Thursday, 23 August 2007

The Murder of Dr. David Kelly, 17th July 2003

I recognise this blog awkwardly straddles the three blog genres: anger management, journal and scrapbook but its intention was always to get things out of my head and into cyberspace as somewhere to hold what I am thinking, a kind of 'brain dump' and because I felt (maybe arrogantly, you tell me) that other people might be interested in thoughts and opinions I have on various things. Early on I promised to say something about the murder of Dr. David Kelly in 2003. Now, for non-UK readers I apologise for what must seem a rather parochial British story, though there does seem to have been quite a lot of interest about it at the time in the USA. One reason for this, is that his murder can be seen as part of the real take-off of the steps to make the UK (and USA) less democratic and more authoritarian in nature. These steps, pushed on vigorously by President Bush and Tony Blair (and now by Gordon Brown) have all been linked to the war in Iraq (which was actually about controlling oil supplies rather than terrorism) and their sense that they needed to be in much stronger control of their countries so they could promote the conservative Christian attitudes that they subscribed to.

You may say that why am I blogging about a 'current affairs' event of four years ago? There is a lot of excellent material about the event on the internet and a number of good programmes about it have followed in the UK and elsewhere in the intervening years and continue to be made. My attention to it comes now because I feel that people need to be reminded about it. It certainly marks a milestone Britain turning its back on democracy, a process which continues now even though Blair has been replaced by Brown: legitimate protests are increasingly being suppressed by anti-terrorist legislation which followed the 11th September 2001 attacks in the USA and then the invasion of Iraq which UK and US politicians tried to link.

You might say that the world is full of conspiracy theories, no-one in the public eye is killed or dies naturally without people speculating about the cause. In the case of David Kelly though, evidence that he was murdered seems overwhelming. Accepting that he was murdered then demonstrates that the British state continues to use extra-legal execution (it has long done this against people like IRA operatives) but now not only against people who are clearly committed to violence, but also against its own employees (Kelly was a leading civil servant) who have done nothing violent. Kelly ironically supported the war against Iraq, he was just unwilling that that war be started on the basis of a lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, notably in the area of Kelly's specialism, biological weapons. (No-one disputes Hussein was tyrant who had and used chemical weapons; ironically the British were the first to use aerial bombardment of poison gas in Iraq in the 1920s, so-called 'punative missions').

How do we know Kelly was murdered? The Hutton Report of May 2004 made no attempt to even question the explanation put around that Kelly had killed himself. The Inquiry into the death only looked at 75 of the 300 statements taken from people about the incident. As it is, anyway, the evidence simply does not add up. It was clear to pathologists that the body had been moved between him dying and it being found; he had died lying flat on his back but was found propped against a tree. Local police set up the incident tent usually put over where the body was found, not around the tree but in a nearby field.

Kelly was supposed to have died through slitting a vein in his left wrist. Not only is this difficult to do, but the injury was not severe enough not to have clotted quickly (this is why most people who try to commit suicide this way do it in a warm bath to keep the wound open; trying to kill yourself this way is rarely successful anyway). Someone who has bled to death leaves a lot of blood around, there were very few traces around the body. He was also supposed to have over-dosed on 29 tablets of Co-Praxamol, but only half a tablet was found inside him; there was no evidence of vomiting and even taking 29 would not have guaranteed his death. Remember Dr. Kelly was one of the UK's leading microbiologist he was not an ignorant teenager. Co-Praxamol is only available on prescription in the UK (though freely available in the USA) and there was no record of Kelly being prescribed it. Numerous doctors have written to newspapers outlining while they remain unconvinced with the diagnosis of suicide.

So, if he was murdered why is this a problem and how does it relate to the government? Well there were three men found with his body led by a Detective Constable Graham Peter Coe, though it is believed that he actually works for MI5 (the UK's secret internal security force). The existence of the third person keeps on being denied though he was seen by many witnesses. He immediately went to Kelly's house and took away numerous documents that have never been returned. Interestingly in all that evidence no-one found a suicide note. Nine out of ten people committing or trying to commit suicides leave notes that can be found. Ironically when I asked a journalist I had seen in the company of (now Sir) Stephen Lander, (Director-General of MI5, 1996-2002; Eliza Manningham-Buller was the director-general 2002-April 2007), about whether it had been done by them, the journalist said if it had been then they 'would have done a better job of it'. We know that there are often rogue agents and units working inside all intelligence services, but if that had been the case, why did the government go to such efforts to quell speculation?

Why did Kelly have to die? Throughout his career Kelly had been involved in investigating biological weapons across the world from Russia to South Africa. He was a weapons inspector in Iraq after the 1990-1 Gulf War and visited the country 37 times. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. He went there again in 2003 and spoke to journalists that he was not finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, prime minister, Tony Blair was telling Parliament that there was evidence that the Iraqis not only had such weapons but they were in a position to put them into use within 45 minutes of attack. Much of the evidence came from distorting an essay they found on the internet rather than the solid evidence Kelly was bringing back to the contrary. Of course, no such weapons have ever been found in Iraq, but the British and Americans concerned about control of oil resources across the world, especially with the change in the Venezuelan government to being unsympathetic to the USA and vigorous Chinese efforts to secure oil resources across the world had to take control of Iraq. They knew they could not simply say this. They could not use a moral justification, i.e. that Hussein was a tyrant as that would oblige them to invade many other countries which are friends to the UK and USA, so they had to fall back on the approach they have been using since 2001, that there was a serious threat that needed to be staunched.

Kelly, apparently angered by the government distorting his evidence spoke to the journalist Andrew Gilligan. Kelly thought that he was not the only source of Gilligan's information and this may have in fact been the case as he had not been alone on his inspections which were UN run. The government released Kelly's name to the media as a way to dismiss Gilligan's story (and that of another journalist, Susan Watts) and in fact it had the opposite effect, bringing it more into the public view. However, Kelly had already been interviewed twice by his employers at the Ministry of Defence and then by the Intelligence & Security Committee, this is one of the so-called 'select committees' of the British Parliament made up of politicians from all parties which investigates events on particular topics.

Kelly was a member of the Baha'i faith. There are apparently 6000 believers of the faith in the UK, with a large percentage among civil servants, because it is quite an intellectual religion. It condemns suicide. It also emphasises truthfulness and for a man like Kelly, it must have been terrible to realise that despite his assurances to the Iraqi people he had met on many occasions, that if they complied with inspections there would be no war, that the country was still going to be attacked and tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis would die as a result. However, Kelly never discussed suicide with his wife or friends he was in contact with on the day of his death. He did speak of 'many dark actors playing games'.

The involvement of the British government has been confirmed by former intelligence agents. It was known in the civil service that Kelly was in line to be killed and a security barrister (lawyer), Michael Shrimpton had been told this days before the killing. He believes that the murder was carried out by French external intelligence agency, DGSE, who are renowned for direct action, for example against Greenpeace protestors; seemingly President Jacques Chirac's government did not want Blair's sympathetic government in trouble. I am not convinced by the French involvement and think it was more domestic. It does seem clear that whoever carried out the killing, MI5 tidied up afterwards, though elements within the organisation were unhappy that it had been done. Lieutenant-Colonel Crispin Black, on the Defence Intelligence Staff until 2002, portrayed the Hutton Report account of things, as ridiculous.

We know Tony Blair was incredibly arrogant, he also felt himself to be on a mission from God. He may have had no qualms about ordering the murder of a non-Christian. He may not have ordered it directly, as Hitler is supposed never to have ordered the Holocaust. Instead he might have simply let it be known that Kelly was a pain to him. This is very similar to King Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket. He was killed by knights who felt they were acting on the king's orders though no direct command had been given. Throughout his time in office, Blair felt those that disagreed him were foolish and simply lacked the intelligence to understand what he intended. Someone with clear intelligence and evidence to back up his case, combined with a clear moral stance and a wish to treat the Iraqi people fairly might have been too difficult a concept for Blair to stomach. Above all, Kelly made Blair look a fool, I think the greatest offence Blair felt was against his vanity. In addition the killing of one British scientist, hundreds of British troops and thousands of Iraqis was nothing compared to a secure oil supply. Another fear, might have been, that Kelly not only knew about Iraq but many other countries' secrets that now that he had been thrown into the spotlight by his employers he may have chosen to bring into the open.

The thing is, to begin to operate in this way, killing a man who was simply telling the truth, is opening a door that it is difficult to close. Now the British regime has a taste for this, what is to stop them doing it again? It fits neatly with the rapid erosion of civil liberties. Now if you are too high profile to be locked up without charge they will murder you. It is clear that they need to practice more though, so at least they can do a convincing job of it next time. Though, given that they have effectively got away with it and the world will have soon forgotten Dr. David Kelly and what he stood for, maybe they will not bother. The 17th August 2003 is not the day democracy died in the UK, but it is the day a worthy man was murdered and so the day that liberty in the UK contracted a terminal illness.

P.P. 18/08/2010: There are very, very few things that the coalition government has done right, but one of these rare activities is to announce a re-investigation of the murder of Dr. David Kelly.  I imagine this is largely motivated more by a desire on David Cameron's behalf to embarrass the 'golden boy' Tony Blair as it is by any desire for justice.  According to tabloid headlines last week, only 1 in 5 of the population now actually believe Kelly committed suicide.  While I doubt any enquiry will actually get to the truth of what happened, I hope, at least, it may make those working for the government a little less confident about carrying out assassinations, at least of British citizens.

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