Tuesday, August 05, 2003

When something's smelly, blame a Kelly 

Has the government taken leave of their senses, asks the BBC. Well they've certainly parted company from what remains of their integrity and credibility, so quite possibly they have also misplaced their political compass.

Having first clung like a drowning man to the official nonsense that the BBC misrepresented the statements of the late Dr Kelly, the government has, with breathtaking cynicism, performed an astonishing about-face and smeared the previously saint-like Kelly as "fantasist and a Walter Mitty figure". Ironically, Downing Street first tried to deny that Mr Tom Kelly, the mud slinging spin doctor who briefed the Independent and other papers, had uttered any such words. The now familiar tune from Number 10 was that the Indy, just like the BBC before it, had simply made the whole thing up.

Of course the Independent had done no such thing, and Tom Kelly was forced read out a humiliating public apology to Dr Kelly's grieving family, whilst laughably claiming that his carefully timed character assaassination merely reflected his own private musings and was no indication of government policy. The spin doctor then slipped away into the shadows whilst reporters were distracted by the sight of a large pink animal flying past the window.

In the meantime, Tony Blair continues to insist, rather like the Elvis fan who clutches his 1000/1 William Hill betting slip and dreams of his hero’s Jesus-like return from the dead, that the fictitious weapons of mass destruction will somehow be found. And his spin-doctors dare to call Dr Kelly a Walter Mitty fantasist.

Friday, July 25, 2003


The editor will be away for a few days. Normal business will resume on his return.


Campbell may drown in his own soup... 

...as this BBC story implies but the real culprit has yet to be nailed. To watch as Alistair Campbell's head is placed under the guillotine and to hear the swish of the blade as it descends towards his neck will indeed be a deeply satisfying experience. But my thirst for blood will only be fully quenched when Mr Campbell's slippery boss meets a similar fate.

The central issue is that the British Government (in cahoots with the Bush administration) concocted a fictional tale of WMDs which, we were told, posed an imminent threat to our national security that was deemed so serious it justified a pre-emptive war. This conspiracy (what other word for it is there?) wasn't led by the forces loyal to Tony Blair. It was organised by the man the forces are loyal to. The unmistakable message from Blair to his ministers, advisors and the intelligence services was: "Mr Bush and I have decided on war so please go away and come up with some "evidence" to back it."

Precisely which Blairite toad it was who inserted this or that piece of rubbish in the dodgy dossier or pressured intelligence officials to twist the evidence is important only in so far as it helps us to arrive at the truth. And the truth is that the war was not based on faulty evidence. Rather the reverse: the faulty evidence was based on the decision to go to war. A decision which was taken well before the Iraq crisis was engineered at the UN and well before the entry into Iraq of Hans Blix and his team of inspectors.

It is simply not credible to single out Campbell, Hoon or Straw as the one or more bad apples in the barrel, although they each played their part in lying to parliament and the public. The whole barrel is rotting from the top down. Blair was not misled by dodgy evidence. On the contrary, Blair was the chief misleader. And everything we are now seeing, incl. Dr Kelly's apparent suicide, flows from that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

BBC recording confirms the Straight Dope's analysis of Kelly's death 

Dr Kelly was the source and he did tell the BBC that Alastair Campbell sexed up the dodgy dossier. And having been outed as the mole by his bosses at the Ministry of Defence, he tried to save his career by misleading the Foreign Affairs Committee as to the content of his discussions with various BBC reporters. Faced with the realisation that the truth would eventually come out, he sadly took his own life.

That's the long and the short of it, as BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's contemporaneous notes and this tape recorded interview with another reporter will show. All other suggested versions of what transpired are complete hogwash and obviously so.

In a few weeks time almost everybody will accept the unglamorous truth behind Kelly's suicide. We at the Straight Dope will have been proved 100% right. And then the heat will be back where it belongs: On Tony Blair and his dodgy government.


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The transcript of Dr Kelly's evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee is now available on the web. A close reading reinforces the BBC claim that Andrew Gilligan's report of his meeting with Kelly was factually correct. Here's Kelly trying to explain why he couldn't remember telling Andrew Gilligan that Campbell tried to sex up the dossier:

Q170 Mr Hamilton: ...Just for the record, can you tell me absolutely whether you named or otherwise identified Alastair Campbell or did you say anything which Mr Gilligan might reasonably have interpreted as identifying Mr Alastair Campbell as wanting to change the dossier or "sex it up" in any way or make undue reference to the 45 minute claim?

Dr Kelly: I cannot recall that. I find it very difficult to think back to a conversation I had six weeks ago. I cannot recall but that does not mean to say, of course, that such a statement was not made but I really cannot recall it. It does not sound like the sort of thing I would say.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Did Dr Kelly lie? 

To my mind it looks increasingly likely that he did. Forget the media overkill, the partisan dissembling of the evidence and the reluctance to speak ill of the dead. Look instead at the available facts.

We know that Kelly, a Ministry of Defence weapons expert, met BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan in a London hotel. And we now know that Kelly was the single source for Gilligan’s story fingering the Prime Minister’s communications chief, Alistair Campbell, as the man who “sexed up” with false and misleading information the British Government’s now infamous ‘dodgy dossier’ on the non-existent threat from Iraq. Gilligan is standing by his story. Kelly denied he said any such thing. Clearly both parties can’t be telling the truth. The question is: Who is lying?

Yesterday I watched on satellite television the entire footage of the foreign affairs committee examination of Kelly. Two things struck me. The first was that, contrary to press reports that Kelly was verbally bullied, he was in fact treated more like an expert witness than a dodgy defendant. The second was that whenever Kelly was asked a specific question about what exactly he did say to Gilligan, his answers were evasive and unconvincing. Kelly displayed the classic body language of a person lying under pressure: extreme discomfort, staring at the floor and replying in barely audible whispers.

If Kelly was the source, then he had every reason to deny it. At stake were his career, his pension and his reputation. Having told one lie, he had to tell another and another. There was, for Dr Kelly, no reverse gear. If he lied to his Ministry of Defence bosses to save his job, then he had to continue lying to the foreign affairs committee and to the media.

Gilligan on the other hand, had few reasons to lie. He was a senior journalist for a serious news organisation. Both he and the BBC have professional reputations to uphold. Twisting the facts is one thing. Making them up altogether is quite another. It is certainly possible that Gilligan could have fabricated the whole story to get at Campbell and the Blair government. But is it likely? And why would Gilligan risk everything for a barefaced lie? The conspiracy over weapons of mass destruction was and is real enough, both here in London and in Washington. Gilligan didn’t need to embellish the evidence; the truth was bad enough. Someone at the very top in the government machine deliberately set out to mislead the British public into accepting an unpopular war. Someone plagiarised a student thesis and presented it as intelligence. Someone based the chilling fiction of an imminent Iraqi nuclear threat on crudely forged documents. Someone created the discredited evidence that Iraq could strike at us within 45 minutes. And if that someone was not Alistair Campbell, then who was it? And whoever it was, on whose orders were they acting? These are the questions Tony Blair stubbornly refuses to answer.

But why would Dr Kelly take his own life? Middle-aged professional civil servants of sound mind aren’t known for topping themselves because someone asks them a tough question at a committee hearing. Wrongly accused sources don’t usually walk into the woods and cut their wrists, and certainly not straight after being cleared by the investigating committee. Kelly’s suicide seems inexplicable. Unless, of course, he was the source and Gilligan did quote him accurately. Kelly may well have concluded that it would then only be a matter of time before the truth came out and with it his inevitable downfall. If so, Dr Kelly’s last lonely walk in the woods begins to make perfect sense.

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Thursday, July 17, 2003

Weapons inspectors never went to Iraq - it was all a hoax! 

Well, according to Mr Bush it was anyway. Apparently, Hans Blix and his team have been officially erased from history. This is from a White House press release, dated 14 July:

The President: "The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful."

Who said satire is dead?

Perhaps you should give a toss 

Wankers of the World can relax. According to a team of American researchers, regular masturbation really is good for you. Not only doesn't it make you go blind, it actually reduces the chances of you developing prostate cancer in later life.

The BBC report explains: "The researchers suggest that ejaculating may prevent carcinogens accumulating in the prostate gland." In other words, the more often you bash the bishop the faster you get rid of these nasty poisons.

All of this reminds me of my first sex education lesson, way back in....well, it was a long time ago anyway. The unfortunate soul who got lumbered with the task of talking sex to a bunch of barely adolescent 12 year old boys was Mr McGillvery, a young and very proper Scottish biology teacher. McGillvery began well enough, drawing a series of boring and rather complicated diagrams on the blackboard. But then the subject of masturbation came up and the class was transfixed. Some of the boys smiled a knowing smile. Others, like me, stared straight ahead with a look of total horror and disgust on our faces.

This must have been the first time Mr McGillvery had ever talked intimately about anything to anybody. And it showed. "Surveys indicate that 97% of people admit to masturbating", he said, his high-pitched effeminate Edinburgh accent creaking with embarrassment. I swear to God he used to do the voiceovers for Miss Jean Brodie. "And the other 3% are liars", he concluded.

"Sir", I piped up innocently. "Can you tell the class which category you are in?"

The poor bastard went a deep shade of pink and sort of physically crumpled before our eyes. It was excruciatingly funny, but at the same time I couldn't help feeling a little guilty about having reduced the good man to a nervous wreck. Anyway, if by any chance you are reading this, Mr Gillvery, can I offer you my sincere apologies. And I hope your prostate is doing fine too.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Cuban hijackings - what's going on? 

The BBC is reporting that 3 hijackers have been killed in a shootout, possibly during an argument amongst themselves. Another group hijacked a ferry and sailed it to the Bahamas. But these are no ordinary hijackings. What lies behind them is the sinister machinations of a US administration intent on provoking an immigration crisis with Cuba serious enough perhaps to provide the pretext for an intervention.

Suppose you are a Haitian or a Columbian or a Jamaican and you wanted to escape poverty by moving to the USA. You would have two options: One legal, one illegal. You could fill in the required paperwork and hope your application would be successful. Or alternatively you could find your way into the United States and decide to stay on without authorisation. If caught you would of course be deported to your country of origin as an economic migrant.

But suppose instead you are a Cuban who wanted to move to the richest country in the world. All you need do is set foot in the USA and you will be granted automatic residency and declared a political refugee fleeing from evil Castro-communism. Cue the TV cameras and cue the anti-Cuban propaganda. The ridiculous law that makes this charade possible is called the Cuban Adjustment Act. It's purpose is obvious: To encourage illegal immigration from Cuba and foster the illusion that everyone is trying to escape from communism.

But what if you wanted to take the legal route to the land of milk and honey? Amazingly you would find that the country that claimed it wanted you so much it was even prepared to welcome you as an illegal would in all probability refuse you a visa to enter legally. Despite a bilateral agreement with Cuba to allow for 20,000 visas to issued annually, so far this year the US has issued a paltry 505.

So what happens to a Cuban who hijacks a boat or a plane and makes it to the USA? In theory, he's supposed to be given a heavy sentence and then deported. In practice he knows that the US will bend over backwards to let him stay, find him innocent or let him off with a light sentence. The US government will also seize the hijacked boat or plane. But instead of it being returned to its rightful owners in Cuba it will be sold and the proceeds given to various right wing loonies in Miami, such as the lady who claimed she was raped by the government of Cuba!

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