Here is a synopsis of the Hutton inquiry. "While it is clear that government spokesmen informed all interested parties that the source for the BBC's story was Dr David Kelly, it would be entirely wrong to infer from this that the Government was responsible for placing the name of Dr Kelly into the public domain. The facts that, when asked, they said: 'It's Kelly, David Kelly, Dr David Kelly, that's spelt K-E-L-L-Y'" and that, the following morning, newspaper reports appeared to the effect that the source was Dr Kelly are entirely unconnected and belong in the realm of mere coincidence.
"Furthermore, any suggestion that the substance of the intelligence dossier was altered in any way by interference from the Government is similarly unsubstantiated. It became apparent during my enquiries that Alastair Campbell's insistence that the dossier should include additional evidence of weapons of mass destruction, regardless of whether they existed, was simply a desire to improve the text as a piece of literature. Mr Campbell was plainly concerned that, in the original document, there was a rather dry section in chapter 2, and that the character of the man who bottled the anthrax was left hopelessly up in the air.
"Turning to the issue of the 45-minute claim, I find the Government wholly innocent of asserting any falsehoods. I note that the director of the Iraqi Survey Group David Kay has resigned, having said this claim was false, and that the current head of weapons inspectors said, 'There is no doubt that the phrase 'within 45 minutes' included in the British report is incorrect.' But it occurs to me that by far the most probable explanation is that both of these people are blind.
"I am equally satisfied that the Government is entirely blameless with regard to the death of Dr Kelly. Indeed it seems likely that cause of the depression leading to his suicide was that he became aware of the BBC summer schedules. It was entirely inappropriate for Casualty to occupy such a prominent position on a Saturday evening. Anything decent these days is on ITV - A Touch of Frost, Stars in Their Eyes. I don't know how they've got the cheek to charge us for the bloody licence."
There were several problems with trying to decipher Lord Hutton as he recited his report, of which the worst was that he sounded so much like Victor Meldrew. You expected him, at any moment, to fidget a bit, then reveal he'd accidentally squashed a tortoise. And he was so tortuously, pompously verbose. His poor wife must dread asking if he wants a cup of tea, as he'd say, "My remit is merely to adjudicate upon the requirement or not of the beverage. I shall make no judgement as to the desirability of accompanying biscuits as they lie outside my terms of reference." Perhaps the strategy was that if he could spin it out for eight months, by then someone will have found the weapons of mass destruction.
And you find yourself getting drawn into his world. It sounds so painstakingly rational. Until you slap yourself and remember the Government case rests on the premise that we had to go to war because Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that he could launch them at 45 minutes' notice. So let's hold up the Government's claims to similar scrutiny as those of the BBC.
A major part of the evidence of weapons of mass destruction turned out to have been lifted from a student's thesis. A document proving Saddam tried to buy uranium from Nigeria turned out to be a forgery, to the extent that one of the ministers who'd supposedly signed it had resigned 10 years earlier. Last April, Tony Blair said: "Once we have the cooperation of the experts, I have got no doubt we will find the weapons of mass destruction."
Since then, all the scientists and experts and 1,400 staff from Britain and America have not found them. Yet Hutton could have discovered an e-mail that went, "From: Alastair Campbell to: British intelligence. Hiya, how about putting in something about an underground network of giant spiders? Got the idea from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." And Hutton would have said, "To comment on this would be wholly improper and outside my terms of reference." It's been like an investigation into Fred West that ignored the murders and issued a 378-page report on the shortcomings of the patio.
Throughout this, millions of people have despaired that we've become America's poodle. But in America's election, one of the main contenders will be a severe critic of the war. So we're actually worse. At least if the Americans had held this inquiry they'd have got someone in a furry leather jacket to go, "Hey BBC, you screwed up," and let off some balloons. Instead of a decrepit lord muttering statements such as, "And Dr Kelly was a presumptuous chap with traitorous tendencies and a somewhat obstinately gauche beard, so to be perfectly frank the whole thing was probably a blessed release."
- More about:
- John Hutton