Sunday, February 07, 2010

Makes it whiter than white

This, too, is an old bit - two weeks, in fact - but because it's about something I addressed at the time, I wanted to mention it.

I expect you heard some news about how
[v]ital evidence which could solve the mystery of the death of Government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

In a draconian – and highly unusual – order, Lord Hutton, the peer who chaired the controversial inquiry into the Dr Kelly scandal, has secretly barred the release of all medical records, including the results of the post mortem, and unpublished evidence.
What you might not recall is what this was about, so I thought I'd refresh folks' memories.

In September 2002, as part of its efforts to bang the drums of war against Iraq, the British government under Prime Minister Tony Blair issued what was claimed to be a sober, solidly-founded indictment of Saddam Hussein as possessing massive stocks of banned weapons.

Prominently played in this report was the dramatic statement that Saddam's chemical weapons were so advanced and so well-distributed to front-line units that they could be deployed within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

Later, two BBC reporters, citing a senior official, reported that the 45-minute claim was poorly sourced and was inserted at the insistence of Blair's director of communications, Alistair Campbell, to "sex up" the document to make Saddam seem more threatening.

Blair's team stomped about Whitehall, looking for the leaker - and Dr. David Kelly, Britain's top weapons inspector, admitted to being the source, while denying he said anything about "sexing up" the dossier. The Blair government then proceeded to try to discredit the BBC report by outing its own intelligence operative, dropping hints as to his identity until some reporter guessed it - and then "confirming" his name.

Dr. Kelly was publicly assailed, his sanity was questioned (the usual tactic against a whistleblower), and he was raked over the coals by a Parliamentary committee. Unable to deal with the publicity, the pressure, the destruction of his career, and the humiliation, David Kelly committed suicide.

That caused a huge row, which the Blair government tried to quiet by having a special inquiry overseen by Lord Hutton. It's conclusion? Dr. Kelly did commit suicide, and the whole imbroglio, the whole mess, the whole deal, was all the fault of (wait for it) the BBC. No, I'm not joking.

That was in 2004. Last year, a group of doctors opened a legal challenge to the verdict.
They argue that Hutton’s conclusion that Dr Kelly killed himself by severing the ulnar artery in his left wrist after taking an overdose of prescription painkillers is untenable because the artery is small and difficult to access, and severing it could not have caused death.
It was as a result of that proceeding that it has emerged that all the evidence in the case is to be sealed - even from the family - for between 30 and 70 years.
Last night, the Ministry of Justice was unable to explain the legal basis for Lord Hutton’s order.
Oh, we know the basis, and it's not a legal one. The Hutton inquiry was, I said at the time, "a shameful, disgraceful, disgusting, and transparently false whitewash," a sentiment in which I was hardly alone, intended to maintain the fiction of a justified war on Iraq,

And that, friends, is why this recent news is so infuriating: It is a whitewash of a whitewash.

Footnote: On a tangentially-related note, I just came across an item from last October, where it seems that Tony Blair labeled atheists a danger to society and the equivalent of terrorists, decrying "an aggressive secular attack from without" and "the threat of extremism from within" from those who would "scorn God."

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