British PM Tony Blair must be relieved over the findings of the Hutton Inquiry into the mysterious death of UK weapons expert David Kelly. Lord Hutton ruled that Blair’s administration committed no wrongdoings in exposing Kelly as the source in a controversial BBC story claiming — perhaps erroneously — that Blair and Co. “sexed up” a document on Iraq and its alleged weapons of mass destruction. The “independent” judge, who held a months-long probe into the matter, also excoriated the BBC for its handling of the story.
The Washington Post reports that media worldwide are having a field day with the news. Australia’s The Age brings up a good point: The Hutton decision does not say whether the British dossier — “sexed up” or not — justified the invasion on Iraq. Fact is, the yellowcake story is still bunk, and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have not been found to this day. So, the real question, along with many others, is not settled.
The Hutton report will be remembered as much for what it didn’t say or deal with as for what it did. The 740-page report is hefty, but it fails to answer several key questions raised by Lord Hutton’s exhaustive two-month inquiry last year.
Chief among them is whether the intelligence in the Blair Government’s now famous September 2002 dossier justified going to war with Saddam Hussein, especially the claim that he posed an immediate threat.
Neither has the judge examined the related issue of whether the information contained in the dossier was reliable, despite the considerable evidence to the contrary presented to him.
Was it sufficiently rigorous to rely on a single source for the claim that Saddam could deploy weapons in 45 minutes? Didn’t David Kelly have the right to voice concerns about that, even if he picked the wrong journalist in the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan to do it with?
Sadly, Lord Hutton will never tell us. He has slipped off into a long and no doubt well-deserved retirement, leaving the anti-war groups, backbench Labour MPs and Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition calling for a full independent inquiry into the reasons for war. They can dream on.
Of course, to Kelly’s widow, the primary question was whether Blair’s actions led her husband to kill himself last July — she is most unhappy with Lord Hutton’s findings. And half of the British public reportedly call the ruling a “whitewash.” I guess this renders stupid this statement by Canada’s Calgary Sun: “Any doubts about Tony Blair’s integrity in joining the US-led invasion of Iraq were dismissed.” For many people, that is patently untrue.
And at the BBC, formerly confident in public about its behavior in terms of the Kelly story, times have become shaky. The network’s director-general, Greg Dyke, has resigned his post, and reporter Andrew Gilligan, who wrote the questionable piece of journalism and met with Kelly, likely will follow Dyke out the door. No worries — he has another job awaiting him, reportedly. How nice for him.
Before shuttling off to retirement, Lord Hutton did take final action: His controversial findings were leaked to London’s Sun tabloid and the judge wants a full investigation into finding the person who spilled the proverbial beans.
As for Bush’s poodle, he must be reveling in the news. As the UK’s Guardian put it, “Mr. Phoenix lives to fight another day.”