August 2003 #4

The Hutton Inquiry Fraud

Some look to conspiracy theories to explain the way the media works. Others have given up hope that the current political structures will ever deliver social and economic justice to their communities. I don't think the first is near the truth but I must admit the second is a state of mind I fully understand.

Take for instance the current Hutton inquiry in the UK.

Launched in the wake of the apparent suicide death of British military advisor and scientist, David Kelly, the Hutton inquiry is meant to investigate, in part, the creation of the so called "weapons dossier" produced by the Blair government to support their push for the war on Iraq.

This document was posted on the internet in August last year in an effort by the proponents of war to convince doubters that Saddam (and by dint of their proximity) the Iraqi people needed to be invaded, re-educated and finally, modernised.

The dossier received a mixed reception, as to be expected. However, even some of those who supported its so-called findings were skeptical about the claims that Saddam could launch chemical weapons in 45 minutes.

You may recall ex-general Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations on the 5th February this year in which he held up the 19 page document as "proof" that Iraq needed to be invaded forthwith.

The media lapped it up. Remember the endless replays of Powell holding aloft a small vial of white power and making spurious claims about how an amount of anthrax that size could devastate the western world. Even our own Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister and many, many more jumped on the bandwagon and received acres of press and hours of air time within the mainstream media. Any opposition to the 'official' line was met with cries of "sympathiser", "lefty, commo, pinky intellectual" or the more mundane, "anyone who ignores this evidence is stupid".

What the mainstream media didn't spend any time on was reporting that the dossier was a fake. There was no conspiracy to hide this fact. There was no government, media conspiracy at all. The media chose to do what the media does best. Select the 'facts' that fit its agenda.

I can recall, at the most, two media reports, when the truth behind the dossier was revealed. The true story of the dossier goes something like this.

Late last year Dr. Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University in the UK discovered a paper that a doctoral student was working on. The student 's name was Ibraham al-Marashi and he was studying in the US at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Dr. Rangwala found that most of the dossier was plagiarised from al-Marashi's thesis. He even noticed that typographical and spelling errors went uncorrected.

Dr. Rangwala had e-mail conversations about the dossier and his discovery with two students at Cambridge, who then contacted the media about the fraud being perpetrated by the British government. During this time Dr. Rangwala also found that two other authors had been seriously plagiarised. One was Ken Gause who wrote an article in Jane's Intelligence Review in November 2002 and the other was Sean Boyne who authored an article for Jane's in 1997.

al-Marashi's work was based on papers recovered in 1991 by the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. The subject of al-Marashi's thesis is Iraqi intelligence in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991.

Not only is the information up to 12 or more years old, it is not even relevant to the claims made by supporters of the war. Dr. Rangwala notes that, where necessary, in order to add a sinister edge to the claims in the dossier, contexts of statements were changed or material that would seem out of place in a government document, were simply edited out. Figures relating to numbers of troops were bumped up and a extra high powered spin was given to otherwise standard intelligence routines and activities.

None of this was given any serious discussion in the mainstream media. There was no conspiracy, the real facts were simply ignored. Facts such as Dr. Rangwala's observation that "the UK . does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal politics - they just draw upon publicly available data". More important than this, perhaps, is that much of the information presented in the dossier was so out of date that some of the serious Iraqi observers thought the whole thing was a hoax. Even basic information was not checked in the UK government's haste to produce good PR for their war. In a section copied directly from Sean Boyne's article in 1997, the dossier identifies the wrong people as being in charge of the contemporary Iraqi military and security forces.

There is no conspiracy. The dossier was not "sexed up" because it was a fraud to begin with. As Dr. Rangwala observes the dossier is a patent plagiarism, and "any further claims to information based on "intelligence data" must be treated with ... scepticism."

What astounds me, and is, frankly, beyond my comprehension, is the fact that the government advisors and ministers and more importantly their  inquisitors seem to be keeping the fraud alive. John Scarlett, the Joint Intelligence Committee chairperson, said at the inquiry the other day that all information in the dossier was supplied by a "reliable senior Iraqi military official". He went on to say he heard no complaints from the intelligence community about the contents or the presentation of the dossier.

I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm awake and I am hopeful that in the next couple of days one of the inquisitors will put forward propositions like those in this little missive.

I guess when the inquisitors don't look beyond their own nest to seek the truth, I am forced to concede that those who have no faith in the current political structure to address substantial issues are closer to reality than I am. They are certainly closer to reality than the Hutton inquiry.

Both sides of the inquiry are living in a dream world of ignorance and avoidance. There is no conspiracy by the media to 'hide' anything. Its just that those who feed the media its daily diet of trash, lies and falsehoods refuse to look beyond their own sinecures and comfort for anything remotely resembling ethical or moral governance.

If our so called parliamentary 'representatives' are so cloistered by their political advisors that they are not able to do any truly independent research, or even spent a half hour on the web, we do need to be suspicious of their motives. When those who are supposed to be pursuing truth fail to look beyond their own understanding, there can be no real hope for those they rule.

The Hutton inquiry is being touted as an exemplar in the way Westminster style inquiries should be held - and let's not forget our parliamentary system is based on the Westminster system - and as such many commentators are looking to it to reveal 'the truth'.

However, I want to argue, on the basis of what is presented here, that neither the mainstream media or our system of government should be relied on for the provision of justice or even good governance - the Wilson Tuckey affair as a case in point. I argue this, not because there is a conspiracy to hide things from us, but rather the media and government (or should I say those who rule), by choosing to omit those points that would otherwise get in the way of their agenda, will always look after their own interests first - no matter what the cost to us.

However, lets not forget our own Andrew Wilkie who refused to take part in the deception and resigned from his otherwise secure and, no doubt, well paid job. I am yet to see or hear a mainstream media commentator offer support and encouragement to Wilkie or applaud his willingness to uphold his moral and ethical duty. The media as made more mileage out of his former membership of the Liberal party than it has with defending (or even testing) his claims. He remains a beacon of hope to those who do pursue truth and honesty.

There is no conspiracy, only omission, denial and deceit. If we continue to allow our elected 'representatives' and their party minders, to get away with their program of obfuscation and denial we should expect little. However, we should always hope but more importantly, work for change. Only by discarding the system that entraps us (and those who serve it) can we bring about a better, more just and equitable society.