Socialist Worker

Seven days of unravelling lies

by KEVIN OVENDEN looks at how the last week has increased the pressure on Blair
Issue No. 1888

TONY BLAIR'S die-hard supporters have given up trying to trumpet the Hutton whitewash's discredited conclusions. They think they can convince us that we have all become thoroughly bored with the stream of revelations about the lies that took us to war. We're meant to be obsessed with the minutiae of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!

But all the evidence, from reports by Socialist Worker readers to viewing figures and opinion polls, shows another story. An unprecedented number of people remain stubbornly tuned in to the biggest issue to rip apart the British establishment for decades.

That said, the detail can become daunting as you struggle to find the time to wade through the broadsheet papers where much of it is presented. It's worth recalling what happened last week. Last Wednesday Blair told MPs that on the eve of the Commons debate over war on 18 March last year he did not know that the '45 minutes' claim in the government's dossier referred only to 'battlefield weapons'. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon, however, did know.

He ludicrously maintained he had no idea the media had interpreted the claim as meaning Iraq could fire long-range missiles packed with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons at targets hundreds of miles away.

The dossier, challenged by Dr David Kelly and other government experts, was crafted to give just that impression. It mentions long-range missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and 45 minutes all in consecutive sentences.

The 45 minutes claim, inserted at the last minute on the word of a single Iraqi exile, was, in the words of a CIA analyst, 'a crock of shit'. Former cabinet minister Robin Cook pointed to another lie last week. He says that Blair tried to persuade him the Middle East and the whole world were under threat from Iraq's supposed long-range weapons carrying dirty warheads.

There is, apparently, no difference between a hand-held weapon that can be used in a skirmish and one that can be fired from Iraq over hundreds of miles to hit Cyprus. New Labour weasel Major Eric Joyce MP toured the TV studios to square the circle.

He claimed we shouldn't get too het up because Blair did not rely on the 45 minutes claim when MPs voted for war in March last year. Backbench Labour MPs say Blair played up the '45 minutes' direct threat from Iraq to get them to back the war. Even on the narrow evidence of what was said in parliament last week one thing is beyond dispute.

Either Blair did know that 45 minutes referred to battlefield weapons (in which case he lied again last week) or he didn't know (yet his underlings did). Meanwhile, George Tenet, the director of the CIA, said last week his agency had never claimed Iraq was a 'direct threat'.

A top British government weapons scientist, Brian Jones, ripped apart the government's weapons claims in the Independent newspaper. What is the breathtaking excuse from the Bush/Blair camp? Well shucks, the whole world seems to have got it wrong over Iraq's weapons. The majority of the world's population, who opposed the war, didn't get it wrong at all.

Nor did the United Nations (UN) weapons inspectors, who were thoroughly infiltrated by CIA and MI6 spies.

Mohamed El Baradei, head of the UN nuclear agency, told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 there was 'no evidence of resumed nuclear activities'. The chief of the weapons inspectorate, Hans Blix, said his team had found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons either. He now says Bush and Blair behaved like dodgy market traders in 'dramatising' the case for war.

As Labour left winger Aneurin Bevan said in 1956 when the invasion of the Suez Canal brought down Tory prime minister Anthony Eden: 'If the prime minister is sincere in what he is saying-and he could be-then he is too stupid to be the prime minister.' But Blair has taken steps to ensure the next likely occupant of Bevan's Gwent constituency seat will not prove troublesome. New Labour has shoehorned Maggie Jones, a tame Unison union official, in as its parliamentary candidate.

She put pressure on doubters at Labour's ruling national executive committee to ensure it expelled the RMT rail workers' union last week. You don't need to follow every twist and turn to know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But as the lies unravel more it increases the pressure on Blair and his cronies. Exposing each subsequent lie can help to ensure the anti-war movement grows and holds Blair to account for his, and Bush's, war on Iraq.


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Sat 14 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1888
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