Thursday 27 May 2004

The war lobby beats a retreat

I've been telling you for years that the warmongers are corrupt lying fascist self-deluded idiotic scum-fucks, now maybe you'll believe me!

Students of the contrasting cultures of the British and American press will doubtless devote future dissertations to how journalists on either side of the Atlantic are presently "clarifying" their previous positions over the wisdom of invading Iraq.

Boris Johnson, the shadow arts spokesman and Spectator editor, has related in this newspaper how serious doubts about the mission washed over him as he sat in the Commons tea-room, chewing on a rock cake and pondering the images from the bombing of Fallujah. Under the headline "How could I have been such a mug?", Johnson flagellated himself for trusting the Americans to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.

Tony Parsons, the laddish voice of the Daily Mirror, was less good-humoured in his about-turn, perhaps because he had struck out a year ago against his colleagues on the stridently anti-war tabloid.

"Tony Blair fooled me," he lamented in his Mirror column last week, after reviewing the Abu Ghraib pictures. "He told us we were fighting for freedom, democracy and national security in Iraq. I see now it was a pack of lies."

Like many people who are sceptical of America in general and President George W Bush in particular - and who belong loosely to the metropolitan elite - Parsons personalises his sense of betrayal. The anti-war Left marched with "Not in my name!" banners before the invasion of Iraq; now, the formerly pro-war turned anti-Blair party are personalising their dismay. The fact that they have been made to look foolish can be made to seem almost as poignant as the deprivations of the Iraqi civilian population.

"He hoaxed suckers like me," Parsons fumed, then - in a curiously insistent reference to one of the more lurid pictures of Americans abusing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib - menacingly asks the Prime Minister: "Would you like that banana up your bottom now or later?"

Mary Ann Sieghart of The Times is similarly affronted. "That's it! I've had enough," she wrote in a recent column that complained of the sheer social embarrassment involved in having to stand by her support for the removal of Saddam Hussein. "I'm fed up with justifying the war in Iraq to sceptical friends, family and acquaintances."

As future students of the media will note, the American press has proved rather more ponderous in distancing itself from the Bush-Blair mission. The New York Times performed its own manoeuvre yesterday with a lengthy essay portentously bylined "From the editors" - always an early warning to its regular readers of a major journalistic embarrassment to come. Reviewing their own coverage of the build-up to the war in Iraq, the editors "found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of".

But on the negative side of the ledger, they acknowledged that the newspaper might have been "more aggressive in re-examining the claims [of an Iraqi WMD programme] as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge."

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