French Comment on the UK’s Kelly Affair

Monday, July 21st, 2003

The big story over on this side of the Atlantic these days is the Dr. David Kelly affair blazing now in the UK. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been under pressure for weeks for supposedly misleading Parliament into approving Britain’s joining the Americans in war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, raising scary prospects of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which could strike Britain within 45 minutes. In particular, at the beginning of this month the BBC had issud a damning report, based on anonymous, inside information from a source within the government, that Blair’s administration had “sexed up” a “dodgy dossier” sent to Parliament to substantiate Iraq’s alleged WMD capabilities. (In other words, civil servants and/or politicians in Blair’s government had inserted language into that dossier that was much more alarmist than was justified, in order to bring Parliament around to Blair’s case for going to war – much in the same way that there has also been recent furore surrounding George W. Bush’s assertion in his State of the Union speech of last January that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, an assertion which it now turns out was not even accepted as true by most of the Bush administration at the time.) Blair was certainly looking forward to a recent trip to the US (among other things, to address a joint session of the Houses of Congress) as a respite, a stay in a land where he is much more popular than in the country where he is actually Prime Minister. But no sooner had he left the US (to continue on to the West on an Asian trip) than the official who had been recently picked out as the likely “mole” who enabled the BBC to make its report – British biological expert Dr. David Kelly – was found dead near his home in Oxfordshire.

For the longest time – for far too long – the authorities who should have known better held off in identifying this death as the suicide that it was, and so kept alive the horrible prospect that someone had done away with the doctor out of concern for what more he could say to the press. But now we know that’s what it is, and the most recent news as of this writing has been the naming of Lord Hutton, a distinguished attorney and magistrate from Northern Ireland, to head the independent government inquiry into this affair. Crucially, the inquiry will have the narrow focus of the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly’s death – not the broader one of the completeness and truthfulness of the reporting to Parliament in the weeks leading up to the War in Iraq of Blair’s administration.

Naturally, this affair has generated reams and reams of reporting and commentary, especially within the UK but also elsewhere. Indeed, the concern that the populations of the countries of the Coalition might have been misled by the leaders about the urgency of going to war against Saddam Hussein is by no means confined to the UK or the US or exclusively to the other countries of the coalition. (In fact, in some of those countries – e.g. Poland – people are not much worried about the prospect at all.)
The Guardian offers a good selection of what various English-language newspapers – in the UK and abroad – are saying. As is the EuroSavant way, we’ll leave readers with that for English coverage, and instead examine the French press. (more…)

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