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Scientist snared in political row another casualty of war.

Byline: Patrick Fletcher

WHATEVER the result of the independent judicial inquiry Dr David Kelly was every bit as much a casualty of war as any soldier killed in Iraq This morning many will be reflecting on the ramifications of what's happened.

Even now ministers, MPs, government officials and the BBC are doing their best to distance themselves from culpability.

Public opinion -already a fragile organism in the wake of the ``dodgy'' dossier and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -will be the new battle-ground. But, as if they will not be suffering enough, the further tragedy Kelly's family is that his life and death will be the weapon with which each of the main protagonists will attack each other.

His wife Janice and children Sian, Rachel and Ellen may be granted the privacy to grieve alone, but the circumstances leading up to Dr Kelly's death will be picked over like carrion through a long, difficult summer of blame and counter-blame.

But they may find that protecting his memory and their privacy will be two aims incompatible with each other as politicians and media struggle to win hearts and minds.

Dr Kelly, born in Llwynypia Hospital in 1944, could not have imagined the storm that would break over his head in the wake of his meeting with BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan in mid May as the last shots of the Iraq war were for Welsh-born Drbeing fired. Then, on May 29, Gilligan used two carefully chosen words -``sexed up'' -when he alleged on the BBC Today programme that the Government had misled public and Parliament in its Iraq dossier of last September.

The storm broke. It gathered further force a couple of days later when Gilligan further alleged in his column in the Mail on Sunday that Tony Blair's spindoctor Alastair Campbell was the person doing the sexing up.

Furthermore he alleged that it was Mr Campbell who added the now infamous claim that Saddam could have weapons of mass destruction up and running inside 45 minutes. At first the furore focussed on the claims themselves. It was a classic political whodunnit. But, as he watched the WMD-less PM's personal ratings slip in a succession of opinion polls aided by sniping from Robin Cook and Clare Short, Mr Campbell turned a political spat into a nasty, brutal free-for-all. Mr Blair had prided himself on his trustworthiness and now it looked as if he was going to be hoisted by his own petard. Wheth-er that was in his thinking, only Mr Campbell can say for sure.

But the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, led by Swansea East MP Donald Anderson, had launched an investigation into the quality of the Iraq intelligence given to Parliament in the run-up to war.

And on June 25, days after Gilligan himself had given evidence, Mr Campbell decided to open up with both barrels. In so doing he turned a political story into something much bigger.

He accused the BBC of lying, attacked the personal integrity of Gilligan and demanded an apology. The BBC hit back in unusually forthright terms. Many expected the governors to roll over and play dead.

But chairman Gavyn Davies, Director General Greg Dyke and director of news Richard Sambrook not only said they stood by their story but demanded an apology from Mr Campbell.

The stakes could now not be higher. An immovable object and an irresistible force were now involved in mutually destructive conflict.

For days the arguments raged. The Foreign Affairs Select Com-mittee cleared Mr Campbell of sexing up the September dossier, but only on Mr Anderson's casting vote. The BBC said it too was vindicated. And so it raged on.

All this time Dr Kelly, a former Iraq weapons inspector intelligence expert at the Ministry of Defence, must have been watching the chaos around him fighting a personal battle with himself.

Should he sit on his hands? Or should admit to his bosses that he met Gilligan in a hotel about a week before his story broke?

He wasn't sure whether or not he was Gilligan's source, but he feared he might have been. So he told his manager.

Dr Kelly would have been better off if he hadn't. Even if a mole hunt had focussed on him he could have denied it secure in the knowledge that Gilligan would never had shopped him.

There began the chain of events that led to Dr Kelly taking his final walk as Tony Blair basked in the adulation of 17 standing ovations from a joint meeting of the US Congress.

Was it inevitable? Had microbiologist and weapons adviser Dr Kelly cast the first stone in his own downfall? Did the Ministry of Defence have to name him? Did officious, self-serving and condescending Foreign Affairs Committee members have to humiliate him in public cross-examination?

And then afterwards to discount him as being the source ``on the balance of probabilities'' with Mr Anderson telling the Government in a letter that it (and not his committee) had treated Dr Kelly badly.

Was Gilligan at fault for not himself saying one way or another whether Dr Kelly was his ``highly-placed'' MoD source? Or should the principle blame lie Mr Campbell?

It was he who started the row with the BBC in a bid, many have claimed, to set up a misdirection to protect himself and his boss from further damage.

There will now be a row over the scope of the independent judicial review. The Opposition will want no limits.

But none of this will reunite Dr Kelly with his family.

Whatever happens now what is clear is that a good, honest and decent man did something that he believed was right. Mr Blair, Mr Campbell, the BBC and everyone else connected to this story will have to think about their role in the death of this latest casualty of war. They need first to ask themselves if they match up to Dr Kelly's standards of integrity.

It is a matter of trust.


INTEGRITY: David Kelly, 59, the government adviser on Iraqi arms and, below, Alastair Campbell
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jul 19, 2003
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