he felt Kellys death was on his conscience, Blair expressed his sorrow for the family but said, referring to the planned independent inquiry into Kellys death: I think we should make our judgement after we get the facts.
Looking gaunt and with a tremble in his voice, the PM was then accused by reporters of hiding behind the inquiry and dodged questions about whether he had discussed the possible resignations of his communications director, Alastair Campbell, and Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary and ultimately Kellys boss.
He then blanked a reporter who asked: Have you got blood on your hands Prime Minister? Are you going to resign? The Prime Minister earlier described Kellys suicide as a terrible tragedy, adding: I am profoundly saddened for David Kelly and for his family. Members of Kellys family have said that Blairs commiserations came a bit late in the day.
Former Labour minister Glenda Jackson said Blair should resign over Kellys death, adding that the inquiry into the suicide would paralyse the government while he remained. Bullets should be bitten, she said.
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith wrote to Tony Blair yesterday demanding the recall of parliament. He also demanded that any inquiry deal fully with the way intelligence was treated rather than focusing narrowly on the circumstances of Kellys death. The Tories are also calling on Blair to cut short his Far East tour and return to the UK an act that would signal to the country that the Labour government is in full meltdown.
Geoff Hoon yesterday said he did not accept that the pressure was put on Dr Kelly by me. Hoon insisted Kellys name was not leaked by him. Its a matter of great regret. I want to get to the bottom of this, he added. All of us have been looking very carefully at our own roles and I will be looking at the results of the inquiry.
Hoon later said: Ive spent the last 24 hours replaying events in my mind, asking myself what could have been done to avoid this terrible outcome.
Journalist Tom Mangold, a close friend of the Kelly family, said Kelly had come to believe that he was the BBC source, but maintained that he did not recognise his comments in the substance of the report.
Mangold said Kellys wife Janice told him that her husband was very stressed, unhappy and angry after his experience at the committee hearing. Mangold added that Kelly was unable to cope with the firestorm that developed after he gave what he regarded as a routine briefing to Gilligan.
Kelly admitted to the foreign affairs select committee on Tuesday that hed had an unauthorised meeting with Gilligan at which hed said the 45 minute claim may have been added to a government dossier on the threat from Iraq for impact.
Despite this Kelly was effectively cleared by the committee of being the BBCs primary source. However, the government continued to maintain that he was the mole as the BBC would not confirm or deny that Kelly was Gilligans source.
Kelly will be remembered at a civic service at Lichfield Anglican Cathedral today. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, will say: It distresses me deeply to think that there are people in positions of eminent public responsibility who know the answer to the questions Dr Kelly was being asked. Yet they remain silent, believing that the confidentiality of their sources is more important than one mans life. I think not.
Nichols will add: Nor do we know the kind of political or personal pressure put on Dr Kelly When public life and the media are so devoid of compassion, and become cavalier with the truth, they become a distortion of their true purpose.
The crisis within the Blair government over the Kelly suicide will play out this week against a growing international clamour over the war in Iraq as the US congressional hearings into the use of intelligence get underway.
In Korea today there was growing concern among Downing Street advisers travelling with Blair that his Far East trip will become a political disaster if he continues to avoid questions on the events that led to Kellys suicide.
Although the inquiry, headed by Lord Hutton, is expected to deliver a report within weeks not months, even that short time may not be enough to save Blair.
Blairs live television interview with Sky News today may ease the perception that he is hiding behind the inquiry he ordered on hearing the news of Kellys death but the week-long series of damaging daily press conferences in Korea, Beijing and Hong Kong will, according to one official, be a nightmare that no-one would want to endure. So far there is no indication that Blair will cut short his trip.Davids life was made intolerable
'We are utterly devastated and heartbroken by the death of our husband, father and brother. We loved him very much and will miss his warmth, humour and humanity.
Those who knew him will remember him for his devotion to his home, family and the community and countryside in which he lived.
A loving, private and dignified man has been taken from us all.
Davids professional life was characterised by his integrity, honour and dedication to finding the truth often in the most difficult of circumstances.
His expertise was unique and universally respected and his life and achievements will always be a source of great pride to us.
Events over recent weeks made Davids life intolerable and all of those involved should reflect long and hard on this fact.
We have been deeply moved by the many expressions of support from friends, family and the local community.
We would also like to pay tribute to the professionalism and compassion of the officers of the Thames Valley Police force.
It is hard to comprehend the enormity of this tragedy.
We appeal now to everyone to afford us the privacy to grieve in peace and to come to terms with our loss.'
20 July 2003From the hunt for WMD, to the hunt for the mole, to the death of a civil servant. Whats next...the end of Blair?
On Friday morning, British-time, when Downing Street advisers walked quickly into the first-class area of Tony Blairs specially chartered British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft en route to Tokyo to tell the Prime Minister that the weapons scientist, Dr David Kelly, had been found dead near his home in Oxfordshire, Blairs premiership was thrown into a deep crisis that threatens its survival. As one Labour MP not in the Blairite division of his party put it: The vultures will now begin circling in anticipation, if not outright hope.
Blair has been here before. The evening of the House of Commons vote which determined if parliament backed Blairs desire to join the United States in war against Saddam Husseins Iraq was the last such crisis. Then, Blair has since admitted, he mentally prepared himself to leave Downing Street, and some of his ministers, notably the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, did the same.
On board his Boeing, the thought that his hold on 10 Downing Street was again in some danger must have flashed through Blairs mind.
Prime ministers learn to deal, and live, with crisis: September 11, fuel disputes, dodgy donations from racing car bosses, a doomed dome or a con man buying your family a flat. The death of Kelly, however, is on a scale that Tony Blair has never experienced.
In crisis you immediately turn to friends and trusted advisers. On the way to Tokyo, Blair had only a few advisers around him and his wife Cherie (herself experienced in the emotions of a self-generated crisis). Missing was his key adviser, Alastair Campbell, the governments director of communications. It is understood attempts were made to contact Campbell from the air on a satellite telephone: a strategy, therefore, in need of some repair. Among others, Blair is said to have spoken to from the plane were Sir Ian Tebbit, the permanent secretary of the MoD, and Lord Charlie Falconer, current Lord Chancellor and future secretary of the planned Department of Constitutional Affairs.
Since last week, the political culture in Downing Street began leaning towards an acceptance that an independent judicial inquiry into events that led up to Britain going to war in Iraq in March was inevitable. But Downing Street was said to be determined that it should keep control for as long as possible, calling an inquiry only on its timetable. On Friday morning, Blair and Campbell lost control.
Blair in Tokyo was already scheduled to appear at a joint press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Further similar front-of-camera performances were scheduled for the Far East trip.
Desperate for more time, Blairs announcement of an independent inquiry was the only way in which to gain enough breathing space to deal with the crisis. There was little other choice.
Under fire, Margaret Thatchers government appointed Lord Scott to look at the damaging events of the arms-for-Iraq fiasco. Now Iraq is again centre stage in another inquiry, to be conducted by law lord Lord Hutton, the former Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland.
The precise remit of Lord Huttons inquiry has yet to be announced. The government clearly wants it to be limited in scope, to focus on the events that led to Dr Kellys death. But Lord Hutton has the power to demand whatever he needs to uncover the truth. One legal adviser to a Whitehall department said: Having granted this inquiry and appointed Lord Hutton, a degree of control by the government has already been lost. Lord Hutton is now in an immensely powerful position. What he wants, the government is in no position to refuse. He will know that to deliver a credible final report, he cannot be seen to limit what evidence he gathers. That in itself indicates that the range of his inquiries may go well beyond what the government may be technically comfortable with.
Yesterday in Tokyo, Blair already looked very uncomfortable. The fanfare and flair of Washington was replaced with a sobriety and seriousness worthy of a funeral. And, indeed, Blair was asked if in some way the death of Kelly was on his conscience. But there was no real need for the Prime Minister to respond emotionally: time had already been bought. He replied: I entirely understand why you want me to elaborate but let me repeat, there is going to be a full and independent inquiry and I think we should make our judgement after we get the facts.
Accused of hiding behind the inquiry, Blair reiterated: I think people will understand that if there is to be an inquiry into the facts, it is probably better to wait until the inquiry has made its judgement on the facts.
But will people understand? Blair built the foundations of New Labour on a bond of trust with the electorate that has seen him year on year enjoy an approval rating no other British prime minister has reached. And that trust seems to be evaporating. While the inquiry will be about the death of David Kelly, it will also be about the life of Tony Blair.
In politics, causality is often a hidden king: one thing happens that sets off a sequence of events nobody had predicted. The hidden sequence, according to the former international development secretary, Clare Short, began when (on her account) Blair agreed last year to back George Bush in a war to oust Saddam Hussein.
Bushs deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, has since acknowledged that the issue of Saddams weapons of mass destruction was one on which there could be consensus. Regardless of the other options available, the Blair government chose WMD as the prime reason why war was both necessary and why it had to begin when George Bush and his neo-conservative backers called it.
A dossier that would dispel any doubts over what Saddam was capable of, and why he represented an immediate threat to these shores, was published in September of last year. Its contents were shocking and it scared the neutrals into serious unease: Saddam had WMD and they could be deployed against us within 45 minutes. Iraq was thus brought out of the past and back into public consciousness. Terrorist scares showed the fragility of civilised lives; tanks patrolling Heathrow airport rammed home the point.
But was speculative intelligence being presented as military fact? Was intelligence being politicised as the key to a scare-and-believe programme designed perhaps not to deceive but to persuade that war was the only route to national safety?
The speed of victory, the fall of Baghdad and the claim that the Iraqi people had been freed from a monstrous tyrant left expectations that now Saddams WMD would be found. But no WMD have been found and hence the political justification for going to war in the first place, remains unproven.
When the BBCs Today programme accused the government of "sexing up" its September dossier on Saddams WMD, the programmes defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, quoted an unnamed source saying Downing Street had inserted the 45 minute claim, only a late stage in the preparation of the dossier. The clear accusation was that Blair had deceived the country and taken the country into war on false pretences. The accusation was broadcast on May 29.
Since then Gilligan has written of how and where he met his source and how "Downing Street" became equated with "Campbell". John Reid then claimed there were "rogue elements" in the security services who were out to spread misleading accusations against the government.
By the middle of last month the Foreign Affairs Committee began investigating the run-in to the war in Iraq. Gilligan gave more details on his source and Campbell retaliated demanding an apology from the BBC, stating the story was "a lie" essentially because the claim was rejected by intelligence chiefs, who confirmed that the dossier had been passed by the Joint Intelligence Committee.
The war in Iraq had long ended, but the focus was now on the war between Alastair Campbell and the BBC with the main issue where were Saddams WMD relegated to an almost forgotten side-show.
Although Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence claim there was no high-level molehunt inside Whitehall to discover the identity of Gilligans source, senior personnel inside the MoD point to a staff realising an active search" was in progress. Whether David Kelly admitted to his MoD bosses that he may be Gilligans source because he knew the search was closing in, only David Kelly could have confirmed. Now he cant.
Despite assurances of anonymity, the Times finally identified Kelly. Questions must now be asked over who and how and why Kellys name was leaked to the media. The psychological games that Kelly may have had to endure in de-briefings with the MoD before his appearances in front of both the Foreign Affairs and the Intelligence and Security committees, will need to be a prime focus in Lord Huttons inquiry.
In Tokyo yesterday, Blair was asked if he discussed with Campbell or the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, their possible resignations. Blair said he understood why the question was asked but said he would not answer, adding: "I think what is important now is that there is some due process."
If Campbell does resign before the inquiry delivers, his resignation will be linked directly with the death of David Kelly. If Campbell goes it will also be an effective admission that in trying to protect the unquestionable integrity and honesty of Tony Blair, he was prepared to see others victimised in order keep his boss free from the central allegation of misleading the country. Given Campbells robust defence so far which has been all-out attack, as was evident during his extraordinary performance on Channel Four News on June 26 he has no intention of resigning.
However the hold-the-front-line strategy for Blair and those close to him, offers no guarantee that they will survive, because they no longer control how and where new evidence comes from. And the first wave of attacks from friends-turned-enemies have already come in.
Glenda Jackson, a former minister, has already said that if Blair stays, the government will be paralysed as it awaits the verdict of the Hutton inquiry. "Bullets should be bitten" Jackson said. "We now have a judicial inquiry but I have to say it seems to me that the prime minister should really be reconsidering his position. I dont see how the government is going to be able to function adequately."
Governments have little choice but to try and function as best they can. And if they cannot, people will notice.
In Iraq at the moment there is no functioning government. Inside Iraq at the moment a charity group from the United States have spent the weeks since the fall of Saddam Hussein attempting to discover how many Iraqi civilians were killed by US and British forces. The total will run to thousands. US troops in Iraq are being killed daily. British troops who lost their lives in Iraq are still being mourned by family and friends. There is speculation that a US occupation force could be inside Iraq for a decade. In other words, the war may be over, but its consequences are still being felt.
Under extreme pressure only hours before his death, David Kelly, wrote an e-mail to a journalist he knew. He referred, almost cryptically, to the "many dark actors playing games", a reference taken to mean those within the government and especially the Ministry of Defence and those inside Britains intelligence agencies that Kelly had operated among for a large part of adult life. The Hutton inquiry will have to throw a bright light on these "dark actors". And if the government are shown to have been "playing games" with the truth, they may be forced to pay a high price, though perhaps not as high a price a David Kelly ultimately chose to pay.
20 July 2003Timeline
May 29: Andrew Gilligan, the BBCs defence correspondent, says in a report on Radio 4s Today programme that a source a senior British official informed him that last Septembers dossier on Iraq was sexed up to make a more convincing case for war.
June 1: Writing in The Mail On Sunday, Gilligan claims that Tony Blairs director of communications, Alastair Campbell, was responsible for adding to the dossier the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch his weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.
June 19: Gilligan gives evidence on his claims to the foreign affairs committee looking at the decision to go to war .
June 25: Alastair Campbell denies the claims in evidence to the committee. He demands an apology from the BBC.
June 27: The BBC rejects this call and defends the integrity of the Today report.
July 7: The committee clears Campbell of sexing up the dossier. Campbell repeats his calls for an apology from the BBC, which stands by its story.
July 8: The Ministry of Defence says an official later named as microbiologist and weapons expert Dr David Kelly has admitted meeting Gilligan and discussing Iraqs weapons on May 22. The BBC says this description of the official does not match Gilligans source.
July 9: Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon writes to BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, demanding to know if the official is the source of the original Iraq dossier story.
July 10: Kelly is summoned to appear before the committee.
July 15: Kelly gives evidence to the foreign affairs committee . Committee members say they do not believe Kelly was the source of Gilligans story, and say he was badly treated by the MoD.
July 16: Blair tells MPs the BBC should say whether or not Kelly is its source .
July 17: Gilligan gives evidence again to the committee . He is later criticised for not revealing his source to MPs and accused of changing his story. Gilligan vigorously rejects this and the BBC defends his refusal to name his source.
At 3pm Kelly leaves his house in Southmoor saying he is going for a walk. At 11.45pm his family contact police when he fails to return home.
July 18: At about 11am Thames Valley Police searching for Kelly say the body of an unidentified man has been found at Harrowdown Hill, two miles from Kellys home. Later the police say the body matches a description of Kelly.
At 2.30pm it is announced by the Prime Ministers official spokesman that an independent judicial inquiry will be held into the circumstances of Kellys death if the body is confirmed to be that of the MoD adviser.
July 19: Police confirm that the body is that of Kelly. A post-mortem concludes that the cause of death was haemorrhaging from a wound to his left wrist.
Campbell may prove to be the most high-profile political casualty of this tragedy. Downing Streets director of communications has been driven and forceful in demanding that the BBC retracts its claims and that the BBCs Andrew Gilligan should reveal his source.
The claim by the defence correspondent that the government sexed-up its WMD dossier has had unequivocal support from the BBC, which said the governments description of the source of the story did not match the person Gilligan spoke to.
The spotlight has fallen on Anderson as head of the Foreign Affairs Select Committees investigation . Yesterday, he said he did not believe the committees questioning of Kelly was aggressive, nor that he had turned Kelly into a victim.
Environment Minister and a former BBC journalist, he wrote to BBC head of news Richard Sambrook to ask if Gilligan was standing by his assertion that the 45-minute claim came from the intelligence services and not the MoD. Bradshaw made it clear the government believed the source was MoD employee Kelly.
The defence secretary asked the BBC to confirm if Kelly was the source of the 45-minute claim his department had to deny leaking Kellys details to the media.
20 July 2003View from Washington
Americans are no longer buying the idea that the war in Iraq was worth it. Half of US citizens, in recent polls, say they now believe George W Bushs administration exaggerated intelligence reports about Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction. But even with a long shadow now cast over the White Houses ability to tell it straight, it would seem Bush just cant stop himself.
Last week the President whose campaign promise was to restore honour and dignity to the White House offered his own evidence that his presidency no longer believes US voters take much notice of what he says. Explaining why the US had to force regime change in Iraq, he said We gave him [Saddam] a chance to allow weapons inspectors in, and he wouldnt let them in. After a reasonable request we decided to remove him from power.
This wasnt minimalist revisionist history, this was just a lie. Saddam , through pressure from the UN Security Council and resolution 1441, was forced to re-admit weapons inspectors back into Iraq. Their search lasted months. In March, with UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix asking for more time to complete his task, Bush, with the express backing of Tony Blair, denied the UN more time and invaded Iraq.
The death of David Kelly and the limited independent inquiry that will now follow, will deliver new facts into an already heated arena. Combined with further details likely to emerge from congressional hearings in Washington, the ability of both the Bush and Blair administrations to exercise any form of control over pre and post-war accounts of the justification for war, is being eroded. One official from the US embassy in London admitted: There is no halfway house: any new account, any event, on either side of the Atlantic will have repercussions in both London and Washington. And both the Prime Minister and the President have to accept that.
But Bush still believes his account is the only account he need be concerned about. The result is large-scale US disillusionment over what anyone can now buy from the White House without believing theyve been sold soiled goods.
As the post-war dissection continues over everything from the justification of going to war, to the nightly images on US network news channels of the mounting death toll of US troops in Iraq, and now likely fallout from the death of Dr Kelly there is little elsewhere to offset Bushs problems.
Last week, the level of the US budget deficit was announced as $455 billion, the largest ever. Internal White House projections point even higher to around $600bn. The deficit is 50% higher than what was forecast only five months ago.
Americans were given $2 trillion worth of tax cuts (which will be delivered over the next 10 years). But having inherited a $290bn budget surplus from the Clinton era, Bushs promise to deliver growth on a balanced budget pledge now looks like another untruth.
A straight-talking presidency might be tempted to say the global situation changed, we got our maths wrong, and then ask its believers to hang in there. But there is a problem: the believers are drying up.
Bushs budget director Josh Bolten instead opted for the claim that the vast deficit was manageable because most of it was the result of having to spend to offset the effect of a serious recession and to pay for the war on terror. US voters were also promised that the gap will close. But the gap will not close if the US economy remains slow-moving and employment levels continue to falter.
An international donors conference is being planned for the autumn. However, sceptics say the international community might be reluctant to commit funds which will in effect simply subsidise what would still be an American-dominated Iraq project.
But a donor conference is a post-war solution. The pre-war reasons why Bush and Blair took their countries to war remain; with every day that passes with WMD not found, both Bush and Blairs credibility leaches away. Washington and London are so inter-linked that were there to be resignations from Blairs political team in London over Dr Kellys death, Bushs credibility would be hit too. In Washington, the Democrats are only now beginning to realise a unified attack on Bush now, damage done now, will pay dividends when presidential polling comes round.
Their strategy is clearly to continue to accuse Bush of using a discredited assertion that Iraq tried to buy nuclear material in Africa. Sustain that fact, and the overall wisdom of taking the US into war begins to crumble. Post-war, the Democrats want to show that US troops in Iraq are being inadequately protected. In the US, it isnt patriotic to mix it with the military but, in the case of Bush and Iraq, the Democrats now seem willing to take the risk.
Senator Edward Kennedy said Bushs post-war policy was built on the quicksand of a false assumption and the result has been chaos for the Iraqi people and continuing mortal danger for our troops.
The Senates minority leader, Tom Daschle, wants it laid out real neat. The administration needs to be forthcoming and provide the best information they can about how all of this happened.
Senator John Edwards, a potential presidential candidate, put it even more neatly. The administration has a problem with the truth.
Polls are now beginning to show that voters who once appeared disinterested are now showing signs of questioning Bushs veracity on WMD. In one recent US national poll, 40% said they did not think the war in Iraq was worth the lives lost. Senator Tim Johnson, whose son served in Iraq, accused Bush of trying to look and sound like a grade-B movie cowboy with his tough rhetoric on Iraq.
The same theme was taken up by another of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, John Kerry. Kerry went where no Democrat would have dared tread even a year ago by questioning if the US had been made safer by Bush since the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is clear that a dangerous gap in credibility has developed between the presidents tough rhetoric and timid policies which dont do nearly enough to protect Americans from danger. And with each passing day, Americans are learning that we also face an intelligence gap. Americans should be able to trust what the President tells them is true.
Despite all efforts to close it down, the fall-out from Bushs State of the Union address in January in which he said the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa continues to damage his presidency.
The White House has now admitted that, as far as US intelligence was concerned, they knew details on the uranium information were bogus, forged. However, rather than put their hands up and holler mea culpa, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, continues to claim the information was technically accurate in a narrow sense.
In the summer of 1988, after escaping from much of the mud and dirt that was thrown in the political scandal surrounding the illegal Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scam, Vice-President George Bush Snr found his efforts to secure the top job in the White House in danger of being scuppered by Michael Dukakis. After branding Dukakis a tax and spend liberal who could not be trusted with Americas entrepreneurial culture, Bush promised his party on nomination: Read my lips: No new taxes.
Once inside the Oval Office, Bush ditched the promise and raised federal taxes. He also spent more time on what the US was doing abroad than what it was doing at home. Initially, Bush Snr was thought to be a dead cert for re-election, but just as quickly as the American electorate had began trusting him, the trust evaporated. Bush lasted one term in the White House. The man who succeeded him, Bill Clinton, stayed for two full terms.
George W Bush is currently giving the Democrats real hope that history will repeat itself. The Democrats main problem is that just at the moment, they cant quite find another Bill Clinton.
20 July 2003View from Iraq
The US military convoy was only 16 miles from its destination when disaster struck on the highway near Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, last Wednesday. A rocket-grenade was fired from a hidden location and a recently deployed soldier was killed in the blast. He was the latest casualty in a war which is rapidly assuming all the elements of a long-drawn-out guerrilla struggle. And with his death came the grim realisation that the war in Iraq is going to be even costlier than the previous Gulf conflict. This latest attack also brought the US death toll to 147, the same number of US service personnel killed in 1991.
That same day a surface-to-air missile was fired at a C-130 transport plane at Baghdad Airport. It missed its target, but Ali Mohammed Nayel al-Jughaify was not so lucky. The mayor was gunned down by terrorists as he was driving home from his office in Hadithah, 120 miles north of Baghdad. His crime was to have been seen working with the US authorities. With all thoughts of an easy victory long gone and fears of a lengthy deployment an unexpected reality, the commander of the US forces in Iraq, General John Abizaid, gave a realistic soldiers assessment when he described the new tactical situation as a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us. Its low-intensity conflict in our doctrinal terms, but its war however you describe it.
The generals warning was not lost on his soldiers. During the rush into Iraq in April the 3rd Infantry Division bore the brunt of the fighting and under normal circumstances would have been replaced by a relief formation, but these are unusual times for the US military. Last week it was announced that the Fighting Third will stay in Iraq until September. It was not a popular decision. Interviewed by US television reporters, soldiers made their anger clear, with one sergeant demanding the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This was an unprecedented outburst which should worry US commanders and politicians.
Their forces are now in for the long haul against hidden enemies with military training members of Saddam Husseins security forces, loyalist fedayeen and former soldiers in the Iraqi army, many of whom will have served in the Republican Guards or Special Republican Guards. Wherever there is a power vacuum they have filled it with militia forces, both to guarantee law and order and to attack the occupying garrison. In the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib attack, Abizaid admitted the enemy was highly organised and had adapted more quickly than predicted to the techniques of low-intensity warfare. Not only are the guerrilla forces operating in well-organised cells, but in many cases they have influenced the people to support them . A grim example for the US forces has been Iraqis cheering or applauding after successful guerrilla attacks.
To counter the threat, a different military doctrine has to be used but the US forces are at a disadvantage. Unlike the British in Basra, with their long experience of Northern Ireland, they are not trained for this kind of warfare . They also need the support of an effective police force in most counter-insurgency operations the army does not take the lead but acts in support of a law-enforcement agency but it will take years to train the Iraqi police to adequate levels.
Then there is the question of force. Winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is seen as an important goal but that sits uneasily beside the need to use excessive force to maintain law and order. According to General Sir Frank Kitson, one of the great theorists on low-intensity operations, that conundrum lies at the heart of the response to guerrilla attacks and puts more pressure on soldiers on the ground. He stated: It now seems politically impossible for strong government measures to be taken against insurgents for any length of time, before being assailed by popular outcry at home and abroad.
So far the US forces have not reached that stage but it cannot be far away. Protests to bring the boys home have begun, there is political unease about casualties and a growing realisation that nobody in Washington seems to have thought through the implications of regime change. Overstretch of resources is also a factor: currently 400,000 US soldiers are stationed abroad, more than at any time since the second world war, and 148,000 of them spend each day facing death from a hidden enemy in Iraq.
20 July 2003Victim Of A Lethal War Of Words
Powerplay: Iain MacWhirter says Number 10 made Dr Kelly its Iraq fall guy and the media let him take the fall
WILL history forgive Tony Blair? The Prime Minister told Congress last week of his confidence that posterity will exonerate him of any mistakes over weapons of mass destruction because he rid the world of a tyrant. However, after the latest tragic turn of events in leafy Oxfordshire you have to wonder if history really will be so kind to Mr Blair.
Mind you, many will also urge history to look unkindly on the conduct of the British media, which stands accused of complicity in defence official Dr David Kellys death. The former BBC reporter, Tom Mangold a friend of the government scientist called on journalists, including the BBCs Andrew Gilligan, to examine their own consciences for the way in which Kelly had been used. Kellys local MP accused the BBC directly of prolonging the former weapons inspectors agony of exposure by refusing to declare whether or not he was the source of Gilligans story about Alastair Campbell having sexed up the dossier on Iraqs WMD.
In truth, nobody comes out of this affair with their hands entirely clean, certainly not the media, and this was a human tragedy in which it played an unusually intimate role. There are few things more appalling than the British press in the midst of a feeding frenzy, but it is rarely fatal. We often talk of trial by television, but never before have we seen anything which looks so uncomfortably close to death by media.
However, if Kelly was indeed destroyed by the media piranhas and that is far from clear as yet it was arguably the government which first threw him into pond. It was the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Number 10 who dropped him naked into the public domain, wearing only a label saying: Andrew Gilligans mole presumed. It took the foreign affairs select committee 15 minutes to decide that he wasnt.
MPs on the foreign affairs select committee accused the government in turn of using him as a fall guy. He certainly took the fall. Serious questions will have to be asked by the judicial inquiry under Lord Hutton about why the MoD waited until after the foreign affairs committee had published its report before revealing Kellys name to the press. Did they know all along that he wasnt Gilligans main source? One of Kellys professional associates, Garth Whitty says hed been hung out to dry. He was badly used according to the Tory MP John Maples, a member of the foreign affairs select committee. Its difficult to argue.
It is also difficult and perhaps a little tasteless to try to assess what the long-term political implications will be for Tony Blair of this latest tragic twist. Anyway, the strange death of Dr David Kelly takes us out of the territory of political journalism and into the realm of John le Carri.
However, it is difficult to see how the death of this high-minded civil servant can be anything but a further disaster for the PM perhaps the most serious so far in the no-arms to Iraq affair. The whole edifice of justification for the war in Iraq, which Blair is so confident will be honoured by history, seems to be tumbling around his ears.
The timing of Kellys death could not have been worse for Number 10, coming on the morning after Blairs triumphant appearance in Washington. That had, anyway, been soured by intelligence failures over the Niger uranium connection, and by the row over what to do with the British citizens held as terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay the bad men as President Bush called them in an unwitting confirmation that theyre unlikely to get a fair trial there.
The Prime Ministers foray onto the world stage, which must originally have been planned as a global victory tour, was already looking like an exercise in vanity statesmanship. Tony Blairs support in the opinion polls has been plummeting and it is increasingly open season in the press. On the eve of Kellys disappearance the pro-Labour journal, New Statesman, even suggested that the Prime Minister is mentally unstable, a psychopath, someone living in a world of his own and unable to tell right from wrong. Well, the PM is certainly out on his own in his determination to remain shoulder to shoulder with George W Bush, even as Bush seems no longer willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. The Americans have all but given up on finding any active chemical and biological weapons in Iraq.
What Kellys death seems now to have done is bring the lethal reality of this unlawful war right onto the doorstep of Westminster. As the BBCs political editor Andrew Marr said as the news broke: We talked about there being a war between the BBC and Number 10, but no-one ever expected that anyone would be killed. He meant that this is no longer just a game of spin and knockabout, of blind mans bluff between the BBC and Alastair Campbell.
But the point is, surely, is the weapons of mass destruction issue has all along been a matter of life and death. More civilians died in allied bombing and the liberation of Baghdad than were killed in New York on September 11, 2001. Many British servicemen have died and American soldiers are being killed almost every day in what is now turning into a vicious guerrilla war. And of course, perhaps tens of thousands of poorly-equipped Iraqi conscripts died as they were crushed by the greatest military machine in the history of human conflict.
Dr David Kelly is by no means the first casualty of this war, and he will certainly not be the last. But his death was the moment when the Westminster village, at war with itself, suddenly woke up and realised the extent to which it has been obsessed only with itself and its petty vanities and squabbles. It is now seeing the war for what it is: a deadly game where innocent people die.
Ive no idea whether or not Kelly was the MoD mole all we know is that he said he wasnt and that the foreign affairs committee believed him. What is beyond reasonable doubt, however, is that he and his relations with the BBC were used to divert attention from the real issue of whether or not the government had exaggerated the evidence of WMD and misled parliament and the country about Saddams capacity to use them. This was what the foreign affairs committee was supposed to be inquiring into, and it was the issue on which Kelly hoped to enlighten them. Now he never will.
The judicial inquiry that the government has belatedly conceded cannot be confined merely to the circumstances of his death. It must be extended to cover the entire intelligence failure over Iraqs weapons of mass destruction. Kelly made clear to the committee that there had been such a failure. It would be an offence to his memory for the government to use his death as another means to cover up its own failures. That, history will not forgive.
20 July 2003