Publication Date: 26 July 2003
Perspectives: Too ghastly for words ... did Dr David Kelly die in vain?
ONE of the most disturbing deaths in recent weeks was that of Dr David Kelly, the Government scientist who bled to death in a wood near his home in England, while a sharp instrument and pain-killers lay beside his body.
An inquest will determine the cause of his death, but his wife said that he had been deeply disturbed by his experience of giving evidence to a Commons Select Committee a few days earlier. He became caught up in a deadly confrontation between the BBC and the Government over allegations that a dossier on Iraq had been made more dramatic than necessary to help bolster the arguments for going to war against Saddam.
The possible motive for Dr Kelly's death will form part of the Government inquiry set up under the distinguished Ulsterman, Lord Hutton, who will report in due course on the salient facts of this case. While we must wait for the Hutton Report, it is still reasonable to surmise that Dr King was under intense personal pressure and that this may have been a contributory factor in his untimely death.
By all accounts he was a dedicated and talented scientist, and a sensitive man with a spiritual outlook who was a member of a local Bahai community of believers.
We will never know his final thoughts but one would like to think that in some way his faith gave him some comfort in the midst of the trauma of his final days. Sadly the sensitivities of this man, who was trying to do his best according to his beliefs, counted for nothing in this age of remarkable public brutality.
Much has been said and written about the events leading up to his death, including the bitter argument between the BBC and 10 Downing Street as to who was right or wrong about the allegedly spiced-up dossier on Iraq. This fierce confrontation between journalists and politicians and their advisers is all part of hot-house friction of high politics.
This in itself is not surprising, but what I find disturbing is the way in which the human tragedy of Dr Kelly's death has already been buried under a mound of continuing accusations and counter-accusations. It seems almost as if his death is just another event which is already in danger of being taken for granted.
As the furious search for the truth about the dossier continues, it may be salutary to remember the words of Pontius Pilate who almost despairingly sentenced Jesus Christ to death even though he knew that he was innocent. Pilate asked "What is truth?" - as if he was not expecting an answer. Lord Hutton in a different way has been asked to find out the truth, but I doubt if there is one single truth to discover, as opposed to a series of different insights and conclusions which may contain part of a greater truth but not all of it.
Ideally the truth will set us free, as the Bible advocates, but how may people want to believe the truth even when they are told it?
The tragic developments so far have underlined the totally brutal nature of the way in which much of our public affairs are conducted, and how human beings can be bruised and bloodied - and perhaps even driven to their death - when they are caught between two powerful institutions, each bent on self-justification.
Sections of the media and not a few politicians have much to answer for. The pleas for restraint from Tony Blair, who himself has been deeply wounded politically by recent events, are being widely ignored. Even before Dr Kelly is given a decent burial the politicians and journalists are still hell-bent on probing every juicy detail of the affair - even to the point of second-guessing Dr Kelly's evidence to the Select Committee.
I find this behaviour unseemly, cynical and shameful, and it poses fundamental questions about the nature of public life in this country and those who are involved in it.
A number of other media commentators have made this point elsewhere but I am surprised that nothing so far has been heard from the Church on this matter. I believe that the deep lack of morality and of truthfulness in our conduct of politics and some of our media reporting ought to be of concern to the clergy up and down our land.
Why do they remain so silent? If Dr David Kelly's death continues to be so overlooked as part of the cynical exercise of covering up trails and protecting the backs of those smart enough to talk their way out of trouble and, if we forget what can happen to ordinary people trying to own up to their version of the truth in a war not of their own making, then his death really will have been in vain.
©Copyright 2003, The Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland)
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