Remnants of Empire By William Bowles

18 July 2004

The media’s response to the Butler ‘report’ has been tediously predictable, with most of the press pundits seeming to emit a collective sigh of relief as if, more even than the government, they can’t wait to see the back of Iraq and get on with what they know best – hobnobbing with their pals in Parliament and propping up our ‘failed state’.

At least that was the initial reaction but the feeling of elation on the part of the corporate/state media didn’t last for long as it became apparent that attempts by the Committee chaired by Lord Butler to paper over the cracks had failed yet again. Is there no end to the desparate attempts on the part of the capitalist state to rescue a policy that lies in ruins?

That the fourth ‘investigation’ digs an even deeper hole for the remnants of empire is the most interesting aspect of the attempts by the imperium save its sorry arse. Although meant to be some kind of ‘closure’ on the justification for war, the Butler ‘report’ has just raised more questions than it was reluctantly, forced to answer. But then what else is new? The Butler ‘report’ is, if you have the patience and are able to pierce the double-speak, worth reading, but how many people are going to plough through 200-odd pages of verbiage that obscures at every turn, the real issues?

In part, the problem is the narrow remit of the ‘report’ that confined it to dealing merely with the intelligence aspect of USUK foreign policy, an impossible task, as it puts the cart before the horse. But then it was the Blair government that set the parameters in the first place, so what else could we have expected except yet another grand and semi-hysterical cock-up. It also set the corporate/state media an impossible task, for on the one hand it was forced to actually read the damn thing and even the intellectually challenged members of the corporate press could not avoid the obvious. But how to deal with it, without letting the proverbial cat out of the bag?

The Independent for example, had the headline “The Damning Evidence” (16/07/04) referring to the withdrawal of two crucial pieces of ‘evidence’ prior to the September dossier that purportedly backed up the government’s claim that Iraq was a “serious and current threat”. An ‘oversight’ that the government has yet to explain to anyone’s satisfaction.

Bring me the head of John Scarlett!
Yet one searched in vain through the Independent for where the “damning evidence” led to, aside that is, from a condemnation in the Independent’s editorial that demanded the head of John Scarlett, chief of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who for his sins, has gotten promoted to the boss of MI6. Screwing up big time almost always results in a promotion, the award of an Order of the British Empire [sic], or a seat in the House of Lords. But then that’s how the remnants of empire behave toward their decaying and decrepit elite.

Indeed, the same editorial goes on to say:

“No one is claiming this is a smoking gun with which to discredit the Prime Minister or Lord Hutton.”

So whose prints are on the piece? No one’s apparently. Instead, we get an endless litany of cries consisting of the government acting in “good faith” that none of the media outlets will challenge. At all costs, no matter how big the lies or devious the deception, the right of the state to rule, must not be questioned.

The public however, have more intelligence than their erstwhile leaders, so in a survey done on behalf of the BBC (Newsnight 16/07/04), almost half of the electorate (49%) don’t trust any of the three major parties to rule. And the Tories it would seem are even more decrepit than their 21st century usurpers, New Labour, having come third in the two by-elections that took place this week, one in Birmingham and the other in Leicester, both with large Asian communities. New Labour lost the Leicester seat to the Liberal Democrats (the ‘new’ new Labour?) and only just hung onto the Birmingham seat, having seen a 13,000 majority reduced to 460. Had George Galloway’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T Party not contested the election, in all likelyhood, the Birmingham seat would have also fallen to the Liberal Democrats. But hey, that’s democracy for you.

Threat? What threat?
Could this wholesale rejection of the state’s legitimacy have anything to do with its cynical manipulation of the truth? The Hutton utterly discredited ‘report’ contained within its total of 9000 pages, a few nuggets that when taken with the Butler ‘report’ totally destroy the government’s argument. One, consisting of an email from Jonathon Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, whinged that the draft September 2002 dossier contained:

“nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam.”

Butler’s report of course, only too aware of the fact that there was nothing to justify invading Iraq, dealt with the issue that Powell’s email referred to in the following evasive manner:

“warnings were lost about the limited intelligence base.”

Where or when they were lost or by whom, we are not told but then every critical issue in the ‘report’, is dealt with in the same vague language that leaves the crucial questions hanging.

Central to the Butler ‘report’ is the composition of its members: The Rt Hon The Lord Butler of Brockwell KG GCB CVO (Chairman), The Rt Hon Sir John Chilcot GCB, The Rt Hon Field Marshal The Lord Inge KG GCB DL, The Rt Hon Michael Mates MP, The Rt Hon Ann Taylor MP.

Ann Taylor, who is the current chair of Blair’s Intelligence and Security Committee, no doubt made damn sure that the ‘report’ would produce something that amounted to nothing. And of course, the limited nature of the scope of the ‘report’, confined as it is to an assessment of the ‘intelligence’ [sic] is its major weakness.

Eat your Yellowcake and lose it
Of interest however, was a piece on P.6 of the Independent 16/7/4, that referred to the ‘other’ evidence on the Niger yellowcake that Saddam was allegedly trying to get his hands on. This came to the attention of InI last year and I’ve referred to it several times. In March of 2003 when the UN’s IAEA exposed the Niger documents as crude fakes, Jack ‘the lights are on but nobody’s home’ Straw, Britain’s foreign secretary, talked of “separate” sources, that had, according to Straw been sent to the IAEA but for some reason, not reached them. The IAEA subsequently challenged Straw to produce them, but nothing was forthcoming.

All governments are bound by UN resolutions to hand over any and all evidence that relates to Iraq’s alleged WMD programme. The Butler ‘report’ has once more opened up this can of worms by referring to “additional sources” and mentions for the first time the DR of Congo but concludes that “there was a disagreement as to whether a sale had been agreed and uranium shipped”. The report goes on to say that, “on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time…attempts to buy uranium…were well-founded”, a statement that is in flagrant contradiction with the facts and facts that are contained within the Butler report itself!

The IAEA is still waiting for the ‘evidence’ to be delivered…

The importance of this becomes apparent when you realise that the case for invasion rests on only five pieces of ‘evidence’, all of which have been thoroughly discredited. The final nail in the coffin of Blair’s lies is revealed in yet another front-page piece in the Independent 17/07/04, informs us that, “No 10 admits Hutton cover-up”. Two pieces of ‘evidence’ were withdrawn by MI6 prior to the Hutton inquiry because, they asserted, the evidence was “too sensitive”. Later, the Independent on P. 5 tells us that another reason for withdrawing the ‘evidence’ had been because “the validation process was still on-going.” And apparently, it still is as there’s no sign of it.

Had Hutton been made aware of this ‘evidence’ it would have had a profound impact on government submissions to the Hutton inquiry. Predictably, we are not informed as to the nature of this withdrawn ‘evidence’ but no doubt it was fundamentally related to the government’s case for war.

Jack Straw for his part, has this to say:

“…Iraq had the strategic intent of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes including, if possible, its nuclear weapons programme.” [my emph. WB]

So now the rationale has devolved to intent, pursuit and possibility, a far cry from “imminent and present threat”. My how the mighty are fallen with these weasel words from such verminous politicians.

The Empire of “Good Faith”

Faith (n.): confidence, trust, reliance, assurance and conviction

If I had a quid for every time the phrase “good faith” has been used, I’d be a millionaire by now. The propaganda ploy of “good faith” has been used so many times that even the corporate/state media has finally had enough of it. “Good faith” is rapidly turning into extremely bad faith.

We are asked to believe that Blair did not know about the withdrawn ‘intelligence’ until it was revealed in the Butler report and if you believe this, you’ll believe anything the government tells you. The Independent (17/07/04) clearly still does as its editorial says so:

“Most shocking of all, No 10 yesterday declared that the Prime Minister himself became aware of the retractions only when Lord Butler reported this week. Which must raise doubts not just about the behaviour of the intelligence community but also the government’s grip on them.”

So once more it’s the intelligence community that takes the can for government policy. The duplicity is endless. However, missing from the coverage in every media outlet without exception is the issue of ‘pre-emption’ upon which government policy is based. With its contemporary roots in the Project for the New American Century, New Labour has at last, revealed its true colours, for contrary to popular ‘Left’ analysis, the craven support of the American empire goes back decades, to the first post-WWII Labour government. The common thread has been the war on Communism and the projection of the Capitalist way of life that underpins everything the British and American governments do.

By disconnecting the underlying policy objectives from events and further, by disconnecting the civil service through the entirely false premise of its alleged ‘neutrality’, we are presented with a reality composed of disconnected fragments. Viewed in this light, the Independent’s assertion that the Blair government has lost its “grip” over the intelligence community makes absolutely no sense at all.

The subsidiary issue of individuals within the intelligence arm of the civil service expressing doubts not about policy but about its implementation hides the fact that the people who run the intelligence services are utterly reliable members of the ruling political elite. This was the case with Dr. David Kelly, who at no time in any of his public statements expressed any opinions on policy, merely on how it was being executed (or not).

The media’s role in projecting the illusion of civil service neutrality is central to maintaining state power for without the illusion, the persistence of the state’s right to rule – regardless of which political party is in power – is shattered. This is the central dilemma confronted by the Blair government and why for example, it slapped down the BBC lest the illusion be pierced, even if it was only a tiny rent in the fabric. The media in this regard, has complied with the state’s objectives. This is how it sees itself:

“I don’t feel bitter. Life is life. But as a life-time Labour supporter, I just find it all very disappointing.”
Greg Dyke, former BBC director general

“I think it’s slightly incredible that three heads have rolled for a one-sentence slip in a pre-dawn radio interview while the people responsible for this fiasco have kept their jobs or been promoted.”
Andrew Gilligan, former BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ defence correspondent

So lies and deception are merely “disappointing’ and it’s only “slightly incredible” (incredible (adj.) hard to believe, unbelievable, implausible, barely credible, far-fetched, absurd, inconceivable).

Such loyalty to the state is to be commended even if it is slightly hard to believe but then neither Greg Dyke nor Andrew Gilligan would have been in their privileged positions in the first place unless their total loyalty could be relied upon. Both were sacrificed (sacrificed themselves?) on the altar of the ‘war on terror’. A small price to pay in the larger scheme of things and no doubt Gilligan will cry all the way to the bank after his book is published and Dyke, already an immensely wealthy man will get over his disappointment. I wonder however, whether he lies in bed at night and thinks about the thousands of dead Iraqis and the over one thousand occupation troops who are beyond mere disappointment.

What a pathetic denouement to the reassertion of Empire. More’s the pity that we have no viable alternative to offer the citizens of this benighted and unhappy land led by such a gang of incompetent imperialists.

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