Truth — always the whipping boy of politicians and other frauds — had a very tough week. Both here and in England, the truth is being subjected to something akin to domestic violence. It can’t be domestic violence because these abusers usually don’t live with truth. I’m not sure who gave truth the hardest time, but the nominations for the week are the BBC and former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill.
Times are tough at the Beeb, which has fallen to such depths it would have to look up to see the New York Times. The Beeb’s Jayson Blair — Andrew Gilligan — charged in a broadcast last year that the intelligence reports of Saddam’s WMD had been “sexed up” by Tony Blair to justify Brit participation in the Iraq campaign. The BBC’s relentlessly negative treatment of the war got it banned — by popular consent among the crew — from Her Majesty’s flagship, HMS Ark Royal in favor of the Fox affiliate, Sky News. Gilligan’s bosses stood by him while a huge scandal — which is still ongoing — threatened Tony Blair’s future.
Trying desperately to fight off the BBC’s charges Blair & Co. investigated to find Gilligan’s source. Eventually, someone in the MoD leaked the name of Dr. David Kelly as the source. Kelly — who was a WMD expert, but not involved in preparing the allegedly “sexed up” report — was raked over the coals by a Parliamentary committee, which he told that he couldn’t possibly be the source of the “sexed up” allegation, because that wasn’t what he told Gilligan. Unused to the pressure or the spotlight, Kelly committed suicide and then Blair was blamed for his death. Blair has said unequivocally that he didn’t leak Kelly’s name, and that he didn’t lie about the WMD. Now senior judge Lord Hutton is about to toss out his final report on the mess, and Blair’s fate hangs in the balance. But Gilligan?
The late Dr. Kelly’s little buddy is still at the Beeb, despite conclusive evidence that he made up the “sexed up” story. At least the New York Times got rid of Jayson Blair. But the Beeb is more concerned with political correctness than in the truth. Just look at the case of Robert Kilroy-Silk, one of their talking heads.
Kilroy has — or had until last week — a daily TV talk show on BBC1. But he also writes a weekly column in the Sunday Express, a relatively conservative newspaper. He had written a piece back in April, at the tail end of the Iraq campaign, deriding the Arab condemnation of American and British action. But on 4 January, another version of the same piece appeared.
In the 4 January version of Kilroy’s article, he wrote, “We are told by some of the more hysterical critics of the war on terror that ‘it is destroying the Arab world.’ So? Should we be worried about that? Shouldn’t the replacement of the despotic, barbarous and corrupt Arab states and their replacement by democratic governments be a war aim? After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilization, are they?…We’re told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis? For subsidizing the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two…But why, in any case, should we be concerned that they feel angry and loathe us? The Arab world has not exactly earned our respect, has it? Iran is a vile, terrorist-supporting regime, part of the axis of evil. So is the Saddam Hussein-supporting Syria. So is Libya. Indeed, most of them chant support for Saddam.”
That’s waaaaay too much truth for the Beeb to handle. Kilroy has been suspended from broadcasting while the Beeb investigates him, and the Islamic organizations of Britain are shouting “off with his head” (some more literally than others). Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim council of Britain, said action should be taken against Kilroy because of the “bigoted and ill-informed ideas” in the piece, which was “ignorant, extremely derogatory and indisputably racist.” That none of Sacranie’s charges are correct isn’t stopping others from demanding sanctions against Kilroy. Criminal charges? Civil sanctions? For what? Stating an opinion that just happens to be perfectly reasonable? And Kilroy, man that he is, is blaming his secretary for the whole thing. It’s her fault, says he, because she resubmitted an old article as new He’s also blaming his editors at the Express for — I guess the right term would be “sexing up” — his old article to make it new. He shouldn’t worry. If the Beeb fires him, there’s always a place for him as a Dem campaign consultant over here.
It doesn’t really matter what happens to Gilligan or to Kilroy. What matters is truth, free speech and a responsible press. Free speech is always threatened wherever it occurs. That is an essential part of human despotism which seems, I hasten to add, to occur more often than not in the Arab countries. My bet is that Gilligan will stay and Kilroy will go, and truth will have suffered another body blow.
IT’S MORE THAN A LITTLE POSSIBLE that Blair’s prime ministership will end over the Kelly leak scandal. Blair is weak now, because of the British public’s diminishing support for the war against terror, the Kelly leak and many domestic issues. He’s also weak because the Tories finally seem to have found a leader in Michael Howard who can unite a majority government and turn Britain around. Howard is both a strong intellect and a superb pol, qualities that have been noticeably lacking in the Tory leadership since Lady Thatcher retired. Back here in the States, many conservatives are wondering if we need someone more faithful to conservative purpose than the president we have. It’s hard not to wonder.
Mr. Bush’s weaknesses are growing, and cannot be denied. His insistence on fishing for votes in the Rio Grande is horribly wrong, and will damage national security. Illegal immigration should not be solved by making it legal. We should be doing a lot more to stop it, and deport quickly those who come in without permission under the current system. The president seems content to spend like Lyndon Johnson and deny the deficit is a problem. He should be spending a lot less domestically, not following the Dems dogma by buying votes. Mr. Bush is making enough problems for himself, and he’s getting a lot of help. Paul O’Neill apparently hasn’t gotten over the fact that his antics made him dispensable. And he still is, although — unfortunately — he is newsworthy in an election year.
Mr. O’Neill — whose background in foreign and defense policy was apparently acquired on his 2002 tour of Africa with rock star Bono — now asks us to be shocked, just shocked, by the fact that Mr. Bush was thinking about Saddam before 9-11. Paul O’Neill’s declarations to the contrary, there is nothing to indicate that Mr. Bush planned to go to war in Iraq before 9-11. What O’Neill’s case of the vapors is about is precisely what a new president should do. Mr. Bush looked at the threats to national security upon taking office, cataloguing them and the possible options to deal with them. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have been doing his job.
Though O’Neill’s accusations are both serious and false, they provide ammunition for the Dems who will turn it into one of those impossible to disprove charges that will ride the media wave until election day. Truth will suffer many such blows this year, and the only real question is how vulnerable Mr. Bush will be to it, and to the irresponsible way the Dems will handle it.
The irresponsibility of the Dem candidates is breathtaking. This week Wesley Clark promised that there would be no 9-11’s on his watch, implying that Mr. Bush could have prevented the attacks. I would like to ask him just how he can guarantee our safety. It’s another of those questions that we have to demand specific answers to, but no one is bothering to even ask.
January is already a very rough month for Messrs. Bush and Blair. It’s only going to get worse for them, and for us. Mr. Blair’s days are numbered, and the number may be getting small. More importantly, the more Mr. Bush has to deal with the nonsense coming from the O’Neills of his own party, and the irresponsibility of the Dems, the less time he will be able to spend on the war. I’m betting he won’t need a reminder that there are no commercial time-outs in war to wait for elections to be held. If he does, let’s hope the reminder doesn’t come in the form of another 9-11.