Britain's Secret Sharers

By Guttenplan, D. D.; Margaronis, Maria | The Nation, March 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Britain's Secret Sharers


Guttenplan, D. D., Margaronis, Maria, The Nation


London

Barely a month ago Prime Minister Tony Blair looked unstoppable. He'd survived, narrowly, a revolt within his own party over plans to allow universities to charge higher tuition fees. The Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly, the British weapons expert, completely cleared Blair of the charge that his government had "sexed up" the case for war on Iraq or had been at all at fault in its treatment of Dr. Kelly. Yet it is only a slight exaggeration to say that today Blair is one leak away from resignation. Even if he holds on, questions raised recently will haunt him and any successor tempted to follow Blair's policy of shoulder-to-shoulder accommodation to US unilateralism.

Blair's basic difficulty is that the British public, who were extremely reluctant to wage war on Iraq in the first place, now have good reason to believe they were lied to about both the nature of the Iraqi threat and the legality of sending British troops--fifty-nine of whom have died--into combat. Lord Hutton's whitewash did Blair no good, for the simple reason that almost no one believed it. The government's credibility suffered a more serious blow when it decided not to prosecute Katharine Gun, the former British intelligence officer who blew the whistle on US efforts to fix last year's United Nations Security Council vote on Iraq. Gun admitted that she'd violated the Official Secrets Act when she leaked an e-mail asking for Britain's help in spying on the nonpermanent delegates to the Security Council but argued that her actions were justified by the "necessity" to prevent an illegal war. When her lawyers asked for Attorney General Peter Goldsmith's secret advice to the government on the legality of invading Iraq, the charges were suddenly dropped. …

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