24 July 2003
Did Dr Kelly commit suicide because he could no longer tolerate the fact that the government he worked for had lied in order to justify going to war? Or was he murdered because he was about to expose the lies?
As I suggested in earlier essays, Dr David Kelly’s role in the government’s disinformation campaign over the invasion of Iraq, was not that of some innocent civil servant, caught up in the affairs of state. Today’s Independent (24/07/03) carries a front-page story that suggests that Kelly had very close connections to the various espionage services:
“Fresh information passed to the Independent suggests Dr Kelly had close links to the espionage services…. Dr Kelly was a consultant to the Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff, which can draw upon classified information provided by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), MI5, GCHQ, military intelligence and material supplied by allied intelligence services. In this capacity, he played an important role in providing information for the September Iraq arms dossier…. [Kelly] was also used by MI6 to interrogate Iraqi defectors claiming to have information on Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.”
Moreover, as I also suggested, it seems he supplied contradictory information to the various media contacts he used, especially concerning the 45 minute claim and the involvement of Alistair Campbell in ‘sexing up’ the September document.
According to the BBC, Dr Kelly told the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan that the government were “desperate for information” which would back up the claim that Iraq possessed WMDs but that the “45 minutes claim got out of all proportion.” Kelly also told Gilligan that the 45-minute assertion was inserted “at the behest of Downing Street” and later Dr Kelly named Alistair Campbell as being responsible for it.
But then Dr Kelly told two other BBC reporters, Susan Watts and Gavin Hewitt that “Our source [Dr Kelly] was not disputing…the 45-minute assessment [that] was included in the dossier by the intelligence services, although he did say he felt that to have been a mistake.” (Does this mean the insertion was a mistake or the assessment? The Independent needs to get its grammar sorted out.) But if the 45-minute claim wasn’t wrong, why would Kelly object to its use in the dossier, especially given his access to and direct knowledge of, the situation on the ground in Iraq?
In turn, this is bound to raise questions about how he died. Most of the speculation around his alleged suicide, is based on the ‘pressure’ he is assumed to have been subjected to by the government and his subsequent exposure to the media. But in light of what his real role seems to have been, especially his proactive contacts with the media, must surely call into question the suggestion that he committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the heat.
But my own feeling is that the initial exposure of the faked Niger documents which triggered the unraveling of the entire scam, led to the exposure of the 45-minute claim, which meant that there was little else of substance left to support the invasion. Once confronted with this reality, it’s reasonable to assume that Dr Kelly went through some kind of experience akin to St. Paul on the road to Damascus? But it still doesn’t explain why he apparently committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the pressure. If anything, it supports the idea that Dr Kelly was on the verge of exposing the entire, rotten deal.
Of course to suggest that he was murdered is bound to raise some eyebrows, after all this England, and everybody knows we don’t do things like that (that wouldn’t be cricket, would it?). But a lot is at stake here, not just Blah’s pathetic political life but the viability of the British state to govern, and be a ‘partner’ of the world’s most powerful state, the US. If the rationale for the invasion falls apart here, it will inevitably increase the pressure in the US for answers. The entire house of cards could come tumbling down.
I think there are several issues that need to be highlighted. The first is the fact that if Kelly was used to spread confusion and disinformation, it calls into question the ‘honest but misguided’ approach to Blah’s rationale for the invasion, that is generally accepted by the media and even those in government who opposed the war. The second is that it also reveals the desperate measures the government is being forced to use in order to cover its tracks. There is after all, a long track record that reinforces this analysis. The endless number of ‘reasons’ rolled out by Blah and his associates to justify war, each of which failed to persuade. And the argument that Blah actually believes his own propaganda, is neither here nor there. As the saying goes, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ And we need only look at the role of British intelligence in Northern Ireland and its role in the use of Loyalist gangs in assassinations of alleged IRA members/supporters, to see that the British government had no qualms about ‘taking out’ the opposition.
If, on the other hand, Dr Kelly had reached the point of being so utterly disgusted with the government’s use of lies and disinformation that he could no longer be a part of it, then it still exposes the government for what it is. Either way, the government’s policy is revealed as a sham.
It also exposes the fact that the Kelly affair is no mere distraction or deviation, but is fundamental to the workings of the state, especially when it comes under sustained attack for its empire-building ambitions. This is especially true of the British state, which has carefully nurtured the impression that it is an ‘honest broker’ in its dealing with its citizens. And also that its civil service is ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ in its relationship to government, when the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth (anybody who has watched “Yes Minister” will know exactly what I mean).
This is why, I believe it is necessary for us to know the entire truth, not only about Kelly’s role in the preparation for war, but of the role of the so-called intelligence services. The government and the media have, all along, presented the intelligence services as ‘objective’ suppliers of facts that the government is meant to use in order to make policies. But the opposite is actually true. They are inextricably involved in the run-up to war and just as culpable as the Blah government is of misleading the public. Demands for a full investigation, not one limited to the immediate ‘cause’ of Dr Kelly’s death is vital. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll get at the truth owing to the cult of secrecy that surrounds the inner workings of our government, and a cloak of secrecy that if anything has gotten more opaque since the ‘war on terror’ began.