"Pay close attention to that man behind the curtain!"

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Hutton report released

It seems that the 740-page Hutton Report (328 pages, not including the intro and appendices, now available online as HTML or PDF [excluding appendices]) actually does smash my predictions of yesterday into little tiny bits.

Or does it?

Having watched the last half hour or so of Lord Hutton himself summing up the report a short while ago (live on TV), followed by opposition leader Michael Howard verbally duking it out with Tony Blair (live on TV), it seems that the collections of quotes, like this one provided by CNN to identify "key findings," for example, don't provide the complete picture.

QUOTE: "I am satisfied that Dr. David Kelly took his own life by cutting his left wrist and that his death was hastened by his taking (painkiller) co-proxamol tablets."
DEFINITION: "[T]ook his own life" = suicide. But you already knew that. Read on.

QUOTE: "I am further satisfied that there was no involvement by a third person in Dr. Kelly's death."
CONTRADICTION: What?! Was there a second person involved? If there's a second person but no second corpse, that'd be called "murder." I thought Hutton said it was suicide! (See previous quote. Also realize that Lord Hutton spent more than four months writing this report, giving him plenty of time to catch it, if it was a mistake.)

QUOTE: "[N]o one realized or should have realized that those pressures and strains might drive [Dr. Kelly] to take his own life."
CONTRADICTION: Is Hutton saying that Dr. Kelly committed suicide spontaneously, mere hours after sending one e-mail to Alistair Hay saying "Hopefully it will soon pass and I can get back to Baghdad and get on with the real job," and another e-mail to Judith Miller (possibly one of the "dark actors" referred to in that very letter) that "I will wait until the end of the week..." You can read more that I have written debating the suicide claims here.

SEMI-QUOTE: [T]here had been "a great deal of controversy and debate" about whether the government's dossier on Iraq's banned weapons was strong and reliable enough to warrant war.
RESPONSE: So, is this supposed to be some sort of a "conclusion"?

"QUOTESQUE": [T]he row had "continued because of the failure at the time of writing this report to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." But [Hutton] said a "question of such wide import which would involve the consideration of a wide range of evidence, is not one which falls within my terms of reference."
INTERPRETATION: Hutton cannot draw any conclusions about the WMD issue because there is still a complete lack of evidence that there even were any.

HARDLY A QUOTE AT ALL: Hutton said BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's claim that the government probably knew the assertion that Iraq could launch WMD in 45 minutes was wrong -- and that the dossier was "sexed up" -- were "unfounded."
HARDLY JUST MY OPINION: If you go back and read some of the hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of pages of transcripts and evidence on the Hutton Inquiry website -- as I have done over the past few months -- you'd see otherwise. I have written my thoughts on this topic previously, here and here.

The quotes continue, but as usual, they don't tell the story behind the story. For that, you'll have to move your mind.

UPDATE: Tom Tomorrow brings us his unusually clear view of things while discussing the dubiousness of the presentation of the Hutton Report:
I was reminded of [the peculiar politeness of British signage -- as opposed to American directness] as I read summaries of the Hutton report, which purportedly clears Blair of the charges of "sexing up" British intelligence (and in which the BBC comes off pretty badly)...specifically when I read this paragraph:
However, (Hutton) did wonder whether the "desire of the prime minister to have a dossier which, while consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have subconsciously influenced Mr Scarlett and the other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment".
Harrumph. Quite right, old chap.
[Emphasis mine] [LINK to Guardian article quoted above]

Let me repeat that for clarity and re-emphasis: [T]he "desire of the prime minister to have a dossier which ... was as strong as possible ... may have subconsciously influenced ... members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier ... stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment."
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