Tough rebuke of BBC surprises critics

It was called the most crucial 48 hours of his political career with the potential of bringing his government down, but British Prime Minister Tony Blair has emerged from it, for the most part, unscathed.

    Lord Hutton's report focused on Dr Kelly and the BBC

    But the same cannot be said about the BBC.

    The release of the Hutton report on Wednesday dealt a huge blow to the corporation, which saw the resignation of its chairman, Gavyn Davies, as a result of the report.

    Also, its director general, Greg Dyke, has apologised for things that were wrong in journalist Andrew Gilligan's reports.

    Lord Hutton had concluded that BBC reports claiming that 10 Downing Street had "sexed-up" its dossier on Iraqi weapons were "unfounded".

    The infamous dossier stated that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. But nearly one year has passed since the start of the war and no WMDs, nor any evidence of an advanced weapons programme, have emerged.

    The controversy, however, led to the apparent suicide of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly, who was the source of BBC reports that contradicted government claims.

    "The Prime Minister has led us into a complete disaster; and who is being hanged today? The BBC and Andrew Gilligan"

    George Galloway, British MP

    Kelly's claims differed

    Kelly said it would take "days or weeks" before Iraq would be capable of deploying WMDs.

    The tough rebuke of the BBC was a surprise to many including the Guardian newspaper's media observer Matt Wells.

    "I think it's the worst possible verdict for the BBC. It couldn't have been better for the government. But it's a very bad day for people at the BBC," he told

    "I think the harshness of the criticism is unfounded.

    We know the BBC was going to be criticised; the BBC admitted to some mistakes but I think they expected that the broad thrust of its reporting would be supported, or at least the right to broadcast the story would be supported. I think the harshness of the criticism has taken them all by surprise," said Wells.

    Although government officials see the report as the beginning of the end for difficult questions surrounding Kelly's death, many politicians and observers say the Hutton report failed to address the bigger issue of what led Britain into war.

    'Complete disaster'

    "The prime minister has led us into a complete disaster - and who is being hanged today? The BBC and Andrew Gilligan," British MP George Galloway said.

    Blair was all smiles after the
    release of the report

    Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has been demanding an independent inquiry for months, and was unhappy with the Hutton report.

    "The report is 400 pages long and fails to answer the central question as to why British and American governments claimed that Iraq was an immediate threat and possessed weapons of mass destruction when UN inspectors and the Iraqi Survey Group both confirmed that it does not. We were taken to war under false pretences," he told Aljazeera.Net.

    Daniel Joyner, lecturer at Warwick University School of Law, in the UK, and WMD proliferation expert agrees.

    'Laughable theory'

    "It's laughable that we can invade a country or use the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes because of the potential of Iraq striking a neighbouring nation. If we adopt that reasoning, then no country's development programme is outside the range of imminence," he said.

    "The doctrine of pre-emption is an important concept. It can be justified and used in other cases, but it was completely wrong to use in regards to Iraq," Joyner added.

    Corbyn wanted the rationale behind death and destruction in Iraq to be addressed.

    "The issue still remains why 10,000 people have died in Iraq and why we were led into war without any real justification for it.

    "Hutton's whole purpose was to exonerate the government for any misdoings, but the wider question is why there isn't any inquiry on why thousands of people have died in Iraq?" Corbyn said.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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