The Poodle Dodges a Bullet

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.”

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6 thoughts on “The Poodle Dodges a Bullet

  1. This is a total ham-fisted travesty. And I do have a place for right-wingers that complain that if Hutton had delivered a report that condemned the government and cleared the BBC completely there wouldn’t be half the outcry, it’s in a small box marked ‘I don’t give a monkeys’ which is going to be put in with Beagle 3 and blasted to Mars next year. At least we’re grown up enough to admit there were faults on the BBC’s side (and it’s rather ironic that by coming into conflict with the Government the BBC has suddenly become the benefit of left-wing largess that is largely unearned. Despite what the Government may like to believe the BBC is not some gang of leftos unless you stand them up to comparison with someone like FOX news), but Hutton has decided that practically everything the BBC said was false and everything the Government said was true.

    Alistair Campbell sends a memo to the head of the Joint Intelligence Commission listing changes he wants, which he’s obliged. These include changes like ‘Saddam will attack with chemical weapons if he feels threatened’ to ‘Saddam will attack with chemical weapons’ (this is from memory so not exact) and Lord Hutton believes that the head of the JIC is not at fault because he may have subconsciously been influenced in writing by Government pressure!

    Tony Blair was identified as being at several meetings when it was discussed how David Kelly should be named to the media, he was cleared from having any involvement in a policy that did not exist to name David Kelly.

    There is unfortunately nothing that can be done to appeal any of this rubbish, Lord Hutton’s is the last word.

    What I don’t understand is why Lord Hutton took so long over this. He could have saved us all a load of time and suspense by, the day after he’d taken in his last evidence issuing his report then. or perhaps the Government hadn’t written it for him by that time.

  2. My husband, alas, called this one. He’s followed Blair’s career a lot longer and in more depth than I have, and he never had any doubts that the poodle would retain his position. By the way, every time I mention Blair’s name, Robin starts barking. I think it goes back to the George Michael video. It’s cute listening to a Brit bark. 🙂

  3. “This is a total ham-fisted travesty.”

    It sure as hell is, Loz.

    “My husband, alas, called this one. He’s followed Blair’s career a lot longer and in more depth than I have, and he never had any doubts that the poodle would retain his position.”

    Actually, I figured Blair would slide too. Bush and his fellow bad guys almost always seem to get away with the crime. What I didn’t figure is that Lord Hutton would side so completely with the government — even when any informed person knows the WMD bullshit was indeed bullshit and that the Blair administration made some dodgy changes to the dossier.

    The BBC’s black eye… well, that probably is deserved because of Andrew Gilligan’s methodology. And that is to the good. But I don’t buy that the entire BBC story was false. Not for one instant.

    Tony Blair is one lucky SOB. The British people are not nearly so fortunate.

  4. I wasn’t expecting Tony Blair to get done on this, I suspected that, regardless of the truth of the situation he’d been able to position himself as not being directly involved enough at any point of the proceedings. But I was expecting heavy criticism of Geoff Hoon and Alistair Campbell, and I think in the long run the complete exoneration of the government will cause them more problems than if they’d been realistically criticised. Now that he’s resigned as BBC DG it looks like Greg Dyke intends to do what he can to attack the decision and it’s a fight that I applaud and support.

    Oh, and as I write, Andrew Gilligan, one of the few genuinely guilty parties at the BBC, has finally resigned. Good riddance.

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