In July 2002, the head of MI-6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet on U.S. plans to attack Iraq.
Sir Richard Dearlove (“M” to James Bond fans) reported that U.S. President George Bush had decided to invade oil-rich Iraq in March 2003, in a war “to be justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”
Translation: The U.S. and British governments would concoct charges against Iraq to justify war.
After Britain’s attorney general warned that unprovoked invasion of Iraq would violate international law, Dearlove opined with oily cynicism, “If the political context were right, people would support regime change.” Translation: Use propaganda and scare tactics to whip up war fever.
British and U.S. intelligence agencies were ordered to produce “evidence” to justify a war. In the U.S., faked “evidence” and grotesque lies were fed to the frightened public by pro-war neo-conservatives and frenzied national media. The U.S. Congress clapped for war like trained seals.
In October 2002, Bush actually claimed in a national speech that Iraqi “drone” aircraft were poised to shower germs and poison gas on America. Vice-President Dick Cheney insisted this absurd allegation was the “smoking gun” that justified invading Iraq. Blair ordered his cabinet to support the invasion.
Bush, in his subsequent State of the Union speech, warned that Iraq was importing uranium from Niger to build nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S. This ludicrous claim was based on a forged document. The forgery was back-channelled to the Pentagon through neo-fascists in Italian military intelligence.
And so it went. Lie after lie. Scare upon scare. Fakery after fakery, trumpeted by the tame media that came to resemble the lickspittle press of the old Soviet Union. Ironically, in the end, horrid Saddam Hussein turned out to be telling the truth all along, while Bush and Blair were not.
MI-6’s smoking-gun memo, revealed for the first time last month in London by the Sunday Times, would have forced any of Europe’s democratic governments to resign in disgrace. But not Bush and Blair. Far from it. Though hounded over his Iraq lies by Britain’s media, Blair squeaked through a tight election thanks only to the pathetically inept opposition Conservatives, who also backed the Iraq war.
By contrast, U.S. mass media amply confirmed charges of bias and politicization levelled against them by first ignoring the MI-6 memo story, then grudgingly devoting a few low-key stories to the dramatic revelation. Front pages, meanwhile, featured outing of the Nixon era’s “Deep Throat,” who, it turned out, was part of a cabal of Nixon-haters rather than a selfless patriot.
In retrospect, former president Richard Nixon’s misdeeds appear trivial compared to Bush’s illegal, unnecessary and catastrophic war against Iraq, which has so far killed some 100,000 Iraqis and Americans, cost $275 billion US, and made America’s name mud around the globe.
But as Nazi bigwig Herman Goering observed correctly, a government can get away with anything provided it scares its citizens enough.
France and Germany both knew from their own intelligence services that the Anglo-U.S. accusations against Iraq were nonsense and Saddam was no threat to anyone save his own miserable people.
That is why they refused to join the war in spite of U.S. threats and tempting offers of oil concessions in postwar Iraq. Britain readily accepted.
The U.S. ordered its intelligence services to shut their eyes, toe the White House party line and accept as genuine patently false reports about the Mideast from known disinformers and self-serving sources that wanted to see Iraq destroyed.
But don’t just blame Bush and Blair. VP Cheney, CIA boss George Tenet (aka “Dr. Yes”), Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials who promoted falsehoods over Iraq and war fever were just as guilty of deceiving and misleading the American people and Congress.
Kudos go to Blair’s former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, who refused to be party to the lies and resigned. No senior U.S. official had the guts or ethics to follow Cook’s admirable example.