Unpacking the Imperium: The Washington Post reveals all By William Bowles

29 June 2005

“No doubt from the British point of view Iraq has been a strategic blunder – not just a mistake, but a mistake that we’re still paying for,” said Clarke, of King’s College. “Still, while no one in government would ever say it, the rationale from the British point of view is that our strategic relationship with the U.S. is more important than any single campaign we fight on its behalf. The basic calculation was: Right or wrong, it is in our interest to stand with the United States.”
Michael Clarke, director of the International Policy Institute at King’s College, London.

Ah the injustice of it all, is it any wonder that people feel compelled to sacrifice their own lives when up against such imperial power as that wielded by the US?

Sitting here (relatively) comfortably in South London I am always struck by the infuriatingly smug pronouncements of our media pundits, especially the insufferable bastards who populate the infinite corridors of the BBC’s many piles of real estate.

Every morning (well almost) I force myself to listen to the BBC’s ‘news’ broadcasts and gnash my teeth, raging against the night that descends on events as portrayed by these characters, who, by the way, get paid handsomely for peddling the imperium’s bullshit.

At the other end of the spectrum, what are known here as the ‘redtops’ or in the US, the tabloid press, perform essentially the same function except their language is tailored to a slightly different audience, and a tad more hysterical in its pronouncements.

The interesting aspect of these two sides of the same coin (heads you win, tails you lose) is that the hacks who write/speak/perform the state’s propaganda go through the same educational mill. Are there two kinds of journalistic teaching; red-top and middle-class? Strangely not, all that changes is the ‘prose’ style.

But what about the endless stream of essays that pile up all higgledy-piggledly in my mailbox every day raging against Bush, Rumsfeld, Condi, Feith, Rove, Blair and the rest of the pirates? Don’t they do just that? Well yes they do, they rage and they rage, an endless rage in fact, but I can’t help feeling that the time for rage is well past.

Like most of us anti-capitalists I feel frustrations and anger at the injustice of it all. I want to grab the smug bastards by the scruff and shake them ‘til their credit cards shower all over the place.

But I digress, for the issue is how to best connect the two worlds, that of Falluja, the Gaza Strip and us, who are (at least for now) spared the more extreme face of the imperium?

Our struggle is no less difficult just different. We have to break free from our conditioning or as my dear friend and confidente Patricia puts it:


Each one of us, living here in the West, and actually very new to history as it really happened, feel the agony of awakening to the real interactions of our personal lives and the decisions/implementations of a class of people who honestly, dear brother, were able to rule the whole world and elicit us to go along with its absolute need to accumulate capital – capital being, interestingly, us and our productions, finally, even on their directions. MONSTROUS!!!

Well, there you have it, we are ruled by capital, nay seduced by its siren song to produce in an endless stream its productions and in turn to consume said production. A drug more addictive than heroin that has ruled us for five hundred years. But there are real signs that it’s all going pear-shaped as I think the article in the Washington Post indicates, the subject of this essay.

Peter Ricketts, Jack Straw, Tony BlairNow for the Real Deal
Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the current period and something that the Web has a lot to do with, are the insights we are gaining into the way the ruling elites function and think. Thousands of people digging up documents that by themselves mean little, get connected, inferences are drawn, more connections get made, much like a jigsaw that’s been scattered. Eventually, the right inferences are made and the sheer force of numbers makes the conclusions impossible to ignore.

“No doubt from the British point of view Iraq has been a strategic blunder – not just a mistake, but a mistake that we’re still paying for,” said Clarke, of King’s College. “Still, while no one in government would ever say it, the rationale from the British point of view is that our strategic relationship with the U.S. is more important than any single campaign we fight on its behalf. The basic calculation was: Right or wrong, it is in our interest to stand with the United States.”

Most telling I think is this observation made by Michael Clarke, who is director of the International Policy Institute at King’s College and most definitely a man on the ‘inside’. “Right or wrong, it is in our interest to stand with the United States” in other words, issues about human rights, Saddam Hussein are irrelevant to the central issue of Western interests, especially when they are talking to each other, the rest is just propaganda for the punters who pay the bill. As the saying goes, ‘don’t bullshit a bullshitter’.

Very rarely do we get to read such ‘streams of consciousness’ as the seven (or is it now eight?) documents penned by the ruling elite’s mandarins and managers. They tell us much about how they think and operate. That we are now seeing the leading mouthpieces for the imperium being forced to acknowledge that such thinking actually goes on, where the REAL issues are debated, is a real success for us and it’s significance should not be under-estimated.

The article in the Washington Post (28/6/05) ‘From Memos, Insights Into Ally’s Doubts On Iraq War British Advisers Foresaw Variety of Risks, Problems’ from which the above quote is drawn, is not beset by any pretence at taking a moral stand on the issue of Saddam Hussein or indeed of the mayhem that descended on the people of Iraq. It is an analysis of the strategic blunder that is the occupation of Iraq, written no doubt for the ruling political class of US society, that may well be feeling somewhat jaundiced (if not downright fearful) that they have a bunch of incompetent pirates to do the bidding of capital and that their ham-fisted actions could well spell doom for whole sorry gang!

The article is worth reading carefully and paying attention more to what it implies than to what it says for in reality it is a warning shot across the bows of ‘Battleship Bush’ that he’s fucked up big time.

By comparison, the British intelligentsia, who benefit from centuries of operations of this kind are not beset by such doubts, at least not in public, reflecting as it does the reality of a public that by and large doesn’t believe a word they say anyway, hence best to stay ‘mum’ on the issue and hope that it will blow over. This is why there has been an almost complete media blackout on the story in the UK even though it all originated here! It also reflects the intensely secretive nature of the English ruling class and the incestuous relationship between the state bureaucracy (the civil service) and the political class it serves. As I’ve pointed out before, the media collaborates very effectively in maintaining the myth of a ‘neutral’ civil service, only occasionally making the mistake of revealing the true nature of the relationship, something the pronouncements of the ‘memos’ reveal most clearly.

Even the silence is instructive and makes our job all the more urgent; that we shout it from the rooftops, well from our laptops anyway. The Washington Post did us all great service by showing us the real concerns of the political class, now it’s our turn to dissect the Washington Post and reading between the lines, reveal the real nature of events.

Rage you may but analyse and explicate as well. Speaking of which…

The Post’s article spends a good deal of time taking apart all the ‘memos’, something that not a single, major British newspaper has done, let alone the BBC. The piece, although bylined Glenn Frankel, had the able ‘assistance’ of Walter Pincus, a high-up in the Post’s editorial structure (no doubt just to make sure it delivers the ‘right’ message).

The piece runs to 2800 words, there’s a lot to digest. Those who have compared the DS Minutes to the Pentagon Papers do have a point. However, these are the minutes of government meetings, advisory notes, ‘crib sheets’ for the politicos to mull over as they plot a way forward, how to justify the invasion and how best to “sell” it to an increasingly skeptical public.

The Post’s article has to straddle two contradictory fences; on the one hand, it can’t expose the innate paradox of a policy that depended on a lie – the existence of WMD – so the key phrase “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” is referred to only in passing

[Richard Dearlove, chief of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency] also included the observation that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6The article doesn’t deal at all with the implications of this phrase. But at the same time it has to present the policies of the USUK as motivated by something other than the reality, namely the projection of US capitalist power to a critical region of the world but without revealing its true intentions. The article has to ‘square the circle’ and it does this by brushing over the critical issue of the alleged weapons of mass destruction but it makes plain that the issue is not about legality or the immoral nature of USUK actions but that the invasion and occupation has been a “strategic blunder” and one that they are now and into the future, will “pay for”.

David Manning, former chief foreign policy advisor to BlairOne thing is clear from this piece of ‘agit prop’ and that is steps need to be taken, and taken quickly, to extricate themselves from the mess they’ve gotten into. It doesn’t however have much to offer on this score beyond dividing the responsibility between Bush and Blair, indeed it makes it plain that it regards UK policy as being driven entirely by Blair along with Bush. It says:

The sense of alarm here increased after Bush, in his State of the Union address on Jan. 29, branded Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil” – a phrase many people in Britain saw as bellicose and simplistic.

Blair did not share their view. [my emph. WB]

And again:

Blair defended his approach [total support for Bush], Cook reported, by saying Britain’s national interest lay in staying closely allied with the United States. “I tell you that we must steer close to America,” Blair said, according to Cook. “If we don’t, we lose our influence to shape what they do.”

This was important, for one of Blair’s alleged reasons for staying close to Bush was Blair’s alleged ‘influence’ over Bush, but again the ‘memos’ make it clear that this was simply not true but done to win over a rather skeptical cabinet and most importantly, a civil service that was not opposed to the invasion but that the plan had not been thought through. And just in case we still don’t get it:

Blair told Bush that “the U.K. would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through U.N. weapons inspectors had been exhausted.”

And later:

Blair offered a cryptic criticism of his own advisers. His commitment to democratic values, Blair said, “means that when America is fighting for those values, then, however tough, we fight with her – no grandstanding, no offering implausible and impractical advice from the touchline.”

Ultimately Blair tells Bush according to Bob Woodward’s book “Plan of Attack”:

“I’m with you”

Jeff Hoon, foreign secretary & Adm. Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staffIn fact the article tells us seven times that the invasion was a Bush/Blair deal thus divorcing policy from personalities so when the shit hits the fan individuals can, if necessary, be safely removed without altering fundamental strategic objectives. Entirely absent from the article is any discussion of the real motives (these are assumed to be a given and not in need of being stated) and in fact where the issue of WMD enters into any discussion, the piece avoids what the minutes revealed, namely that there were no WMD. Instead, it tries to present the view that in 2002, it was still assumed that they existed. The article tells us that:

The memo [of 23 July 2002] indicates that officials believed Iraq had such weapons.

When in fact as we know from the ‘memo’ it did no such thing and in fact stated quite clearly that facts had to be “fixed”. The same goes for the alleged UN route for on the one hand the article acknowledges that seeking UN approval was first and foremost a sop to the Brits and second as far as the US was concerned only a ‘fallback’ option.

What the article reveals most clearly is that every public utterance by the Bush/Blair clique was designed to obscure the real reasons for the invasion knowing full well that public opposition was growing but that now, with hindsight, significant sections of the ruling elites of the UK and the US have to figure a way out of the mess they have created, but without losing the strategic advantage. No mean feat. Will it mean creating a diversion, for example, invading Iran or perhaps Syria via its proxy power, Israel as some on the ‘left’ contend? Second-guessing a divided ruling political class is not easy, there are competing factions with the ‘old skool’ once more advising caution at this critical juncture.

There is moreover the underlying issue of the extreme instability of the capitalist economy, teetering as it is on the edge of economic meltdown. What kind of impact would invading Iran have? Will the more cautious of the pirates win out or will the ideologues of the Beltway get their way? Judging by the cold feet the Democrats are getting (and even some Republicans), it would seem that self-preservation is more important than propelling us all toward Armageddon.


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