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(en) From Freedom, Fortnightly Anarchist Newspaper 7th February 2004 - A Whiter shade of White

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 7 Feb 2004 10:50:34 +0100 (CET)


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What a surprise. Blair's week of hell has turned out to
be no such thing. Few anarchists would have been shocked by this.
The Labour backbenchers have shown their usual lack of
guts, many undoubtedly preferring to rebel just enough to
secure a future career in the party hierarchy than be
bothered about a broken election manifesto promise (never
mind such minor things as principles). The only good news
is that Blair's majority was slashed, although it is
doubtful it will cause him to reconsider his ways --
listening Tony does not have a reverse gear.

Lord Hutton's report has been even more beneficial. An
appointed law lord, a classic representative of the
British ruling establishment, has found the government
not guilty. The word "whitewash" springs to mind,
particularly given that Hutton decided to ignore and what
he concluded. For while his report bordered on the
laughable on many occasions, it went well into farce
territory when he pondered whether the "desire of the
prime minister to have a dossier which, while consistent
with the available intelligence, was as strong as
possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam
Hussein's WMD, may have subconsciously influenced Mr
Scarlett and the other members of the JIC to make the
wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would
have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC
assessment"! Blair has many qualities, but being able to
"subconsciously" influence people is more fitting to the
realms of comic book superheroes than, say, a public
enquiry.

It must have only been Hutton who failed to notice all
those memos from Downing Street officials to Scarlett
asking for multiple changes in wording. After all, how
could those result in pressure to harden the dossier? A
far better explanation is subconscious influences,
although that was merely a "may have." Yes, of course,
these memos had no effect on the intelligence chief's
concern to accurately report the intelligence available.
It merely took numerous rewrites to do this. It was a
mere coincidence that each one hardened the claims
contained within.

So when Blair's chief of staff asked John Scarlett to
redraft that part of the September dossier which
suggested Saddam Hussein might use chemical and
biological weapons "if he believes his regime is under
threat" and he did so, well, that was simply Scarlett
"subconsciously" pleasing his master. Similarly, when
Blair's chief of staff warned that a preliminary version
of the dossier contained no evidence that Saddam was a
threat, "let alone an imminent threat," and a mere week
later another version was produced which included the
claim that the Iraqi dictator had the capacity to launch
WMDs in 45 minutes that was simply a product of good
fortune. Or when Campbell asked Scarlett to change a
claim that the Iraqi military "may be able" to deploy WMD
within 45 minutes to "are able" that, too, simply shows
that the subconscious works in mysterious ways.

Not that such redrafting amounts to the "sexing up" BBC
reporter Andrew Gilligan quoted Kelly as complaining
about. No, not at all. Nor was "sexed up" the same as
being "over-egged," to use the expression of Brian Jones,
who managed scientists working at the Defence
Intelligence Staff. He said this to Hutton when
discussing how the assessments of the Iraqi threat were
being (ab)used as the dossier was compiled. Another
unnamed official at the inquiry also told how he and Dr
Kelly had discussed concern about the role of government
"spin merchants" in the dossier.

But that was not the only thing Hutton failed to notice.
He ignored crucial facts and testimony, such as the
transcripts of interviews between a BBC Newsnight
journalist and Dr Kelly which corroborated much of what
Gilligan claimed, including the scientist's statement
that the 45-minute claim was "got out of all proportion."
But, no, the dossier was not "sexed up." Why? For Hutton,
the term "sexed-up" has two meanings. It "could mean that
the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence
known or believed to be false or unreliable to make the
case against Saddam Hussein stronger, or it could mean
that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was
believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such
a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as
strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted."
Hutton took his remit to be the former, not the latter.
For if it were the latter then "it could be said that the
Government 'sexed-up' the dossier." So it is a happy
coincidence for Blair that Hutton limited the scope of
his enquiry to the former definition. Unless, of course,
Blair's powers for "subconsciously" influencing others
was at work here too.

Perhaps that explains Hutton's failure to comment on how
Blair could chair the meeting at which the strategy for
outing Kelly was adopted and also later deny having
anything to do with it? Perhaps Hoon shares Blair's
powers? After all, Hutton failed to complain about Hoon
testifying his ignorance of the strategy to "out" Dr
Kelly while the MoD press chief later admitting the
Defence Secretary had been at a meeting when "the
approach we were adopting" was discussed. But in Hutton's
world there was no "underhand strategy" to name Dr Kelly,
so ignoring Campbell's diary entries in which he
confessed his desperation to get the scientist's name
out. Hutton also concluded there was no leaking, while
failing to wonder how the Times obtained the information
that made it possible for journalists to identify Dr
Kelly. It is one of the many "awkward questions" that the
Hutton report leaves unanswered.

Perhaps he was picked precisely on his ability to ignore
what he, and all of us, heard at his inquiry?
Subconsciously, of course.

So it appears that Campbell's strategy has paid off. By
narrowing down everything dodgy about the Iraq war to the
single question of what a BBC reporter said in a few
seconds one early morning, Campbell has sidetracked the
key issue. Namely, whether the war in Iraq was really
necessary or were WMD simply used as a fig leaf for
imperial ambitions and reasons of state. It constrained
the scope of the Hutton inquiry marvellously -- a
constraint which Hutton himself seemed to have tightened
voluntarily ("subconsciously"?) himself. Significantly,
Hutton felt capable of breaking those constraints and
widening his remit when it came to attacking the BBC.
Unsurprisingly, the results were exactly what Blair and
Campbell could have hoped for.

So, to summarise. Hutton attacked the BBC for allowing
one of their journalists to criticise the government on
the basis of one uncorroborated report from a source. Yet
he failed to attack the government for making the 45-
minute claim on the basis of a single uncorroborated
report from within Iraq.We should never forget that while
Gilligan's report was wrong in one important respect, the
rest of it was right. The 45-minute claim was inserted
late, there was disquiet in the intelligence communities
about the dossier and there was an anonymous, single
source for the information. All of which Hutton strangely
ignored. Sexed up? Fucked up, more like.

What is amazing is that Campbell could accuse the BBC of
running an anti-war agenda. In fact, the BBC was the most
pro-war of the 5 channels. But then again, some people
seem to think that the corporation is a hot-bed of hard
leftism. Two things are true. Firstly, Hutton's report
will ensure that it becomes even more subservient to the
government (its loyalty to the state can be taken for
granted). Secondly, it gave a clear message to any civil
servant thinking of becoming a whistleblower what to
expect if they decide to follow their conscience.

What Hutton did not address is the simple fact that 16
months after the publication of the government's dossier,
not a single WMD has been found. Not even one that could
be prepared and used against another country in 45
minutes.

And on the basis of the Hutton report John Reid, the
health secretary, asserted he wanted to see a shift from
the culture of a general allegation that "all politicians
are self-serving and prepared to lie even about the
greatest and gravest matters like going to war"! And
people wonder why we anarchists are revolutionaries...

>From Freedom
Fortnightly Anarchist Newspaper
7th February 2004
http://www.freedompress.org.uk


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