In following President Bush in his usual poodle-like fashion, the war criminal Tony Blair has approved the launch of an inquiry into Iraq’s mysterious absence of weapons of mass destruction. And in so doing, he has appointed another notorious proponent of deceit, Lord Butler, to head up his planned “limited hangout”.
Following in a long procession of cronies awarded peerages by the British Labour government, the Lord, in a previous incarnation as Sir Robin Butler, will always be remembered as the dutiful senior civil servant who proclaimed that governments have a right to lie where it is “convenient” to do so and that government ministers are not responsible for decisions made by their aides.
Oddly enough, he candidly made these admissions in the course of another Iraq-related controversy.
In November 1992, the trial of the directors of Matrix Churchill, a company thought to have breached a military export ban on the supply of “dual purpose” technologies to Iraq, collapsed in a spectacular fashion following revelations that the British government had played a duplicitous role in the affair and was prepared to see innocent men go to prison rather than admit its illegal practices. The “Inquiry into Exports of Defence Equipment and Dual Use Goods to Iraq” was established and presided over by an icon of the establishment Lord ‘Justice’ Scott.
The Scott inquiry (which ended, predictably, as a whitewash) heard that the Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, had eyed Saddam’s regime as one providing “major opportunities for British industry” yet feared public reaction should his plans for the increased export of armaments be uncovered. “It could look very cynical if so soon after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales,” a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confessed to the Scott inquiry.
When questioned by Lord Scott about the culpability of government ministers in the outlawed dealings of their respective departments, Butler, in his capacity as Cabinet Secretary, replied: “Ministers should not have to resign for civil servants’ mistakes of which they were unaware”. Furthermore, he denied that ministerial accountability had anything to do with taking responsibility for mistakes or even outright lies. More shocking still, the man Blair has chosen to examine the government’s handling of intelligence information in regard to Iraq, actually thinks that lying and excessive secrecy is “good government”:
Lord Justice Scott: “In your experience of government . . . do you think there is anything in the proposition that the convenience of secrecy emphasis about what the Government is doing, because it allows government to proceed more smoothly without the focus of attack that might otherwise be levelled, does in practice inhibit the giving of information about what [the] government is doing?”
Sir Robin [now Lord] Butler: “You can call that a matter of convenience, if you like. I would call it a matter of being in the interests of good government”.
Lies ‘R’ us, straight from the elegantly groomed horse’s mouth.
Yet having a highly polished liar at the helm of this inquiry is not enough for Blair. As Cabinet Secretary throughout successive Conservative and Labour administrations, no other civil servant has enjoyed such intimate relations with the British intelligence services as Lord Butler. Even after the Cold War, Butler maintained a keen interest in the activities of MI5 and MI6, chairing numerous Joint Intelligence Committee meetings to discuss secret police sting operations and the surveillance and arrest of British dissidents. Anyone doubting this man’s network of elite “Old School Tie” connections in the realm of espionage would do well to read the Mitrokhin Inquiry Report as a primer (see References below). Expect a “balanced” report favourable to both the government and the intelligence services.
The Liberal Democrats at least have seen through Blair’s latest slippery ruse and are having no part in it. On the day the inquiry was announced, their spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, complained that Butler’s remit did not include the wherewithal to examine Blair’s outrageous lies and manipulation of already-tainted “evidence”, although not in so many words.
“It is a matter of profound regret that we feel unable to endorse the remit announced by the Foreign Secretary,” said Campbell. “Our objections relate to the remit the Foreign Secretary has announced. It’s a remit that’s confined to intelligence and weapons of mass destruction. It deals neither with the workings of Government nor with the political decision making based on intelligence.”
What Menzies Campbell means, but dare not say, is that Blair has briefed Butler to produce only a generalised “limited hangout” that will appear more credible than Lord Hutton’s over-zealous parody of justice. It must synchronize with its American counterpart so that neither Bush nor Blair are distracted in their “good cop, bad cop” roles as they fix Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia in their gun-sights; and it must reinforce the scare-mongering hysteria that allows Home Secretary David Blunkett to deliver on his broad definition of dissidents as “terrorists” and make good his dream of secret tribunals that will convict innocent people on a “balance of probabilities”.
My fellow Britons, the bastards have won. And if you seek the truth in this Realm of Lies, be warned. For though the truth will set you free, it will also mark you as a potential terrorist, someone who, according to Blunkett, seeks to “disrupt the business of government”.
Short of an insurrection in defence of our God-given rights to life and liberty, we shall remain nothing more than bothersome and expendable slaves in a nation forever and tragically beholden to the new Lords of Deception.
Am I not right, Mr Butler?
Michael James is a British freelance journalist and translator, resident in Germany for almost 12 years.
Practising to Deceive: Whitehall, Arms Exports and the Scott Inquiry – Anthony Barker
Truth is a Difficult Concept: Inside the Scott Inquiry – by Richard Norton-Taylor
Select Committee on Public Administration: Memorandum 34
Submitted by Gregory Palast and Stuart Weir on behalf of the Democratic Audit, University of Essex
The Mitrokhin Inquiry Report
My experiences, the Scott Inquiry, the British Legal System – by Gerald Reaveley James
The Inquiry into Exports of Defence Equipment and Dual Use Goods to Iraq