War Comes Home to Britain

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Freedom is
being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of
secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government
will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message.
Police can willfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie and expect
to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The foreign
secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the justice
secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes
taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The litany is cursory; there
is much more.

Indeed, there
is so much more that the erosion of liberal freedoms is symptomatic
of an evolved criminal state. The haven for Russian oligarchs, together
with corruption of the tax and banking systems and of once-admired
public services such as the Post Office, is one side of the coin;
the other is the invisible carnage of failed colonial wars. Historically,
the pattern is familiar. As the colonial crimes in Algeria, Vietnam
and Afghanistan blew back to their perpetrators, France, the United
States and the Soviet Union, so the cancerous effects of Britain’s
cynicism in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home.

The most obvious
example is the bombing atrocities in London on 7 July 2005; no one
in the British intelligence mandarinate doubts these were a gift
of Blair. "Terrorism" describes only the few acts of individuals
and groups, not the constant, industrial violence of great powers.
Suppressing this truth is left to the credible media. On 27 February,
the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, Ewen MacAskill,
in reporting President Obama’s statement that America was finally
leaving Iraq, as if it were fact, wrote: "For Iraq, the death
toll is unknown, in the tens of thousands, victims of the war, a
nationalist uprising, sectarian infighting and jihadists attracted
by the US presence." Thus, the Anglo-American invaders are
merely a "presence" and not directly responsible for the
"unknown" number of Iraqi deaths. Such contortion of intellect
is impressive.

In January
last year, a report by the respected Opinion Research Business (ORB)
revised an earlier assessment of deaths in Iraq to 1,033,000. This
followed an exhaustive, peer-reviewed study in 2006 by the world-renowned
John Hopkins School of Public Health in the US, published in The
Lancet, which found that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result
of the invasion. US and British officials immediately dismissed
the report as "flawed" — a deliberate deception. Foreign
Office papers obtained under Freedom of Information disclose a memo
written by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Roy Anderson,
in which he praised The Lancet report, describing it as "robust
and employs methods that are regarded as close to u2018best practice’
given [the conditions] in Iraq." An adviser to the prime minister
commented: "The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished,
it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict
zones." Speaking a few days later, a Foreign Office minister,
Lord Triesman, said, "The way in which data are extrapolated
from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern."

The episode
exemplifies the scale and deception of this state crime. Les Roberts,
co-author of the Lancet study, has since argued that Britain
and America might have caused in Iraq "an episode more deadly
than the Rwandan genocide." This is not news. Neither is it
a critical reference in the freedoms campaign organized by the Observer
columnist Henry Porter. At a conference in London on 28 February,
Lord Goldsmith, Blair’s attorney-general, who notoriously changed
his mind and advised the government the invasion was legal, when
it wasn’t, was a speaker for freedom. So was Timothy Garton Ash,
a "liberal interventionist." On 9 April, 2003, shortly
after the slaughter had begun in Iraq, a euphoric Garton Ash wrote
in the Guardian: "America has never been the Great Satan.
It has sometimes been the Great Gatsby: u2018They were careless people,
Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things ….’" One of Britain’s
jobs "is to keep reminding Tom and Daisy that they now have
promises to keep." Less frivolously, he lauded Blair for his
"strong Gladstonian instincts for humanitarian intervention"
and repeated the government’s propaganda about Saddam Hussein. In
2006, he wrote: "Now we face the next big test of the
west after Iraq: Iran." (I have italicized we). This
also adheres precisely to the propaganda; David Milliband has declared
Iran a "threat" in preparation for possibly the next war.

Like
so many of New Labour’s Tonier-than-thou squad, Henry Porter celebrated
Blair as an almost mystical politician who "presents himself
as a harmonizer for all the opposing interests in British life,
a conciliator of class differences and tribal antipathies, synthesizer
of opposing beliefs." Porter dismissed as "demonic nonsense"
all analysis of the 9/11 attacks that suggested there were specific
causes: the consequences of violent actions taken by the powerful
in the Middle East. Such thinking, he wrote, "exactly matches
the views of Osama bin Laden … with America’s haters, that’s all
there is — hatred." This, of course, was Blair’s view.

Freedoms are
being lost in Britain because of the rapid growth of the "national
security state." This form of militarism was imported from
the United States by New Labour. Totalitarian in essence, it relies
upon fear mongering to entrench the executive with venal legal mechanisms
that progressively diminish democracy and justice. "Security"
is all, as is propaganda promoting rapacious colonial wars, even
as honest mistakes. Take away this propaganda, and the wars are
exposed for what they are, and fear evaporates. Take away the obeisance
of many in Britain’s liberal elite to American power and you demote
a profound colonial and crusader mentality that covers for epic
criminals like Blair. Prosecute these criminals and change the system
that breeds them and you have freedom.

March
5, 2009

John
Pilger
was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs
, will
be published by Jonathan Cape in June.

John
Pilger Archives

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