A Fortnightly Review of
An Inconvenient Death: How the Establishment Covered Up the David Kelly Affair
by Miles Goslett
By ANTHONY HOWELL.
I CONFESS TO BEING a fan of those who spill the beans and of investigative rapportage. Recently an event called ‘Media on Trial’, which was to be held at Leeds City Museum, was cancelled by Leeds City Council. A spokesman for the Council said in a statement: ‘Leeds City Museum recently received a request to host a panel discussion on May 27. Since accepting the booking, we have been made aware of further details regarding some of the content and discussion topics which would be part of the event. Whilst the council and museums service are always in favour of promoting free speech and debate, our booking policy clearly states that events are subject to cancellation.’ The statement added: ‘In line with that policy, we have decided that the museum is not an appropriate venue for this event and have informed the organisers that their booking has been cancelled.’
Speakers listed were to have included Peter Ford (a former UK ambassador to Syria), Vanessa Beeley (a British blogger who campaigns against the White Helmets), and Robert Stuart (who has just pointed out that a D notice has been slapped on the press forbidding all mention of Sergei Skripal and his daughter). Huff Post published a piece very positively reporting the decision to suppress the right of these speakers to air their opinions. Now my worry about Huff Post is that, while it poses as a liberal exposer of corruption, its “new Labour” position comes over these days as far more to the right than it imagines itself to be. The post concludes: “James Le Mesurier, founder of May Day Rescue, the NGO that trains and equips the White Helmets, welcomed the decision, adding: “while claiming to be ‘independent investigative truth-seekers’ these speakers are in fact pro-Assad activists who, ignoring inconvenient facts, claim to be the only trustable voice on Syria.”
The trouble with the report is that these speakers are indeed the only trustable voices on Syria. Note that the US has just recently withdrawn all funding for the White Helmets, who have been exposed as a Daesh organisation created to concoct propaganda harmful to Syria’s legitimate government. You may disagree, but the link enables you to judge for yourself. Leeds City Council refused to allow the audience for this event the same right to decide for themselves.
We live in bewildering and depressing times. Recently, Labour’s victory in local elections was spun as a defeat in all the mainstream papers, even those papers that are supposedly inclined towards socialism. The BBC, which used to host satirical programmes and intense contrarian debates, is now perceived simply as a mouthpiece for government, with prospective employees routinely vetted by our secret services to ensure they adhere to the government line. ITV is little better. Gone are the vivid days of “Spitting Image”.
First published in 1984, by Jonathan Cape, David Yallop’s In God’s Name is a classic of this genre that exposes cover-ups. Yallop went very thoroughly into the puzzling death in 1978 of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, after only thirty-three days of incumbency in the Vatican. The new Pope had ordered an investigation into the Vatican Bank. An opponent of corruption, he was about to effect a reshuffle of Vatican staff and had drawn up a list of proposed changes. This list bore a direct relation to another list in the Pope’s possession — that of a number of clerics within the Vatican belonging to the Freemasons — such membership justifying immediate excommunication. Luciani was also about to delve into the machinations of a secretive and illegal branch of Freemasonry called Propaganda Due (P2), whose grand master, Licio Gelli, was later implicated in the 1980 Bologna Station massacre — blamed initially on the communists and costing them an election but then discovered to be a conspiratorial outrage in which members of the Italian secret service were also involved. In addition, Gelli was party to the collapse in 1982 of Banco Ambrosiano. Apparently, the Pope was also about to adopt a liberal position on the subject of birth control. No wonder the current Pope Francis prefers to stay in a small hotel outside the Vatican itself.
An intriguing accompaniment to Yallop’s book is Larry Gurwin’s The Calvi Affair (Pan, 1983), investigating the body found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in 1982 with a brick stuffed into his suit. Calvi had been the managing director of Banco Ambrosiano.
In 2010, Susan Lindauer brought out Extreme Prejudice: The terrifying story of the Patriot Act and the cover ups of 9/11 and Iraq. It is prefaced by a disclaimer from Create Space, a self-publishing firm – which suggests that no mainstream publisher would touch it. Lindauer was a Congressional staffer who worked in the Middle East with a particular knowledge of Libya and Iraq. In her book, Lindauer claims that that for a number of years she worked for the CIA and DIA, undertaking communications with the Iraqi government and serving as a back-channel in U.S. government negotiations. She discussed with her CIA handler Dr Richard Fuisz the 1993 World Trade Centre Bombing, which killed six people and injured more than 1,000 (an attack she claims to have had prior warnings of via connections in Algeria).
She and her handler also discussed the possibility of a second and more devastating attack on the twin towers in 2001. She is convinced that influential leaders at the top of the US government had anticipated the 9/11 scenario and had decided that Iraq would pay the ultimate price if and when the attack occurred. This was a policy pushed with particular vehemence by Robert Mueller, then head of the FBI. Yes, it’s the same Mueller who is currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by the Trump campaign — a yawn of a smear if ever there was one, designed simply to take the heat off corruption at the highest levels among the Democrats and to salve their wounded hubris (but isn’t hubris always wounded?) at having lost to Trump.
Lindauer points out that Mueller had “changed directions” over the Lockerbie disaster when Congress wanted to salvage Syria’s reputation and shift the blame to Libya. The evidence suggests that in fact Lockerbie was the work of professional Jihadis. Neither Libya nor Iraq nor Syria were involved. Everything points to the encouragement of Wahabi extremism by the Saudi authorities — but read House of Bush, House of Saud: The secret relationship between the world’s most powerful dynasties to understand why no shit ever sticks to Riyadh. The book is written by Craig Unger and was published by Scribner in 2004.
Lindauer claimed she was conducting peace negotiations with representatives of several Muslim countries (including Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, and Yemen) in New York. She points out that as early as October 2000, Iraq signalled a desire to negotiate a “comprehensive resolution to its conflict with the United States that would be mutually beneficial to both parties.” Keen to have devastating sanctions lifted, Iraq had got rid of all weapons of mass destruction by 1998. Lindauer repeatedly reported to the CIA that Iraq was willing to comply with all western demands to democratise the country. However, her reports proved inconvenient, and in the spring of 2004, she was charged under the newly-minted Patriot Act with “acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government” and violating U.S. financial sanctions during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She was incarcerated in 2005 and released the next year after two judges ruled her mentally unfit to stand trial. Effectively, this meant that no trial could take place, thus Lindauer would never get the chance to refute the charges against her in court. The government dropped the prosecution in 2009.
Lindauer has subsequently become a celebrity critic of government and secret service shenanigans. She goes about attacking those who have attempted to suppress her warnings with the multiple arms of some angry Indian goddess, but this sometimes renders matters confusing. I could have done with the inclusion of more dates, and indeed a dateline to establish the chronology of events.
Two more recent books have proved intriguing reading. Donna Brazile’s Hacks: The inside story of the break-ins and break downs that put Donald Trump in the White House was published by Hachette in 2017. She is a member of the Democratic Party, briefly serving as the interim chairperson for the Democratic National Committee in spring 2011, and she took over that role again in July 2016, until February 2017, during the run-up to the last presidential elections in the US. Conforming to Democrat policy, she blames Russian Intelligence Operatives for the Wikileaks posting of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails online. I don’t buy that scenario. Julian Assange has repeatedly insisted that his sources are from within the political parties and government bodies that behave so high-handedly when it comes to accountability. He needs no help from the Russians, and he points out, in a recent interview with John Pilger, that many of the posts on Wikileaks concern corruption within the Russian state machine. The Wikileaks Files: The world according to US empire, published by Verso in 2015, provides an excellent survey of the leaks these files have revealed, and how they come from all countries.
In an excerpt from her book published in Politico magazine, Brazile wrote that she had found an “unethical” agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC which had allowed Clinton to exert “control of the party long before she became its nominee.” After his election campaign Barack Obama had left the Democratic party $24 million in debt. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay this off until 2016. Hillary for America and the Hillary Victory Fund had taken care of 80% of the remaining debt and placed the DNC on an allowance. The victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee and the state party races. Hillary had been controlling it since she bailed out the DNC — that is, well before she got the nomination.
The Clinton campaign, based in Brooklyn, had a stooge (Brandon Davis) planted in the DNC. He was officially chief-of-staff but was basically there to ensure that party did nothing Brooklyn did not want it to do. The campaign for the nomination of Bernie Saunders was therefore underfunded. Only the Clinton campaign had control over how DNC funds were to be spent. And later, after she had secured the nomination, Hillary rode roughshod over the Democratic party. For instance, Hillary wanted a person in a Donald Duck costume to appear at every Trump rally. Disney objected. The duck was Disney’s intellectual property. The Democratic party could not use their duck. Brazile wanted to “Get rid of the fucking duck.” After all, it was proof of Trump’s claim that paid protesters were attempting to sabotage his act. A chapter in the book goes into hilarious detail about how Brooklyn resisted the idea of getting rid of the duck. After all, it was Hillary’s decision to use it.
The book is written in a slang-ridden, chatty style that is probably meant to make it “readable” but actually makes it irritating and somewhat unconvincing. In contrast, the most recently published whistleblower book, Miles Goslett’s An Inconvenient Death: How the establishment covered up the David Kelly affair, is scrupulously researched and written in a concise but eminently readable style. I could not put it down and read it at a sitting.
Blairite organs such as the Guardian label all speculation about the death of Dr Kelly as “conspiracy theories”. It has to be said that articles that claim this (such as Richard Norton-Taylor’s on Saturday 1 December 2007) do so in a cursory and dismissive way which is quite mind-boggling; a cavalier approach to the mystery that in no way reflects the exhaustive research which clearly went into The Strange Death of David Kelly by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, published by Methuen in 2007. In this analysis of what was, whichever way you look at it, a shady business, it is suggested that Shia Iraqi hitmen may have kidnapped and assassinated our expert in chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction who worked at Porton Down. After all, the Shia were being persecuted by Saddam Hussein, and so it was very much in their interest that the claim that Saddam had such weapons had been “sexed up” in what became known as “the dodgy dossier” should never gain the slightest credibility.
Indeed, after the war, the Shia came into power in Iraq — their leaders the very men implicated in this possible assassination. They convinced Blair to rid the Iraqi army of all serving Sunni officers, and of course immediately set about persecuting the Sunnis, just as they (the Shia) had been ill-treated by Saddam, the result being that these sacked Iraqi officers became warriors for Daesh, and thus a tragedy began that continues to this day. There’s an equally compelling theory that David Kelly had become aware of research that had been carried out at Porton Down in collaboration with South African authorities back in apartheid days (which only ended in the early 1990s). They were looking for a possible agent of death that could be used to target people genetically, by race, that is. After all, sickle cell anaemia mainly affects people of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin. It has been suggested by researchers into the history of apartheid in South Africa, that Dr Kelly, who had embraced the Bahá’í faith sometime after 1998, might have been shocked to learn that this research had ever been carried out and was contemplating blowing the whistle on that!
BUT THESE, ADMITTEDLY, are simply theories. What is commendable about Miles Goslett’s book is that he is scrupulous in avoiding all such hypotheses. He simply examines the evidence and picks hole after hole in the Hutton Inquiry and the official version of what happened.
An unintentional whistleblower, Dr Kelly’s remarks to the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, about how the Blair government had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam’s weapons programme, provoked an intense and ugly row between Downing Street and the BBC. No chance of that happening these days. I cannot recommend An Inconvenient Death too highly. An example of exemplary journalism, it shows how Blair set up the Hutton Inquiry immediately on notification of the discovery of the body. Blair was flying to Australia at the time, and, astonishingly, an eighty-foot radio aerial was set up in the Kelly’s garden, even before the body was found (was this so that Blair could be notified instantly of how matters were evolving?). The Inquiry put paid to any legal process in terms of an inquest conducted with due diligence by a coroner. There is also a seventy-year embargo on all the evidence collected. Today, even the body has been removed from its grave, possibly incinerated.
But I’ve no wish to attempt a précis of Goslett’s book. Read it for yourself. I will just highlight a few facts I found astonishing. Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who attended the scene when Dr Kelly’s body was discovered on Harrowdown Hill, arrived at the scene at midday. He was there for seven hours and the last thing he did, before leaving the scene, was to take Dr Kelly’s body temperature. The last thing he did? As Goslett puts it: “Many medical experts have pointed out that this was potentially reckless in terms of working out a time of death as accurately as possible.” I have also read, in the Daily Mail, that “in March 2004, after the Hutton Report was published, Dr Hunt contacted Channel 4 News and said he thought a full coroner’s inquest should be held. Yet mysteriously, he says now that — despite contacting the TV station — he has ‘maintained a silence on this [matter] on behalf of the [Kelly] family for a very long time’.”
Equally bizarre is the existence or non-existence of the third policeman. The first two people to discover Dr Kelly’s body described it slumped up against a tree, as if he had been propped there, yet after the police had arrived on the scene, the body was apparently lying face down on the ground. This contradiction in the evidence has never been resolved. In listing key witnesses who did not appear at the Hutton Inquiry (and there were many of them) Goslett has this to say:
The ‘third man’: apparently a probationary constable with Thames Valley Police at the time of Dr Kelly’s death, this individual was with DC Coe and DC Shields at Harrowdown Hill within a few minutes of Dr Kelly’s body being found. Coe ‘forgot to mention’ this person at the Hutton Inquiry but seven years later admitted his existence to The Mail on Sunday. The late Bruce Hay (an Oxfordshire businessman who described himself as a ‘distant friend’ of Dr Kelly) wrote to me revealing that the third man’s initials are ‘S.B.’. Mr Hay said S.B. found the scene at Harrowdown Hill to be ‘extraordinarily contrived’. Who is S.B.? What did he see? Why was he erased from the official account?
Finally, there is something contradictory and yet infinitely sad about the attitude of Dr Kelly’s widow, who has always gone along with the official view that her husband committed suicide in a fairly exaggerated way, though at one point she did ask for a letter establishing this view of hers to be sent back to her. A certain Mai Pederson thinks otherwise. Ms. Pederson was the (now retired) American Air Force officer who served as a translator with Dr Kelly’s inspection team in Iraq in the 1990s. She has urged two Attorneys General — Baroness Scotland and Dominic Grieve — to reopen the inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. She questions whether he would have had the strength in his right hand to slit his left wrist (the wrong way, across, that is, not vertically up the vein, as any scientist would have known) with a blunt concave-edged pruning knife, since, due to a riding accident, he had ‘difficulty cutting his own steak.’
Unmarried, and sixteen years younger than Dr Kelly, Mai Pederson had formed a close friendship with him that culminated in him joining her to become a member of the Bahá’í faith, a faith which maintains that whoever commits suicide endangers his soul and will suffer spiritually. Pederson was initially asked to give evidence to the Hutton Inquiry and agreed to do so but was not called. As Goslett explains: “this was because, it is claimed, the inquiry would not allow her to testify in private.” At least one other witness was permitted to give evidence in private. So why not Ms Pederson?
Goslett makes no implications, regarding Ms Pederson, though, when he goes into in detail, her evidence is devastating. Lord Hutton and the inquiry’s senior counsel, the inexperienced James Dingemans QC, visited Janice Kelly and her daughters at the family home eight days after Dr Kelly’s body was found. It was highly irregular of Hutton to spend time with Mrs Kelly before his inquiry had begun. Hutton himself admits that he was given information — which has never been divulged publicly — before the inquiry got under way. One might suppose that it was he who gave information to her.
And thus it is that the family seems to stick to the official tale. I’ve often wondered why so many families of atrocities such as 9/11 go along with the purported version of the facts. Such compliance hugely strengthens the official hand in all cases. But then, you are in the midst of a tragedy in your own life. Can you deal with the shock of that, if you also have to contend with the horror of the realisation that the state is deceiving you? How would it be if you had to confront those who attend the funeral of the loved one, as did Hutton and Dingemans? Could you deal with the notion that those who seem to be doing all they can to assist you in getting over the trauma of what has happened are, in fact, if not the perpetrators of the deed itself, at least acting in compliance with the culprits?
It seems to me that the family members in such cases are the true “victims”. The dead, after all, feel nothing.
Anthony Howell, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, was founder of The Theatre of Mistakes and performed solo at the Hayward Gallery and at the Sydney Biennale. His articles on visual art, dance, performance, and poetry have appeared in many publications including Art Monthly, The London Magazine, Harpers & Queen, The Times Literary Supplement. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. In 2001 he received a LADA bursary to study the tango in Buenos Aires and now teaches the dance at his studio/gallery The Room in Tottenham Hale. He is the author of a seminal textbook, The Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to Its Theory and Practice. Details about his collaborative project, Grey Suit Online, are here. His latest collection is From Inside (The High Window).