Christopher King examines the death of UK weapons inspector Dr David Kelly in 2003 and argues that, in the light of fresh analyses of the circumstances of his death, it is vital that the new British government make public Dr Kelly’s post mortem report and other documentation relating to his death.
”We need public access to Dr Kelly’s post mortem report and the documentation relating to his death. The Blair-Brown government’s delaying tactics will not do. Since we have a new government, a new attorney-general and a new home secretary, this is a test of the Cameron-Clegg government’s integrity.”
British Member of Parliament Norman Baker says that Dr David Kelly was murdered. All the indications are that he is right and if so, this is a murder of enormous ethical and political significance.
Mr Baker has investigated Dr Kelly’s death and has written a book about it. Some links below will take you to extracts from the book and newspaper stories giving more background.
Until about a year ago I was perfectly happy to believe the official story that Dr Kelly committed suicide as found by Lord Hutton. At that point I noticed that a group of medical doctors considered that he could not have died from the cause given in the Hutton report. They support what Norman Baker says in his book:
Crucially, in his report, Hutton declared that the principal cause of death was bleeding from a self-inflicted knife wound on Dr Kelly's left wrist.
Yet Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on Dr Kelly, stated that he had cut only one blood vessel – the ulnar artery.
Since the arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness, severing just one of them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss, especially if it is cut crossways, the method apparently adopted by DrKelly, rather than along its length.
The artery simply retracts and stops bleeding.
There are other anomalies such as very little blood found at the scene, evidence that the crime scene was interfered with, the possibility of planted evidence, an informant who was called to a meeting where he was beaten up, a telephone warning to cease investigations and strange police behaviour. Government actions have been obstructive to further investigation. You can read of these in the links below.
Crucially, however, in his inquiry Lord Hutton took oral evidence only on Dr Kelly’s death and sealed the documents relating to his death, which would normally be part of a public inquiry, including the post mortem report, for 70 years. The dissenting doctors discovered this when they applied to the Oxfordshire coroner’s office to have the inquest reopened. In January this year Lord Hutton agreed to allow the doctors to see the post mortem report on David Kelly but they have not had it yet, four months later. It was Anthony Blair’s old friend and flatmate, Charles Falconer – made Lord Falconer by Blair – who suspended the coroner’s inquest in favour of Lord Hutton’s inquiry, thus taking the matter into government hands and out of the public domain.
The position to date appears to be that the attorney-general has not considered the doctors to be “interested parties” and are not eligible to be given access to the post mortem report. I would have thought that murder is a matter in the public interest in which any citizen might make enquiries. The attorney-general has asked for the doctors to give evidence on their opinions. This is the usual tactics of government, where the Freedom of Information Act does not suit them – interminable delays and excuses.
It looks like a cover-up.
Dr David Kelly emerged at a critical point in the run-up to the Iraq war. We will recall that he was a very competent and well experienced biological weapons expert who had worked in Iraq with the United Nations weapons inspection programme and had good knowledge of Saddam Hussein’s weapons.
In February 2003 Alastair Campbell, Anthony Blair’s director of communications and strategy, issued a report, dubbed the “dodgy dossier”, alleging manifold wrongdoing on the part of the Iraqi government, including claims that Saddam had chemical weapons that could be used within 45 minutes. This was part of Blair’s campaign to sell the Iraq war to the British public. Dr Kelly had commented in confidence to the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan that the Prime Minister’s Office had “sexed up” the dossier. Gilligan went public with this and it might have been quickly forgotten except that Alastair Campbell initiated a vicious, long running attack on the BBC in defence of the dossier and in order to find out Gilligan’s “official” source. The Ministry of Defence combed its staff to find the source and Dr Kelly came forward. He was summoned to a parliamentary enquiry and faced disciplinary proceedings. On 18 July 2003 Dr Kelly was found dead in the woods near his home.
This dossier, part of a conspiracy for war issued by Alastair Campbell, was subsequently found to be a hotch-potch of cherry-picked fragments of unattributed internet research, exaggerated claims and false claims, notwithstanding praise having been heaped upon it by the then US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Blair himself. The politicized head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, its principal author, was subsequently knighted and promoted to head of the UK’s intelligence services by Blair.
Despite the falsities of the Scarlett-Campbell document and the duplicity of everyone involved with it, subsequent official inquiries have focused narrowly on the definition of Dr Kelly’s term “sexed up” and whether the draft prepared by John Scarlett had been “sexed up” by the Prime Minister’s Office. This has always been a false basis for any inquiry about Dr Kelly’s and Andrew Gilligan’s claims but it enabled Campbell and Blair’s office to demand and get an apology from the BBC. Better men than them lost their jobs through their manipulations, to say nothing of their plot for a devastating war.
Dr Kelly’s significance
We should bear in mind that Dr Kelly knew from personal investigation in Iraq what the truth of Saddam’s weapons were. It was thought at that time by Dr Hans Blix, head of the UN inspection team, and the inspectors generally that Saddam might have small quantities of weaponized chemical or biological materials but nothing significant. None had been found, nor had any trace of nuclear weapons construction. Dr Blix’s view was that although chemical and biological materials could not be accounted for, that did not mean that they existed. This was therefore Dr Kelly’s belief and view.
Dr Kelly had seen and had been asked to comment on the drafts of several of Anthony Blair’s dossiers for the Iraq war. He and others with expert knowledge were said, at the Hutton inquiry, to be in disagreement with certain aspects of them. In reality, his disagreement appears to have been profound.
Alastair Campbell’s campaign against the BBC was as high profile as anything was possible to be. When Dr Kelly was identified as Gilligan’s source the Blair cabal found that it had put in the public spotlight someone who was not a bureaucrat as they probably suspected but a weapons inspector of unimpeachable competence and integrity who had sufficient knowledge and authority to destroy their entire case for war at a time when public feeling against the war was high. At that point in time, over three months into the invasion, no chemical and biological weapons had been found. The government was desperate to vindicate its claim that these actually existed.
If Dr Kelly were to have talked freely of his knowledge on television it would have done immense damage to the government. He had testified to a parliamentary committee when he had been under intense pressure to keep to the government line and not to make known his own views. It might well have seemed likely that he would give his views to the media because he would probably lose his job, possibly his pension and he might consider he had nothing to lose. With the authority of his expertise and personal integrity, threats under the Official Secrets Act might not have been sufficient to silence him.
At this point, we have Dr Kelly’s alleged suicide. It is very convenient. The post mortem report and related documents are secret. I do not believe it.
If in fact Dr Kelly was murdered and it appears that he was, who might do it?
Those who were pressing for a war were firstly, the Israelis for whom Saddam was their worst enemy. Among other issues, he had launched missiles at Israel during the war following his invasion of Kuwait, while the US had prevailed on Israel to do nothing. Israel wanted revenge.
Secondly, there are George Bush and the opportunists around him – Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell etc, who were influenced by the grandiose schemes of the mainly Jewish neo-cons, their hangers-on and the money and political power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s political agent in the United States. Occupation of the Middle Eastern oilfields was also consistent with US strategic objectives which are being pursued at the present time. This was the area of coincidence with Israeli security concerns.
Thirdly, Anthony Blair himself. The Iraq war was Anthony Blair’s opportunity to ingratiate himself with men of immense wealth and influence. He was supported by hangers-on such as Campbell, various third-rate politicians whose names are half forgotten and the Jewish supporters of Israel, Peter Mandelson and his fundraiser, Michael Levy, a regular visitor to Tel Aviv. There would have been considerable background support also from the Friends of Israel who comprise about half of all British members of parliament.
Let us attempt to assess the probabilities. It has been suggested that the British security services detected a plot to assassinate Dr Kelly but were too late to prevent it. They therefore covered it up in order to preserve unity with their allies. This might be the case; it is also possible that knowing of a plot they stood aside and allowed the murder to happen. It is not likely that the British would murder a British subject on their own territory for a number of reasons relating to self-protection as well as probable inhibitions about killing a man such as Dr Kelly whom they could neither perceive nor present publicly as an enemy of the state. One would, however, expect the British security services to have knowledge of who had carried out such a murder.
From what we have seen of their indiscriminate killing in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, neither the Americans nor the Israelis would have any inhibitions about killing an innocent man who might stand in their way. All the evidence is that the life of one man would be nothing against their grandiose ambitions. The United States openly seeks to dominate the world militarily and, as an obvious corollary, economically. Israel has its well known plans for Greater Israel.
On the other hand, Dr Kelly could do Israel and the US no obvious harm. Israel had achieved the war it wanted and no-one would care what Dr Kelly might say about it. Most of the American public believed that Saddam was behind the 9/11 attack, had a nuclear programme and had biological and chemical weapons. That was what their president had told them. They were incurious, disinterested in anything but their own welfare and were easy to manipulate by their government. There is the possibility that the CIA would see unpredictable possibilities in revelations that Dr Kelly might make, particularly if they knew that Dr Kelly had knowledge of their operations or other matters unrelated to the dossier that would be damaging if they were to be made public. If Dr Kelly were to say publicly that what their president had told his country was untrue, that would damage both him and the credibility of the US but perhaps not seriously.
Not only the UK and US governments might have been damaged by Dr Kelly if he had become an independent, aggrieved critic of the war. George Tenet was director of the US Central Intelligence Agency at this time. Colin Powell said subsequently that Tenet had personally vouched for the accuracy of the material in his infamous presentation to the United Nations and had presumably given George Bush the information that Saddam had an Al-Qaeda connection, had tried to purchase uranium ore from Niger, had a nuclear programme and that it was a “slam dunk case” to prove his chemical and biological weapons. Tenet therefore had a personal interest in Dr Kelly. So had the UK political appointee John Scarlett who was responsible for the misleading drafts of the Iraq war dossiers and was still head of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
An investigation might reasonably examine the possibility of communication between Scarlett and Tenet about Dr Kelly. What might be the nature of such communication? Surely it would be about the unhappy implications of his going public and means of keeping him quiet.
If Dr Kelly was in fact murdered, it is therefore plausible that the CIA did it and John Scarlett has knowledge of it in deniable form. I mean that Mr Scarlett might well have discussed the desirability of keeping Dr Kelly from going public but did not mention anything about killing him. It is an old trick used by Anthony Blair in denying responsibility for the Iraq dossiers that were prepared by people who knew what he wanted in them. The classic example is Henry II’s exclamation, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest!” which resulted in the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket who would not comply with the king’s wishes.
If the incompetent Blair-Brown government had been keeping records of people leaving the country it would be possible to see what Americans left in the 48 hours subsequent to Dr Kelly’s death, particularly those with a known US government connections. But this is unnecessary. From Norman Baker’s information the most likely situation would be that the Americans killed him and the British secret services are covering up in the interests of the “special relationship”, the alliance and NATO. If that is the case, then at the price of Dr Kelly’s death, none of these is worth having. The information would exist within the UK secret services, which we know have been complicit, if not actively involved with the CIA’s kidnapping and torture programme.
Much of the above is speculation, but it is justified. A man has died in circumstances of political controversy and with serious questions outstanding. The British government has taken extraordinary steps to keep the circumstances and details of his death secret.
We need public access to Dr Kelly’s post mortem report and the documentation relating to his death. The Blair-Brown government’s delaying tactics will not do. Since we have a new government, a new attorney-general and a new home secretary, this is a test of the Cameron-Clegg government’s integrity. The concerned doctors have applied for Dr Kelly’s post mortem report in the public interest and it should be given to them without delay. No legitimate reason for refusing or delaying can possibly exist.
Christopher King is a retired consultant and lecturer in management and marketing. He lives in London, UK.