Wednesday :: Jan 28, 2004

What does the Hutton Report Mean?

by Mary

Lord Hutton delivered his final report on the Hutton Inquiry today. The report was quite harsh on the action of the BBC and in particular, Andrew Gilligan who set off the events leading to Dr. David Kelly's death and the subsequent inquery. On the other hand, a number of the newspapers are reporting that the report completely exonerates Blair and his government of any misdoings.

Actually, the report was much more circumspect about what it actually covered and therefore, the bigger question about whether the intelligence used for the September dossier had been manipulated to build a case for war has not been settled.

Lord Hutton specifically addressed 3 basic questions:

  • Issues relating to the preparation of the government's dossier on Iraq's WMD which was published on September 24 2002
  • Issues relating to Dr Kelly's meeting with Andrew Gilligan that sparked his broadcast
  • Issues relating to the BBC arising from the Gilligan broadcast

So he asked, did Number 10 (Alastair Campbell) add the 45 minute accusation to the September dossier to "sex it up" and therefore make the case for war over the objections of the intelligent agents? The answer was no. This 45 minute charge (which has now been admitted was total crap) was put in before Alastair Campbell made his suggestions.

The next question he asked was, did Blair or someone on his team have any culpability for the death of Dr. Kelly? Again Lord Hutton concluded that they did not.

And the final question he asked was, did the BBC have culpability for their part in this tragedy? And he concluded that they did.

The judge described Mr Gilligan's allegations against the government as "very grave" and said they "attacked the integrity of the government and the Joint Intelligence Committee".

Furthermore, he also faulted the BBC management for their actions in backing Gilligan.

What didn't the Hutton report settle? It did not try to answer anything about why the intelligence (and the September dossier) made the case for war by using non-existent WMD. In his report he said:

Lord Hutton said there had been "a great deal of controversy and debate" about whether the government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was of sufficient strength and reliability to warrant military action.

"That controversy and debate has continued because of the failure at the time of writing this report to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he said.

He said he had given careful consideration to whether his terms of reference entitled him to consider this issue.

"However, I concluded that a question of such wide import which would involve the consideration of a wide range of evidence, is not one which falls within my terms of reference," he said.

So basically, Lord Hutton decided he did not have the charter to determine whether Britain had been taken into war on false evidence. Does that exonerate Blair? Well, the media might believe so - but the evidence from the inquiry certainly makes a very convincing case that Blair published a dossier using exaggerations and lies to make the case for war on Iraq. So even though Blair is not considered culpable for Dr. Kelly's death, it seems likely he should still be considered a suspect in the case for starting a war on false pretenses.

Mary :: 12:59 PM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!