Friday, January 30, 2004
Lots to write about, so little time: I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was looking forward to reading what Union-Tribune columnist James Goldsborough would have to say regarding the results of the Hutton Inquiry and its indictment of the BBC's "journalism."
Well, you can find his Thursday column here. The column actually takes a dual path, condemning Bush on intelligence failures (the same intelligence Clinton, Chirac, et. al., suffered) and looking at the fallout from the Hutton inquiry. I'm only going to deal with the latter, just to show you how far out of the mainstream Goldsborough is.
First, an interesting issue of schemantics:
The most damning charge made by Blair – that Iraq could deploy WMD within 45 minutes – was strongly doubted by British intelligence (MI6) agents. In unprecedented testimony, MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove – officially known only as "C" and whose face is unknown – told Hutton telephonically from a secret location that Blair "misinterpreted" the 45-minute allegation.
Asked by Hutton for clarification, Dearlove said the intelligence was meant only to refer to "battlefield" weapons, not to strategic weapons that might pose a threat to Britain.
This "clarification" is part of the intelligence problem. If they can pub "battlefield" chemical or biological weapons to use in 45 minutes, how does this not make the weapons a threat to Britain? Saddam hands over one artillery shell to some terrorists, they take a flight to Britain and drop the stuff outside parliament. Goldsborough is trapped in Sept. 10 thinking.
However, where Goldsborough really goes off the reservation we here like to call "sanity" is in an effort to tear down Blair, while minimizing the BBC's culpability.
The charges against Blair could have brought him down, and he claimed vindication Wednesday. Technically, he's right, for Hutton exonerated him of the charge of "sexing up" the Iraq danger and for Kelly's death. Kelly killed himself when caught in the middle of a power struggle between Blair and the BBC. Most of Hutton's blame falls on the BBC for its "sexing up" broadcast, and the network's chairman promptly resigned.
But though Blair was acquitted by Hutton of a "dishonorable, duplicitous, underhand strategy" for war and survives another day, he is hurt. He was caught in a lie over the "outing" of Kelly. Exposing Kelly, a man authorized to speak on background to the media, was heartless and unethical.
Hutton concluded that Kelly "did not realize the gravity of the situation he would create by discussing intelligence matters with Andrew Gilligan," the BBC's defense reporter.
Blair and a "lie" about "outing" Kelly? Where can I find some reporting on this? Well, let's try London's left-wing Guardian newspaper.
On the naming of the late weapons inspector, meanwhile, Lord Hutton concluded "that there was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media".
The law lord stated that he is "satisfied ... that throughout the period from July 4 to July 8 the government was becoming increasingly concerned that if it did not issue a statement that a civil servant had come forward to say that he had had a meeting with Mr Gilligan, it would be charged with a cover up".
"I am further satisfied that this was the principal reason why it was decided to issue the MoD [Ministry of Defence] statement on Tuesday July 8," he added.
"It was reasonable for the government to take the view that, even if it sought to keep confidential the fact that Dr Kelly had come forward, the controversy surrounding Mr Gilligan's broadcasts was so great and the level of media interest was so intense that Dr Kelly's name as Mr Gilligan's source was bound to become known to the public and that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret."
Well, the Guardian's report doesn't describe Blair as having "lied" or done anything underhanded -- and understand that the proverbial wall between editorializing and reporting is practically non-existent in the British press.
But, let's look at another report on Blair's "lie" on the naming of Kelly. This one from Mother Jones, that bastion of neo-conservative thought.
The report, though, clears Blair of any wrongdoing. The Hutton report states that the prime minister did not engage in a "dishonourable, duplicitous, underhand strategy" to leak the name of Dr. Kelly to the press. The report slammed the BBC for making "unfounded," "grave," and "false allegations of fact impugning the integrity of others," and faulted the BBC's management and board of governors for allowing the story by reporter Andrew Gilligan to air. The report calls the BBC's journalistic practices "defective" and declared that the board of governors had failed in its duty to act as an independent regulator.
If you can't even get Mother Jones to side with you when slamming Blair, then just how far out on the left are you?
Of course, Goldsborough has little vitriol left for the dishonest "reporting" done by the BBC, the bad guy in the Hutton report.
In a July 24, 2003, column, Goldsborough casually dismissed criticism of the BBC's "reporting" from the British government and others as nothing more than the right-wing trying to take over the BBC.
Blair's control freakery put into practice by Campbell -- whose head should be the first to fall -- led to Kelly's death. Whatever words he used to Gilligan -- and the BBC says Gilligan checked his quotes with Kelly and they are in his notes -- Kelly clearly believed Blair/Campbell were misusing intelligence. As a leading biological weapons expert, he believed he should inform the public.
In their obnoxious control freakery, Bush and Blair have forgotten that the role of a free press is to provide the public with access to government. Murdoch's Sun, Times and Fox want the Kelly inquiry to turn the BBC, one of the world's great news organizations, into another government mouthpiece.
Well, British Defence Minister Alastair Campbell was vindicated. Instead, two BBC heads have rolled -- but not Andrew Gilligan. Goldsborough apparently still stands behind the BBC reporter who lied on the BBC World Service radio telling listeners that the Americans were not in control of the Baghdad Airport when they were. Gilligan claimed that he was at the airport. He was not. And Goldsborough apparently he believes this "reporter" is still telling the truth, when the evidence is he lied.
If the BBC is "one of the world's great news organizations," as it continues to support Gilligan, then God help us.