14 August 2003
Far from being troubled about the impending invasion, Dr David Kelly could just as easily have been troubled by the use of ‘evidence’ that “takes away from the case for war.” In other words, Kelly’s statements can be interpreted as continued support for the war but that he objected to the way it was being sold through the crass intervention of the Downing Street propaganda machine, headed by Alistair Campbell.
In the transcript of Ms Watt’s conversation with Dr Kelly, we have the following quite revealing statement that points quite clearly to the fact, that up to the end, Kelly as I’ve suggested above, had no problems with the invasion:
“Well, I think it’s a matter of perception, isn’t it? Er, I think people will perceive things and they’ll be – how shall I put it? – they’ll see it from their own standpoint. I think one of the problems with the dossier…is that it was presented in a very black and white way… It was not so much what [weapons] they [Iraq] have now but what they would have in the future. But that unfortunately wasn’t expressed strongly in the dossier because that takes away the case for war.”
These are clearly not the words of someone opposed to the invasion. Indeed, they read as someone who is a loyal employee of the state and who felt that they could have achieved the objective, namely selling the case for war, but those meddling fools in Downing Street ie, Alistair Campbell and co, screwed it all up.
It also helps explain his denials before the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, denials concerning the conversations he had with the BBC journalists. In other words, an attempt at ‘damage control’ but one which in turn, also backfired.
What it also reveals is the role of the media in participating in the process of justifying the war but an attempt that backfired badly all round.
Instead of focusing on the tense of the WMDS (ie that Iraq was in the process of acquiring them), all the BBC journalists involved, chose to home in on the role Campbell played in the dossier and for obvious reasons, because it’s a ‘sexier’ story. And there’s no love lost between Campbell and the press.
Whereas, it’s clear that what Kelly was instructed to do (and there can be no doubt about this, given his level of responsibility and his role as a media liaison person), was to put the media back on the track of Iraq’s preparation for the use of WMDs. But the attempt went badly wrong. This clearly shows (as does all the ‘leaks’ from the intelligence agencies) that the left-hand didn’t know what the right-hand was doing.
The press chose to focus (of course) on the supposedly neutral role of the intelligence agencies, as ‘impartial’ suppliers of information, being interfered with by ‘amateurs.’
Campbell the incompetent
So what we have is two ham-handed attempts at selling the war through badly planned propaganda initiatives; the September and then February disinformation documents, both Campbell initiatives.
And Alistair Campbell’s role of propagandist for the government has been revealed in all its ‘glory’ in his crude attempts to control at least two BBC journalists based in Iraq at the start of and after the invasion (and who knows who else?).
Not happy with both Andrew Gilligan’s and Rageh Omah’s coverage, the following gives you an idea of how intent Campbell was on making sure the government line was followed to the letter.
In correspondence to the BBC sent on April 1, Campbell accused Gilligan of contravening BBC news ‘guidelines’ and asked, “Was this report monitored? Does Mr Gilligan have a minder?”
And in another outrageous statement in response Gilligan’s comment just before the invasion that, “innocent people will die here in the next few hours,” Campbell wanted to know whether Gilligan “could…justify that statement to [him, meaning Campbell]?”
Meanwhile, the press wastes acres of dead trees pursuing a line that has absolutely no relevance to the issue at hand, with what they consider to be witty digs at Ms Watts (“Part Miss Marples, part Nancy Drew — but she might have missed a trick” Independent 14/08/03), and impugning the professional integrity of Andrew Gilligan.
Frankly, if I were Tony Blair (which thankfully I’m not), I would have fired Alistair Campbell months ago for being an utterly incompetent and arrogant fool.