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Blair's Serious And Current Lies


Ian Pitchford <[log in to unmask]>


Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 19 Aug 2003 21:16:52 +0100





text/plain (420 lines)

MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

August 19, 2003

Mrs Hardy: "And how is Mrs Laurel?"
Stanley: "Oh, fine thank you."
Mrs Hardy: "I'd love to meet her some time."
Stanley: "Neither do I, too." (Laurel and Hardy, Chickens Come Home, 1931)

The War On Truth

At the heart of mainstream journalism there is a remarkable collision between
the human capacity for reason and the corporate media need to accommodate the
harsh realities of profit-maximising in state capitalist society. Journalists
are not stupid, some things are obvious, but some things just cannot be said in
a system that has evolved precisely to protect powerful interests. The
resulting compromised media performance is often surreal in a way that recalls
the Laurel and Hardy dialogue above.

In March of this year, Tony Blair went to war on Iraq in the face of immense
public opposition at home and abroad. In 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, Blair had
next to nothing to say about a threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction (WMD), or about an urgent need to respond to such a threat. In
October 2001, for example, Blair's official spokesman dismissed suggestions
that splits were developing between the US and the UK over whether military
action should be extended from Afghanistan to Iraq: "Such an extension was
being proposed only by 'fringe voices' in the US", Blair's spokesman was
reported as saying. ('Blair: we know the game you are playing', Matthew
Tempest, The Guardian, October 11, 2001)

Later that month, when asked if there would be a "wider war" against Iraq after
the attack on Afghanistan, Blair answered that this would depend on proof of
Iraqi complicity in the September 11 attacks:

"I think what people need before we take action against anyone is evidence."
('Blair on the war: the Observer interview in full', The Observer, October 14,

That same month Blair talked of the need for "absolute evidence" of Iraqi
complicity in September 11. Again, the 'threat' of Iraqi WMD was not yet the
issue. (Michael White, 'Blair goes public to quell Arab fears of wider war',
The Guardian, October 11, 2001)

One month later, Blair literally stood shoulder to shoulder with President
Jacques Chirac of France at a press conference as they "reaffirmed their demand
for 'incontrovertible evidence' of Iraqi complicity in the attacks on America
before they could endorse US threats to extend the anti-terrorist campaign to
Baghdad". ('Blair and Chirac cool on taking war to Iraq,' Hugo Young and
Michael White, The Guardian, November 30, 2001)

Then, in December 2001, the press began reporting that the US had made the
decision to attack Iraq. The Observer wrote:

"America intends to depose Saddam Hussein by giving armed support to Iraqi
opposition forces across the country, The Observer has learnt... The plan,
opposed by Tony Blair and other European Union leaders, threatens to blow apart
the increasingly shaky international consensus behind the US-led 'war on
terrorism'." ('Secret US plan for Iraq war, Bush orders backing for rebels to
topple Saddam', Peter Beaumont, Ed Vulliamy and Paul Beaver, The Observer,
December 2, 2001)

A European military source who had recently returned from talks with US
military chiefs responsible for the plan said:

"The Americans are walking on water. They think they can do anything at the
moment and there is bloody nothing Tony [Blair] can do about it." (Ibid)

By February 2002, Blair's tune had changed. On February 28, Blair said:

"We do constantly look at Iraq ... Saddam Hussein's regime is a regime that is
deeply repressive to its people and is a real danger to the region.

"Heavens above, he used chemical weapons against his own people, so it is an
issue and we have got to look at it, but we will look at it in a rational and
calm way, as we have for the other issues.

"The accumulation of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq poses a threat, a
threat not just to the region but to the wider world, and I think George Bush
was absolutely right to raise it. Now what action we take in respect of that,
that is an open matter for discussion..." ('Blair edges closer to Iraqi
strike', Matthew Tempest, The Guardian, February 28, 2002)

As war became a certainty for everyone but the media, the government was hit by
the largest ever rebellion in the Commons and by the largest ever protest march
in London on February 15. In December 2002, the Pew global attitudes project
revealed that when asked if Saddam Hussein should be removed by force 71% said
no in Germany, 64% in France and 79% in Russia. In Turkey - a major US ally -
83% were opposed to the use of Turkish bases for an attack on Iraq. In Britain
47% said no. In February, a few weeks before war broke out, 75% of the Spanish
population was opposed to war. In Portugal 53% were opposed to war under any
circumstances, with 96% opposed to war by the US and its allies unilaterally.
In Britain 40% were opposed to war under any circumstances, with fully 90%
opposed to war by the US and its allies unilaterally.

In January of this year, Blair said:

"Sometimes the job of the prime minister is to say things people don't want
them to say but we believe are necessary to say because the threat is real and,
if we don't deal with it, the consequences of our weakness will haunt future
generations." (Michael White and Julian Borger, 'Blair wins time with bravura
Iraq speech', The Guardian, January 16, 2003)

In a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman in February, Blair was keen to point out
that in voicing such concerns he was merely responding to evidence supplied by
his intelligence services:

"Well what there was, was evidence, I mean this is what our intelligence
services are telling us and it's difficult because, you know, either they're
simply making the whole thing up or this is what they are telling me, as the
prime minister, and I've no doubt what the American intelligence are telling
President Bush as well." (Tony Blair on Newsnight - part one, The Guardian,
February 7, 2003)

Taking Away The Case For War

Unfortunately for Blair, interviews between the late weapons expert David Kelly
and three different BBC journalists revealed the extraordinary extent to which
Blair and his aides have deceived the country. Kelly was a leading expert on
WMD who had an office in defence intelligence, reviewed the September dossier,
and in internal appraisals is described as a world-renowned expert on chemical
and biological weapons. As Kelly pointed out to the BBC's Susan Watts, the
government claimed that the Iraqis possessed "a vast arsenal". Was this "what
our intelligence services are telling us", as Blair insisted? Kelly reported:

"I'm not sure any of us ever said that." (Susan Watts' tape transcript, 'A
statement popped up and was seized on', The Guardian, August, 14, 2003)

This was how Kelly described Blair's "serious and current" threat:

"The +problem+ was that one could anticipate that without any form of
inspection, and that forms a real deterrence, other than the sanctions side of
things, then that [a threat] would develop. I think this was the real concern
that everyone had, it was not so much what [the Iraqis] have now but what they
would have in the future. But that unfortunately wasn't expressed strongly in
the dossier because that takes away the case for war... to a certain extent..."

Kelly was here clearly stating that "the real concern that everyone" in the
intelligence community had was that the Iraqis +might+ present a threat - in
the future.

This is an astonishing expose because it suggests that the idea of a "serious
and current" threat was a government fabrication that cannot even be dignified
with the word 'spin'. Kelly also revealed that the government was "desperate
for information" and that concerns about claims of an Iraqi threat were
impossible to convey because "people at the top of the ladder" did not want to
hear them.

An email from Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, to John Scarlett,
chairman of the joint intelligence committee, on September 17, 2002, one week
before the "dodgy dossier" was published, supports Kelly's claim:

"The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent
threat from Saddam Hussein... We will need to make it clear in launching the
document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent
threat." (BBC1 News at Six, August 18, 2003)

A week later, Blair wrote in the foreword to the final version of the same

"I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current." ('Iraq's Weapons of
Mass Destruction - The assessment of the British Government',

The Hutton inquiry - set up to investigate events surrounding David Kelly's
apparent suicide - has also revealed that at least two more members of the
defence intelligence staff, including "probably the most senior and experienced
intelligence community official" working on weapons of mass destruction,
expressed concerns about the "level of certainty" of the claims made in the
government's dossier. They also expressed concerns about the claim that the
Iraqis could deploy WMD within 45 minutes of an order being given to use them.
('Beyond doubt: facts amid the fiction', Vikram Dodd, Richard Norton-Taylor and
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, August 16, 2003)

In his foreword to the "dodgy dossier", Tony Blair wrote:

"And the document discloses that his [Saddam's] military planning allows for
some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them." (Blair,
op., cit)

Blair also wrote that Iraq had "military plans for the use of chemical and
biological weapons, including against his own Shia population. Some weapons are
deployable within 45 minutes".


"Intelligence indicates the Iraqi military is able to deploy chemical or
biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so."

What was the source of this dramatic claim repeated three times by Blair
himself in his foreword?
A document released to the Hutton inquiry reveals that the claim was nothing
more than second hand hearsay. The document describes how the 45 minute claim
"'came from a reliable and established source, quoting a well-placed senior
officer' - described by intelligence sources as a senior Iraqi officer still in
Iraq." ('45-minute claim on Iraq was hearsay', Vikram Dodd, Nicholas Watt and
Richard Norton Taylor, The Guardian, August 16, 2003)

On June 4, Tony Blair told the House of Commons:

"It was alleged that the source for the 45 minute claim was an Iraqi defector
of dubious reliability. He was not an Iraqi defector and he was an established
and reliable source."

But in reality he was a source merely reporting what he claims he had heard
someone else say. The irony, of course, is that the government launched a
fierce attack on the BBC for broadcasting allegations that a government dossier
was "sexed up" based on a single, anonymous, uncorroborated source - David

On June 4, the BBC's Newsnight programme reported that what we now know was
second hand hearsay itself only referred to the length of time it might have
taken the Iraqis to fuel and fire a Scud missile, or to load and fire a
multiple rocket launcher - about 45 minutes. The original intelligence said
nothing about whether Iraq possessed the chemical or biological weapons to use
in weapons loaded in this period of time. In short, the government turned a
purely hypothetical danger based on second hand uncorroborated evidence into an
immediate and deadly threat to justify war.

All of this fits with much that we have heard and seen before, during and since
the war. The fact that the intelligence services deemed the Iraqi threat merely
theoretical, not actual, explains the complete failure to find any WMD in Iraq.
It tallies with claims of senior UNSCOM weapons inspectors that Iraq had been
90-95% "fundamentally disarmed" by December 1998. The government's desperation
for information accords with claims made by former cabinet minister, Robin
Cook, describing how "there was a selection of evidence to support a
conclusion... intelligence was not being used to inform and shape policy, but
to shape policy that was already settled", with contradictory evidence being
ignored. (Patrick Wintour, 'Blair's secret war pact', The Guardian, June 18,
2003) It also tallies with Former cabinet minister, Clare Short's claim that
Tony Blair is guilty of "honourable deception", that he knowingly deceived the
cabinet and country.

If we are able to face up to the obvious facts, then some very simple and very
ugly conclusions simply have to be drawn: the Bush administration decided, for
political not security reasons, to invade and occupy Iraq using a non-existent
threat as a pretext. Blair, for his own political reasons, decided to go along
with Bush. Both governments then set out to deceive their people using a
"serious and current" threat that did not exist in order to generate the
necessary support for war.

There never was an Iraqi threat. War was not necessary; a political solution
could have been reached. British troops did not need to die. American troops
did not need to die. Iraqi troops and civilians did not need to die.
Journalists did not need to die. Iraq did not need to be subjected to yet
another shattering military assault, to political turmoil, guerrilla warfare,
chaos and looting. Iraq did not need to be subjected to further bombardment by
cluster bombs and depleted uranium. If Tony Blair and George W. Bush are not
guilty of war crimes, who is?

Surreal Conclusions and Ultimate Ironies

All of this is now in the public domain. So what conclusions have the media
drawn in response?

Summarising last week's events, an Independent editorial notes: "it could be
said that we learned more in a week about the workings of this government than
in the previous six years of its existence. It has not emerged with unalloyed
credit." (Leader, 'A surprisingly bright light has been shone upon the workings
of government and the BBC', The Independent, August 16, 2003)

We might be forgiven for imagining that this is intended ironically, it is
surely an attempt at black humour ahead of a forthright demand for the
resignation of Blair and his close aides on the grounds that they are
responsible for mass death based on mass deception. Instead, the Independent's
editors continue:

"It is relatively simple to identify the principal loser: the Secretary of
State for Defence, Geoff Hoon. Of course Mr Hoon has yet to present his side of
the story. But it is difficult to see how he can reasonably justify his
decision to overrule the strong advice of his permanent secretary, Kevin
Tebbit, that Dr Kelly should not be made to appear before the Foreign Affairs
Select Committee as well as the Intelligence and Security Committee."

In other words, because the Hutton inquiry was set up to investigate the
circumstances surrounding the death of one man, the fact that the inquiry has
helped confirm that the government has killed and mutilated tens of thousands
of men, women and children in Iraq in an illegal war based on completely
fraudulent pretexts, is somehow not the prime issue of concern.

This is a perfect example of our media's fundamental insanity - and this is not
too strong a word to use - that is seen time and again. It is an institutional
insanity that is rooted in the fact that the media is part of the establishment
reporting on the establishment. Noam Chomsky explains:

"The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the
requirements of power and privilege does not exist." (Chomsky, Deterring
Democracy, Hill and Wang, New York, 1992, p.79)

In the Guardian, Vikram Dodd, Richard Norton-Taylor, Nicholas Watt and Matt
Wells review the political fortunes of the key players:

"Tony Blair
From the comfort of his Barbados beach, the prime minister will be unsettled to
hear that he was invoked in the first week of hearings when the inquiry was
told that he called for Dr Kelly to face extra questioning. The issue of
whether Mr Blair was involved in unmasking Dr Kelly - which would throw him
into dangerous political waters - will become clearer next week.

"Alastair Campbell
On a personal level Mr Campbell's reputation was damaged by his stream of
letters of complaint to the BBC, which suggest he has joined the green ink
brigade. But his central reason for taking on the BBC - that it was a "lie" to
claim that he personally inserted the 45-minute claim - has yet to be proven."
('Reputations saved or shattered? How the main players have fared', Vikram
Dodd, Richard Norton-Taylor, Nicholas Watt and Matt Wells, The Guardian, August
16, 2003)

Again, at a time when Blair and his cohorts have been shown to have
manufactured an actual threat out of a potential threat in order to take us to
war, the major concern is that Blair may be shown to have been involved in
unmasking Kelly. This compromised the welfare of one man - the fact that
Blair's actions helped plunge millions of Iraqis into chaos, suffering, injury
and death is somehow of secondary importance.

The Observer's editors write merely:

"The Hutton inquiry has offered a riveting insight into the internal workings
of two major British institutions - the BBC and Ministry of Defence. Neither
has emerged with credit, revelations of their behind-the-scenes machinations
sitting uneasily with their earlier public protestations of integrity.

"Yet both institutions have at least had the courage to come clean before the
demands of the Hutton inquiry and provide any internal communications that
might illuminate the circumstances of the death of David Kelly... ('A long
overdue searchlight, Hutton can ensure the truth will out', Leader, The
Observer, August 17, 2003)

The Independent on Sunday writes:

"The death of a senior weapons expert and the conspicuous absence of WMD in
Iraq have resulted in a lamentable loss of credibility for Tony Blair. The
Prime Minister must face the Hutton inquiry and answer its questions with the
openness and transparency on which he so prides himself. Only then will he
regain the trust of the British people that he has so recklessly squandered."
('The case is damning. It must be answered', Leader, The Independent, August
17, 2003)

When foreign enemies illegally invade sovereign nations, killing and wounding
thousands for cynical reasons, diplomacy and debate are not on the agenda. Talk
of openness and transparency, of trust earned and squandered, is dismissed out
of hand as the troops are mobilised and the bombers made ready. The media talk
is of war crimes tribunals, of 'resolve' and 'determination' in the face of
'dire threats to international law'. On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, the
Independent's editors wrote:

"[I]t is not just the future of a small state, Kuwait, that is at stake, or the
power of one of the world's most ruthless dictators, but the basis of the
future world order." ('Failure to stop dictators bears a higher price than
war', Leader, The Independent, January 16, 1991)

When the crimes are by our own people, a little transparency and openness is
all that is required.

On the same day in January 1991, the Financial Times wrote:

"Britain's willingness to wage war in the Gulf is based not only on
calculations of national interest" but on the understanding that it is
"necessary to protect civilised values." After all, "the British know in their
bones that aggressors must not be appeased". ('The British contribution',
Financial Times, January 16, 1991)

Today, cabinet whistleblowers, intelligence service whistleblowers, UN
whistleblowers, expert and credible testimony, unavoidable facts and
irrefutable arguments - all point to the commission of vast war crimes and the
ruthless subversion of democracy threatening "civilised values" by our very own
leaders. And the media's response to these facts, and to the understanding, in
our bones, that "aggressors must not be appeased"?

"Neither do I, too!"

In 1999, the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland reflected on the failure of the
Serbian people to bring their war criminals to account. Today, the irony of
what he wrote is as perfect as it is painful:

"Future historians will spend long hours and write fat books working out this
phenomenon. Why have the Serbs not risen in outrage at the unspeakable horrors
committed in their name?... the likeliest explanation is that the Serbs know -
and refuse to know. That, like so many oppressor nations before them, they are
in a state of collective denial." (Jonathan Freedland, 'A long war requires
patience, not a search for the door marked "Exit"', The Guardian, April 14,


The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for
others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain
a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian:

Email: [log in to unmask]

Write to Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent:

Email: [log in to unmask]

Write to Tristan Davies, editor of The Independent on Sunday:

Email: [log in to unmask]

Write to Richard Sambrook, director of BBC news:

Email: [log in to unmask]

Write to ITN's head of news gathering, Jonathan Munro:

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