Spinning out of control By William Bowles

26 June 2003

Wonderful! Alistair Campbell accuses the BBC of ‘lying’ because, he asserts, the BBC accused the government of lying over the ’45 minute’ scenario. Is this a desert storm in a teacup? Whilst the two monopolies go at each other, the essential issues simply don’t enter into the discussion at all, from either side. Whilst they squabble over whether or not one of the other lied, the real issue, why we went to war, disappears from sight.

In his testimony to the Commons Select committee yesterday (25/06/03) Campbell launched into a blistering attack on the Beeb demanding an ‘apology’ for the ‘lies’ and asserting, just as his masters had before him, that they told no untruths, no exaggerations but did admit to some ‘errors of judgement’ for which they apologised (like ripping off a 12-year-old student thesis, removing the author’s name and altering key words in it that gave it an entirely different spin?).

The role of the Iraqi National Congress
At the heart of the this so-called debate about veracity, is the report by the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan that a highly placed and totally reliable source in one of the intelligence services, told Gilligan that the 45 minute story had only one source (which it transpired, was the Iraqi National Congress (INC), source of most of the disinformation used by the US and and the UK to justify invasion) and as such, the intelligence services were unhappy about the use of the 45 minute story but that it had been used anyway by, it transpires, Campbell and his spinning crew. Had it emerged then that in fact, most of the ‘evidence’ for the existence of WMDs originated with the INC, it would have been discredited and dismissed immediately. So for example, the Niger yellow cake fake, was originally credited as being supplied by Italian security services, thus deflecting the curious away from the INC. This is a well known tactic of using a closed loop of ‘sources’, each using the other to ‘authenticate’ the ‘source’.

Eating your (yellow) cake and keeping it?
Campbell made no reference to the Niger yellow cake fake, a convenient omission, because unlike the 45 minute fiction, it can be shown quite clearly to have been a complete fabrication. There are however, some much deeper questions that have to be asked about the Niger and 45 minute plants. The first UK dossier that the Niger and 45 minute stories appeared in was published in September 2002. The earliest public reference I can find to its being a fake was March 7 2003 in an IAEA report to the UN Security Council. That’s a gap of about seven months. Now what’s interesting about this is that the IAEA said that:

‘The letters, it was revealed, were hoaxes — crude forgeries discredited by nuclear weapons experts and disowned by the Central Intelligence Agency. Speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, a senior official from the U.N. nuclear agency who saw the documents offered as evidence that Iraq tried to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger, described one as so badly forged his ‘jaw dropped.’ – http://truthout.org/docs_03/032803G.shtml

Moreover, it had taken the IAEA ‘months’ to get hold of these documents as they first started circulating in the USas early as 2000 (one of the fake letters is dated October 2000). Bush used them in his State of the Union address and according to Congressman Jim Waxman, they formed an important plank in his support for the war:

‘Waxman, who says he signed on to Bush’s war initiative in part because he was concerned about Iraq’s nuclear aims, wonders how the forgeries could have been used as evidence of Iraqi malfeasance for so many months after they were officially debunked. At the very least, he writes, the recent revelations have created a perception that facts were withheld to bolster the President’s case for war.’

‘It appears that at the same time that you, Secretary Rumsfeld, and State Department officials were citing Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium from Africa as a crucial part of the case against Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials regarded this very same evidence as unreliable,’ he writes in his letter to the president. ‘If true, this is deeply disturbing: it would mean that your Administration asked the U.N. Security Council, the Congress, and the American people to rely on information that your own experts knew was not credible.’ – http://truthout.org/docs_03/032803G.shtml

Now it appears that long before the IAEA exposed them as forgeries to the Security Council in March 2003, they were known to be forgeries to the CIA as early as 2001 but definitely well before the publication of the UK September dossier:

‘Further, the Agency asserted that it made its concerns known to administration officials in late 2001, shortly after telling the White House about the letters. For more than a year, Washington had used evidence repudiated by its own intelligence advisors to build a case for war.’ – http://truthout.org/docs_03/032803G.shtml

So when the Blair government used them in the September 2002 dossier, they used them knowing that they were forgeries. Why? Enter Operation Rockingham.

Operation Rockingham
The key issue here that contextualizes the 45 minute/Niger yellow cake fabrications, and which is entirely missing from both the media and government’s ‘analysis’ is the fact that the decision to invade Iraq was taken way before even 911 (September 2001) in fact as far back as 1991 with the creation of ‘Operation Rockingham’ whose sole mission was to:

”cherry-pick’ information which pointed towards Saddam having a WMD stockpile that he could use imminently. Right up until the outbreak of war, the staff of Operation Rockingham, which was set up by the defence intelligence staff within the Ministry of Defence, deliberately overlooked ‘mountains’ of reports and intelligence documents which pointed towards Saddam destroying his arsenal and instead used ‘selective intelligence’ from just a tiny pool of data to create a false and misleading picture that the Iraqi ruler was a direct threat to the West.’ – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3703.htm

Proof of the existence of Operation Rockingham was revealed by Scott Ritter, former chief weapons inspector in Iraq and former US military intelligence officer. Says Ritter:

‘Operation Rockingham became part of an effort to maintain a public mindset that Iraq was not in compliance with the inspections. They had to sustain the allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, even though UNSCOM was showing the opposite…. Operation Rockingham cherry-picked intelligence. It received hard data but had a pre-ordained outcome in mind. It only put forward a small percentage of the facts when most were ambiguous or noted no WMD.

‘Britain and America were involved in a programme of joint exploitation of intelligence from Iraqi defectors. There were mountains of information coming from these defectors, and Rockingham staff were receiving it and then selectively culling reports that sustained the claims that weapons of mass destruction were in existence. They ignored the vast majority of the data which mitigated against such claims.’ – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3703.htm

What is critical about this, is that Operation Rockingham shared its information with the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and with the US’s Office of Special Plans (OSP), a unit set up by secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld inside the Pentagon. Again, according to Ritter:

‘The JICis, in my view, the mirror organisation of the OSP. They both did the same thing. The JIC was receiving information from all the intelligence agencies.’ – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3703.htm

But Blair told Parliament on June 4 2003, that the intelligence dossier published in September 2002 was:

‘…based, in large part, on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee’ [and that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Niger was] ‘judged by the (JIC) at the time to be correct.’ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3703.htm

So, Blair cannot claim as he stated in Parliament on June 4 2003 that the information on the Niger yellow cake was correct at the time of its inclusion in the dossier. It is also clear from a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document dated September 2002 that:

‘no reliable information…on whether Iraqis producing and stockpiling chemical weapons or whether Iraq has — or will — establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities.’ – http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3703.htm

Shifting the blame
Initially, the UK government tried to shift the blame onto the intelligence agencies for the false information, but it is clear from the evidence that far from the government relying on the intelligence agencies, the agencies had a mandate from government to supply them with information which would back up a pre-ordained objective; to invade Iraq regardless. When this failed, it then targeted the media, especially the BBC because it has a reputation for being ‘unbiased’ and unimpeachable and hence a reliable and embarrassing source of information.

And ever since the embarrassing revelations came into the public eye, the government has done everything in its power to deflect criticism away from its policies, either by denying that anything was wrong with its assertions or by simply evading the issues. Most damning of all, is its claim that nothing it has said ‘none has been disproved’ (Jack Straw, 24/06/03), when the mountain of evidence shows this statement to be an out and out lie.

The essential issue here has nothing to do with ‘exaggeration’ or what was said to who or when it was said, but the core issue that twelve years ago, a decision was made at the highest levels of both the US and UK governments, to invade Iraq and that the populations of both countries would take a lot of convincing to go along with the plan. Hence it was necessary to produce ‘ overwhelming proof’ of Saddam’s duplicity. Had it emerged and most importantly, been pursued by the mass media back in 2002, when there was still time to stall the build-up to war, events might have turned out very differently.

What is laughable about this pack of liars, is that any suggestion that members of government would lie, is met with outraged howls of ‘how dare you suggest such a thing!’ And these cries of outrage, come from not only from the ‘wolves’ but from other members of government, even those in opposition to the invasion, who simply find it impossible to consider the idea that our ‘leaders’ would lie to us in order to pursue a policy that was opposed by the vast majority of the population. The fantasy that somehow, British politicians are a cut above everybody else’s when it comes to telling the truth, is in itself an outrageous lie that has been peddled to the population ad nauseum. Indeed, it forms the basis of the very idea of ‘spin’.

And if indeed, they are not lying, then the statements made here and elsewhere, give the government every reason to haul me and many others into court and prove it.

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