Tony Blair’s spinmeister-in-chief, Alastair Campbell is good at what he does. Called to testify before the foreign affairs select committee about the dossier containing the justifications for the war on Iraq, Campbell has somehow managed to completely change the agenda from the justifications for war put out by his Downing Street communications department to the journalistic standards of the BBC, particularly those of Today programme defense corespondent Andrew Gilligan. Cambell claimed to be incensed that Gilligan would dare rely on the accusations of an anonymous source in the British intelligence community to call the integrity of Prime Minister and his staff into question.
Campbell has succeeded where the government’s other thug, John Reid, failed last week when he tried to draw attention to the “rogue elements” in the British intelligence community who were talking, off the record, to Gilligan.
Someone ought to remind Downing Street that the most famous journalistic investigation of a government also centred on an anonymous source who contradicted the official version of events. And Deep Throat still hasn’t been named. A former journalist who now tries to pass off unattributed — plagiarised — academic research as intelligence analysis is in no position to lecture the BBC on the accuracy of its reporting. It’s a bit like John Macenroe chiding Greg Rusedski on tennis etiquette.
… For me, the real issue is that we were told things as a justification for war which have plainly turned out to be wrong since the war was over:
- The 45-minute readiness of weapons of mass destruction;
- The fact that Saddam had rebuilt production facilities for chemical weapons, which we can’t find although those would be big factories;
- That he had a nuclear weapons programme, which we can’t find although that would involve very big industrial sites;
- That he was buying uranium from Africa, which we now know was based on forged documents.
All of those were in the September dossier; all of them were wrong. I must say that that I’m rather puzzled — and rather worried — that the Prime Minister and Alastair Campbell continue to describe that document as accurate. It plainly was not accurate. And we’re not going to get to the bottom of how we ended up in Iraq on a false justification until we first reclines that many of these facts were simply wrong.
Indeed. Which propagandist called Ali did you think I was writing about? Don’t be silly: his name is actually Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.