A conspiracy of silence? By William Bowles

14 July 2003

I pointed out in ‘9/11: Connecting the dots’, the cynical manipulations of our political leaders regarding events and their causes, when subjected to analysis, reveal the underlying truths. But as important, is the complicity of the mass media in covering up the reality of events, especially in the light of the latest ‘revelations’ that expose the fraudulent nature of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq and its subsequent re-colonisation.

This morning, on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Jack Straw went through a tortuous process of trying to cover his tracks and if it hadn’t been for the fact that the interviewer, John Humphries, let him off the hook at every critical stage of the interview, he would have been revealed for what he is, a cynical and consummate liar. In unpacking the twin tracks of the politician and the media, much is revealed about the workings of our so-called democracy and how ‘facts’ are manipulated to present a version of reality that supports a pre-determined policy.

The ‘other’ Niger document

Unmovic, the UN weapons inspection team are on record as never having received the ‘other’ document on Iraq’s alleged attempt to buy 500 tonnes of yellowcake, yet Straw swore that the ‘proof’ had been sent to Unmovic but he had no idea what had happened to it.

Just think about it; the UK Foreign Office, headed by Jack Straw, about to make probably the most important decision of his miserable life, that of invading another country, can’t figure out what happened to important documents of state upon which decisions about whether or not to invade, depended. A statement that is beyond belief, yet Humphries didn’t push Straw on the issue, he let it slide. That is of course, unless the decision to invade had already been made, but even then, it’s simply not credible that state documents, transported via diplomatic pouch simply don’t arrive. They weren’t sent via the Post Office.

And how did Straw square the US statements on the faked Niger documents when the US had had them as far back as 2001? He tells us that he was not a position to share the ‘real’ documents with his US allies as they came from a foreign source. Given the paucity of ‘proof’ available to it (hence why use faked documents), is it credible to believe that proof of a ‘smoking gun’ would not have been shared given the vast amount of publicity made out of the original assertions? Again, Humphries didn’t push Straw on this either. Hardly an example of critical journalism at work.

Straw also claimed that he’d shared the ‘real proof’ with the Commons Liaison Committee on Foreign Affairs, yet the committee is on record as saying that “it hadn’t seen anything new”. And yet again, Humphries refused to go for the jugular and Straw is again let off the hook.

Straw went on to say that in the early 1980s, Iraq had bought “200 tonnes” of yellowcake from Niger. Yet even this assertion has to be viewed with extreme suspicion. All the yellowcake ore (which contains between 0.5 and 0.7% of the essential isotope uranium 235) extracted from deposits is exclusively handled by three companies, “two French and a consortium of French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese interests” (Independent letters 12/07/03). All enriching is done in France. In order for Iraq to purchase the yellowcake, it would have had to negotiate with France, not something that could be done in secret. To produce enough uranium 235 to make nuclear weapons would have required hundreds of tonnes of the stuff, and assuming a covert purchase (in itself, a very difficult thing to do), it would have had to have been smuggled overland to Iraq and processed there. Again, Straw’s assertion flies in the face of the facts. The IAEA has shown quite conclusively that Iraq did not possess the capability to purify yellowcake ore.

Yet even more cynical is the fact that the BBC, with much better resources to access information than I possess could not challenge Straw with the information either from Die Tageszeitung on the deleted sections of the information supplied to Unmovic on US supplies of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons systems to Iraq or of the information obtained by US Congressman Henry Gonzalez’s House Banking Committee on Kissinger Associates involvement in a $4 billion loan and the supply of nuclear weapons components to Iraq (Washington Post, December 30, 2002, see http://www.ips-dc.org/iraq/primer4.htm for the details). So the WMD materials Iraq received came either from the US or the UK. Why did Straw not tell Humphries that the US and the UK were the source of Iraq’s nuclear, biological and chemical capability, and failing that, why didn’t Humphries challenge him to do so?

Iraq’s ‘reconstituted’ nuclear programme

The proof? Straw claims that “bits of a centrifuge” were buried in someone’s backyard (12 years ago). I suppose it took 45 minutes to dig it up. And to back up his assertion, Straw says why would anybody bother to bury it if not to use it at some future point? But the real issue is not why it was buried, but does it constitute the basis for a “reconstituted nuclear weapons programme”? And this important because the IAEA stated quite unequivocally, that Iraq did not possess the cabability to produce nuclear weapons, nor did they find any evidence supporting the idea that they had the intention to do so.

The knowledge needed to make nuclear weapons is not a secret, anybody with high school physics could figure it out. But what you do need is a few billion dollars-worth of industrial/technical infrastructure, not something you knock together overnight. But the UK and the US have played this game throughout this entire period, relying on people’s ignorance of what it takes to make one nuclear weapon, let alone half a dozen or so and the means of delivery. Tossing out news bites might make headlines but it doesn’t make sense.

Again, Straw was not challenged by the BBC’s Humphries, nor did Humphries raise the issue of an entire storage facility of radioactive materials that had been sealed by Unmovic and which following the USUK invasion had been left unguarded and subsequently ransacked by the locals. The storage facility contained more than enough radioactive materials to make any number of ‘dirty bombs’ of the sort Straw and co claim there was a danger of Iraq making or supplying to ‘terrorists’. Straw’s argument, such as it is, has no foundation, yet was he challenged? Again, no.

Straw’s other sleight of hand is to assert that opponents of the invasion and of the fabricated evidence deny that Iraq had, at one time, a WMD capacity or that it had used chemical weapons. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The issue is not about whether or not Iraq had used or possessed, at some time in the past, WMDs, but whether it posed an immediate danger to the UK or to the region, or to anybody for that matter. Again, Straw asserted that the government had not used the word “immediate” in this context but the September 2002 document says the following:

“In mid-2001 the JIC assessed that Iraq retained some chemical warfare agents, precursors, production equipment and weapons from before the Gulf War. These stocks would enable Iraq to produce significant quantities of mustard gas within weeks and of nerve agent within months…. These chemical and biological capabilities represented the most immediate threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction…. In the last six months [that is, between May and September 2002] the JIC has confirmed its earlier judgements on Iraqi chemical and biological warfare capabilities and assessed that Iraq has the means to deliver chemical and biological weapons.”

None of this assertion has been shown to be true and, even if it possessed mustard gas or nerve agents left over from the war against Iran, it had no means of delivery, again something that Unmovic pointed out in its report. The tactic used by Straw and all the other apologists for Blair’s abject support of the Bush imperium, is to conflate and confuse. The job surely, of the supposed ‘objective journalist’ is separate fact from fiction, to clarify the muddy, to make sense out of nonsense.

Yet of late, in fact since the Campbell ‘showdown’, the BBC has toned down its ‘independence’ to the point where any attempt at pursuing the rationale behind the invasion has been dumped entirely. As the exposure of the government’s unsupportable position has become ever more obvious to everyone, the BBC has retreated from its previous ‘searching’ enquiries after the truth.

Most important of all, is the obvious fact that the BBC has simply not done its homework and one must ask the question why? Why, if the information is readily available simply through a search of the Internet for attributable sources that expose the web of lies behind the reasons for the invasion, the BBC has not done so? Why, when presented with the opportunity to do so, has the BBC blinked and allowed the government to continue to presenting its lies essentially unchallenged? Why is it left up to the so-called alternative media which lacking the ‘credibility’ of the established press, remains marginalised when it exposes the lies?

The Jessica Lynch story is a perfect example of this process in action. Over this past weekend, the BBC and Channel 4 carried headline ‘news’ that Lynch hadn’t been shot or indeed hadn’t even been freed from captivity by US forces. The entire affair had been stage-managed by the US. Yet the real issue is that this was not news, it was exposed as a PR job weeks ago, so why didn’t it figure in the headlines then? Why now? Well it’s no longer ‘news’ is it. It can be covered and conveniently forgotten now it no longer counts. A conspiracy of silence?

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