FW: Blair's Betrayal - Part 2
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Tue Feb 11 09:26:56 MST 2003
From: MediaLens Media Alerts [mailto:editor at medialens.org]
Sent: 11 February 2003 12:42
Subject: Blair's Betrayal - Part 2
MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media
February 11, 2003
MEDIA ALERT: BLAIR'S BETRAYAL - PART 2
The Newsnight Debate - Dismantling The Case For War
In Part 1 we showed how Tony Blair profoundly misled the British public on
the 'threat' posed by Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD)
during a recent BBC2 Newsnight interview and debate.
Blair claimed that Unscom inspectors (1991-98) were thrown out of Iraq -
they were withdrawn.
Blair claimed that inspectors left in December 1998 because they couldn't do
their work - Unscom achieved 90-95% success in eliminating WMD, leaving Iraq
"fundamentally disarmed" by December 1998. Iraq's reward for cooperating was
Operation Desert Fox - three days of air bombardment using intelligence
gained during inspections - and continued sanctions.
Blair claimed that inspections failed because inspectors could not do their
work - inspections were deliberately undermined by US machinations seeking
conflict. (For the reasons see our Media Alert: 'Iraq and Arms Inspectors -
The Big Lie, Part 1', October 28, 2002, www.medialens.org)
Blair claimed that Iraq's alleged anthrax, botulinum and VX nerve agent
represent a serious threat to the UK - if existent at all, they are by now
harmless sludge. Iraq has no remaining nuclear capability whatever. (For an
overview see Glen Rangwala
The Art Of Making Things Up
Blair went on to claim that he and Bush have been merely responding to
warnings from the intelligence services:
"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."
It was unfortunate for Blair that he ridiculed the idea that someone "might
be making the whole thing up" - revelations the day after the interview
showed that Downing Street, not the intelligence services, had been doing
On February 7, Downing Street apologised for its failure to acknowledge that
much of its latest dossier - 'Iraq: its infrastructure of concealment,
deception and intimidation' - had been lifted word for word (including
punctuation and spelling errors) by Blair's spin doctors from an article
written by an American PhD student ten years ago. The only changes involved
the doctoring of passages to make them seem more ominous: for example, the
assertion that Iraq has been "aiding opposition groups" was changed to
"supporting terrorist organisations". This was the same dossier hailed as "a
fine document" on worldwide TV by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell,
when he addressed the UN Security Council on February 5.
Professor Michael Clark, director of the International Policy Institute at
King's College London, said that such "intelligence" material "invalidates
the veracity" of the rest of the document. Glenda Jackson, the former Labour
minister, pointed out that the government was misleading parliament and the
"And of course to mislead is a parliamentary euphemism for lying," she said.
('Downing St admits blunder on Iraq dossier', Michael White, Ewen MacAskill
and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, February 8, 2003)
Blair went on:
"But although they're allowing the inspectors access to sites they're not
actually fully cooperating with inspectors, for example, they're not
allowing the experts that worked on these programmes to be interviewed
properly by the inspectors, and what Colin Powell was talking about at the
UN yesterday was the systematic attempt to try and conceal this, to disperse
it into the country so that it couldn't be found by the inspectors."
In fact Hans Blix has said there is no evidence of Iraq trying to foil
inspectors by moving equipment before his teams arrived, or of mobile
biological weapons laboratories. Blix said he had inspected two alleged
mobile labs - they turned out to be food-testing trucks:
"Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing has been found."
('US claim dismissed by Blix', Dan Plesch, The Guardian, February 5, 2003)
The Oil Thing
A member of the audience suggested that the war was motivated by oil. Blair
dismissed this out of hand:
"No, let me just deal with the oil thing because this is one of the - we may
be right or we may be wrong - I mean people have their different views about
why we're doing this thing. But the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of
the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq
has were our concern I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam
tomorrow in relation to the oil."
It would be interesting to see Bush and Blair trying to cut a deal with
Saddam Hussein, having demonised him endlessly, and having backed a decade
of sanctions costing a million lives - sanctions which would thereby be
shown to have been completely pointless. Former UN Assistant
Secretary-General, Denis Halliday, discussed in 2000 how all the permanent
members of the security council would have supported the lifting of
non-military sanctions against Iraq if the US and UK had agreed. But there
was a problem for Blair and Clinton:
"All the other members would back down if London and Washington would change
their position. I think that's quite clear. But unfortunately Blair and
Clinton have an almost personal investment in demonising Saddam Hussein.
That's very hard to get out of, they have my sympathy, but they created
their own problem. Once you've demonised somebody, it's awfully difficult to
turn around and say, 'Well, actually he's not such a bad guy'." (Interview
with David Edwards, May 2000, www.medialens.org)
Blair is one of the few people to deem talk of an oil motive for war an
absurd conspiracy theory. Fully 41 members of the Bush administration have
ties to the oil industry, and both the President and the Vice President are
former oil executives. National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice is a former
director of Chevron. President Bush took more than $1.8 million in campaign
contributions from the oil and gas industries in the 2000 election.
In 1997, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and other senior figures, mostly oil
industry executives, created the Project for the New American Century, a
lobby group demanding "regime change" in Iraq. In a 1998 letter to President
Clinton, they called for the removal of Saddam from power. In a letter to
Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House, they wrote that "we should
establish and maintain a strong US military presence in the region, and be
prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests [sic] in the
Gulf - and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power". (Robert Fisk,
'This Looming War Isn't About Chemical Warheads Or Human Rights: It's About
Oil', The Independent, January 18, 2003)
The signatories of one or both letters, Robert Fisk notes, included Donald
Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, now Rumsfeld's Pentagon deputy, John Bolton, now
under-secretary of state for arms control, and Richard Armitage, Colin
Powell's under-secretary at the State Department. They also included Richard
Perle, now chairman of the defence science board, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the
former Unocal Corporation oil industry consultant who became US special
envoy to Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal reported on January 16th that officials from the
White House, State Department and Department of Defence had been meeting
informally with executives from Halliburton, Shlumberger, ExxonMobil,
ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips to plan the post-war oil bonanza. Ralph
"The Bush people and the oil moguls do agree with one another in part
because they are one another." (Nader, 'Oil War?', ZNet, February 4, 2003)
In an article in the London Review of Books, Anatol Lieven, a Senior
Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes:
"For the group around Cheney, the single most important consideration is
guaranteed and unrestricted access to cheap oil, controlled as far as
possible at its source. To destroy and occupy the existing Iraqi state and
dominate the region militarily would remove even the present limited threat
from Opec, greatly reduce the chance of a new oil shock, and eliminate the
need to woo and invest in Russia as an alternative source of energy..."
('The Push for War', Anatol Lieven, London Review of Books, October 2002)
Nelson Mandela said recently:
"All Bush wants is Iraqi oil, because Iraq produces 64 percent of oil and he
wants to get hold of it.
"Bush is acting outside the United Nations and both he and Tony Blair are
undermining the United Nations, an organisation which was an idea sponsored
by their predecessors... Why does the United States behave so arrogantly?...
Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction but because it's
their ally they won't ask the UN to get rid of it. They just want the
(Iraqi) oil... We must expose this as much as possible." ('All Bush Wants is
Iraqi Oil, Says Mandela,' the Independent, January 30, 2003)
Blair's attempt to dismiss, out of hand, oil as a motive for war is, again,
a deception. Paxman said not one word to challenge him.
Terrorist Threats And How To Exacerbate Them
Blair moved on to passionately insist that he was simply trying to face up
to his responsibilities as prime minister - he had to defend Britain against
"The thing to be most worried about is the link between terrorism and
weapons of mass destruction."
Blair later declared:
"I keep having this mental picture in my mind of August 2001 and coming
along to people and saying there's this terrorist organisation in
Afghanistan, they are evil people who will try and mount major terrorist
attacks on our country, we've got to go into Afghanistan and deal with them.
I think people would have said to me, you know you must be crackers what on
earth are you on about."
Some people think Blair is "crackers" now - senior intelligence officers,
for example. The CIA informed Congress last October that they knew of no
link between Iraq and al-Qaeda-style terrorism, but believed that an attack
on Iraq would substantially +increase+ the likelihood of terrorist attacks
against the West. They argued that it would likely inspire a new generation
of terrorists bent on revenge, and could even provoke Iraq into carrying out
pre-prepared terrorist strikes.
A high-level task force of the Council on Foreign Relations recently
released a report warning of likely terrorist attacks that could be far
worse than September 11, including possible use of weapons of mass
destruction within the US, dangers that become "more urgent by the prospect
of the US going to war with Iraq". (Quoted, Noam Chomsky, 'Confronting The
Empire', ZNet, February 1, 2003)
Daniel Benjamin, who served on the National Security Council (NSC) from 1994
to 1999, wrote on September 30 2002, in the New York Times:
"Iraq and al-Qaeda are not obvious allies. In fact, they are natural
enemies." An investigation by the NSC "found no evidence of a noteworthy
relationship" between the two, Benjamin said. In fact, al-Qaeda militantly
opposes the secular Iraqi government and Hussein's Ba'ath Party. (Quoted,
Anthony Arnove, 'Fact and Myth', ZNet, October 24, 2002)
A recently leaked document from British intelligence, mentioned by Paxman,
said that any contacts between Saddam and al-Qaeda had "foundered" due to
conflicting ideologies. The BBC reported a "growing disquiet" in British and
US intelligence agencies over the "politicisation" of their work, which they
believe is being distorted to support a war. A CIA employee claimed that the
Pentagon was pressurising the CIA to "cook the books" in support of war.
(Today, BBC Radio 4, February 5, 2003)
In a letter to the Guardian, Lt Cdr Martin Packard (rtd), a former
intelligence adviser to Nato's Comedsoueast, writes:
"In the case of Iraq the urgency for military action appears to arise not
because of a gathering Iraqi threat but because of political and economic
considerations in America. Scepticism over US-UK spin on Iraq is validated
by the number of senior military officers and former intelligence analysts
who remain unconvinced that war at this stage is justified. Many of them
believe that the threat to UK interests and to regional stability will be
increased by a US-led attack on Iraq rather than diminished." (The Guardian,
Letters, February 8, 2003)
Blair is therefore not even supported in his assessment of what is 'best for
Britain' by the intelligence services, of whom he says:
"I mean this is what our intelligence services are telling us... and I've no
doubt what the American intelligence are telling President Bush as well."
Exactly contradicting Blair's argument on the best method of dealing with
terrorism, prominent US hawks warn that a war in Iraq might lead to the
"greatest proliferation disaster in history", arguing that if Iraq does have
chemical and biological weapons, the dictatorship at least keeps them under
According to Douglas Hurd, former Conservative Foreign Secretary, war on
Iraq runs "the risk of turning the Middle East into an inexhaustible
recruiting ground for anti-western terrorism". (Financial Times, January 3,
Saudi Arabia's former oil minister, Sheikh Yamani, said recently of the
proposed war on Iraq:
"What they are going to do if they embark on this is to produce +real+
terrorists. I think sometime in the future Osama bin Laden will look like an
angel compared to the future terrorists." (Newsnight, January 30, 2003)
Noam Chomsky comments on the extraordinary extent of the opposition to war
within the US establishment:
"It is... rather striking that strong opposition to the coming war extends
right through the establishment. The current issues of the two major foreign
policy journals feature articles opposing the war by leading figures of
foreign policy elites. The very respectable American Academy of Arts and
Sciences released a long monograph on the war, trying to give the most
sympathetic possible account of the Bush administration position, then
dismantling it point by point." (Ibid)
The Bush/Blair strategy, Chomsky notes, "has caused shudders not only among
the usual victims, and in 'old Europe,' right at the heart of the US foreign
policy elite, who recognise that 'commitment of the US to active military
confrontation for decisive national advantage will leave the world more
dangerous and the US less secure'." There are, Chomsky points out, no
precedents whatever for this kind of establishment opposition.
Anatol Lieven writes that the Bush administration is pursuing "the classic
modern strategy of an endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert
mass discontent into nationalism," inspired by fear of lethal threats.
Lieven warns, ominously, that America "has become a menace to itself and to
Blair repeatedly cited the many arrests made in Europe as evidence of the
immediacy of the terrorist threat and the need for urgent action against
"There are arrests being made, there have been something like 3,000 arrests
made in 90 different countries over the past few months. If you hide away
from this issue you're not going to stop being a threat."
Mike Berry of the University of Glasgow Media Group has pointed out that in
the aftermath of many of these high-profile arrests, the suspects are
usually released without any charges being brought, as was the case with the
UK Bournemouth arrests. But by then the operations have already served their
propaganda purpose by generating widespread fear in support of war.
Most recently, the arrest of 28 Pakistani men said to have been plotting
terrorist attacks in Naples, and declared a breakthrough against al-Qaeda,
has resulted in the Pakistani government formally complaining to the Italian
ambassador in Islamabad that the men, "did not have any terrorist links".
When police raided the flat in a rundown part of Naples, they found the 28
men sleeping amid piles of clothes and old mattresses. Sources close to the
investigation say the evidence of a link between alleged terrorist materials
seized and the 28 men was scanty. Pakistan's ambassador in Rome, Zafar
Hilali, said Pakistanis had been randomly arrested in Italy in recent months
with no grounds for suspicion.
Few Know What You Are - A Note On Blair
Blair is an accomplished and persuasive politician. As we saw above, when
dismissing the issue of oil as a motive for war, Blair said, "we may be
right or we may be wrong - I mean people have their different views about
why we're doing this thing...".
This willingness to admit fallibility, and to step outside of an argument to
acknowledge conflicting perspectives - "people have their different views
about why we're doing this thing" - is powerfully suggestive of sincerity
and honesty. When discussing the difficulty of persuading the British public
of the need for war, Blair said:
"I understand it is not an easy task because I think the very first point
that Jeremy was making to me is the point that is most difficult for people,
what is, you know, why now are we suddenly doing this? And my answer to that
"Now hang on a minute. I just want to finish this thing. Because this is the
reason I'm doing what I'm doing, even though I know that it is difficult and
unpopular in certain quarters."
By repeatedly acknowledging and empathising with public scepticism in this
way, but then passionately asserting his own view, Blair gives the
impression that he has carefully considered the arguments from all angles
before coming to a reasoned conclusion. This is exactly the kind of language
we associate with honesty and sincerity. In its reviews of the Newsnight
interview, much of the media did declare Blair impassioned and sincere.
But there is a problem. How can we reconcile Blair's apparent sincerity with
the reality that his arguments are often completely fraudulent, relying not
just on major distortions and omissions of key facts, but on complete
reversal of the truth? It is not possible to believe, for example, that
someone in Blair's position is simply unaware of the basic facts of why
Unscom inspectors left Iraq in 1998.
Instead, we believe that Blair consciously sets out to deceive the public
while obscuring his deceptiveness behind an appearance of sincerity. If this
sounds like wild speculation, recall that it has in fact been standard
political practice since the time of Machiavelli:
"A Prince should therefore be very careful that nothing ever escapes his
lips which is not replete with the five qualities... so that to see and hear
him, one would think him the embodiment of mercy, good faith, integrity,
humanity, and religion. And there is no virtue which it is more necessary
for him to seem to possess than this last; because men in general judge
rather by the eye than by the hand, for every one can see but few can touch.
Every one sees what you seem, but few know what you are... For the vulgar
are always taken by appearances and by results, and the world is made up of
the vulgar, the few only finding room when the many have no longer ground to
stand on." (Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513, Dover publications, 1992, p.47)
All of the facts in this two-part Media Alert were readily accessible to
us - part-time, unpaid writers - and yet almost none of them were raised by
Jeremy Paxman - a full-time, professional journalist backed up by a large
BBC research team - nor in the press in the days following the interview.
These omissions are obviously not the result of incompetence - it takes no
competence at all to seek out well-known, credible sources, even via the
web. Lack of resources is also clearly not a limiting factor. Nor can lack
of significance explain these oversights - what could be more vital than to
establish the basic facts challenging a prime minister's fraudulent case for
Instead, these omissions, we believe, are the result of a long-standing,
institutionalised media aversion to seriously challenging establishment
power of even the most ruthless and cynical kind. The reason is not complex:
the liberal media so often trusted by the public - the Guardian/Observer,
the Independent, the BBC, ITN - are all very much part of, and deeply
dependent on, that same system of power.
We have a stark choice: we can continue to be deceived by the illusion of a
free press, in which case many thousands of people will continue to be
killed in our names but in the cause of profit and power. Alternatively, we
can expose and challenge the 'liberal' propagandists stifling democracy.
Journalists, even admired radical ones, may choose to maintain their silence
to protect their hard-won reputations and lucrative careers - it's up to the
rest of us simply to tell the truth.
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 Newsnight:
Email: newsnight at bbc.co.uk
Write to Jeremy Paxman
Email: jeremy.paxman at bbc.co.uk
Write to Richard Sambrook, director of BBC news:
Email: richard.sambrook at bbc.co.uk
Why, in the recent Newsnight interview with Tony Blair (February 6, 2003),
did the BBC fail to present even the most basic counter-arguments to Blair's
case for war? Why did you not mention that Iraq had been "fundamentally
disarmed" by 1998, according to chief UN arms inspector Scott Ritter? Why
did you not mention that Iraq's nuclear capability had been 100% destroyed?
Why did you not raise the fact that limited shelf-lives mean that any
residual Iraqi chemical and biological weapons must by now be harmless
sludge? Why did you not refer to the many credible and authoritative voices
arguing that war on Iraq is about oil and will have the effect of
exacerbating the terrorist threat against the West?
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