Walter Mitty’s Revenge

The inquiry into the death of British biological weapons expert David Kelly began today, and the Guardian lost no time in getting hysterical:
“The government’s attempts to bolster its case for the war against Iraq suffered a heavy blow on the first day of the Hutton inquiry yesterday when it was revealed that unease about the dossier on Saddam Hussein’s weapons programme ran much deeper than Downing Street has claimed….
“In a further undermining of Tony Blair’s case, the inquiry heard that Dr Kelly’s status was much more significant than the government has admitted, a direct rebuttal of last week’s description of the dead scientist by a No 10 press officer as a Walter Mitty fantasist.”
The Guardian’s hyperventilating is typical of virtually all press coverage of today’s testimony. The Daily Telegraph begins with a similarly dramatic lead: “Two intelligence officials formally complained about the wording of the dossier on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons that formed the Government’s case for war, the inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly heard yesterday.”
As currently posted, the Telegraph’s article, like the Guardian’s, never says what exactly the intelligence officials who “formally complained” said about the dossier. Earlier today, the Telegraph’s article included that information, but for some reason it has now been deleted. In fact, deputy intelligence chief Martin Howard testified that the letter from the two intelligence officials related to whether it was most accurate to say that the intelligence “shows” or “indicates” or “suggests” a particular conclusion. (I’m going from memory here as I can’t find the actual testimony anywhere on the web.) That’s it. Howard testified further that this kind of debate over language is common.
The only dissent from the party line I’ve seen so far is in the Sun, which leads with this summary: “Downing Street was dramatically cleared last night of ‘sexing up’ a dossier on Iraqi arms. Tony Blair and his media supremo Alastair Campbell emerged as the clear winners from the first day of the Hutton inquiry into the suicide of Dr David Kelly, 59.”
The media frenzy in England is a little frightening to observe. A lynch mob mentality is at work, and no one in the pres seems to care much what the facts are. And, ironically enough, the conventional wisdom is that it is Tony Blair’s credibility that is at issue. As bad as the current press coverage of Iraq is in the U.S., it is far worse overseas.

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