We all knew it was going to be a lying cover-up job when Hutton allowed Blair another secret kick at the can to explain the lies in his government’s testimony, and even more so when Blair announced he’d resign if he was criticized by Hutton (something we know he wouldn’t have offered to do unless he knew the fix was in), but no one could possibly have foreseen that it would be this bad. Hutton has firmly placed himself as one of the most mendacious cover-up artistes in British history. ‘To hutton’ should become the new verb for hiding government wrongdoing. British judges have a history of providing cover for the worst crimes of the powerful, the most famous of which is Lord Denning’s incredibly lying account of the Profumo Affair, but this one has to be the new champion. It was so utterly outrageous that the journalists hearing it live couldn’t control their laughter. A few comments:
1. A quick summary:
o Kelly killed himself.
o Kelly killed himself for reasons based on some psychobabble heard at the inquiry.
o Kelly was completely responsible for his own plight, and was wrong to be a whistleblower.
o The dossier wasn’t ‘sexed up’. Campbell didn’t press to harden the terms of the dossier. The language was possibly sexed up, but not the essence of it, and the intelligence services were completely happy with the result.
o There was no strategy to name Kelly, and no leaking.
o Blair had nothing to do with the decisions made at the meetings he chaired, and knew nothing about them (so forget all about what Kevin Tebbit said).
o The Ministry of Defence didn’t do anything wrong except for being insufficiently touchy-feely in the way it told Kelly of his fate.
o John Scarlett may have been ‘subconsciously’ influenced to produce a harder report based on his feelings about what Blair wanted (mystical psychobabble, perhaps involving ESP, and no mention of the clever way that Scarlett used the term ‘ownership’ of the dossier to arrange to have it prepared without meaningful input of the intelligence experts like Kelly).
o Kelly didn’t say what Gilligan said he did, despite the fact that Gilligan is the only living witness to the conversations, Kelly himself basically confirmed the truth of what Gilligan said (although he remained confused, probably because Gilligan had another as yet unnamed source), Susan Watts also confirmed it, and it has been completely confirmed by all subsequent events.
o The whole war thing that the British people and the British Parliament didn’t want, and the thousands and thousands of dead people killed on the basis of Blair’s lies, and the lies about the weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat (battlefield or strategic weapons, who cares!), and the ‘crock of shit’ concerning the 45 minute claim and on and on and on. You know whose fault it all was? Apparently, it was all the BBC’s fault!
Of course, anyone looking at the facts can clearly see that every single one of Hutton’s findings is very tenuous. In every single case where the facts could have been interpreted in two different ways, Hutton sided firmly with the government, and in many cases he really had to stretch the facts to do so.
1. The British people are peasants and remain peasants. In no modern country would such an insulting report be issued without riots in the streets. This report is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who reads it and an insult to the British people, who apparently are prepared to accept this horseshit from their ‘betters’, and like it. Gloating Blair, who has been lying to the British people non-stop for months, now has the absolute audacity to demand an apology from those who dared point out the obvious fact that every single thing he said to force through the attack on Iraq has proven to be a lie. Hutton must have retired to his club, lit up a big cigar (or perhaps a big blunt, for that is what he must have been smoking when he wrote his report), and had a huge laugh with his friends about how the peasants have been fooled again.
2. The failure to even question the huge problems with the story of Kelly’s death, including the inadequacy of the cut, the absence of blood (the forensic expert apparently concluded that since Kelly killed himself he didn’t have to look for the blood, for it must have been there!), the mysterious and unaccounted for men in black at the crime scene, and the movement of the body after it was discovered, means that someone has gotten away with murder.
1. “Hutton’s line on the 45 minute claim was that the intelligence services believed the source to be accurate, therefore going to war and killing thousands of people was fine. His take on the Today programme broadcast is that the BBC believed their source to be accurate, therefore broadcasting it without taking further notes, obtaining corroborating evidence and subjecting Kelly to a lie-detector test is despicable.
Is it me, or is the world crazy, when an inquiry can criticise the BBC for broadcasting one assertion based on a single source for which there is no tablets-of-stone proof, yet not criticise a Government for taking the country to war on the basis of one assertion from a single source which has been demonstrably proved to be incorrect?
For God’s sake, which is the more serious issue here? The precise form of words used by Gilligan in a single broadcast at 6.30am heard by a couple of hundred people, or the fact that we went to war and killed people as a direct result of a claim which has been proved to be demonstrably false?”
2. There is something extraordinary about a British judge censoring a broadcaster for what he feels are its failure to live up to journalistic standards. There seems to be an essential misunderstanding of the nature of journalism, again relating back to the over-deference paid by Britons to their superiors (I’ve always liked the logic of Mark Twain’s line: “Always obey your superiors – if you have any.”). In all this nonsense we have to remember one thing: Gilligan’s assertions have proven to be substantially correct. Investigative journalism is a tough job. Everyone is trying to hide something, and those who want to talk are all pushing a hidden agenda. There is no way to meet the standards that Hutton apparently feels are necessary. Hutton and his ilk thrive on secrecy, on hiding from the peasants the outrageous things the lords and ladies are doing, and Hutton’s essential prohibition on investigative journalism just makes Britain more of a dictatorship. The Gilligan’s of the world have to be free to throw a little dirt in the air, and see what sticks. All Blair had to do was deny it, and the market of ideas would have determined whether people believed the BBC or not. The only reason this became a big issue is that everyone knew that Gilligan’s story was essentially correct. Blair couldn’t defend himself on the facts, so Campbell came up with the strategy of putting all the blame on the BBC, a strategy which, with Hutton’s help, has completely succeeded. Hutton has now cast a permanent cloud over investigative journalism in Britain. The people of Britain are less free as a result.
3. The Chairman of the BBC has resigned as a result of the report. Much as I like to attack the disgusting American press, it is impossible to conceive of an American head of a broadcaster having to resign over the lousy opinion of a judge. The fact that the BBC is state-owned is irrelevant. The Chairman should not have had to resign. As well, Gilligan did nothing but what he should have done, and should be back at his job. He should, in fact, receive journalistic awards for his work. Would the people of Britain be better off not knowing what he had to report? Hutton’s real problem with Gilligan is that this lower class punk was insufficiently deferential to his betters. Good journalists can never be deferential to anyone, and good broadcasters, state-owned or not (and the good ones are all state-owned), have to keep up the fight against those, like Hutton, who stand for secrecy to support the absolute rule of the powerful.
4. There is no hope that Hutton would have delved into the really interesting issues in the case, including the creation of falsified intelligence for political purposes, and the deep relationship between American intelligence agencies and their British counterparts.
There is one issue on which I have to give Hutton credit. He could have created a more subtle and nuanced report, letting Blair off the hook but sacrificing a few of the minions. Such a report would have also been a lie, but would not have been an obvious lie. The report Hutton gave is such an obvious, total and complete crock of shit that no one will be fooled into believing any of it.