April 5, 2010
The death of a whistleblower who said the UK government had “sexed up” a dossier on Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities in order to sell the Iraq war has been one of the most intriguing and confusing elements of the war’s history.
Now the UK’s Conservative Party is signaling that it plans to reopen the inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly if it wins the next election. The move could potentially harm the ruling Labour Party, which championed the Iraq war effort and is now trailing in the polls for this spring’s election.
On Sunday, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative Party’s “shadow” justice minister, said members of the public “have not been reassured” that Kelly’s death was a suicide, and if his government wins the election, he would want to reopen the case, reports the UK’s Daily Mail.
Kelly, a weapons expert with Britain’s Ministry of Defence, was found dead in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that the British government was lying about its claim that Saddam Hussein could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order.
Kelly’s death sparked suspicions that he may have been killed for undermining the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as the British leader stood with US President George W. Bush in pushing for an invasion of Iraq.
A former British ambassador quoted Kelly as having said “I will probably be found dead in the woods” if Iraq were invaded. Hours before his death, Kelly reportedly e-mailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, warning her of “many dark actors playing games,” according to the BBC.
A 2004 inquest run by Lord Hutton declared Kelly’s death to be a suicide. But news reports began to question that verdict almost immediately, and last year, a group of 13 doctors announced that the doctor could not have committed suicide — the cut found on his left wrist wasn’t enough for the weapons expert to bleed to death.
“The bleeding from Dr Kelly’s ulnar artery is highly unlikely to have been so voluminous and rapid that it was the cause of death,” the 13 doctors stated in a 12-page report.
It also emerged in 2009 that Kelly had been working on an expose of the claims surrounding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction when he died. Kelly had “had several discussions with a publisher in Oxford and was seeking advice on how far he could go without breaking the law on secrets,” the UK Daily Express alleged.
The Conservatives’ Grieve questioned the government’s decision to seal the details of Kelly’s death for 70 years, saying a Conservative government would re-examine that decision, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Grieve also applauded the work of the doctors’ group that declared Kelly’s death not to be a suicide. “I am aware of the work of the doctors’ group on challenging Lord Hutton’s findings. They have made an impressive and cogent case,” Grieve said in a letter last month, as quoted at the Daily Mail.
Any reopening of the case would be contingent on the Conservatives winning the election. A recent poll shows the Conservatives leading the Labour Party by 11 points, but a complete victory is anything but assured.
Pollsters say the likeliest outcome of the election is a “hung parliament,” where no party controls a majority of seats in the legislature, and has to govern with the support of one of the smaller parties.