The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, December 29, 2003

The Bremer-Blair story: pro bono publico...

The saying has come down to us, Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes, as a warning against prematurity in the military context. The problem is at least as acute, if not more so, in matters political - and the same principle so very much applies.

Frankly, as far as prematurity on the war (before, during and after) is concerned - on both sides of the argument - we're swimming in the stuff. Guns have been jumped, chickens counted, horses have failed to be held - with only one or two professionally cool heads - Lord Hutton's, most notably - having their brain engaged before their mouth begins to spout.

It's Christmas, it's a Silly Season [1], and we're all contemplating the possibility (some fools are taking it as read) that Tony Blair will be anatomised by the said Hutton, and his miserable flesh stripped for biltong, in his report (expected in the next fortnight) on the death of David Kelly and related Iraqi WMD intelligence issues.

So when Reichsprotektor Paul Bremer appears flatly to contradict a statement on Iraqi WMDs made by Tony Blair - the whole place is sticky with prematurity.

There is no transcript that I can find of the Bremer interview with veteran British hack Jonathan Dimbleby [2] - so reports like that in the Guardian today will have to suffice.

I did manage to catch a snatch of the broadcast: the impression I got was that Bremer was fed up to the back teeth with all things Iraqi, and that all his experience of three decades or so as a loyal servant of the State Department was required to avoid him punching Dimbleby in the snoot and walking off.

His manner on camera and his faux pas were of a piece: as indicating that he had not the slightest interest in the minutiae of WMD intel, which will be picked over at nanometre resolution in the Hutton report.

And why should he? In the US, though there's been plenty of talk about Iraqi WMD intel, there's no sign that the issue has much traction, even amongst the media - who, evidently, can mostly take the issue or leave it, depending on other news items competing for space on the day.

In the UK, it's clearly an issue: but, for all the coverage of the Hutton proceedings - embarrassing for HMG, to put it mildly - so far, it hasn't done any lasting damage to Tony Blair. Hutton's 1,000 pages are in a league of their own: there's nothing else in sight which might provide the detonator to make Blair's WMD disinformation fiasco into something terminally explosive.

A squint at Google News on the issue [3] suggests that the world's media is underwhelmed by the Bremer-Blair affair: I can't trace any AP piece, and there looks to be just the one from Reuters. No sign that any of the big US media names have run with the story.

And, in this case, I'm inclined to agree with them: Circulez, y'a rien à voir! Yet.

  1. In the UK, the summer - August, in particular - is acknowledged in political and media circles as such: Tony Blair and the rest of the grown-ups (ha!) in government are in whatever Italian province is The New Tuscany, and John Prescott - the man who is dyslexic in ordinary conversation - is in charge of the country. There is no diary news (95% of any newspaper is reactive to some bugger making a speech or issuing a press release) so desperate editors are not fussy about the material with which they fill their columns.

  2. Son of British broadcasting legend Richard Dimbleby, the guy who first suggested the rudiments of broadcast news (at a time when William Shirer and HV Kaltenborn were doing it, and the BBC had squat), and whose commentary on the funeral of Winston Churchill can, fortunately, can be compared with advantage to the Elton John-ised happy-clappy nonsense which accompanied Princess Diana's squirmworthy send-off.

    Jonathan Dimbleby's is an ITV show - but there's no site, according to the ITV site drop-down menu. Nothing on the CPA site transcript page, either.

  3. There's something here not unlike the technique of the stock market chartists: trying to evaluate the worth of a story from the patterns of coverage by various news outlets.

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