February 2, 2004
TONY BLAIR 'VINDICATED' BY HUTTON REPORT
** Lord Hutton's report
"exonerates" Blair, restores his "integrity" but "not
"demoralized" BBC faces "the greatest crisis" in its
** As the
"central" issue of WMD won't go away, Blair "is not out of the
A 'triumph' for the 'unsinkable' Tony Blair-- Lord Hutton's report clearing the Blair
government of "sexing up" intelligence on Iraq was a
"vindication" and "triumph" for the prime minister. "Rarely can a prime minister have had
more cause for quiet satisfaction," said the independent Financial
Times, noting that Hutton had "acquitted" Blair of "all the
central allegations laid against him."
Coupled with a narrow parliamentary win on student fees the day before,
Blair had had "an astonishing 48 hours." He "emerged victorious" from his
trials, an Italian writer remarked, proving again that Blair has "few
rivals" as a leader or statesman.
Britain's centrist and leftist broadsheets, however, complained of
Hutton's "limited remit," and the left-of-center Guardian
dismissed the report as a "cover-up."
Edinburgh's conservative Scotsman noted that "a
majority" of Britons are uneasy about "the BBC taking all the blame"
for David Kelly's suicide and urged Blair to "rein in his spin
'Labor 1, BBC 0'-- Hutton's
scathing words about the BBC were "the first stain" on the
broadcaster in its long history. The
"shattered" organization, judged Italy's left-leaning La
Repubblica, "has tumbled off the pedestal that it has occupied for 82
years." Lord Hutton, the UK tabloid
Sun crowed, exposed "the culture of sloppiness, incompetence and
arrogance" at the BBC. Foreign
observers concluded the BBC was "facing the biggest crisis in its
history." At the same time, critics
questioned if Hutton had maintained "a proper sense of balance,"
contrasting his "no-holds-barred demolition" of the broadcaster with
his "velvet-gloved approach" to government
conservative La Razon added that it was important to "reflect on
the undeniable fact" that the BBC claim that Iraq lacked WMD that could be
deployed within 45 minutes was "rigorously exact."
WMD question will continue to dog 'Teflon Tony'-- Many dailies noted that despite the
"relief" Blair felt at the report's exoneration of him, "the
basic WMD issue will not go away" and so the report "does not resolve
the central problem" for the government over Iraq. Belfast's moderately nationalist Irish
News counseled Blair that he "has already comprehensively lost"
the wider debate over whether going to war was justified. Hutton's exoneration and his parliamentary
win showed "predictions of Mr. Blair's imminent political demise"
were proved wrong, but many outlets wondered for how long. Russia's centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
acknowledged Blair's "tactical victory" but opined that,
"Strategically, he is in trouble."
Because bitterness over "Blair's war" is high and "many
MPs long for revenge," a German paper stated, the prime minister
"cannot rule...in the long run."
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 61 reports from 25 countries, January 28-February 2,
2004. Editorial excerpts from each
country are listed from the most recent date.
Exposes Need For A Full Inquiry"
Lord Alexander of Weedon QC argued in the independent Financial
Times (2/2): "It is also
important that reports on public inquiries should have a proper sense of
balance and be seen to be in touch with reality. To many, these qualities seem in places
surprisingly absent.... The report also
fails to acknowledge the difficulty of journalism and what an important role
the BBC fulfilled in probing the case made by the government for leading us
into a war.... Perhaps the central
problem of the report is that Lord Hutton's remit was limited. Yet he brought out facts that would otherwise
have remained buried.... Lord Hutton may
have shied away from criticisms of the government. What he has done is a great service by
bringing out some of the facts that need to be pursued in a more wide-ranging
"'A Victory' That May Yet Return To Haunt Mr. Blair"
The center-left Independent editorialized (1/30): "There is something distasteful about
the Government's crowing over the shocked and demoralized BBC. Distasteful and unwise.... The prime minister should realize that this
pursuit of total humiliation recalls the worst of the Thatcher years.... The Hutton report and the BBC's excessive
reaction to it contain the seeds of something dangerous for Mr. Blair.... In a straight battle between the Government
and the BBC--which is what this crisis in relations became--ministers would be
unwise to assume that the public automatically takes its part. The sight of a corporation left wounded and
leaderless is not one the voters would have wished as the outcome of this
inquiry, and they could choose to blame ministers for bringing it about. This week's was a 'victory' over the BBC that
may yet come back to haunt the prime minister."
"The Heads Roll -- But Only At The BBC"
Edinburgh's conservative Scotsman judged (Internet version,
1/30): "Most people in Britain
understand that the BBC made mistakes....
But if most folk realize the BBC was culpable, they also read the
evidence to Hutton as implying that the government--especially the MoD--was
also culpable. Lord Hutton even ticks
off the MoD for failing to inform Dr. David Kelly timeously of the fact that it
had released his name to the media. Why
no equivalent resignations, high or low, at the MoD? There is a message here for Tony Blair. It is understandable that he and his Cabinet
colleagues have smirks on their faces following the publication of the Hutton
report. The prime minister might be
tempted to read any critical comments about the Hutton verdict as sour grapes. They are not.
A majority of the British people, including those who support the
government, are less than easy about the BBC taking all the blame and offering
up all the sacrificial scalps over the suicide of Dr. Kelly. Rather than crowing, Mr. Blair would be better
to deliver on his promise to rein in his spin machine. He would do well to review the weaknesses of
[Defense Secretary] Geoff Hoon at the MoD, which go far beyond the Kelly
The left-of-center Guardian held
(Internet version, 1/30): "For the
government, the sweet taste of Hutton has soon turned to dust. Two polls, taken in the immediate aftermath
of the inquiry, show the public to be considerably unimpressed with the balance
of the learned judge's findings. Most people considered Lord Hutton to have
been unfair on the BBC. Many more people
prefer to place their trust in the BBC than the government. And more people believe Tony Blair should
have resigned than the BBC director general, Greg Dyke. As it happens, it was the popular and
charismatic Dyke, not Blair, who yesterday fell on his sword.... Any pleasure this might have brought in and
around No. 10 Downing Street will have been dampened by the extraordinary
scenes of BBC employees marching out of their offices with placards demanding
the return of their boss.... In reality
the champagne corks will have been popping from Downing Street to Tufnell
Park. This was a fight to the death
between the government and the BBC and no one currently or recently in Downing
Street was going to rest until the corporation had been decapitated. This may have been a source of short-term
satisfaction, but it may well rebound against New Labor.... The BBC's journalistic and management
failures can only be understood in the context of the overall New Labor media
control tactics...which even its own practitioners now concede were over the
top and counterproductive."
"The WMD Issue Is Still With Us"
The moderate nationalist Irish News of Belfast judged
(Internet version, 1/29): "It was
to Tony Blair's credit yesterday that, in the middle of the furor over the
Hutton Report, he acknowledged that the wider debate over his attempts to
justify the war in Iraq was 'entirely legitimate.' If Mr. Blair is honest with himself, he will
also recognize the overwhelming perception that, despite yesterday's
developments, he has already comprehensively lost that debate. The British prime minister...emerged from the
publication of the Hutton Report yesterday with his integrity intact.... Lord Hutton has emphatically ruled that Mr.
Blair was not part of any 'underhand strategy' to reveal Dr. Kelly's
identity. That finding will certainly
come as a relief to Mr. Blair, but, quite apart from matters relating to Dr.
Kelly, the basic WMD issue will not go away.
A decision to wage war on Iraq was largely taken because of the belief
that Saddam Hussein possessed such weapons.
No evidence to support this belief has ever been found and that is a
fact which may well be remembered long after the controversy over the Hutton
report has faded away."
"Hutton Report Sidesteps The One Central Issue"
Former foreign secretary Robin Cook wrote in the center-left Independent
(1/29): "Lord Hutton himself made
it clear yesterday that he offered no judgment on whether [pre-war WMD]
intelligence was reliable, as that lay beyond the terms of his remit. As a result his report does not resolve the
central problem for the Government over Iraq, which is the gulf between the
claims it made before the war about the threat from Iraq and its inability to
find any evidence of such a threat since....
Yet it is precisely the refusal of No.10 to recognize reality that keeps
the controversy alive."
"Mixed Verdict On Lord Hutton"
The independent Financial Times commented
(1/29): "Lord Hutton's long-awaited
report into the death of David Kelly is unlikely to end the controversy that
began with the suicide of the distinguished weapons inspector. It absolves the government of lying about the
threat posed by Iraq and the BBC is excoriated for its lax management
control. Yet the government escapes too
lightly for its role in outing Mr. Kelly, and the questions raised about the
use of intelligence were beyond Lord Hutton's remit.... The governors, who both manage and regulate
the BBC, also failed to investigate before rebutting the government's
complaint. They felt under attack by
Downing Street which had been bombarding them for months over alleged 'anti-war
bias'. Lord Hutton acknowledged their
responsibility to defend the BBC's independence, but this duty is not
incompatible with investigating complaints....
Perhaps the lasting legacy of the Hutton Inquiry, however, will be the
light shed on the political use of intelligence."
"The Hutton Verdict"
The conservative Times took this view
(1/29): "Lord Hutton has recognized
the complicated and unique conditions in which the contest between the BBC and
the Government ultimately escalated. The
'September dossier' was an unusual document and exercise.... Lord Hutton considered these circumstances
and decided that the influence exercised by Downing Street over the September
dossier was not unreasonable.... Lord
Hutton's searing criticism of the BBC...should prompt resignations at the
corporation.... In the meantime, the
governors must take a more active interest in the BBC's running and better
understand that their primary duty is to the public."
"This One-Sided Judgment Will Not Win Voters Round"
Jackie Ashley contended in the left-of-center Guardian
(Internet version, 1/29): "It is
indeed, as Margaret Thatcher famously remarked at the time of her decapitation,
a funny old world. The country is taken
to war on the basis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that almost everyone
now acknowledges never existed. There,
thousands are killed. Here, a scientist
kills himself after raising legitimate doubts about the government's
intelligence. And a six-month inquiry by
an eminent judge concludes that the only people who have done anything wrong at
all work for the BBC. Lord Hutton's
report could not have been more favorable to No 10. Whitewash?
Great barrels of the gloopy stuff are sloshing around Whitehall.... Lord Hutton's report lacks any sense of
proportion.... Tony Blair's
integrity...has been proved, in the sense that he clearly believed the
intelligence he was putting before the British people. But the report is...limited by its terms of
reference to the specific events leading up to the death of David Kelly.... On the face of it, this 'make or break' week
now looks like a fantastic triumph for Tony Blair.... He has won everywhere...except perhaps among
the only group not extensively interviewed, profiled or discussed lately, the
electorate.... This was the week when
Tony Blair might have had to go.... Had
a handful of relatively obscure MPs not changed their minds on [tuition fees],
he would have been politically finished....
So, after the thrills and spills of the last 72 hours.... Yet things have changed.... Across the country, millions have been
watching the events of this past week.
And I cannot believe that they have much liked what they saw."
"Truth And Consequences"
The left-of-center Guardian commented (Internet version,
1/29): "It should not be forgotten
that, following the tuition fees vote on Tuesday, Hutton was the second great
test of Tony Blair's authority. If the
report had gone wrong for the government, Mr. Blair could well have been an
ex-prime minister this morning. So it
needs to be said, with total directness and maximum clarity, that Lord Hutton
has found in Mr. Blair's favor.... Lord
Hutton has done his job, based on the evidence presented to him, and done it
briskly, independently and clearly. But
there is, all the same, a certain naiveté of tone and approach. Lord Hutton's report does not describe the
politico-journalistic world as it really exists. Ministers, MPs, officials, reporters and
editors inhabit a more complex culture than the one Lord Hutton depicts. His report is not the end of the story. The government may have been cleared over Dr.
Kelly's death-- but that does not mean it was honest about Iraq. It is entitled to Hutton's narrow
vindication, but it still has a lot to prove."
"One-Sided Verdict Is Not The Final Word"
The conservative Scotsman of Edinburgh editorialized
(Internet version, 1/29): "Lord
Hutton has given Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt over the Kelly
affair.... Lord Hutton’s conclusions are
very much at odds with how most independent observers read the evidence. During his time on the Northern Ireland
bench, Lord Hutton was known as a man who stuck tenaciously to legal
precedent. In this case, where the
issues are very grey indeed, he has been legalistic in the extreme.... The most unexpected part of Lord Hutton's
conclusions is his utter castigation of the BBC at all levels.... Certainly, there were serious faults inside
the BBC. But Lord Hutton’s
no-holds-barred demolition of the corporation is in marked contrast to his
velvet-gloved approach to Alastair Campbell and the latter’s empire of spin. I
t is as if Lord Hutton feels more at ease in criticizing public institutions
such as the BBC...than more amorphous organisms such as the ad hoc structures
of government that Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell started to invent after
1997.... His one-sided verdict may have
done the prime minister fewer favors than he thinks. Mr. Blair is grinning now, but for how
long? So odd were Hutton’s conclusions
on the conduct of the Number 10 machine that it is difficult to envisage voters
seeing this as the final word on the prime minister’s flawed running of his
"Yet Again, Reports Of The PM's Demise Prove Premature"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (Internet
version, 1/29): "Already last
night, questions were being asked about the issues Lord Hutton chose not to
address in the report...but on one central point his conclusions are
unambiguous and straightforward.... In
effect, Tony Blair stood accused of sending British troops to war based on a
lie.... Lord Hutton found these
allegations against the Government to be 'unfounded'.... In these circumstances, it was inevitable and
appropriate that Gavyn Davies pay the price for gross failures of management at
the BBC and offer his resignation as chairman.
Nevertheless, there are very serious issues that Lord Hutton decided not
to explore and that Parliament might now consider. Even if Downing Street is cleared of
deliberately tampering with intelligence for political ends, concerns remain
about our intelligence services and their interaction with Downing
Street.... But, overall, the Hutton
report is a vindication of the prime minister and his aides. Once again, predictions of Mr. Blair's
imminent political demise proved wrong."
"The Shadow Of Iraq"
Seumas Milne judged in the left-of-center Guardian
(Internet version, 1/29): "Whatever
the mixture of motives, Hutton's unqualified endorsement of the government's
behavior is bound, in the current climate, to be widely regarded in the country
as a cover-up. It will have no
credibility for millions who opposed the war on Iraq; it will merely add to the
sense that the political system is unable to deal with the crisis triggered by
Britain's participation in the illegal invasion and occupation. The Hutton saga has in reality been a very
British sideshow to that central issue--and the now barely contested consensus
that the reasons given for joining the war were false. Next to the national and global implications
of what has been done--and the more than 15,000 people estimated to have died
as a result--a loosely worded 6.07am BBC radio broadcast, and even the grim
death of Dr. Kelly, pale into insignificance.
By setting up an inquiry into the Kelly affair, Blair created a partially
successful diversion from the far more serious--and more threatening to him
personally--questions raised by the war itself."
"Now It's Time For Blair To Tell The Truth
The tabloid Daily Mirror editorialized
(Internet version, 1/29): "Tony
Blair would have been justified in cracking open a bottle of bubbly last
night. He and those around him had been
vindicated by the Hutton report. With
the narrow victory on university fees the previous day, it made an incredible
double for a prime minister written off by many pundits.... The BBC was not running an anti-war
agenda.... It was properly reflecting
the views of millions of Britons who did not believe that the evidence was
there to take us to war in Iraq. Sixteen
months later, not a single WMD has been found.
Far less one which can be prepared and fired on another country in 45
minutes. The Hutton inquiry focused on
the most narrow terms of reference....
That meant the real issue--the existence of WMD--wasn't even touched
on.... It would be tragic...if Mr. Blair
allowed this success to encourage him to keep things as they are. He should see it instead as a springboard for
change. First he should look at the way
he runs 10 Downing Street.... There must
be more openness, more discussion, more frankness, less taking decisions behind
closed doors, less use of political appointees with blinkered views dictating
to everyone else.... The other thing the
prime minister must do is the hardest of all.
He should admit that there are no weapons of mass destruction in
Iraq.... Mr. Blair's conviction that
they existed is questioned only by his bitterest enemies. He should be strong enough to admit that the
'evidence' was wrong."
"BBC Is Shamed"
The tabloid Sun had this view (Internet
version, 1/29): "For more than half
a century, BBC News enjoyed a worldwide reputation for accuracy, honesty and
impartiality. It was a bastion of
journalistic excellence and integrity.
Not any more. Lord Hutton has
exposed the culture of sloppiness, incompetence and arrogance that infects our
national news broadcaster.... Lord
Hutton, a man whose impartiality is beyond question, has performed a massive
public service. He has taken a complex
subject, which struck at the very heart of the Government’s fitness to govern,
and distilled it into the plain truth:
that the Government, the prime minister and his closest aides did
nothing wrong.... Tony Blair,
meanwhile, has had an astonishing 48 hours."
Philip Stephens in wrote in the independent Financial Times
(1/29): "Rarely can a prime
minister have had more cause for quiet satisfaction.... Defeat at the hands of his own party on a
central plank of his domestic policy program was to be followed by the exposure
of his government's duplicity in manipulating intelligence to take the
country to war.... The parliamentary vote on university tuition
fees was won not lost. And after his
exhaustive inquiry, Lord Hutton has now acquitted the prime minister of all the
central allegations laid against him by the BBC, the opposition parties, and
much of the media.... The government's
role in the naming David Kelly, the weapons scientist whose conversation with a
BBC journalist was at the root of all the controversy, was neither
'duplicitous, dishonorable or underhand.'...
Mr. Blair's vindication was the BBC's nightmare.... The criticisms started with author of the
original report Andrew Gilligan but they did not end until they reached Greg
Dyke, the director general, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the
governors. The argument about whether
Britain should have gone to war against Iraq alongside George W. Bush is one
that will not go away. Nor will the
profound questions about the quality of the intelligence on which the judgment
was made. But Mr. Blair was on Wednesday
exonerated of the charges of duplicity laid day-by-day, week-by-week since the
suicide of Mr. Kelly. He may have been wrong, but the prime
minister was honest."
Patrick Sabatier argued in left-of-center Liberation
(1/29): “We must remember that the
'information war' which has put the BBC and Tony Blair in opposition cannot be
the tree hiding the forest of WMD, the arsenal used by President Bush and Tony
Blair as a casus belli against Saddam Hussein.
According to David Kay, ‘Mr. WMD’ himself, these WMD did not exist. If Washington and London’s leaders did not
lie, then they were mistaken or misled by faulty intelligence. In declaring war on Iraq ‘by mistake,’ these
leaders have proven they lacked foresight or caution.... In a democracy, the credibility of
information and its interpretation is at the heart of war and peace, especially
when a democracy adopts a strategy of 'preventive war.’ This credibility is still very much
compromised in spite of the Hutton report’s conclusions.”
GERMANY: "Blair And
The Cleaning Power"
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich editorialized
(1/29): "January 28, 2004 will be
the day of satisfaction in Tony Blair's life, when he was cleared of the
suspicion that he had lied and negligently pushed a government expert to his
death.... For Blair this might be a
great relief, even a triumph, but he should not forget that scraped past a humiliation
in the House of Commons in an important vote.
Judge Hutton may have restored Blair's integrity but not his authority
on his side of the parliament.
Bitterness about Blair's war in Iraq is paramount and many MPs long for
revenge. Blair cannot rule like this in
the long run."
"Triumph For Tony Blair"
Thomas Kielinger commented in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (1/29): "The quarrel over
the existence of weapons of mass destruction is continuing. Lord Hutton could not interfere here. But the riddle of these weapons is resolving
slowly. We just learnt about Iraqi
researchers that they lied to tyrant and technological ignorant Saddam
pretending that the country's weapon program was seeing one breakthrough after
another. It got the institutes enough
money, which was seeping away in private pockets, and at the same time deceived
foreign intelligence services. And with
them also George Bush and Tony Blair, which is something different than
accusing them of having lied to their parliaments about the reason to go to
war. Lord Hutton did not get dragged
into this quagmire. He was supposed to
scrutinize the facts leading to the suicide of a researcher, and whether
Downing Street acted in a 'dishonorable, underhand or duplicitous' way pulling
the wool over the public's eye and sealing the fall of Kelly. The report says no, no, no, no. This is a triumph for Tony Blair who sees his
credibility confirmed in the most serious crisis of his tenure."
London correspondent Burkhard Birke commented on national radio
station "Deutschlandfunk" of Cologne (1/28): "The verdict of judge Lord Hutton can
only polish the image of the Labor leader but cannot let the splendor shine
again.... Hutton did not even attempt to
scrutinize the most serious question.
Was the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction right, and was
it sufficiently justified to go to war?
What's left? … A shattered BBC that must ask itself serious
questions on its reporting, and a government that has two little spots and big
question mark on its cleaned slate. It
had promised to express intelligence information clearer and did not
sufficiently protect its employee Kelly against a pack of hungry
journalists. But above all, this government
has not explained to date why it sent its soldiers to war with a reason for
which there is still not a single piece of evidence."
"Time To Admit Mistakes"
Andreas Cichowicz commented on ARD-TV's (national channel one)
late evening newscast "Tagesthemen" (1/28): "Hussein's suspected weapons of mass
destruction were the reason for going to war.
The Hutton report cleared Blair from a legal point of view; the government
did not sex anything up and did not manipulate intelligence reports. But what does this mean? Apparently, the Blair government did not need
to exaggerate anything. The intelligence
material absolutely matched the political concept. It just wasn't true but miserably put
together. … Today, the entire world including Secretary Powell doubts that Iraq
possessed weapons of mass destruction. But not so Tony Blair. This would be his time to admit
mistakes. It would not reestablish his
super star aura but, besides authority and credibility, restore respect and
confidence, without which a politician cannot survive in the long run."
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (1/29): "The Prime Minister is over the worst of
it because Lord Hutton did not have to examine the factual justifiability of
the intelligence information on Iraq weapons of mass destruction. The claim that Iraqis were able to deploy
weapons in 45 minutes should be looked at in detail. But only quite criticism can be read into the
remarks of the judge that the government wished to see convincing expressions
in the intelligence dossier published September 2002.... Blair can now deal with the difficulties in
his party. In this respect he is not at
"The Prime Minister And His Judge"
Moritz Schuller writes in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of
Berlin (1/29): "The Hutton report
was often misread as a vote on the Iraq war.
But Hutton only passed a judgment on a few details in the quarrel
between the BBC and the British government.
Tony Blair, who stood by Bush very early on, is still there. In order not to fully isolate Britain he had
to give into the French and German wish of a European Army. His position in Europe has hardly changed by
this report. There, nobody wants to
clear him of the Iraq war. This shows
that the visionary of the Third Way has also lost leeway in foreign
"Breather For Blair"
Peter Nonnenmacher opines in left-of-center Frankfurter
Rundschau (1/29): "The Hutton
report did not turn into a tribunal for Blair…. The question why and for what
reason the British Prime Minister led his country to war against Saddam Hussein
and undermined the UN on the side of George W. Bush, split the EU, destabilized
Iraq and prompted international terrorism anew, was much more than Lord Hutton
was allowed had to investigate…. But this is exactly the question of David Kay,
the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, who could not find any weapons of
mass destruction at all and does no longer suspect any in Iraq. Kay's verdict and the half-hearted admission
of Secretary Powell revived doubts in London about going to war. Blair nurtures the doubts because he keeps
denying reality. To date he sticks to
intelligence information which have long proven to be incredible."
"Tony Looking to Post-Downing Street Future"
Alessio Altichieri asserted in centrist
top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/29): "What now, Tony Blair?... Blair, the man who has lost neither power nor
honor, obviously looks heartened, or rather toughened, ready to demand
apologies from the people who have called him a liar, because the government
dossier was the intelligence services' work.
The liars are the ones who were accusing him of lying. But has this really seen the matter off? Like a boxer coming off the ring, the fight
has left its mark on Blair, even if he has won the title. He is not injured, but he bears a few extra
bruises.... The fact remains, however,
that no weapons have been found: David Kay, the head of the team of inspectors
given the job of unearthing them, thinks they do not exist, and even Secretary
of State Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney are voicing skepticism. Can Blair really be the only man who persists
in believing that they will come to light sooner or later? Blair undoubtedly did not lie, but could he
not now admit that he was wrong to be so certain?... The British press has for some time shown a
fondness for wondering whether Blair might not be ready to resign. In the day before yesterday's vote as well,
it has been said, the prime minister scraped by only because Brown brought the
rebels, most of them his supporters, to heel, and one day, Blair will have to
show gratitude and return the favors he has been done. We have also seen, however, that, in making
it home by just five votes, Blair is more in debt to luck than to the
chancellor, and when he demanded apologies yesterday from the people who had
called him a liar, Blair displayed an anger that hardly heralded
resignation. We may draw the tentative
conclusion that, for the time being, whether out of choice or necessity, Blair
cannot but stick to his home street, despite the fact that, what with
unconfessable errors and party revolts, the Downing Street path is becoming
narrower and narrower.
"Watergate In Reverse"
Paolo Garimberti observed in left-leaning,
influential La Repubblica (1/29):
"There are two lessons to be drawn from this Watergate in reverse
that is the Blair-Kelly-BBC affair. The
first is that, in terms of leadership and statesmanship skills, Tony Blair has
few rivals among current government leaders, either in Europe or
elsewhere. In 48 hours he has come
through two tests that challenged his ideas and his credibility in a dramatic
exercise of democracy and transparency, and he has emerged victorious. The second lesson is that the BBC has tumbled
off the pedestal that it has occupied for 82 years, along with the legendary
Anglo-Saxon brand of journalism of which it was the last vestal virgin.... Sure, [Blair] is no longer 'Teflon Tony,'
as he used to be dubbed...the man to whom nothing and no one seemed to be able
to stick.... Sure, the specter of the
war in Iraq and the unfound weapons of mass destruction continues to haunt him
and to rekindle the debate within his own party.... But now that the two longest days of his
premiership are over, it may readily be foreseen that Blair will not shortly be
meeting the same end as Thatcher, as might still have been thought not so long
ago. On the contrary, he is likely, in
the near future, to be more than ever the most credible leader in a Europe
seeking to patch up its relationship with America."
"When The Myth Of The Media Disavows
Fabio Galvano had this to say in centrist,
influential La Stampa (Internet version, 1/29): "It is the first major stain in the 82
years of the life of the BBC. What is
hard to say, as yet, is whether the resignation of the Chairman, Gavyn Davies,
is enough to cauterize a wound which the 'Kelly affair' dramatically opened
up...and which the inquest under Lord Hutton highlighted with a severe
condemnation of a broadcasting empire which the British--and not only the
British--have always viewed as a symbol of independence and authoritativeness
in the media world.... Some people will
now say, inevitably, that the BBC is no longer what it was: that its authoritativeness, as well as its
credibility, has sprung a leak. That
would be too much. The BBC is and remains
one of the most healthy institutions in the world of the media. It made a mistake, in this affair, but it is
not rotten; as is moreover shown by the readiness with which, after having
defended his journalists, Davies has now found a way of shouldering his
responsibilities, and behaving in the upright and essentially honorable way
which would perhaps have been ignored in other countries."
Vladimir Kara-Murza commented in business-oriented Kommersant
(1/29): "The British prime minister
may allow himself triumphant notes: he
and his close associates Geoff Hoon and Alistair Campbell have been fully
acquitted by Lord Hutton whose impartiality no one doubts in Britain. Now Mr. Hoon need not fear for his political
future, and Mr. Campbell, who resigned at the end of last summer, may accept
the job of the Labor Party's election campaign coordinator with a clear
conscience. Tony Blair himself is beyond
criticism now. Even his opponents said
earlier this week that if the prime minister survived those hellish 48 hours,
he would be out of the woods. After
defeating the left wing of the Labor Party on a sensitive issue like paid
education and being cleared of whatever was imputed to him in the 'Kelly case,'
Mr. Blair need not worry over the outcome of the 2005 general elections."
"Blair Still In Trouble"
Yulia Petrovskaya judged in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(1/29): "As shown by the last few
days, Blair's is a tactical victory.
Strategically, he is in trouble.
He is losing his Labor Party. The
vote on education reform is graphic proof.
Analysts say that Blair did not save the law. His Finance Secretary Gordon Brown did, as
many in the Labor Party were against it.
As for the 'Kelly case,' it is not closed yet."
"More Alive Than Dead"
Olga Dmitriyeva filed from London for official government Rossiyskaya
Gazeta (1/29): "The patient is
more alive than dead is what you may just as well say about Tony Blair. Caught in another gamble--there have been several
in his 6-year premiership--with his own career and his government down on the
line, he has gotten away with it by a sheer miracle."
AUSTRIA: "It Just
Josef Kirchengast observed in Vienna's liberal Der Standard
(1/29): "Nobody can be blamed
personally for the suicide of the British weapons expert David Kelly: this is the not unexpected conclusion the
judge Lord Hutton has drawn from the inquiry led by him. Yet one can also turn the argument on its
head and say: all those involved were to
a certain extent responsible.... None of
those involved has emerged unscathed from the affair. The highly regarded BBC failed to check with
necessary care its reporter's claims about the strongly exaggerated threat
posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction....
The prime minister on his part can no longer pretend that David Kelly's
name was disclosed without his knowledge.
It is difficult to imagine that the secretary of state for defense, who
will now probably be the scapegoat, acted without Blair's consent. The Hutton report fails to answer the
question that is behind all this: to
clarify whether or not Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.... Yet the question has been answered with a
relatively clear 'no' in another place:
by the U.S. chief weapons inspector who resigned and recently by the
U.S. secretary of state. In the military
sphere unintentional losses and victims are called collateral damage. If the word were not so cynical, one could
describe Kelly's death with this term:
collateral damage of a war that had been decided upon long before a
justification was found."
BELGIUM: "A Pyrrhic
Victory For Tony Blair"
Foreign editor Philippe Berkenbaum held in
left-of-center Le Soir (1/29):
"We should not be mistaken:
Lord Hutton's thorough investigation, whose conclusions appear rather
favorable for Tony Blair, is not--and has never been--the trial of Great
Britain's decision to enter the war in Iraq.
That trial, which has so far been made by British media, public opinion,
and opposition, is still going on. If
someone is found guilty, the sanction will not be a judicial but a popular
one: Blair and the Labor Party might one
day be punished in ballot boxes.... The
question of Great Britain's decision to enter the war in Iraq could be a time
bomb for Tony Blair, who runs the risk of facing an open war in his party or an
untenable popular pressure--or perhaps both.
As an indirect result, it could also be a time bomb for George Bush who,
although he still enjoys the support of the media, of the American people, and
of Republican elected officials, will face elections in November."
"Blair Did Not Lie But Did He Tell The
Christophe Lamfalussy wrote in independent La
Libre Belgique (1/29): "Tony
Blair is lucky to come out unharmed from the major investigation of Lord
Hutton. The latter never asked the key
question, which was at the basis of David Kelly's work, i.e., did Iraq have
weapons of mass destruction? Actually,
the British Government's allegation that Iraq was capable of activating
strategic weapons in 45 minutes was based on one source only, which British
secret services considered reliable.
Yet, that allegation became the central element of the report that led
Great Britain to enter the war in Iraq.
Neither the BBC nor the British Government respected the rule number one
in journalism, i.e., that two sources are better than one."
"Wait And See"
Foreign editor Jean Vanempten observed in
independent financial daily De Tijd (1/29): "Blair is one of the few leaders who
continue to claim that weapons of mass destruction will be found in
Iraq--although everyone admits that there are no such things there. He made his Foreign Minister Jack Straw claim
that it is a 'pity' that such weapons were not found in Iraq. It is very much the question whether British
public opinion will swallow the conclusions of the Hutton report. In the eyes of many, Blair was the man who
sent his troops to Iraq against the will of the UN and under a false
pretext. We will have to wait and see
whether he can improve his image after the vote in the House of Commons and the
Hutton report. But, we must admit: if there is one man who is capable of
improving his own image, it is Tony Blair.
It is true, he is the man who introduced 'spinning'--the manipulation of
the media--into political life."
"Redeemed Blair, Defamed Saddam"
Jan Rybar observed in the mainstream MF Dnes
(1/29): "Yesterday’s verdict by the
British court redeeming Blair and rejecting guilt of the British government in
the case of David Kelly is not a victory for Tony Blair, but for the
U.S.-British campaign in Iraq.... The
verdict comes at the right time--the U.S. had to admit a few days ago that it
is probable that no arsenals of WMD would be found in Iraq. Sometimes it may even seem that the greatest
villains are Tony Blair and George Bush.
Saddam Hussein who killed hundreds of thousands people has somehow faded
out of all discussions over Iraq.... In
this regard, the verdict of the British court can be interpreted as: there was only one villain in the war on Iraq
and that was Saddam Hussein."
"In Good Faith"
Center-left Politiken editorialized
(1/29): "Blair acted in good faith
when informing Parliament of the threat of WMD in Iraq, and cannot be held
responsible for the death of David Kelly either. The BBC has a problem, though by first
printing a story critical of the government without firm evidence and then not
being critical enough of its own flaws in this respect. It is still ironic that this story comes out
the week of weapons inspector David Kay's resignation, and overall both Blair
and Bush have a very bad case in terms of proving the existence of WMD in
Iraq. In that respect Lord Hutton's
report is not of much use as it deals only with the Kelly suicide. Finally, the BBC has made an error, but that
should not lead to less critical journalism nor need one hear of a lowering of
the high standards of this institution."
The leading daily Nepszabadsag concluded (1/30): "The 'David Kelly' investigation has
been from the beginning not only about the credibility of the British
government but about the responsibility of the public service BBC, and, after
all, about the legitimacy of the Iraq war."
Ivan Zsolt Nagy wrote in liberal Magyar
Hirlap (1/29): "The leader of
the British Labor Party is a master of political games, and the ability to
survive is one of the skills needed for such games.... Yesterday, smiling and looking years younger
than the previous day, Blair demanded in parliament that everyone who had
accused him of lying apologize to him.
Blair quite obviously enjoyed his triumph. However, not a single observer failed to
point out at least quietly that this was just a battle but the war still
continues. And the opponents in this war
are not ordinary opponents. For a start,
there is the party itself. The prime
minister will now have to fulfill the promises that he officially denied making
but that he probably made nevertheless.
These promises might include assurances given to his key opponent within
the party, the finance minister, who is dreaming about the post of prime
minister. Analysts agree that Gordon
Brown's backing and the supportive votes of the MPs favoring Brown were the
only thing that kept the tuition fee reform from falling through at the last
moment. There might be a high price for
this. The price might be that Blair will
not run for prime minister again....
Blair has an opponent that is even bigger than the party: yesterday's true loser, the BBC.... While the BBC is not likely to openly
announce a state of war with the government, it is not likely to forget things,
either. The news service has plenty of
tools to serve its purposes. Although
Blair has not been condemned, he will not necessarily regain popularity. Next year will see the next episode of the
island game: the voting show. It will not be surprising if certain people
at the BBC and the journalists feeling solidarity with them decide that it
should be a voting-out show."
"The Hutton Inquiry"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized
(1/29): “Mr. Tony Blair has emerged
triumphantly from the Hutton inquiry into the events surrounding the suicide of
Dr. David Kelly. He is vindicated by its
conclusions.... The Hutton report is
published as it becomes daily more clear that Iraq did not have such weapons of
mass destruction--the political basis on which Britain went to war.... There can be no denying that Lord Hutton's
report exonerates Mr. Blair from deception and duplicity, as he put it forcefully
in the House of Commons yesterday. But
this must not be allowed to obscure the larger question of whether the British
people were deceived in going to war by faulty political judgments based on
inaccurate intelligence. Mr. Blair
showed courage and determination in winning the Commons vote on university
top-up fees. But in doing so he has
antagonized a large section of his party....
Mr. Blair's political fate in this crisis has many implications for
Ireland. No modern British prime
minister has been involved with British-Irish relations in such a sustained
fashion. He has come well out of a
trying week but the ultimate arbiters of his exoneration--and the naming of Dr.
Kelly--will be the court of public opinion.”
"BBC's Greatest Mistake"
Per Egil Hegge commented in the newspaper of record Aftenposten
(1/30): "What remains, is the
British--and for its part the American--government's quality control of
intelligence evaluations that were used as the reasons for the war.... The BBC now is ready to shoulder the burden
[of their mistake], and some attention should, both in London and Washington,
be directed toward the case's underlying realities."
"Weakened Blair In War About The War"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten held
(1/29): "The political
repercussions after the war in Iraq are still rolling through the government
corridors in London and Washington, and continue to create diplomatic
difficulties among old allies in Europe and the U.S. ... UK PM Tony Blair might have suffered the
most. Therefore, it must come as a great
relief for him that the inquiry by one of the country's senior judges...frees
Blair from the responsibility for the tragic death of the weapons expert David
Kelly.... However, it is important to be
aware that Lord Hutton's task was limited to the incidents around Kelly's
death. He was not supposed to consider
the far more important issue of whether the UK went to war--by America's
side--for the wrong reasons. Today,
Blair is one of the few that says he still expects to find WMD in Iraq. So far nothing has been found.... This is really quite serious, also for Blair,
and means that he can only enjoy a limited political comfort from Lord Hutton's
report. Within his own party and in the
British opinion Blair is still considered a leader who has supported war
operations for the wrong reasons. This
undermines his authority, in the same way as Tuesday's rebellion among Labor's
members of the House of Commons.... Only
Blair's solid majority secured a narrow victory.... We now witness the consequences of a
simmering revolt among the leftists in the party that Blair has led far into
the center, and on some occasions, across the middle line in British politics. In order to continue such a political course
and not be forced into unfortunate compromises in important reforms in British
society, authority is what Blair needs most of all. He may soon find out that the Iraq war, in
spite of Lord Hutton's report, has weakened his ability to cut through in a
party so strongly that it will also influence the center-oriented course for
reforms at home."
Bronislaw Wildstein wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita
(1/30): "The Lord Hutton Report has
become the source of the biggest crisis in the 82-year-long history of the BBC,
the institution enjoying a great authority worldwide.... The BBC's problem, as it is with the majority
of Western media, is growing ideological bias.
It expresses itself, among other things, in radical anti-Americanism and
hostility toward Israel.... Despite its
ideological bias, however, the BBC maintains a traditional respect for
journalistic standards and professional responsibility. When it turned out that Gilligan's reports
were exaggerated, the president and general manager of the BBC resigned, and
the government received an official apology."
Respected center-left daily Diario de
Noticias commented (Internet version, 1/29): "Blair emerges victorious with this
surprising outcome. Tony Blair could not
be happier. Especially as the other
conclusions of the report also favor him....
Blair immediately demanded apologies from those who in the last few
months have accused him of lying and manipulating information. As for the BBC, he only asked its managers to
draw the appropriate conclusions. And
so, like a political Houdini, Tony Blair turned the biggest political challenge
of his career into the biggest personal victory of his curriculum."
"Mistakes Are Not Lies"
Influential moderate-left Publico
editorialized (Internet version, 1/29):
"History should not be rewritten and it should be recognized that
both the supporters and opponents of the military intervention (including top
UN officials) were--before the war--convinced that Saddam possessed banned
weapons.... In political debate, it is
not necessary to insult or attack the integrity of your opponents to win an
argument. The argument must be discussed
"Tony Blair Narrowly Escapes"
Bucharest's influential daily Adevarul
commented (1/29): "British Prime
Minister Tony Blair has...overcome the most difficult moment in his entire
political career. This happened just 24
hours after he won a vote by the narrowest of margins on the controversial bill
to increase university tuition fees....
The British press says that this crisis indicates to what extent the
capital of sympathy from which he benefited has been eroded: many of his fellow
countrymen, including some of his own Labor deputies, no longer trust him as
they did when he came to power.
Undoubtedly, the war in Iraq has been the main factor in this erosion
process.... Blair has every reason to
breath a sigh of relief now that the report has been published, but he has no
reason to be happy about the vote in the House of Commons...considering that
the Labor Party has an 161-strong majority there."
Left-of-center El Pais commented (Internet version,
1/29): "Tony Blair has emerged
relatively unscathed from what was expected to be his tragic week after six
years at the helm of the United Kingdom.
In less than 24 hours the Labor leader has passed from the agony of a
serious rebellion in his own parliamentary ranks to jubilation over the
judicial conclusions in the 'Kelly case.'...
Judge Hutton saved the reputation of Blair, whom he exonerates of
responsibility for the suicide of the scientific and weapons expert and who he
says did not lie to parliament to push through war with Iraq.... Hutton's conclusions in the 'Kelly case,'
however, fall into another category. Not
only because the tragic death of a noted scientist introduces a human face,
that of the victim, into Bair's confrontation with the majority of his fellow
citizens concerning Iraq but above all, because its conclusions concern something as irretrievable as the political
credit and moral authority which the head of
labor cited since the start of his mandate as the most prized asset of
"Kill The Messenger"
Conservative La Razon argued (Internet version, 1/29): "Judge Brian Hutton's final report
exonerates the British government, and especially its prime minister, Tony
Blair, of any kind of responsibility for the suicide of scientist David
Kelly. Also, it states that the
accusations made by a BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan, that documents had been
manipulated to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and to justify the UK's intervention
in the war 'were totally unfounded'. The
BBC's response has been immediate: its
chairman, Gavyn Davies, has presented his resignation. Case closed. Without wanting to contradict the prestigious
British judge's neat and tidy investigation, it seems necessary to reflect on
the undeniable fact that the information given by the BBC was rigorously
exact: Iraq did not have weapons of mass
destruction capable of being used in 45 minutes. That alarming statement, which has turned out
to be a lie, figured in an official dossier and was a decisive factor in the
decision taken by many Labor MPs who ended up supporting military
intervention. Perhaps, we are not
denying it, the journalist was mistaken when he accused the British government of
'intentional manipulation' without the backing of a source. But the basic news was absolutely right: Iraq did not represent an immediate threat to
Great Britain. This has been made
crystal clear. It is a shame that Hutton
did not extend his investigation to the ultimate origin of such a clumsy
"Blair Wins Confrontation With BBC"
Independent El Mundo commented (Internet
version, 1/29): "The report is a
great relief for Blair, who was facing a critical week. The day before yesterday he saw how a large
number of his own MPs voted against his university reform, although in the end,
in spite of the evident divisions in the Labor Party, he managed to get the
House of Commons to approve his plan by five votes. If this was a bittersweet
victory, yesterday's is overwhelming....
The Hutton report does not alter the general opinion that the Iraq war
deserves, but it affects the exercise of journalistic responsibility. The BBC has seen this clearly and not only
has its chairman resigned, but its director-general has apologized.... The independence that the BBC, as a public
broadcaster, has shown in standing up to the government has been praised. It is true that being independent is a basic
virtue in journalism but if it does not come with reporting of the highest
rigor it can only lead to disrepute. If
the Watergate case marked a historical milestone in the relations between power
and the press, the Kelly case is another point of reference, but of the
opposite kind. Judges have had to
resolve a conflict which set the government and the fourth estate against each
other. Having seen the ruling, the BBC
could do nothing to recover its prestige other than taking on its
responsibility, as Blair would have had to do if there had been an unfavorable
"Liberating Decision On Iraq"
Stockholm's conservative Svenska Dagbladet
took this view (Internet version, 1/29):
"Yesterday Prime Minister Tony Blair was...exonerated from charges
of having doctored the evidence when the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction was to be eliminated with force....
When the 'judgment' came down in Lord Hutton's investigation, Blair was
exonerated on all counts. Instead the
toughest criticism was directed at the BBC for having spread unsubstantiated
information. The investigation is a
tough blow to the peace movement, not least within the Labor Party which has
raged at Blair for his decision to join the Coalition of the Willing against
Saddam Hussein. The same, of course,
also applies to the overlooked fact that Kelly believed that Iraq possessed
weapons of mass destruction; his criticism was related to how quickly they
could be used. The charges against Tony
Blair were grave and could not be left unanswered. A similar investigation is going on in the
United States where similar charges are leveled against President George W.
Bush. It can be noted that David Kay,
the head of the U.S. weapons inspectors who recently resigned, has said that
Iraq had both biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program. The criticism of the liberation of Iraq will
hardly go away. It has a life of its
own. In any case, that part which is
based on pacifism or anti-Americanism.
Hairsplitters are usually tenacious.
It is, however, in Iraq that the question of right or wrong will be
decided. If the rebuilding is
successful, the debate on the strength of the proof will be a footnote in
history. With the Kelly affair behind
him, Tony Blair can now concentrate on seeing that this is the case."
"Blair And The Decisive Moment"
Nadim Hatim wrote in government-owned Tishreen
(Internet version, 1/29): "For the
second time in less than one year British Prime Minister Tony Blair survived a
double ordeal that threatened his political future. It was the second time since his government
announced its subservience to the policy of the current U.S. administration,
which is described as the most extremist of all U.S. administrations, basing
its policy on the preemptive strike doctrine and the idea of a dominant empire. Two days ago Blair won parliamentary approval
of his plans to increase university tuition.
Also, the Hutton committee, which investigated the circumstances of the
false information that was offered to justify the war on Iraq, cleared Blair
and his government of any responsibility....
Blair and the leaders of the Labor Party have so far
overcome...challenges in a way that was considered a victory. But this victory is still fraught with risks,
the most significant among which is the position of the British public, which
still has not said its final word about the results of the Labor Party
policy. This policy had a negative
impact on the British people, both on the level of service plans...and on the
level of the British foreign policy, which has been characterized by unlimited
subservience to the American policy.
This has drawn a sharp reaction from the British people, who rejected
involvement in the war on Iraq and are still awaiting the general elections to
say their final and clear word."
"The Arabs And The Hutton Report."
Semi-independent Al-Watan remarked
(Internet version, 1/29): "In our
view as Arabs, Judge Lord Hutton's Report and his conclusions about the suicide
of British weapons expert David Kelly remain a British domestic affair. What really matters is that whether Britain's
participation in a war against an Arab country was based on exaggerations at
best and lies and fabrications at worst.
Regrettably, this particular point has not been covered by the judicial mission
of Judge Hutton. This, however, does not
mean that the file of the case has been completely closed. Several days before the release of the
British judge's report, a U.S. inspection team published in Washington a
summary of a report acknowledging that despite months of inspection, it has
failed to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.... If the Bush administration and Tony Blair's
government used the alleged threat to world security by Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction as an excuse to attack an Arab country, kill thousands of people,
and destroy Iraq and its national sovereignty, the matter then deserves a
comprehensive investigation. Regardless
of the nature of the former Iraqi regime, Arab countries are required to raise
their voices and to demand such an investigation so that striking Iraq under
false pretexts will not become a precedent for striking another country."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
"A Great Persuader Losing His Touch"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald
editorialized (Internet version, 1/31):
"In an extraordinary 24 hours of coincidence and potential
calamity, Mr. Blair faced a backbench revolt and the possibility of a finding
that he lied to cover up involvement in a string of events that ended with the
suicide of the weapons scientist David Kelly.
As it turned out, Mr. Blair survived the backbench uprising, albeit by a
tiny margin and only after the intervention of his leadership rival, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.
And the Kelly affair inquisitor, Lord Brian Hutton, cleared Mr. Blair of
any wrongdoing in the controversy centered on a BBC report that the prime
minister's office 'sexed up' the intelligence dossier case against
Iraq.... But Mr. Blair is not out of the
woods. His brushes with political death
have left a whiff of mortality about the Great Persuader and it is unclear
whether he will be the leader at next year's election.... The prime minister without 'a reverse gear'
is running in leaden boots. And Factor
X--that capacity to confront trouble and persuade doubters through powers of
reason, charm and indefatigability--is deserting him. Old Labor was never keen on him; many
supporters have tired of his support-or-sack-me causes, particularly the Iraq
war; voters are angry at perceptions that life isn't as good as it once was;
and the Conservatives are finally getting their act together under a new
leader, Michael Howard.... Ideas are
more important than any political career.
If Mr. Blair sinks, he sinks. But
those who would tear him down need to show their ideas for Britain's future at
least equal his."
"Tony Blair, And The Case For War,
The national conservative Australian editorialized
(1/30): “More bizarre still has been the
spectacle of the Left being prepared to hound a Labor prime minister to his
political death, because he was willing to act with the U.S. to depose a
fascist dictator. Lord Hutton excluded
the existence or non-existence of Saddam Hussein's illegal weapons from his
brief. But the fact that he concludes
the British Government acted honorably on the basis of the intelligence
available is a major undermining of the Left's case against Mr. Blair.... It was not just the British and U.S.
intelligence agencies, but every intelligence agency in the world--along with
UNSCOM, the relevant United Nations agency--which believed in the likelihood
that Hussein still possessed weapons of mass destruction. If he did not, then these intelligence
failures will need to be addressed. But
equally, if he did not, the dictator could have saved himself at any moment by
allowing unhindered inspections.“
"A Bad Week For Iraq Conspiracy Theorists"
Tony Parkinson wrote in Melbourne's liberal Age
(1/30): "The Hutton report,
published in London yesterday, has delivered a severe rebuke to the British
Broadcasting Corporation over unfounded accusations of deception at the highest
levels of the Blair Government.... The
Hutton report reminds us of the corrosive dangers of excessive public cynicism
about political processes in the Western democracies. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been all but
hounded from office on the strength of the BBC reports that Downing Street had
'sexed up' an intelligence dossier on Iraq's weapons in September 2002 with
claims the Government probably knew to be false. Hutton's exoneration of Blair provides a
salutary lesson for the media. As of
today, it is the BBC's integrity, not that of Blair, that has become the
issue. Hutton's findings could not be
more punishing. The punchline, in
essence, was this: the BBC could not be
believed when it said the Government could not be believed. The ramifications extend far beyond
Britain. The false accusations against
Blair triggered a widespread campaign to discredit the arguments for military
intervention in Iraq. If Blair had lied,
the argument went, the other core partners in the so-called coalition of the
willing, namely George Bush and John Howard, were similarly tainted. Hutton's findings should prompt contrition
among those too eager to subscribe to this dark and dismal proposition. More positively, it might help remove one of
the blinding distractions preventing a cogent and clear-headed analysis of
whether the war was necessary."
"Prime Minister Verses BBC; Mutual Trust Damaged Over Iraq
Keiko Iizuka wrote from London in moderate,
top-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun (Internet version, 1/29): "An independent British investigating
committee, which was set up with a fierce battle between the British government
and the BBC over the Iraq war in the background, made a decision on 28 January
in favor of the prime minister. However,
the vast amounts of testimonies and evidence reveal the fact that many 'words'
and 'expressions' used by both sides were unclear and lacked credibility.... Judge Hutton...pointed out in the report...several
mistakes the BBC had made in its news coverage.
On the other hand, Lord Hutton, contrary to public expectations, did not
mention the responsibility of the prime minister or the government. But numerous documents clearly show that the
prime minister's words were full of fraud.
Take the case of leaking the name of [David Kelly].... The situation indicates that what he said is
infinitely close to lying. The prime
minister may be able to ward off the investigating committee's efforts to
pursue his responsibility. But will he
be able to regain the people's trust in his 'leader's words,' which were his
greatest strength? The Blair government
may go down in history as an administration that shortened its own life over
the Iraq war."
"Vindication For An Embattled Tony Blair"
The liberal newspaper-of-record Dominion Post
of Wellington editorialized (Internet version, 1/30): "London calling, here is the news: Labor Government, 1; British Broadcasting
Corporation, 0. Yesterday, British peer
Lord Hutton released his report.... The
result was total victory for Prime Minister Tony Blair, a complete rout of the
BBC.... What now for Mr. Blair? Westminster gossip has it that he might see
this public vindication as a good time to retire, given that he, as Labor's
erstwhile savior, has lost his public following. It points to the earlier Commons vote on
tertiary education that the prime minister won thanks only to a handful of
votes delivered by his leadership rival, Chancellor Gordon Brown. The public no longer trusts Mr. Blair,
partly because of his enthusiasm for U.S. President George W. Bush's
adventurism in Iraq and partly because they cannot divine when he is telling
the truth. Backbench rumblings that
include former ministers Robin Cook and Clare Short are at such a pitch that it
seems to be only Mr. Brown's attenuated loyalty that is keeping Mr. Blair in
the top job.... Many people--not all of
them politicians--will be delighted to see [the BBC] get its
comeuppance.... The Hutton report will
cast a long shadow over the news media generally, but public broadcasting in
particular, for some time to come. It
might yet also encourage the departure from politics of a man who made the
British Labor Party re-electable and who, in the end, has spun himself out of
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
"BBC'S Darkest Hour, Whitewash Stains Blair"
London Correspondent Amit Royn filed this dispatch in the centrist
"Civilization as the British know it is coming to an end, with the
BBC facing the gravest crisis in its history.... Tony Blair and his government, who were
cleared...by Lord Hutton of any wrongdoing over the death of Dr. David Kelly,
the weapons scientist, are not having things all their own way, though. An influential and growing body of opinion
believes that Hutton's report is a 'whitewash'--in fact, today's Independent
newspaper dramatically left most of its front page blank to signal its view
that Hutton has not been even-handed in apportioning blame.... At issue now is the freedom and independence
of the BBC. It has admitted it made a
mistake...but insists it was right to cover the Iraq war in the way that it
did--which is one of the reasons why Blair and Campbell went to war against the
CANADA: "The Real
Message From Hutton And Kay"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (1/29): "Lord Hutton's report largely exonerates
Tony Blair's government of any wrongdoing in the death of Mr. Kelly, a defense
ministry scientist who killed himself last year after being revealed as the
source of a BBC story that charged Mr. Blair's office with embellishing
intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to bolster
support for the Iraqi war. Instead, Lord
Hutton harshly criticized the British Broadcasting Corporation for failing to
ensure the reliability of the story, which gave considerable support to the
government's anti-war critics. Mr. Kay's
report has also been used--wrongly--to assail the Bush administration's
decision to go to war. Mr. Kay said he
is now convinced investigators won't find large stockpiles of weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq, but he also said Mr. Bush cannot be faulted for believing
such weapons existed.... In this regard,
the most salient notion to draw from both reports--besides the need to get to
the bottom of why the intelligence was so convincing and yet so wrong--is that
they underscore the importance of keeping criticism and dissent honest. Anti-war critics have ruthlessly exploited
the Kelly affair and the issue of Iraq's weaponry to denounce both Mr. Bush and
Mr. Blair as liars and warmongers. But
it is clear that both leaders acted in good conscience on the basis of evidence
available to them. Will the critics now
admit that it is they, not the politicians, who acted inappropriately?... It is fair to question whether military action
was the best way to deal with Iraq (we believe it was), but it is unfair to
suggest the U.S. and Britain lied about what they believed to be the threat
Iraq posed to our security."
"Hutton Report Had Narrow Focus"
Paul Knox wrote in the leading Globe and Mail
(Internet version, 1/29): "When the
history of the Iraq campaign is written, the Kelly affair and the
BBC-government spat will be worth a page or two at most. Far more central to
the story is why the war was launched in the first place, and why the United
States and its allies were so ill-informed about Iraq and the Iraqis. Not only
were they in the dark about WMD, in the post-war period their general
misdiagnosis of the country has cost credibility, money and lives.... The parliamentary opposition in London called
yesterday for an inquiry into intelligence failures. So, in Washington, did Mr. Kay. Yes, it was a day in which the BBC was
bloodied--but the spying establishments, and their political masters, hardly
BRAZIL: "Blair And Bush Absolved"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (2/1): "Lord Brian Hutton's conclusions have
been viewed as 'narrow,' 'unfair' and, according to one commentator, 'almost
comically biased'.... Hutton used a
double standard in reaching his conclusions....
He ignored evidence of Tony Blair's participation in the leaking of
Kelly's name. In addition, he criticized
the BBC as the villain in the whole story.
Only the government received the benefit of the doubt.... Lord Hutton refused to investigate the most
important thing: the reliability of
information provided by British intelligence about Saddam's arsenals.... Five days earlier, David Kay had affirmed
before the U.S. Senate that 'almost all of us were mistaken,' and that even
Saddam would have been duped in recent years by scientists who presented him
with dazzling plans for chemical and biological arms.... The core of Kay's theory is that President
Bush genuinely believed what misinformed intelligence services such as the CIA
had sent him.... The 'almost all of us
were mistaken' theory seems to have been produced to protect the governments of
Bush and Blair from the accusation of having fabricated a false pretext for
"BBC Vs. Blair"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo held (2/1): "The [results of
the] long-anticipated British judicial investigation of scientist David Kelly's
suicide are firm: Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and the government have been
absolved of practically all suspicion of having manipulated secret service
reports.... It is known today that Iraq did not possess WMD and that the
reports produced by the British and American intelligence services were
wrong. It seems paradoxical that the BBC
has been criticized because of a story that is compatible with that conclusion,
while the government was absolved of guilt.... The Hutton report lacked balance
between a necessary condemnation of the media's behavior and a recognition that
one should not discourage journalists' efforts to go beyond appearances in their
task of reporting on and investigating the government."