Hutton leaves moral questions unanswered
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
THE HUTTON REPORT on the death of Dr David Kelly will serve to further divert attention from the real moral question of why Britain went to war with Iraq, a senior bishop said after its publication on Wednesday.
The Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, said that the sideshow that everyone was watching was “about the Government and the BBC”, not about the Western forces and Iraq.
He described the exercise as a “defeat” for those opposed to war and those searching for the truth. The debate had now been shrouded in a discussion about whether the Government had told lies or not, he said.
Lord Hutton made it clear at the outset of his report that whether the evidence of the 45-minute claim was unreliable was not part of his remit; nor was the fact that weapons of mass destruction had not been found. The first of his terms of reference did relate to the preparation of the dossier and who was responsible for drafting it. The “grave allegation” made by Andrew Gilligan of the BBC that the Government “probably knew” that the claim was wrong before the dossier was published he declared to be unfounded.
Lord Hutton accepted that the intelligence had not been included in the first draft of the dossier because it had come in late, on 29 August 2002, and not because the Government wanted justification for war. The 45-minute claim was a main plank of the Government’s argument for going to war, and led to the accusation, directed at Alastair Campbell, that it had taken the country into military action on the basis of a lie.
Dr Selby said that nothing had come out in the inquiry that vindicated the Government’s decision to go to war. “The tragedy is that, in a situation in which thousands of people have been killed, it took the suicide of this particular person to get an investigation running. What happens when you get an investigation running on a false track is that the Government feels vindicated. People then suppose that it is vindicated on the whole issue.”
Dr Selby was “entirely happy” that Tony Blair should be vindicated on charges of whether he had told lies or not; but that was not the issue, he said. “I do think we are caught in an environment in which it was very important to produce every shred of justification for the war.”
The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, drew some encouragement from Lord Hutton’s conclusion that the Government had acted reasonably. “I think it’s important in a democracy for us to be in a position where we have confidence in the Government. I think the report will affirm that, once we’ve read it in more detail,” he said. “It’s very important that both the media and the government authorities strive for the very best standards, so that we can restore the trust which is the only means by which a democracy can function.”
Bishop Price, who has consistently opposed Britain’s entry into the war, said the report did not in any way justify going to war in the first place. “I am convinced that the stance we took before the war was indeed the right one, despite all that has happened with the arrest of Saddam Hussein. We now have a moral responsibility to enable the most effective transfer of power,” he said.
Church people would continue to uphold Dr Kelly’s family in their prayers, said Bishop Price. “This is going to be a painful time for them.”
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