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Saturday, June 28, 2003
Campbell spat

I have followed the spat between the BBC and Alastair Campbell with considerable interest. It was therefore rather surprising to hear Campbell's tirade on Channel Four last night. It reminded me of nothing so much as Jonathan Aitken's pronouncements about 'the cancer of bent and twisted journalism'. Remember, though, that this accusation led ultimately to Aitken's imprisonment for perjury.

There are many angles on the story, today. The BBC is here; two Guardian articles are to be found here and here. The latter,
'The BBC row has been got up to obscure the ugly truth - Intelligence can't hide the fact we went to war on a false pretext'
is helpful in keeping the focus where it should be. However, Josh has a relevant suggestion to end the dispute between Campbell and the BBC.

Campbell is seeking an apology from the BBC's defence correspondent and I think it should be given; not for the 'offence' cited but for another piece of reporting by Andrew Gilligan. Here is how Josh blogged on Wednesday, September 4th: 2002
The old lie (mistake)

On BBC's 'Today' programme, today, their correspondent Andrew Gilligan repeated the assertion that the UNSCOM weapons inspectors had been kicked out of Iraq. We expect greater things from the BBC - the weapons inspectors were withdrawn.

It is interesting that such an important fact should have been twisted in just a few years. Is this oft-repeated lie (mistake) part of the propaganda campaign in favour of military intervention?
Now, Andrew Gilligan is being accused of making unsubstantiated allegations about Alastair Campbell. I didn't hear Campbell upbraiding Gilligan for using an unmentioned, unreliable source when he talked of inspectors being expelled. Indeed, Blair repeated the lie and, when challenged by Jeremy Paxman, called it 'splitting hairs' (See Josh February 7th, 2003).

I have frequently blogged in high dudgeon about this obvious lie. Anyone with a reasonable memory knows that the UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn - they remember it from the news at the time. Hans Blix subsequently confirmed this. He was one of them.

One has to ask, therefore, where Gilligan got his 'story' that the inspectors had been thrown out. A Washington to a slice of Pinocchio's nose says it was from a Campbell briefing.

All Gilligan has to do is apologise for his dodgy statement of 4th September and name his source. Then everyone's happy: Campbell has his apology and we have the truth, re-emphasised.

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