Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 19, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

BRITISH INTELLIGENCE....Whaddaya know, Andrew Sullivan actually has something interesting to say today about the BBC/Gilligan/Kelly/Blair affair:

An insider in London I trust tells me I've misjudged why this story has been such a big deal in Britain, and could still damage Blair. In Britain, the tradition has always been an extremely bright line between politics and intelligence agencies. Whereas in the U.S.. there's competition and rivalry among various spy agencies, and an understanding that presidents and Congress may use different pieces of evidence to make their case, in Britain, this has historically not been the case. Intelligence is generally presented to the public straight from the agencies themselves or never presented at all.

Blair's "dossier" was therefore unique and unusual in British history. It didn't doctor intelligence reports, but it sure did spin them to make the strongest case for war possible. In the U.S., that's not exactly news. In Britain, it was and is, and has come to symbolize for many the obsessive concern with news management that has been a hallmark of the Blair premiership. That - and the fact that they didn't experience 9/11 directly - helps explain why Blair has had to endure far worse Monday morning quarterbacking than Bush.

This doesn't surprise me, but it's not something I knew and not something I've read previously.

It's funny, though: there's no question at all that Blair and his staff did make changes to the dossier in order to "egg it up," as Brian Jones put it. In fact, they haven't even tried to deny this. So if Sullivan's friend is right, the surprising thing isn't that Blair has been hurt, but that he hasn't been hurt even worse.

Any British readers out there who can confirm or deny this aspect of British political culture?

Kevin Drum 8:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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