Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Now The War’s Over What’s On The News?

Merrick, 2nd September 2003ce

We knew the war in Iraq was not about Weapons of Mass Destruction. But our politicians denied it, and the mass media, in such a kids-in-a-sweet-shop frenzy over the great footage and easy ideas for stories that war brings, completely failed to challenge them.

Now though, questioning the justification for war can generate a domestic political scandal for the media to feed on; that’s the best ratings-winner currently available, so they do it. As soon as the regime was toppled and Iraq’s oil fields were safely in Western hands, the admissions began.

First off the starting blocks was Clare Short who, less than a month after being part of a War Cabinet, accused the government of giving a ‘series of half truths, exaggerations, reassurances that weren't the case’. Yes, they did Clare; it was you giving them. It was obvious to us at the time, and we told you why in so many words.

On 11 July The Independent published an article by Robin Cook under the headline ‘Cook's Broadside: Justification for Iraq War Now 'Palpably Absurd'’.

Er, ‘now’?

Last September and February millions of people who took to the streets of hundreds of towns and cities around the world. We carried thousands of large, easy to read banners and placards saying why the justifications for war were ‘palpably absurd’, making clear that this war, like almost all others, is about access to resources, and that the WMD thing was a pathetic smokescreen. We don’t just know it now. We knew it then, we said it then.

The mass media sidelined us and talked about the killing of people by bombs and later by civil war and starvation as if it were an abstract debating game about how many fairies can stand on the head of a pin. Hell, we were ‘under imminent threat’.

They got so deep into this that another wave of police-state deeds went unchallenged. The ‘security services’ got the chance to do more to make us all more ‘secure’. The most flabbergasting was the response to the concrete blocks around parliament.

Of course, parliament is a huge symbolic target and so certainly is open to attack from a car bomb, and concrete blocks would prevent that. That in itself was not really the weird thing. The weird thing was the way it was explained by Frank Gardner, the BBC's Security Correspondent (how long have they had one of those?). He said, ‘It is not going to stop a determined attacker with really subtle carefully worked out plans, but it is certainly going to deter the casual bomber’.

There can’t actually be any such thing as a ‘casual bomber’. But there was Frank, unthinkingly using that language, and getting us to have it as part of our worldview. We’re under imminent threat! There are opportunist ‘casual bombers’ ready to kill us if we give them half a chance!

So of course we can indefinitely imprison foreigners in British jails without charge or trial. Of course we don’t mind that our ally has hundreds of people in even worse conditions at Guantanamo Bay where they’re currently building an on-site execution chamber. It’s OK, some of the prisoners are probably casual bombers or something.

Now the sexy ratings-magnet footage of military fireworks is over, now the embedded reporters are home from their career-building and the war has moved into a much less telegenic stage there’s some space to fill, so bits of truth are leaking through. So they say that this war that the mass media utterly failed to examine with anything like the appropriate depth or intelligence it warranted looks to have been unjust, now.

And now it’s too late to stop the war, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – the best placed person on earth to know what’s actually going on in Iraq – says that there probably aren’t WMD. Leaving aside all astonishment at the fact that they haven’t planted a cache of them already, just weeks earlier there was allegedly a clear, undeniable, immediate threat from Iraqi WMD.

Mr Rumsfeld has also explained that the Americans will not let UN inspectors in to check sites, even though such obstruction by the Hussain regime was one of the prime reasons why we were told Iraq should be bombed.

Again, I call your attention not to what the politicians do, but to how we were told about it. Here was the guy who ran the war admitting that his whole premise for war was wrong; that he was either horrifyingly inept or – and we all know which one’s right – that he lied and is a war criminal. The New York Post typified the response in their article headed ‘No WMD? So What?’.

Yet strangely, in contradiction of Hans Blix and Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair said he had ‘no doubt whatsoever’ that WMD would be found. Does he know something that the head of the weapons inspectors and the chief of the war don’t? Why did nobody ask him? Because the journalists put a question, the politician puts a response, and that’s all they want, even when the response begs a far more important question or is demonstrably nonsense.

As Blair climbs down, his decreasing certainty (ie increasing admission of war crimes) is not the big issue for the media. The big issue is the clash between the BBC and the government over the ‘were we misled’ story. Because – it’s that word again - now the BBC thinks we might’ve been duped and it mightn’t have been about imminent threats from WMD.

The BBC’s source for the information that we were misled was one of the British government’s chemical weapons experts, Dr David Kelly. When he realised he was about to take the fall for it, Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide.

The story is tragic. His family described him as a ‘loving, private, dignified’ father and husband. The media openly turned on Blair and some of them - along with an abundance of politicians of all parties including his own - called for him to resign.

But the mass media still won’t admit the full horror of what was done in our name. The proof of the denial comes exactly here, in the David Kelly affair.

Dr Kelly’s death was described in very shocked and sober terms. The media made clear that it’s all gone too far now. An innocent man has died because the government went to war under false pretences.

In Iraq there are already tens of thousands of people are mourning the deaths of family members every bit as 'innocent loving and dignified' as David Kelly, and they too died because we went to war under false pretences.

Somehow all that bloodshed, death, maiming and misery combined was just a political football and a matter for debate; but now one UK government official has died in awful circumstances it's then and only then that they clearly say that Blair has blood on his hands. The media decree that only in circumstances that generate a ratings-winning domestic scandal can killing for political advantage be described as an event ‘after which British politics can never be the same’ .

We have a word for valuing one life over another simply because of its country of origin. It is 'racism'.

Those other people not count. Although there were thousands more of them, they were all dark skinned and not from round here. They’re unruly savages, that sort of thing happens to them. When there were fatalities in the rioting in American controlled Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld dismissed it as mere high spirits, saying ‘freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes’. Again, his position is an obvious nonsense, but again the journalists shied away from the obvious counterpoint, asking him if he felt the same about, say, the Rodney king riots in LA or the WTO riots in Seattle.

Now some voices of dissent and truth are being heard, reality still has not hit the political consciousness of our nation.

It’s already clear that the war was not about WMD. The banners on the marches before the war said it was about oil. This was described as ‘nonsense’ by Blair and ‘ridiculous’ by the supposedly anti-war Liberal Democrats.

On 1st June, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said, ‘Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil’.

Thousands of people were killed by our leaders for reasons they still will not admit because they know we wouldn’t stand for it. By any measure, they are war criminals. If the standards of the Nuremberg Trials were applied, Rumsfeld, Blair and Bush would be dangling from ropes.

But more than this, the mass media of western countries acted as propaganda agents for them. They didn’t do it because they actually believed in the war, but because acting that way would win the largest audience. What they are not interested in is truth, analysis or importance of information.

The mass media, like parliamentary politics, simply concentrates too much power in too small a place to ever be able to sustain any level of truth or integrity. They cannot be trusted any more than the murderous self-confessed liars we have as leaders.