By Solomon Hughes
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 277

Hutton Inquiry: Indecent Exposure

This article is over 20 years, 5 months old
Was Alastair Campbell responsible for the government's deliberate lies about Iraq's 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? The Hutton inquiry evidence suggests not.
Issue 277

Instead the e-mails and memos show the whole government machine was behind the ‘sexing up’ of Saddam’s threat. Campbell is there, but so too are Jonathan Powell, John Scarlett, Godric Smith and a host of press officers, all obsessively worried about the drafts and ever more melodramatic redrafts of the government’s dossier. The initials ‘TB’ recur, showing the prime minister’s close involvement in the propaganda programme and subsequent squeeze on Dr Kelly.

The hype is childishly obvious. An early draft dossier is called ‘Iraq’s Programme for Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in quite small letters. The final copy reads ‘Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction’, in REALLY LARGE LETTERS. The word ‘programme’ – meaning Iraq may just have some ageing chemical weapons stocks, and may one day make more – has gone. In its place is a claim that Saddam is making, stockpiling and is about to use gas bombs and germ rockets, with a nuclear device around the corner. Campbell’s crew clearly believed they could hide their thin story under a large typeface and some ‘secret information’, which like the ’45 minute’ claim turned out to be lies told by unnamed liars.

Traditionally, spies revolt against Labour governments because they fear the party is made up of unpatriotic reds. This time the secret services rebelled because they thought Labour was lying us into war. Alongside Kelly a host of intelligence officers complained about the document. One unnamed spook, calling himself ‘probably the most senior and experienced intelligence community official working on WMD’, worried that the dossier was hype. Even Blair’s closest confidant, Jonathan Powell, said, ‘You need to make it clear Saddam could not attack us at the moment. The thesis is he would be a threat to the UK in the future if we do not check him.’ However, he bit his tongue when ‘TB’ told the Commons that Iraq was an immediate danger to Britain.

Hutton will report on the narrow question of whether rough treatment by the government contributed to Kelly’s suicide, but every day the inquiry shows how Blair’s arguments for a war that killed thousands were simple lies. Some of the establishment are circling the wagons around Blair – Telegraph editor Conrad Black openly told his newspaper not to attack on Hutton. They might hate Labour, but must not undermine the authority of war. The Murdoch press are working hard on Blair’s side. The BBC’s ever loyal Andrew Marr will downplay any damage – the same Marr, on the day Baghdad fell, appeared with a beaming smile to say Blair was a ‘larger man and a stronger prime minister’ who had beaten off his critics and put behind him the ‘slightly tawdry arguments and scandals’ that bedevilled the Labour Party. His colossal misjudgement – there was no ‘Baghdad bounce’, just another scandal – will not stop Marr making the same mistake twice, or as many times as necessary, and declaring Blair’s exoneration.

Despite these defences, the Hutton inquiry cuts hard and deep into Labour’s authority. At present the right wing make little from the exposure of Labour’s lies – Conservative support for the war makes IDS a marginal figure in the scandal. By contrast the anti-war left can be bolstered. The simplest act makes the biggest impact. A small anti-war demonstration before Alastair Campbell’s appearance transformed coverage of the inquiry – obsession about side issues (‘a fascinating window on the machinery of government’, ‘will Alastair publish his diary?’) is replaced with the main issue: the war was based on lies.

Had there been no anti-war movement, there would be no Hutton inquiry. Without the massive public debate on the war, no journalist would have questioned the government’s dossier. Even the splits within the establishment are a product of popular anti-war pressure. Equally, if Iraqis had welcomed coalition forces, there would be no argument. The fact that ‘liberation’ is as illusory as the WMDs intensifies disgust with the deception over Iraq.

Hoon looks set to be the fall guy – ‘buff’ Hoon was born to be a fall guy – but Kelly’s persecution was as much the work of Campbell and Blair. Dr Kelly was a timid but effective whistleblower. Because Dr Kelly’s voice came from within the establishment, he gained a hearing. Kelly was, as he wrote, ‘personally sympathetic to the war’, but presumably, after years of work uncovering Iraqi lies about their old weapons programme, shocked to find his own side so cavalier with the truth. Unwilling or unable to blow the whistle more publicly, caught in a ‘tightening of the screw’, he humiliated himself by recanting before MPs then took his life.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance