Do you remember Lieutenant Columbo from the LAPD, who ALWAYS nailed the murderer? Not an easy task, where there was a cast-iron alibi.
But Columbo would shy away from the obvious questions. No, he'd be looking for something else, off the main line of inquiry. Something that, in his arrogance, the man who'd committed the perfect crime hadn't bothered to check. Every week on Columbo, it all came down to -- The Little Things.
Exactly a year ago, the British Government published a frightening intelligence-led dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It included a statement that Saddam Hussein could deploy some of those weapons within 45 minutes. This dossier formed a major part of our Prime Minister Tony Blair's campaign to persuade the skeptical British public to join President Bush in the war on Iraq.
In May of this year, after the war, the BBC broadcast a sensational report that one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier had raised doubts about the 45 minute claim, and that just before publication, the politicians had ordered intelligence officials to 'sex up' the document, to make it more exciting; and that the intelligence services were unhappy with its final version. A grave allegation that made Blair and his inner circle livid. Immediately a savage 'hunt the mole' operation began. Who had dared to speak to the BBC?
When Dr. David Kelly, one of Britain's greatest experts in Iraq's biological weapons programmes, privately told his bosses at the Defence Ministry that he had met the BBC journalist, the alarm bells rang out around Downing Street. Blair's boys were out for revenge, big time. Nobody was going to accuse their man of taking the country to war under false pretences. Dr. Kelly's name suddenly made it into all the papers, his house was besieged by journalists, he was interrogated by committees of legislators and ... to put it bluntly, the pressure got to him. He went out for a walk and never came back. His body was found, his wrist slashed.
Such was the public revulsion here, an eminent judge was asked to undertake a thorough inquiry. He's taken his evidence in public, from Tony Blair downwards. Nobody has been spared. The judge is due to present his report shortly, and his words may be a little uncomfortable for our Prime Minister.
You see, Tony Blair didn't NEED to send his boys after Dr. Kelly. Like someone in YOUR President's administration didn't NEED to leak the name of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife to the press, thus blowing her cover as a CIA operative. Blair and Bush have just won a war. But perhaps the arrogance of victory has made them and those around them feel untouchable. And now both our countries' administrations are under investigation not for the War.... but for -- The Little Things.
Lieutenant Columbo would have loved it.
By Simon Bates
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.