Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, February 02, 2004
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT I MEAN by BBC political campaigning. It's also an example of how little influence the Hutton verdict has on it.

Here you see the Beeb's Washington correspondent Adam Brookes writing a piece they call "Analysis". This label (which Henny Herald recently applied to Peter Fray's appalling commentary on Hutton) implies something more than commentary. It's commentary from an expert, the product of knowledge and reflection beyond the average.

In a piece written last Friday, after Hutton, Brookes says:

In the Bush administration's monolithic insistence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, little chinks of daylight have recently been appearing.

This is the gist of Brookes' "analysis":

Slowly, slowly, the administration is reworking its language, readying for the moment when it must acknowledge that Iraq, in fact, had no weapons of mass destruction, and one of the chief rationales that took the US and Britain to war was flawed.

By deflecting calls for a real examination of America's intelligence failures, the president looks like he has something to hide.

This is much more carefully worded than Gilligan's "ballistic" attack, but the message is clear. Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq was false and he fears exposure for it. It's the same propagandist line being pushed in the Henny every day of the week, supported by Auntie's commentators.

The trouble with the Brookes-BBC line is that it is demonstrably false.

Firstly stocks of WMDs were not the essence of the Coalition case.

Second everyone's intelligence - US, UK, France, Germany, UN - agreed that Saddam had them.

Third, and most important here, everyone in the US including the Democrats now accepts that the US intelligence assessment about Iraqi WMDs preceded Bush and was in no way the result of pressure from Bush. As this report in the Washington Post makes clear:

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy CIA director who is leading the CIA's review of its prewar Iraq assessment, said an examination of the secret analytical work done by CIA analysts showed that it remained consistent over many years.

"There was pressure and a lot of debate, and people should have a lot of debate, that's quite legitimate," Kerr said. "But the bottom line is, over a period of several years," the analysts' assessments "were very consistent. They didn't change their views."

So why should Bush be nervous about exposing the failures of global intelligence about WMD stocks?

Well, it appears he isn't:

President Bush will announce early this week the establishment of a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate intelligence that was used to justify the Iraq war, senior Bush administration officials said on Sunday.

It has political risks, but Bush rightly sees there are fewer risks in openness than reticence. There is always the outside chance we'll get better intelligence as a result.

If he doesn't make a show out of the issue, campaigners like the BBC and the ABC will go on insinuating.

They will ignore the consequence of their pathetic argument, that there was never the case to support sanctions against Saddam either.

Nothing new about campaigning publishers, but should we forced to pay for them?

The answer is yes, according to the Beeb's leader in exile, Greg Dyke.