Iraq: The Big Lie Gets Even Bigger By William Bowles

19 September 2003

“The problem was how to convince the world that even a defeated Iraq still posed a serious threat. The answer came in 1991, with the setting up of a secret military intelligence operation whose existence has only now been uncovered by the Sunday Herald in the wake of damaging claims that Tony Blair and George Bush exaggerated intelligence reports to justify their invasion of Iraq this year.

“The covert project was called Operation Rockingham and it was designed specifically 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.” – Neil Mackay June 6 2003, The Sunday Herald

“In my view, it would be completely irresponsible if we were to say the danger of those weapons falling into the hands of terrorists meant we should allow Saddam Hussein to continue developing them.” – Tony Blair

So the original lie is transformed into yet another lie, that the non-existent WMDs would have (have?) fallen into the hands of terrorists. A compound lie that also includes the lie that Saddam Hussein continued to develop (the non-existent) WMDs.

Hans Blix’ latest comment, that the WMDs were all destroyed back in 1991 just reinforces what former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter asserted earlier this year that:

“As inspections developed throughout the 1990s it became clear that Unscom were accomplishing a great deal…. This became a liability for the UK and the US. Because of the level of Iraqi disarmament, France, China and Russia began talking about lifting sanctions. This wasn’t what Britain and America wanted to hear — they wanted sanctions and regime change…. They had to sustain the allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, even though Unscom was showing the opposite.” – Scott Ritter

After all, back in February 2003, at the UN, the issue was that the Iraqis could not provide proof of the destruction, in other words there was no paper trail. But let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what Blix says or said or whether or not ‘proof’ is found of ‘intent’ or of a ‘programme’ to develop WMDs. In fact the issue of WMDs is one giant red herring from the getgo and everything that’s happened merely reinforces this view.

With the willing complicity of the mass media, including the craven BBC, the real story, occasionally alluded to but never pursued, is that the decision to invade Iraq was made at least a year ago if not immediately after 9/11. And the government’s ‘attack’ on the BBC following the Kelly ‘revelation’ was an attempt to divert the people’s attention away from from the central issue, why we went to war. A diversion that the BBC was a willing partner in once it realised that it had ‘overstepped’ the mark with the Gilligan/Kelly comments. Damage control was necessary. If one wanted proof of the collusion between the dominant media and the state in papering over the facts, this was it.

Were the media to have pursued this critical decision, it would blow everything else out of the water including the mantra of ‘exaggeration’ or the collusive statements in the media about the “quality of Western intelligence” as being the ‘problem’.

In fact the issue of the role of ‘intelligence’ has in itself become yet another diversionary tactic, ‘misgivings’ not withstanding. Yet the issue of ‘intelligence’ is also presented to us as some kind of neutral process, and is itself part of the propaganda process.

“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.” – Scott Ritter

And what of Andrew Gilligan’s backtracking on the issue of the 45 minutes? Gilligan now states that he was “mistaken to state, in a broadcast at 6.07am on 29 May, that the government had inserted the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes despite knowing it was “probably wrong””.

“Government sources have also said that Downing Street’s all-out attack on the BBC over the sexed-up dossier is linked to the growing realisation that weapons of mass destruction may never be found.

“The source said: “If, as many fear, no such weapons are found, then in six months or so, there is going to be a big row. If we are going to persuade the public that we honestly believed that WMDs existed, we need to do so now.”

“Another [UK government] official said: “If the Government lets the BBC get away with saying that we faked the evidence, then when the day of reckoning comes, we will not have the remotest chance of persuading the public that we acted in good faith. However, if we win this dispute, we can hold up our hands and say, Sorry folks, there aren’t any WMDs, we got it wrong but we weren’t lying.” – Simon Walters & Jason Lewis, The Advertiser, July 7 2003

So what is it that Gilligan was wrong about exactly? In Blah’s introduction to the September dossier we read the following:

“And the document discloses that his [Saddam Hussein’s] military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.”

And then, later in the main body of the dossier, it states:

“As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has:

“continued to produce chemical and biological agents;

“military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;”

And later:

“Iraq’s military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so;”

And finally:

“Intelligence indicates that the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.”

The 45 minutes claim is used no less than four times! Now the issue here revolves around whether or not the government inserted these statements “knowing that they were wrong.” In response to being challenged over these falsehoods, the government changed its tack once more and said that a critical phrase had been omitted namely that in fact the 45 minutes actually referred to “battlefield weapons” not weapons that could directly threaten the UK. So was the ‘omission’ an oversight as the government claims? Not only did the government lie about the 45 minutes it also lied about Iraq’s production of chemical and biological weapons.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that had the phrase ‘battlefield weapons’ been included, the government could no longer classify them as Weapons of Mass Destruction (assuming that they even existed) and the central plank of the rationale for war would have been removed. It would have been clear to anyone that Iraq posed no threat to the UK or to anyone else.

Predictably of course, references to the faked Niger documents have disappeared from the public discourse entirely and for obvious reasons, these are more difficult to deal with. ‘Reverse engineering’ is simply not possible. References to ‘other sources’ are regurgitated as and when necessary, but wherever possible, the media and the state simply don’t refer to them at all.

Instead of dealing with the substantive issue of the government’s lying, something that nobody in the dominant media will do, we read over and over again that it’s not an issue of whether or not the government “knowingly inserted” falsehoods but whether it “exaggerated” the threat from Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs. To suggest otherwise is no less than a heresy as far the media is concerned. Under threat for being exposed in a conspiracy to cover up the truth, the dominant media and the dominant political class, close ranks and effectively shut down the debate, reducing it to a ‘discussion’ over the niggling details.

As a result, the public, disgusted with a Labour government they no longer trust, showed their revulsion by voting in a Liberal Democrat in the Brent by-election, turning a 13,000 Labour majority into a route for Labour. The Liberal Democrats, sensing that the Iraq invasion was central to the distrust that voters felt, made it the centre of their election campaign.

However, the most dangerous thing about the by-election result is that a mere 36% of the electorate bothered to turn out, an indication of the deep cynicism that people feel about the political process. A cynicism encouraged by our political rulers and the mass media in the way they’ve distorted and misrepresented the issues.

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