Iraq Inquiry: Alastair Campbell & the perfidious press

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    12th January, 2010

    Alastair Campbell, centre, former Director of Communications to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives to give evidence in Iraq War Inquiry at Queen Elizabeth conference centre in London, 12 Jan 2010


    Alastair Campbell evidence – afternoon session. Opens with Sir Roderic Lyne questioning Campbell. Lyne is generally seen as the most determined of the Chilcot panel. Sir Roderic Lyne is now pressing Campbell on the phrases – “growing WMD” and how it relates to such phrases as “continuing possession”.

    The panel and the press’s nit-pickers will clearly always come up against Campbell’s bottom line –

    “the Prime Minister was the guy who had to make judgements on the evidence. He makes the decisions.”

    Baroness Usha Prashar says that there is a convention that Intelligence and political decision making should not be “blurred”.

    Discussion of the two dossiers. Campbell – “I will defend the September dossier (45 minutes) till the end of my days.” Inaccuracies in the other document – “quality controls not there.” Campbell referred to a note by himself on 7th February on the ‘CIC concealment document’ – “absolute necessity for quality control.”

    On the possibility that there may have actually been no WMDs – “it was a concern – THE concern … I was never in any doubt” (that WMDs would be found.)

    On the moral case for the invasion, Campbell told of meeting some Iraqi exiles in Scotland who begged him “to see this through”.

    Let’s do away with the conspriracy ideas. “Blair believed in it, and so did I.”

    Campbell says, prior to the afternoon break – “Britain should feel incredibly proud of the role we played in removing one of the most brutal regimes in history.”

    After pm break, on aftermath of conflict

    On Clare Short, Secretary for International Relief, at DFID:

    Roderick Lyne questioned Campbell on Clare Short. (Campbell hinted that she may have released certain information into the public domain, which were not necessarily wanted to be so put.) This is only MY take on a suspected hint, mind you! Trying hard not to opine!

    Campbell casts blame on the French for the falling away of support by some UN countries.

    Lyne – “did the policy succeed?”

    Campbell responds, “I do, but …”

    Talking about Blair’s concerns over the whole issue, he says that Blair raised with Bush (on terrorism and states like Iraq) as “the number one issue of your time” (before September 11th.)

    Campbell: “I was privileged to be there and am very very proud of the part that I was able to play.”

    He said that the BBC’s position took over the debate, and became a distraction.

    Asked, by the chairman if “REAL WORLD” lessons have been learned, Campbell repeated that phrase and referred to communication and getting the case over.

    “I really hope because of all the controversy – I hope we don’t go back to a very old fashioned idea of the media which doesn’t understand … the job of political leadership is to show the big picture. Ultimately, the guys who are elected at the top do finally have to make the decisions. I hope we don’t put a future generation of leaders in a position where the really, really difficult decisions can’t be taken.”

    (A dig at Brown’s leadership, with the Afghanistan conference upcoming? Only MY opinion of his meaning, mind! Not necessarily Campbell’s.)

    Expect plenty of opining from the press on the comparison bewteen one dossier and the other.

    Watch Iraq Inquiry live here and read Sparrow ongoing commentary here


    COMPARE & CONTRAST PRESS HEADLINES OF CAMPBELL’S EVIDENCEEarly days yet, but after he finishes today, look out for the coverage and its leaning. Will it report or opine? (Clue: As a general rule, the British press opines, the Americans report.)

    Some British Press reports, so far. There are mainly ‘reports’. Wait until later, when Campbell finishes for the ‘opining’ from the Mail, Express, Guardian and Independent, to name but a few.

    1. The Times: “Alastair Campbell: Blair pledged UK to war in notes to Bush”

    2. Telegraph: “Iraq inquiry: Alastair Campbell denies trying to ‘beef up’ WMD dossier”

    3. Sky News: “Campbell: I Did Not Sex Up Iraq War Dossier”

    4. BBC report: “Alastair Campbell at Iraq inquiry: Je ne regrette rien”

    The REAL opining starts here:

    5. “Alastair Campbell sets himself up for a fall”. Telegraph blogger James Kirkup suggests that Campbell’s words will rile John Scarlett into denial. 


    Guardian Andrew Sparrow’s closing remark at the end of his running commentary at the morning session is perhaps quite instructive:

    1.31pm: The BBC is particularly interested in what Blair said to Bush in letters he sent to the White House in 2002. Lyne asked if Blair told Bush that he would support him if he took military action.’

    The BBC? Are THEY running the Inquiry?

    American Press reports –

    LONDON — A top aide to former British prime minister Tony Blair on Tuesday insisted that his boss had wanted to deal peacefully with Saddam Hussein’s regime until just before the 2003 Iraq war.

    At a public inquiry on the conflict, Alistair Campbell, Blair’s spin doctor and one of his closest allies, said the former premier had wanted to pursue a diplomatic route right up to a crucial vote on the Iraq war in the House of Commons on March 18, 2003.

    “He’s not doing this because George Bush wants him to do it, this was his genuine belief that Iraq had to be confronted over its continued defiance of the UN,” Campbell said.

    “That’s his position and that’s a policy that he pursued the whole way through, right to the House of Commons vote… Right to that point, the prime minister was hopeful this thing could be resolved peacefully.”

    He added: “I think the prime minister was all the way through, trying to get it resolved without a single shot being fired”.

    2. New York Times: “Tony Blair’s Chief Communications Chief testifies”

    LONDON (AP) — Former Prime Minister Tony’s Blair’s communications chief denied Tuesday that a special dossier was tailored to exaggerate Saddam Hussein’s military strength, testifying before a British inquiry that no one ordered him to make the case for the 2003 war.

    Alastair Campbell is facing questions about whether he ”sexed up” the infamous intelligence dossier that outlined Britain’s rationale for war with Iraq — making Saddam Hussein’s weapons arsenal seem more dangerous than it was.

    3. Voice of America News: “Former Blair Aide Gives Evidence on War Motives During Britain’s Iraq Inquiry”

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    One Response to “Iraq Inquiry: Alastair Campbell & the perfidious press”

    1. The schadenfreude election that the press had coming « Tony Blair Says:

      […] Iraq Inquiry: Alastair Campbell & the perfidious press […]

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