Friday 4 July 2003

How Britain Exports Weapons Of Mass Destruction

by John Pilger

Unless we apply the lesson "all governments are liars" to our own leaders, British fighter jets and chemical weapons technology will continue to wreck lives all over the world. By John Pilger

The conscious nature of Tony Blair's lies and distortions over Iraq is now clear. Collectors will have their favourites. Mine is his statement in parliament on 29 January that "we do know of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq". As the intelligence agencies have repeatedly confirmed, there were no links, and Blair would have known this. Looking back, this lie sought to justify his statement, in October 2001, that there would be "a wider war" against Iraq only if there was "absolute evidence" of its complicity in 11 September. Of course, there was no evidence, and Blair must have known that, too.

On 12 March, he told parliament that France "is saying, whatever the circumstances, it will veto a resolution" to invade Iraq. Two days earlier, President Jacques Chirac had said the very opposite: that if Iraq failed to co-operate with the UN inspectors, "it will be for the Security Council and it alone to decide the right thing [and] war would become inevitable". It was this deception that disillusioned even Clare Short.

Blair's festival of lies has shocked some people: those who still believe that their elected representatives tell the truth. Perhaps they are prepared to tolerate some "fudge", but not deliberate lies, especially those, such as Blair's, that lead to the criminal killing of thousands of people.

Is he unusual? The great American muckraker I F Stone said: "All governments are liars and nothing they say should be believed." To which the great Irish muckraker Claud Cockburn added: "Never believe anything until it is officially denied."

They were referring to governments that could not be called to account for their actions, regardless of their democratic gloss. The Blair government exemplifies this corruption, which is the "democratic totalitarianism" that Orwell described. It has many institutional forms; the most enduring is the Foreign Office where, as the Scott inquiry into the arms-to-Iraq scandal was told, there is "a culture of lying".

For almost 20 years, the Foreign Office denied that the Suharto regime in Indonesia was using British-supplied Hawk fighter-bombers (and armoured cars and machine-guns) against defenceless people in illegally occupied East Timor, where a third of the population was wiped out by the Indonesian occupation. These lies were faithfully echoed by journalists. I remember the BBC's Jeremy Paxman saying that even if Blair's new "ethical" foreign policy had stopped the sale of Hawk aircraft, the presence of the aircraft in East Timor was "not proved", which was precisely the line.

The truth was the opposite; the use of Hawks in East Timor had been proved, over and again, and the Foreign Office knew this, as Robin Cook was forced to admit in 1999 when a Hawk flew low over the East Timorese capital in full view of the foreign media.

Most of the lying is conducted at a routine "low level", in letters signed by officials and junior ministers. I have filled half a filing cabinet with them.

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