Author Topic: [Re]Historical [Re]Views and/or [Re]Re-W\writing His[S]tory ... etc ...  (Read 2718 times)

Phil Talbot

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... I wrote the following pieces relating to the death of Dr David Kelly some years ago ... having reviewed the evidence ... I see no reason(s) to change my conclusions ....

A Citizen’s Considered Report on
the Hutton Report of 28.01.04
By Philip Talbot
Summary of Conclusions.
Here I set out the conclusions I have reached so far on the Hutton
Report into the question of how Dr David Kelly came to his death and
on a group of five other issues.
On the issue of Dr Kelly’s death:
I am not satisfied that the Hutton Inquiry which produced the Report
of that name was a fit body to establish the cause of death. The
inquiry was set up mostly according to the instructions of a Prime
Minister who was himself involved in the circumstances leading to Dr
Kelly’s death, and had a narrow remit that seemed deliberately intended
to cover up details of the man’s death as well as of wider
matters. The circumstances leading to the death should have been
fully considered by a full inquest at a coroner’s court, with the option
of a jury of independent randomly selected citizens to reach a judgement
about the evidence - as is proper for a death in suspicious
circumstances on the British mainland.
On other issues:
1. On the issues relating to the government’s dossier of 24 September
my conclusions are as follows:
a. The dossier was obviously misleadingly titled, possibly deliber
ately, since evidence now clearly shows that Iraq had no substantial
usable stocks of ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
b. The dossier contained much dubiously sourced insubstantial gossip
in the guise of substantial ‘intelligence evidence’. The public should
be better informed that most ‘intelligence’ in fact takes this form.
c. The specific ’45 minute claim’ as to how quickly the [factually nonexistent]
Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction’ could be launched had
no credible identifiable source. It related to something so remote and
insubstantial - and in fact unreal - that even the Prime Minister now
acknowledges that he did not know then, or even six months later
when he ordered the illegal attack on Iraq in March 2003, that the
claim made in the dossier, and later repeated several times from by
his own mouth, related only to notional ‘battlefield’ weapons. In other
words, the claim in the dossier was false, and the Prime Minister -
whether actually lying deliberately, or ‘merely’ speaking in a state of
ignorance [disgraceful in the circumstances, given the seriousness
of the issue] - did not know what he was talking about.
d. The dossier that purported to be a serious ‘intelligence assessment’
was primarily a piece of political propaganda produced by a
government wishing to scare the public into supporting illegal war
e. As Mr Hutton himself suggests the dossier is more often ‘suggestive’
rather than factual - i.e. it points minds in certain directions, and
is, in slang terms, ‘sexed up’ in a ‘nod and wink’ sort of way.
f. When several newspapers further overstated the already overstated
claims made in the dossier as to the weapons potential of the then
Iraqi regime, the government did nothing to correct those
overstatements - and hence deliberately connived to allow misinformation
to remain in the public domain. This indicates fundamental
bad faith in the government’s conduct of its business. It is reasonable
to conclude from this that the government generally and the Prime
Minister in particular were more interested in the fiction of propaganda
than the truth of fact in the run up to the Iraq war.
2. On the issues relating to Dr Kelly’s meeting with the BBC reporter
Andrew Gilligan in the Charing Cross Hotel, London, on 22 May 2003,
my conclusion is that Mr Gilligan failed to keep an accurate record of
the conversation, and so could not properly substantiate claims he
made in later reports based on that meeting.
3. On the issues relating to the BBC arising from Mr Gilligan’s broadcast
on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme of 29 Mary 2003, in
which he claimed the 24 September 2002 dossier was ‘sexed up’ and
that the government probably knew then the 45-minute claim was
dubious, my conclusions are as follows:
a. The substance of the report was probably true, the phrasing careless.
b. The lack of editorial checking of Mr Gilligan’s report within the BBC
prior to broadcast is astonishing.
c. Had the report been through proper editorial scrutiny before broadcast,
then it could have been more carefully phrased, and would then
better have been able to withstand the predictable attack on it by
unscrupulous government spin doctors such as Alistair Campbell.
4A. On the issue of whether the government behaved in a way that
was dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous in revealing Dr Kelly’s
name to the media, my conclusion is that it did. The government did
not in fact have to have a conscious ‘naming strategy’ - of the sort
considered and dismissed by Mr Hutton. Its members knew well
enough that they could rely on Westminster ‘village chatter’ to reveal
Dr Kelly’s name. Everyone involved, from the Prime Minister downwards,
knew that this was the way the system worked. So it is
‘dishonourable’, ‘underhand’, ‘duplicitous’ of the Prime Minister and
others to continue to claim they were wholly innocent over this matter.
4B. On the issue of whether the government failed to take proper
steps to help and protect Dr Kelly in the difficult position he found
himself in, my conclusion is that quite obviously they did not. In what
Mr Hutton might describe as ‘slang terms’ members of the government
flung Dr Kelly to the wolves while fleeing into a forest of coverups
to protect themselves.
5. On the issue of the factors that might have led Dr Kelly to take his
own life, I note that Mr Hutton based his own conclusion on a single
source: a psychiatrist who, it appears, had never actually met Dr
Kelly. My own conclusion is that there is insufficient evidence in the
public domain to reach a conclusion about Dr Kelly’s relative state of
mental health, and that the full circumstances leading up to his death
- and wider matters - have yet to be properly investigated.
Philip Talbot
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 12:52:01 PM by Phil Talbot »

Phil Talbot

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Re: Historical Reviews and/ ReWriting History ... etc ...
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2011, 12:48:52 PM »
Science and Openness:
Fact and Fiction

Richard Preston is one of the world’s best popular science journalists.
When he wrote books about astronomy [First Light] and medical
microbiology [The Hot Zone] he found the scientists involved in
these fields open-minded and keen to share their work – as well as
themselves as human beings – with the wider world. What emerges
from these books, which mix ‘human interest’ and ‘hard science’, is a
picture of real science as done by real human beings – who, for example, chat about the sports programmes they watched last night on
t.v. in between doing highly technical observations of the most distantly
visible galactic structures.
When Richard Preston turned his attention to biological weapons
research, he entered a closed, secretive, reality-denying world, where
the people involved were not prepared to talk openly, nor to disclose
their findings to a wider public under their own names, nor to reveal
the human realities of their work. So he wrote a book of fiction [The
Cobra Event], using the same reporting techniques as for his previous
books, but in which human identities were disguised and blurred
by fictionalisation. He claims of this book: ‘the historical background
is real, the government structures are real, and the science is real or
based on what is possible’. In other words: he does his best to tell it
as it is - or might be - in circumstances that make truth-telling difficult.
[Rumour – and perhaps the odd reliable intelligence source! –
suggests that Bill Clinton read The Cobra Event as a antidote to the
bio-weapons intelligence reports he was being fed by the defence
establishment while American president.]
At its best, science investigates reality by the open consideration of
ideas and checkable physical evidence. Ideas and evidence are put
into the public realm and [literally and metaphorically] knocked about
in open debate. Those ideas and evidence that stand up to the hard
knocks of public scrutiny generally pass for something approaching
the truth – until better ideas or other evidence are found. Science at
its best is hence democratic and progressive. It is also commonplace
[since it deals with a common reality we all share] and humbling
[since it reveals extraordinary wide-ranging notions that put us
in our place in the wider scheme of things].
The best scientists have normal human prides and other flaws, but
they also have a kind of humility – they acknowledge their uncertainties,
and understand that while they work with nature they do not
really control it. They also tend to be open about their work. The
worst scientists lack humility and can come to believe they alone
have unique intelligence, and that they can control nature. They often
claim ‘certainties’ that they do not have. They tend to be secretive.
And the work they produce tends to result in distortion of the
truth [because it is not properly scrutinised in open forums that can
bring out errors]. The truth becomes even more distorted when secretive
scientific research is incorporated into the command-and-control
power ‘games’ of the ‘power elite’ – political, military and/or corporate.
As Richard Preston puts it: ‘Open, peer-reviewed biological
research can reap great benefits. … What is dangerous is human
All of which is a preamble of sorts to an opening consideration of the
death in suspicious circumstances, on Thursday, July 17, of Dr David
Kelly - a previously mostly anonymous man who, apparently, was
one of Britain’s leading experts on biological weapons, employed by
the British ministry of ‘defence’, and who had been involved in weapons
inspection work in Iraq.
Dr Kelly’s family have said this weekend that ‘all those involved should
reflect long and hard’ on his death – and who could disagree with
them on that?
As it has been reported in the mainstream media, the ‘case’ of Dr
Kelly’s death is quite ‘open-and-shut’: a quiet and decent academic
scientist, unused to publicity, cracked under pressure after becom-
ing caught up in a vicious public row between government and media
over claims of ‘spin-doctoring’ of intelligence reports [apparently including
work done by Dr Kelly himself] and while in a distressed
state, he committed suicide – painkillers-and-wrist-slashing being his
chosen method, according to suggestions in police statements.
Conspiracy theorists – rushing to conclusions in their own ways –
are suggesting more sinister alternative possibilities. The truth is
that at present the circumstances leading up to Dr Kelly’s death are
generally uncertain, but his death was troubling and mysterious –
something, indeed, for ‘all those involved to reflect long and hard’
According to the normal conventions of British law, the cause of a
suspicious death is something for an inquest jury of randomly selected
British citizens to reach a verdict about. In other words, judgement
on Dr Kelly’s death should not be left to a single judge, however
independent, appointed to lead a judicial inquiry by a Prime Minister
whose own involvement in the course of events leading to Dr Kelly’s
death is open to question. The basic questions for that public inquest
jury to consider are, effectively, those that apply to every doubtful
death: did he ‘fall’? or was he ‘pushed’?
Meanwhile, there are many legitimate questions the wider British public
has a right to ask and to get answers to, including:
· what exactly was Dr Kelly doing in his years as a British taxfunded
biological weapons researcher?
· why were his evaluations of the present state of bio-weapon
research and development in Iraq [which can hardly be regarded
as British state secrets, and which were crucial issues
in the government’s ‘justifications’ for going to war] not
released more openly for others to evaluate?
· in short, what did he really know?
Historical Post-Scripts
From Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, Chapter VI.
[Embedded quotes are from Robert Graves, Goodbye To All That]:
“The attack is to be preceded by a forty-minute discharge of gas from
cylinders in the trenches. For security reasons the gas is euphemized
as ‘the accessory’. When it is discovered that the manage-
ment of the gas is in the hands of a gas company officered by chemistry
dons from London University, morale hits a comic rock-bottom.
‘Of course they’ll bungle it,’ says Thomas. ‘How could they do anything
else?’ Not only is the gas bungled: everything goes wrong. The
storeman stumbles and spills all the rum in the trench just before the
company goes over; the new type of grenade won’t work in the dampness;
the colonel departs for the rear with a slight cut on his hand; a
crucial German machine gun is left undestroyed; the German artillery
has the whole exercise taped. The gas is supposed to be blown
across by favourable winds. When the great moment proves entirely
calm, the gas company sends back a message ‘Dead calm. Impossible
discharge accessory’, only to be ordered by the staff, who like
characters in farce are entirely obsessed, mechanical, and unbending:
‘Accessory to be discharged at all costs.’ The gas, finally discharged
after the discovery that most of the wrenches for releasing it
won’t fit, drifts out and then settles back into the British trenches.
Men are going over and rapidly coming back, and we hear comically
contradictory crowed noises: ‘Come on!’ ‘Get back, you bastards!’
‘Gas turning on us!’ ‘Keep your heads, you men!’ ‘Back like hell,
boys!’ ‘Whose orders?’ ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Gas!’ ‘Back!’ ‘Come
on!’ ‘Gas!’ ‘Back!’ A ‘bloody balls-up’ is what the troops called it.
Historians call it the Battle of Loos.”
From Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach:
“… we are here as on a darkling plain
swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
where ignorant armies clash by night.”
[Philip Talbot, 20/07/03]