TONY BLAIR has been forced to admit that his official spokesman tried to discredit dead weapons expert David Kelly as a ‘Walter Mitty’ fantasist. That revelation came on the eve of Kelly’s funeral. The timing showed just how callous this government is, but also how it is desperately losing control. There are now bitter recriminations between three of the central institutions that promote capitalist stability in Britain-the government, the BBC, and the secret services.
MI6 and top civil servants went along with the war. But it is now clear they did not believe Blair’s propaganda about weapons of mass destruction and are deeply embarrassed by the succession of ‘dodgy dossiers’. The BBC relied more than any other channel on official government sources during the invasion of Iraq. One academic study found 80 percent of its coverage backed the war. But to have any credibility at all, the BBC had at least partially to reflect the unprecedented anti-war movement.
It has posed difficult questions for the government-such as over the lie that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.
OF COURSE, the odd bit of criticism is nowhere near enough and hardly a sign of independence when over half the population was against the war. But it was too much for Blair and Alastair Campbell. They wanted the kind of unremitting pro-war propaganda pumped out by their friend Rupert Murdoch in the Sun and Fox News.
So they set about bullying the BBC and its journalist Andrew Gilligan. It was supposed to be a masterstroke, diverting attention from the big lies spun to launch the war. But it ended up driving Dr David Kelly to death. Just as with the Watergate scandal in the US 30 years ago, the lies are not going to go away-even though the inquiry is in the hands of a trusted establishment figure. There are two reasons.
First, the occupation of Iraq is turning into a quagmire. US troops are being drawn into the kind of daily confrontation with a hostile population they have not faced on a serious scale since Vietnam. Few people now want to take credit for the mess that is unfolding. Second, millions of people in Britain feel, correctly, that they have been proved right in opposing the war from the beginning. Millions more who went along with it once it had started are having second thoughts.
THE ANTI-WAR movement didn’t manage to stop the attack on Iraq. But it has forced open the cracks that are now destabilising the government and making it very hard for Blair or any successor to follow George Bush into another conflict.
The Stop the War Coalition has called two events to again galvanise the movement which is at the root of the government’s problems. A recalled People’s Assembly in three weeks time will act, among other things, as a public tribunal to hold Blair to account in a way which we feel that the official inquiry will not.
Delegations from Stop the War groups, trade unions and elsewhere will also have the opportunity to plan how best to maximise the pressure on Blair. The national demonstration on 27 September is already gathering the level of support of previous enormous anti-war mobilisations.
A massive turnout will turn the screws on Blair. We should keep our eyes on that as the ghosts from the Iraq war continue to haunt this rancid government.