Friday, September 05, 2003

I have a massive problem with the essence of the David Kelly story. Kelly was an expert on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, probably the most informed person in Britain on the subject. It now turns out that he actually worked on the drafts of the 'dodgy dossier', and his comments were heeded (see here, section 97, lines 16 to 23, and sections 98-99). He was such a senior and respected scientist and expert that the Ministry of Defence actually gave him the authority to talk to the press to answer their questions on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, without the need for prior specific authority. In fact, the BBC was talking to him for just that reason. My problem is wondering how he could possibly have thought that telling the BBC that there was something fundamentally wrong with the dossier ('sexed up', or as an intelligence scientist has now stated, 'over-egged'; there is now absolutely no question that the essence of the BBC story, that the dossier contained questionable material that was there solely for Blair's political purposes, was absolutely correct) would have fallen within the scope of his authority to talk to the press and would not have provoked the massive reaction in Blair's office and the Ministry of Defence. Kelly wasn't some naive academic with no knowledge of the real rough world in which these players operate. How could he possibly have made the obvious mistake of essentially calling Blair and the Ministry of Defence liars in laying the justification for an extremely unpopular attack on Iraq which has now turned into an utter disaster, all the while thinking that this was just the normal course of his dealings with the press and would not have created a bombshell? Kelly is being depicted as being devastated at the lack of support he got from the Ministry of Defence and the politicians. But what did he expect? Heads have already started to roll about this. Did he think he'd get a thank-you card from Tony Blair for putting Blair in this massive political crisis (the crisis might not have been as big if Kelly hadn't been assassinated, but Kelly's action could only have caused profound problems for both Blair and his bureaucrats)? The essential framework of the Kelly story is so absolutely unbelievable that I think we are being misled. Kelly knew exactly what he was doing. When he talked to the BBC he had to have been completely aware that:

  • his comments would be made public;

  • his comments would have a devastating effect on the Ministry of Defence and Blair's government;

  • his comments could not possibly be construed as being within the framework of what he was authorized to say to the press; and

  • his comments would not make him any friends in the Ministry of Defence or Blair's government, and would provoke a huge reaction.

What genuinely seemed to surprise Kelly was the fact that he was 'outed', dragged through the political mud by Campbell-Hoon on Blair's specific instructions, and roughly treated by the Ministry of Defence, who failed to offer him any support and indeed treated him like some kind of enemy (which, as far as they were concerned, he was). The only way to reconcile this is to suppose that Kelly was working on some specific instructions when he talked to the BBC, and had in return some specific assurances that his privacy would be respected and he would not face reprisals from Blair and the Ministry of Defence. Whoever was actually behind the scheme to get the truth out about Blair let Kelly down, and Kelly's failure to receive the protection he was almost certainly promised led to his murder by those he offended. Kelly's murder may even have been part of the original plan: it certainly is the only reason all these issues are being aired in the Hutton Inquiry.