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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Iraq evidence: Who do you believe?
Alastair Campbell, the government's director of communications and strategy outside his north London home.
An official from the Ministry of Defence who allegedly met the BBC's Andrew Gilligan to discuss Iraq's weapons does not match the description of the person given to the corporation, the BBC has said.

This was in response to an earlier claim by the MoD that one of its staff had met Mr Gilligan a week before he broadcast claims that a senior source in the intelligence community said the government had "sexed up" the September dossier.

The statements came after prime minister, Tony Blair was quizzed for two and a half hours about how he used intelligence in the run-up to war and said he refuted any suggestion that he misled Parliament or the people.

Do you back the government on the case it made for war? Has the row with the BBC gone too far? Does either side deserve an apology?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

The BBC has every right to protect their sources and to use those sources should it become necessary. I know the news goes through more than the governments to prove their sources, so I back the BBC and they should never have to apologise for telling the truth.
Jude, USA

I found myself wishing the BBC would say how terrible this was
Pat, UK
I have watched the BBC for a numbers of years and have actually found them to be too impartial. There was no need for this war; the inspectors could have done a better job with much more help from the US/UK. I found myself wishing the BBC would say how terrible this was, but they never did.
Pat, UK

The BBC and its journalist should have known better than report the expression "sexed up" in connection with unverified "facts" .Quite clearly the expression was used by the informant to gain undue tabloid attention to a serious and unwarranted attack on the credibility of the prime minister.
J Westerman, UK

What would the war wobblers have said if Saddam had wiped a few more towns with his new gas? Would you not all have been up in arms asking why we, the Western world did nothing? Now the likelihood of that ever happening has gone, yet you still find something to moan about. WMD or not, Saddam himself is a WMD and one that will hopefully never surface again.
Frank, UK

Frank, UK: It's not about whether Saddam was bad or not, it is about whether Bush/Blair/CIA/MI6 made up or misrepresented chunks of "evidence". Please be able to see these are DISTINCT points.
Dave Gibbon, US

If we have questions regarding our government's actions, then they must answer them
Joe, USA
I think the BBC has done the right thing. Many questions were raised well before the war started and many still remain. The BBC is keeping the government honest, which is what we all should be doing as citizens. If we have questions regarding our government's actions, then they must answer them to our satisfaction. We owe it to ourselves, our soldiers both living and dead, the world, and yes, even history.
Joe, USA

It all has got out of hand; more important issues to be dealt with on the home front.
Pat Bennett, UK

Until finally proven wrong, I shall stick with the BBC on this one. The whole business about the file looks far too shady to me, as it did from the start.
Wiebe Goossen, The Netherlands

The BBC has an agenda
Hugh Kelly, UK
It appears to me that the BBC has an agenda to pull down Tony Blair as the prime minister of this great country. The BBC does not bring to our screens the mass shallow graves being dug up daily in Iraq. This will detract from the fact that the BBC is putting the boot into our elected government. The BBC is there to report the facts without distortion. So do it. In this world of mass media, why should I and the rest of the country pay to keep the BBC?
Hugh Kelly, UK

This looks like yet another example of a diversionary tactic to take our attention from the real issue until the furore and "news life" of the story has gone. Although the focus should remain on the initial issue of whether the government maximised the case for war, which I feel was the case, the diversion seems, unfortunately, to have worked and the issue is now whether the BBC apologises on not. It should not.
Mike Jones-Pritchard, Wales

I do back Mr. Blair. And I have been disappointed and distressed at the consistently slanted coverage of the situation in Iraq by the BBC, right from the beginning. As someone who has been in Iraq and has friends in Iraq, I have seen another side that the BBC gives little space or time. The BBC has lost credibility.
Deborah Meroff, UK.

I think the Beeb has done the right thing. Many weeks after the event still nothing. Clearly the intention to remove Saddam and the US has clearly demonstrated there bully boy approach to the rest of the world and Blair has supported this approach blindly without much concern about what the British public thought. Well done to the Beeb stand up and continue the good work.
Craig, Singapore

So now the government knows the source and the BBC knows the source. It seems like the only people who aren't allowed to know the source are the public in whose interest this "story" was allegedly broadcast. Shouldn't we be allowed to know whether it was in fact some minor MoD filing clerk ?
Dave Richards, England

They are both responsible for many lost lives
Rhiannon, UK/USA
As someone who lives in both the United States and Britain, I always thought that Mr Blair was the more sensible leader. I was, however, mistaken - he is just as ridiculous as Mr Bush. They are both responsible for many lost lives, and the thing that is even more sad is they do not have enough sense to leave Iraq when clearly it seems that there was not a nuclear threat and it is equally clear that there are Iraqis committed to killing soldiers who want nothing more than to be allowed to go home. Shame on Messrs Bush and Blair!
Rhiannon, UK/USA

If the BBC has got it wrong, why doesn't Alastair Campbell file a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission? I've frequently seen corrections that the BBC was forced to air because the PCC decided against them.
Wouter, The Netherlands

The one thing that all this HAS proved is that the invasion of Iraq never was about an Iraqi threat or 'liberating' Iraq. If it had been, someone would have mentioned it.
Steve, UK

Nothing less than a full public enquiry will do to answer these central questions. Was there an intelligence failure? Was intelligence dressed up for presentation to the public and to parliament so as to win support? Did Saddam pose a real and credible threat to us?
Jammi Rao, UK

I stand behind the US and the British governments on this matter
Ed Magana, USA
Does it matter that getting rid of a despot and freeing millions of oppressed and suffering Iraqis was the product of yet to be found weapons of mass destruction? I stand behind the US and the British governments on this matter.
Ed Magana, USA

If Mr Blair spent more time on research, and less on covering up the blunders, he might be capable of getting a job as a BBC journalist. Then again, the tabloid newspapers might be a more suitable home for his talents.
Dave, England

To be quite honest nothing has been achieved from this war. Lots of innocent lives have been lost on both sides, and the man behind it all and his weapons of destruction are still not found. I think Tony Blair has totally lost the plot. Mr Blair needs to sit down and play his cards right if he wants to be elected in the next election.
Safina Hussain, UK

Nothing I have heard convinces me the story was factually incorrect. Everything Blair's government has put forward has merely vindicated the BBC's factual reporting. What a disgrace this government is.
Tony, UK

That is not impartiality
Joe White, U
I do not believe that the BBC's coverage of the Iraq dossier situation has been at all impartial. In fact it has been patently biased in favour of justifying the position the BBC have taken. One senses reporters are 'looking after their own kind' - and previous disagreements with Alistair Campbell are being 'paid back' over this one. That is not impartiality . I think its time for everyone to get off their high horses - and for the BBC to start being truly impartial again.
Joe White, UK

I have no doubt the government believed WMD did exist. Everyone seems to dismiss that the Iraqis did their utmost to hide or destroy any evidence of these weapons. All of this notwithstanding, I think the liberation of the Iraqi people, the discovery of mass graves and the additional evidence of the oppression they have suffered under the Saddam regime have made the liberation of Iraq even more important. I wish the Iraqi people all luck in rebuilding a free country for the good of all.
D Gathercole, England

Democracy itself is at stake over this issue, so I hope and pray that as the democratically elected Prime Minister of this country, Tony Blair will continue to demand his justified apology and not back down to the conceited, arrogant, elitist, unelected BBC. This, like the Iraq war itself, is a battle he cannot afford to lose. The BBC is undemocratic; it is becoming the news instead of impartially reporting it. It is out-of-date, out-of-touch, out-of-step and ultimately out-of-time.
Paul Sillick, UK

An apology could ruin the future independence of the BBC
Haakon Ramsland, Norway
BBC is one of the most objective news media, and has a long history as such. An apology could ruin the future independence of the BBC, and create a precedence that would not be to the advantage of the BBC, or its audience.
Haakon Ramsland, Norway

To use a Marshall McLuhan expression - I believe the message was "massaged". But now what - we hear that the Iraq situation is "flat-lining". If the lack of clean water and refrigeration leads to a deadly epidemic, then mightn't we have to explain our having caused genocide? Massage that one!
Perry Mason, Canada

Our media, on both sides of the Atlantic, would rather sling arrows at their leaders than accept that this action needed to be taken
Susan, UK/USA
Everyone is so quick to blame the leadership of both the UK and USA with regard to exaggerating the threat level. It's a sad fact that our media, on both sides of the Atlantic, would rather sling arrows at their leaders than accept that this action needed to be taken. The world stood by while millions were murdered in Germany, Russia, Bosnia and China. Those needing support from the West, would surely have recognized that the West had to perceive a threat to its own security before developing enough courage to displace a greedy, arrogant, and cowardly dictator.
Susan, UK/USA

At this time the story should be about our courageous servicemen and servicewomen in harm's way, and utmost care should be taken by the BBC, the government and others not to undermine their morale or purpose. Plenty of time for spin and circumlocution after our forces are safely home.
John, Thailand

Since the Iraqis never managed in ten years to inflict a single scratch on the UK/US aircraft illegally enforcing the no fly zones (by bombing innocent civilians) it could surely not have been a great intellectual leap to conclude that their WMD capability was equally limited: That is not to mention the sophisticated satellite surveillance which obviously informed the Coalition of absolutely every target in Iraq but still couldn't identify a single WMD! The Government are clearly being economical with the truth as is the Howard Gov here in Oz. WMD will be inscribed on a few political tombstones!
David, Australia

If the reasons for war were declared as humanitarian, then that would have been acceptable and would have garnered more support. Questions would still have to be asked about what happens with regards to all the other countries in the world with vile regimes. However, this spat between AC and the BBC is a smokescreen. Colin Powell gave specific evidence about the existence and tracking of WMD in Iraq. The UN inspectors were denied more time by the US and UK governments who now tell us that they may need years to unearth these elusive weapons. They take us for fools!
Lance Mitchell, UK

I really don't believe that BBC is anti-war, they just did their job. Here in our country, which is of course under the US influence, we cannot find a very reliable source of information of what is really happening, or what happened before the war in Iraq, as someone said "You cannot mix journalism and patriotism". Keep it up BBC, you have our support.
Philip Macalinao, Philippines

What I find so wrong about this situation is this: Tony Blair and George Bush are saints compared to the horrible things that Saddam has done to his people. Now that they have stopped the killing of thousands of innocent people, instead of praising him for victory, they want to prosecute him. How times change. In World War Two, the media-including the BBC - would have never questioned how it was done, but rather thank the prime minister for saving the free world from a madman and potential disaster. Thank you for improving national pride. Maybe the media should fight the next war and run the country. Then we can prosecute you for trying to do the right thing.
David Eubanks, USA-British

It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Labour government I voted for has become so mired in being economical with the truth that all credibility has been lost. That power corrupts has indeed become manifest in this unsavoury affair. In my view, the government clearly ordered British troops into war on specious grounds and I believe both parliament and the electorate were misled. That is indefensible and has suborned democracy to a creature child of powerful vested interests.
Michael Halpern, UK

The whole 45 minutes idea is not what is important. What is important, is that Campbell had any input at all as to the publishing of the dossier. Tony Blair should listen to the public instead of spin doctors, oil companies and over zealous cowboy presidents. Sort it out, before the people do, at the next election.
Alex, England

It hardly comes as a surprise result
James Scobbie, Scotland
In Scotland we would say "not-proven" due to lack of evidence. And with the committee unable to obtain access to the evidence it hardly comes as a surprise result. Mr Campbell's innocence is still very much an open question.
James Scobbie, Scotland

I must confess to becoming more cynical about our reasons for going to war with Iraq. Perhaps if Bush had just come out and said that he wanted to buy oil from Iraq, but did not want to give the money to Saddam's regime, I would have had more respect for him and Blair for being honest.
Jon Bintliff, England

Congratulations to Blair and Campbell for distracting the media away from the real issue. I'm surprised the BBC has fallen for it though. But... I now feel the same way about this government as I did about the Tories. No trust and no respect.
Cliff, UK

An apology is admission of wrongdoing. It is clear to see that neither side, not least the government are prepared to go there. So it is futile. As is having a committee that makes conclusions with only "some" of the facts. When is a jury allowed to decide a case based on some of the evidence with only half the witnesses? This is just going to be another grey area that stays long unresolved.
Johannes, UK

This episode was a well-planned smokescreen
Fred, England
Blair and Campbell have won again. By sniping at the BBC, they have successfully diverted all attention away from the lack of WMD, the US/UK body count and the appalling civilian casualties that ensued from their earlier decisions. The argument is now over semantics and interpretation rather than the indisputable facts of the carnage generated to feed the war/oil/power-mongers. This episode was a well-planned smokescreen, distracting people so they didn't look too closely at the cover-ups (sorry, "inquiries") and just see how effective it was.
Fred, England

Maybe I'm just not getting this, but it seems to me that having a group of MPs evaluating the government's dossier is a bit like self-policing? Shouldn't there have been an independent inquiry by people who have no interest in the outcome? No apologies from the BBC! If the government doesn't want to look bad, they should think before they act.
Catriona, Canada

The BBC seem to have an inability to back down where clearly it was at least a mistake to broadcast such a story. Instead whether it is personal ego or just plain pig headedness the BBC seem to be devoting a lot of time to defending themselves when instead a simple apology would bring an end to the matter allowing us listeners and viewers to hear worthy news, not listen to some spat that should never have taken place and could have been avoided. Not being able to admit you are wrong is a mantra that journalists chant when they deal with politicians. Surely it cuts both ways.
Laurence Mathers, England

The failure to find these weapons is the story, not the BBC
Paul Donovan, England
The attack on the BBC is a deliberate effort by Campbell and co to steer the argument away from the crucial issues which are the weapons of mass destruction - did they ever exist, if they did where are they, if not why did we go to war. The failure to find these weapons is the story, not the BBC. Having said that the BBC deserves great credit for the way in which it has stood by the journalist and the story.
Paul Donovan, England

Neither side deserves an apology at this stage. We are no wiser now than the pre-enquiry stage. Why don't we have an independent judicial enquiry? The issues here are of grave concern to most of us.
Edmund Dadson, England

The role of an independent media is to ask questions and uncover facts that the powerbrokers in society don't necessarily want discussing. The government's attack is not about 45 minutes, but about shutting down enquiry into the dark corners and murky deals. No 10's attack is cynical media management. The BBC should not back down.
Ed Foster, England

Yet again the Beeb consider it their duty to fight a war that's already over. Run a poll, if you dare, to see whether people think the BBC has been biased over the whole Iraq affair. I'm no Blair fan nor any great lover of the sultan of spin but the Beeb are a bit wide of the mark here. I don't think Mr Blair wanted this war, I don't believe he wants to 'suck up' to the Americans , I believe he chose to join the war with the best intentions. When will the Beeb's Chardonnay socialists give up on this lost cause?
Paddy Cronin, UK

If we can't find Saddam, why is it surprising we've not found the weapons yet? And even if there are none, we have rid the Iraqis of an evil regime. Now let's allow the UN in to take over to avoid the claims of colonisation.
Jake, UK

I think this whole debate is about people trying not to "lose face" with the public. I don't know why the government is putting up such a fight, the fact is many people protested against the war so going into it has probably lost them a lot of votes anyway and now they are trying to get the support of the public over the BBC. I doubt many people care as governments come and go and the BBC has been reporting for a very long time. I don't think the BBC should apologise but I feel everyone must be reminded that there a far more important things going on in the world. We shouldn't be worrying so much about who apologises to whom.
Derin Adefajo, England

The BBC has overstepped the mark and should apologise. The role of the BBC is to report rather than make the news. The BBC should be aware that many are finding the licence fee difficult to justify whilst subscribing to other TV platforms.
Jon, UK

To Jon, UK: I am happy to pay my licence fee to have an outlet that provides impartial news distributed round the world. I have travelled quite a bit and there are many things I have apologised to people abroad about aspects of my country. But one thing that most people praise is the BBC and I feel pretty proud of it. It has a great reputation for impartial news around the world. Every government in my short lifetime has accused the BBC of bias against it. The BBC is clearly doing its job if it upsets the government. I applaud the BBC governors for supporting the BBC staff and for not backing down against intense bullying.
Neil Gwynne, Australia

I should first say that I am a Blair supporter. Blair at time of huge pressure from his on camp had to come with something extravagant thus we have our 45 minute claim. But sometimes people do have to exaggerate for the greater good and I believe as a good leader he took the right decision. But I also believe that by attacking the BBC in such a form, he's made a costly mistake. Blair will surly survive this but the wound will take time to heal.
Mohammed, UAE

This attack by the government upon the BBC is designed as a smoke screen to obscure the real issue
Ray Perkins, UK
This attack by the government upon the BBC is designed as a smoke screen to obscure the real issues. The BBC has my unreserved support on this issue, but please don't be distracted or deflected from your duty to report the truth. Democracy and press freedom are under attack. The BBC will come under increasing pressure from a Government who are in my view short on competence and with strong totalitarian inclinations. Truth and integrity are powerful weapons - use them and you will have the support of us all
Ray Perkins, UK

I was and still am fully behind the Government's decision to engage in the operation to depose Saddam Hussein. However, this is not the point in this current issue. If Tony Blair was a real leader he would not have felt the need to have to embellish intelligence information. I am sure that intelligence is rarely conclusive and may always be open to interpretation. In such instances it is necessary for statesmen to have the courage of their convictions and lead. But, as ever, Blair wanted to have his big tent and for that reason and that reason alone he has been exposed as weak. As for he interpreting the BBC story as an attack on his integrity, I think the evidence of that quality is as elusive as of WMD.
Duncan Jeffery, UK




SEE ALSO:
Straw dismisses Iraq inquiry calls
02 Jun 03  |  Politics
Campbell defiant over Iraq dossier
25 Jun 03  |  Politics


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