It is an event ‘of cosmic proportions’, said one Palestinian academic, a befitting description regarding Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israeli academic conference slated for next June. It was also a decisive moral call which was communicated on May 8 by Cambridge University, where Hawking is a professor.
Hawking is a world-renowned cosmologist and physicist. His scientific work had the kind of impact that redefined or challenged entire areas of research from the theory of relativity, to quantum mechanics and other fields of study. This towering figure is also wheelchair-bound – suffering from complete physical paralyses caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) disease. For Hawking, however, such a painful fact seems like a mere side note in the face of his incredible contributions to science, ones that are comparable to only few men and women throughout history.
What is considered a prestigious scientific conference in Israel is hosted by President Shimon Peres, most remembered by Lebanese and Palestinians for ordering the shelling of a United Nations compound near the village of Qana in South Lebanon in 1996. The compound was a safe heaven, where civilians often sought shelter during Israeli strikes. Not that time around, however. 106 innocent people that were mostly children and women were killed and 116 wounded, including UN forces. That harrowing event alone would have sent Peres, then Israel’s prime minister, to serve his remaining years in jail. But of course, Israel is above the law, or so the Israeli government believes and thus it has consistently behaved accordingly in the last 65 years with a price tag of uncountable lives, untold destruction and protracted suffering of entire nations.
Hawking’s response to the boycott call was immensely important. The man’s legendary status aside, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has proved more durable and successful than its detractors – mostly Israel’s apologists – want to believe. Hawking’s decision was also a testament that reason and morality should and must go hand in hand. Israel’s boasting of its scientific accomplishments should mean zilch if such technology is put to work to advance state violence, tighten military occupation and make killer drones available to other countries, thus exporting violence and mayhem. That very ‘science’ was used in abundance in Israel’s latest two wars on Gaza (2008-09 and 2012) which claimed thousands of lives between the dead and wounded.
Cambridge University, perhaps wary of a possible backlash, tried to mask Hawking’s decision as one that is compelled by health reasons, which, of course, was not the case at all. The university eventually retracted the statement, for the British scientist wished to make his decision crystal clear. The UK Guardian newspaper reported on Hawking’s rebuff of the conference, citing a statement by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, as it had coordinated with Hawking’s office:
“We understand that Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18-20 June. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”
Unlike other acts of boycott, sometimes dismissed by Israeli officials as insignificant, this one was manifestly shocking for Israel. Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry was quoted by the New York Times saying “never has a scientist of this stature boycotted Israel.”
And since it was unexpected, Hawking’s respect of the boycott generated disorganized Israeli and pro-Israeli responses, ranging from demeaning jokes and insults pertaining to his illness, unwarranted accusations and even shaming him for using technology supposedly developed in Israel to combat his deteriorating ALS condition.
Never before has the country lost control over its carefully tailored narrative of its military occupation and violations of human rights in Palestine as is the case these days. While on one hand, Israeli officials speak of ‘peace’, they continue to issue tenders to build more settlements or expand existing ones, all built illegally on Palestinian land. On the very day that Hawking’s decision to boycott the conference was announced, ‘civil administration’ in Israel agreed to the construction of 296 new housing units in the illegal settlement of Beit El, thus entrenching military occupation and ethnic cleansing. Israeli officials and media still insist that there are no links whatsoever between such stark violations of international and humanitarian law and the rising boycott movement. They indefatigably accuse their critics of ‘anti-Semitism’ (which is hardly effective anymore) and warn of attempts at the ‘de-legitimatization’ of Israel, as if they expect the world to remain completely oblivious to its perpetual war crimes, illegal occupation and institutionalized discrimination against non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine and Israel.
The dialectics of Hawking’s decision are also important. It is a proof that civil society remains relevant, can be effective and also shows that official venues are not the only platforms in which the occupation of Palestine can be discussed and justly addressed. Nearly 20 years have passed since the Oslo Accords were signed, yet the Israeli occupation seems much more rooted than it was in 1993.
There is little doubt that the boycott movement is in constant growth and not simply because of the recurring news of artists and academics refusing to visit Israel, or take part in Israeli-sponsored events. Equally significant is the existence of strong layers of support being provided by civil society that makes it possible for artists, academics and others to adhere to the call of boycott, without fearing serious repercussions.
It was revealed that a letter to Hawking, aimed at dissuading him from joining the conference was signed by 20 top academics from many universities, including MIT, Cambridge, London, Leeds, Southampton, Warwick, Newcastle, etc. The professors told Hawking they were ‘surprised and deeply disappointed’ that he had agreed to take part in the conference, which is also to be attended by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton, each with his own record of war crimes accusations spanning from Sudan, to Afghanistan, to Iraq.
But criticism of Hawking is not only emanating from Israel and its predictable circle of diehard supporters. It is also coming from some of those who count themselves as members of the Palestinian solidarity camp. The latter group, which is shrinking in number and outreach, argue that boycotting all aspects of Israel’s academic, cultural and political life will play into Israel’s ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘de-legitimization’ arguments.
But can the solidarity movement limit its boycott to the few Israeli companies with links to West Bank settlements and expect to achieve tangible, long term results? Those who think that boycotting the occupation is enough, seem not to understand the nature of the relationship between West Bank setters and the Israeli government. Israel treats the settlements and its well-armed inhabitants as part and parcel of the Israeli state and economy. They are residents of Israel, even if they live near Ramallah. There is no separation whatsoever except for some imaginary ‘Green Lines’ and such. And now with the Apartheid Wall, even that separation is being blurred and redefined.
Palestinians in Gaza or Nablus don’t see any difference between a solider who lives in an illegal Jewish settlement or another who lives inside Israel. They are all capable of committing murder, as many surely have, unhampered by geography or borders. International civil society should not fall into the trap of illusory distinctions. This also makes Hawking’s decision to boycott an Israel-based conference “of cosmic proportions”. It is morally defensible and ethically sound, qualities befitting a formidable man of reason like Stephen Hawking.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).
- Stephen Hawking Stuns Israel With Conference Boycott (alethonews.wordpress.com)
10 Years on
It is sad that well-known peace campaigners should drop below the radar, not just of the politicians who hate them, but of the so-called peace campaigners who idolised them when they were still there. One such man, who dedicated the last 10 years of his life to confronting the UK Parliament with their outrageous decision to invade Iraq, was Brian Haw.
As a committed Christian and a father, and angered by the sanctions the West had imposed on Iraq that resulted in the tragic and avoidable deaths of too many Iraqi children, Brian left his home and arrived in London. More particularly, he arrived in Parliament Square, where he camped at the side of the road facing the Houses of Parliament. Always, for those of us who continued to protest about the invasion of Iraq and the awful damage our actions were doing to that nation, Brian was a figurehead, an inspiration. Few of us could claim his courage, his determination and his perseverance.
For nearly ten years he stayed – night after night of sleeping on the pavement, in all weathers and with little protection. Nothing the police or Parliament did could break him and make him move. Brian’s protest caused them no end of problems as he and his anti-war placards and banners were a constant reminder of all the lies that were told in the run up to the attack on Iraq in 2003 and continued to be told to justify the invasion. Members of Parliament had to pass his huge collection of displays and peace messages every time they went in and out of the Parliament.
In their haste to be rid of this ‘turbulent priest’ of a campaigner, who harangued MPs daily with his megaphone as they went into the august halls of Westminster, reminding them of their ghastly error in backing up Tony Blair and his eagerness to invade Iraq, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett introduced the bill SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005) which was aimed at removing Brian by banning protests within 1 km (about half a mile) of Parliament without police permission. This came into effect on 1 August 2005. But where else should we protest for peace if not outside the place that had rubber-stamped Blair’s desire to illegally attack Iraq?
Comedian Mark Thomas headed an action to keep protest going within the legal 1 km. He wanted to demonstrate how very ludicrous this ban was. To quote Mark: “The point is simply that if one person with a banner can be deemed to be a protester by the police and they need to get a licence six days in advance to enter the designated zone, then we have reached a state of absurdity.” And it is true, if hardly believable, that one woman in Parliament Square was threatened with arrest for having an iced cake with ‘Peace’ written on it. On certain days individual protestors, who had each registered their very individual protests with the police (including, for instance, the right to jump off Westminster Bridge) held their protests within the designated zone. It made the new law look very stupid indeed.
But so hasty had Parliament’s action been in creating this law that when it was challenged, they discovered that the one person they had failed to ban was Haw himself! So he stayed — and stayed. For some time he was alone, although visited (and supported) by many well-wishers. He became a tourist attraction. MPs complained that they could not properly debate in the chamber because of the noise of his megaphone protest in the Square outside – presumably the constant traffic noise complete with police and ambulance sirens is conducive to a good debate!
In May 2006 his much-photographed display of placards and banners was reduced from 40 metres to just 3 metres by a night raid of some 78 police (which cost a staggering £27,000). Not so oddly, this happened within hours of artist Mark Wallinger showing two curators from the Tate Gallery Brian’s display and announcing he wanted to recreate it for an exhibition. Never the less, Mark had his way and the exhibition, State Britain, ran at the Tate from January to August 2007.
Brian continued to protest with his truncated display despite numerous arrests and assaults. He was on crutches for his last years in the Square – the result of the not-so-gentle arrest techniques of the famed London Bobby. He died of cancer in June 2011 and the world is a poorer place.
Brian was joined in December 2005 by Melbourne-born Barbara Tucker. While Brian had some legal authority to stay there, Barbara didn’t, which has meant that she has been arrested an astonishing 47 times while in the square, usually on a charge of ‘unauthorized demonstration’. When Brian died she nobly carried on. She has served two short spells in Holloway prison as well as suffering constant harassment from police, heritage wardens and passing rowdies.
Until January 2012 she had a tent but that was confiscated under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (PRSA). After that she sat in a chair on the pavement trying to sleep under a large green umbrella wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing. She has slept in the open for over a year now without a tent and has been treated for exposure. In the hope of getting her confiscated tent back, Barbara took the decision to go on hunger strike, starting on December 27th 2012.
While Brian managed to achieve some media recognition for his stance, Barbara has had little to none. The latest reference I can find to her hunger strike dates from January 10th. She and her colleague Neil Kerslake are no longer in the Square and have not been seen for some weeks – disappeared, tidied away perhaps, so as to make the 10th anniversary of the invasion a little less contentious.
One day maybe, when the world stops fighting needless, illegal and cruel wars, people will finally give these dedicated campaigners the recognition they deserve. I’d like to see a statue of Brian in Parliament Square, confronting Westminster and challenging its dishonesty and hypocrisy as he did for so many cold hard years. Until then, those of us who still call ourselves peace campaigners should at least make the effort to remember how much he once meant to us all. Parliament may not like dissenters – I for one do.
Why is it, just when you think the British Government can sink no lower and visit no more embarrassment and shame upon the country they are supposedly there to represent, that within a week or less one of the Ministers will open his mouth or put pen to paper and demonstrate just how arrogant and useless they are? Arrogant because they believe that whatever they say will be accepted as the final word on the subject; useless because they apparently can’t foresee how their statements will be received.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, who makes a career of talking down to people, has excelled himself. According to the Guardian, with the 10-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaching, he has written to all his fellow Ministers and asked them not to discuss the case for, or the legality of, the Iraq war.
According to a source close to Hague: ‘The foreign secretary has written to colleagues to remind them that the agreed position of the coalition government is not to comment on the case or justification for the war until Chilcot has reported. This is about allowing the inquiry to reach its conclusion, not having the government prejudge them.’ Has Hague forgotten why the long-awaited Chilcot Inquiry cannot deliver its report?
In November 2011 we were told that the report would be delayed until the summer of 2012 because Whitehall departments were continuing to block the disclosure of documents about the circumstances surrounding the invasion of Iraq. Chilcot’s panel, having read all these classified documents, knew how important it is that they are made public. And unless they are, it is very difficult for them to produce an accurate, evidence-based judgment on why this country invaded Iraq, and the lessons that need to be learned from this disastrous error of judgment.
In July 2012 we were told the report had been delayed again, when we learned that the Inquiry panel were ‘deeply frustrated by Whitehall’s refusal to release papers, including those that reveal which ministers, legal advisers and officials were excluded from discussions on military action. The papers still kept secret include those relating to MI6 and the government’s electronic eavesdropping centre, GCHQ’. Chilcot’s letter to David Cameron referred to the ‘sharp exchanges’ with the former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell over disclosing details ‘of correspondence and conversations between Blair and Bush….which would illuminate Mr Blair’s position at critical points in the runup to war.’
In late 2012 there was news of a further delay as the issue about disclosing the documents was still being fought over by the Inquiry and the Cabinet Office. Publication is now postponed until late 2013 or even sometime in 2014. It is not as if the interested public, with good reason, doesn’t already have a pretty accurate idea of what those documents contain. And it is clear from much of the evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry how deals were made, legal advice ignored and vital people were kept out of the discussions. It was certainly clear to Chilcot and his panel; they had to recall several people, Tony Blair among them, as much of their previous evidence had been rubbished by other witnesses. And how about this for two-handed dealing? Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, told the inquiry that the cabinet should have been told of the Attorney General’s doubts about the legality of invading Iraq before Blair went to war. Sir Gus, before he retired, was the one blocking the much sought after publication of the classified documents. Diss Blair with one hand and protect with the other.
Hague wants to block all meaningful discussion on the justifications and the ‘legal’ basis for invading Iraq until Chilcot has delivered his report, while at the same time the Government, including Hague’s own Ministry, are busy blocking the very action Chilcot needs from them in order to finalise his report. But Hague goes further. His letter to the cabinet made clear that ‘not prejudging Chilcot should not prevent [ministers] acknowledging the sacrifices of the armed forces’. However, an honest confronting of the illegality of the invasion would necessarily have to acknowledge that the armed forces did not die in defence of this country but were sacrificed on the altar of Blair’s delusional ambitions.
Why should the Conservatives support Hague’s letter? Because to a man – and occasional woman, as the Conservatives, looking at their record, also support gender inequality – they voted to go to war. Labour can comfort itself in a small way with the thought that some Labour MPs disobeyed their Prime Minister and voted against the invasion. But most of them will keep their heads down. And the LibDems? They have suddenly discovered their principles again after recently having one MP found guilty of perverting the course of justice and facing prison, and their former chief executive accused of sexual harassment while Nick Clegg, our deputy Prime Minister prevaricated about knowing of the abuse. So Hague’s letter has allowed Clegg to climb back on his rather small soapbox to deliver a speech sometime before the anniversary. For the LibDems were in theory all against the invasion – until we invaded and then, of course, they had to ‘support our brave troops’ and the sacrifices ‘our boys’ were making etc. So William Hague can rest easy; very few of those in Parliament really want to discuss the war. It brings up too much embarrassment. It is too much of a reminder that they were and are a very active part of Perfidious Albion.
- UK FM Hague instructed cabinet not to mention Iraq War – report (rt.com)
- Blair desperately tries to justify Iraq war (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Haim Saban and Barack Obama pay tribute to Hillary Clinton: “People can work together on behalf of the country they love”
Aired: November 30, 2012 on C-SPAN
The Saban Forum 2012 (which focuses on Middle East issues as related to U.S. foreign policy) kicked off with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s remarks were immediately preceded by a tribute video to her career in service of the United States. President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others are featured offering praise for Secretary Clinton’s life, career, and good works.
- Not Even a Star-Studded Tribute Can Convince Hillary Clinton to Run for President (Yet) (jezebel.com)
- The case against Hillary (salon.com)
- Hillary is Running: A Dispatch from the Saban Forum (newyorker.com)
What is the world’s most powerful and violent “ism”? The question will summon the usual demons such as Islamism, now that communism has left the stage. The answer, wrote Harold Pinter, is only “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged,” because only one ideology claims to be non-ideological, neither left nor right, the supreme way. This is liberalism.
In his 1859 essay On Liberty, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mill described the power of empire. “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians,” he wrote, “provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required. The French liberal Alexis de Tocqueville also believed in the bloody conquest of others as “a triumph of Christianity and civilisation” that was “clearly preordained in the sight of Providence.”
“It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open ended nature – its conviction that it represents a superior form of life [while denying its] self righteous fanaticism.” He had in mind a speech by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which Blair promised to “reorder this world around us” according to his “moral values.” At least a million dead later – in Iraq alone – this tribune of liberalism is today employed by the tyranny in Kazakhstan for a fee of $13m.
Blair’s crimes are not unusual. Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted and their people bombed. The historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. This has been principally the project of the liberal flame carrier, the United States, whose celebrated “progressive” president John F Kennedy, according to new research, authorised the bombing of Moscow during the Cuban crisis in 1962. “If we have to use force,” said Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the liberal administration of Bill Clinton, “it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” How succinctly she defines modern, violent liberalism.
Syria is an enduring project. This is a leaked joint US-UK intelligence file:
“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”
That was written in 1957, though it might have come from a recent report by the Royal United Services Institute, A Collision Course for Intervention, whose author says, with witty understatement: “It is highly likely that some western special forces and intelligence sources have been in Syria for a considerable time.” And so a world war beckons in Syria and Iran.
Israel, the violent creation of the west, already occupies part of Syria. This is not news: Israelis take picnics to the Golan Heights and watch a civil war directed by western intelligence from Turkey and bankrolled and armed by the medievalists in Saudi Arabia. Having stolen most of Palestine, attacked Lebanon, starved the people of Gaza and built an illegal nuclear arsenal, Israel is exempt from the current disinformation campaign aimed at installing western clients in Damascus and Tehran.
On 21 July, the Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland warned that “the west will not stay aloof for long… Both the US and Israel are also anxiously eyeing Syria’s supply of chemical and nuclear weapons, now said to be unlocked and on the move, fearing Assad may choose to go down in a lethal blaze of glory.” Said by whom? The usual “experts” and spooks.
Like them, Freedland desires “a revolution without the full-blown intervention required in Libya.” According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. Read the Unicef report on the children killed, “most [of them] under the age of ten.” Like the destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, these crimes were not news, because news as disinformation is a fully integrated weapon of attack.
On 14 July, the Libyan Observatory for Human Rights, which opposed the Gaddafi regime, reported, “The human rights situation in Libya now is far worse than under Gaddafi.” Ethnic cleansing is rife. According to Amnesty, the entire population of the town of Tawargha “are still barred from returning [while] their homes have been looted and burned down”.
In Anglo-American scholarship, influential theorists known as “liberal realists” have long taught that liberal imperialists – a term they never use – are the world’s peace brokers and crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. They have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed it with a jargon that serves warmongering power. Laying out whole nations for autopsy, they have identified “failed states” (nations difficult to exploit) and “rogue states” (nations resistant to western dominance). Whether or not the regime is a democracy or dictatorship is irrelevant. The same is true of those contracted to do the dirty work. In the Middle East, from Nasser’s time to Syria today, western liberalism’s collaborators have been Islamists, lately al-Qaeda, while long discredited notions of democracy and human rights serve as rhetorical cover for conquest, “as required.” Plus ça change.
- West Scripting Scary Scenario In Syria by Finian Cunningham (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
Recent remarks by Sir John Sawers, who heads Britain’s MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service that is Britain’s CIA counterpart), leave us wondering if Sawers is preparing to “fix” intelligence on Iran, as his immediate predecessor, Sir John Scarlett, did on Iraq.
Scarlett’s pre-Iraq war role in creating “dodgy dossiers” hyping the threat of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” is relatively well known. On July 4, the red warning light for politicization was again flashing brightly in London, as Sawers told British senior civil servants that Iran is “two years away” from becoming a “nuclear weapons state.” How did Sawers come up with “two years?”
Since late 2007, the benchmark for weighing Iran’s nuclear program has been the unanimous assessment by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and that, as of mid-2007, had not restarted it. Those judgments have been revalidated every year since, despite strong pressure to bow to more ominous — but evidence-starved — assessments by Israel and its neo-conservative supporters.
The 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate helped thwart plans to attack Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. This shines through in George Bush’s own memoir, Decision Points, in which he rues the NIE’s “eye-popping declaration: ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.’”
Bush continues, “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” (Decision Points, p. 419)
Hands tied on the military side, U.S. covert operations flowered, with $400 million appropriated at that same time for a major escalation of the dark-side struggle against Iran, according to military, intelligence, and congressional sources cited by Seymour Hersh in 2008.
The clandestine but all-too-real war on Iran has included attacks with computer viruses, the murders of Iranian scientists, and what the Israelis call the “unnatural” demise of senior officials like Revolutionary Guards Major General Hassan Moghaddam, father of Iran’s missile program.
Moghaddam was killed in a large explosion last November, with Time magazine citing a “western intelligence source” as saying the Israel’s Mossad was behind the blast. More threatening still to Iran are the severe economic sanctions laid upon it, sanctions which are tantamount to an act of war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pro-Israel neo-conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere have been pushing hard for an attack on Iran, seizing every pretext they can find. Netanyahu was suspiciously fast off the blocks, for example, in claiming that Iran was behind the tragic terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on July 18, despite Bulgarian authorities and even the White House warning that it is too early to attribute responsibility.
Netanyahu’s instant indictment of Iran strongly suggests he is looking for excuses to up the ante. With the Persian Gulf looking like an accident waiting to happen, stocked as it is with warships from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere — and with no fail-safe way of communicating with Iranian naval commanders — an escalation-generating accident or provocation is now more likely than ever.
July 23, a Day of Infamy
Oddly, Sawers’s speech of July 4 came just as an important date approached — the tenth anniversary of a sad day for British and U.S. intelligence on Iraq. On July 23, 2002 at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, then-MI6 head, John Dearlove, briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior officials on his talks with his American counterpart, CIA Director George Tenet, in Washington three days before.
In the official minutes of that briefing (now known as the Downing Street Memo), which were leaked to the London Times and published on May 1, 2005, Dearlove explains that George Bush has decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”
When then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw points out that the case was “thin,” Dearlove explains matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”
There is no sign in the minutes that anyone hiccupped — much less demurred — at making a case for war and furthering Blair’s determination to join Bush in launching the kind of “war of aggression” outlawed by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II and by the United Nations Charter.
Helped by the acquiescence of its chief spies, the Blair government mainlined into the body politic un-assessed, raw intelligence and forged documents, with disastrous consequences for the world.
UK citizens were spoon-fed fake intelligence in the September Dossier (2002) and then, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the “Dodgy Dossier,” based largely on a 12-year old PhD thesis culled from the Internet — all presented by spy and politician alike as ominous premonitory intelligence.
So was made the case for war. All lies, resulting in hundreds of thousands dead and maimed and millions of Iraqis displaced — yet no one held to account.
Sir Richard Dearlove, who might have prevented this had he had the integrity to speak out, was allowed to retire with full honors and became the Master of a Cambridge college. John Scarlett, who as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee signed off on the fraudulent dossiers, was rewarded with the top spy job at MI6 and a knighthood. George W. Bush gave George Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian award.
What need have we for further proof? “So are they all, all honorable men” — reminiscent of those standing with Brutus in Shakespeare’s play, but with no Mark Antony to expose them and stir the appropriate popular reaction.
Therein lies the problem: instead of being held accountable, these “honorable men” were, well, honored. Their soft landings offer a noxious object lesson for ambitious bureaucrats who are ready to play fast and loose with the truth and trim their sails to the prevailing winds.
Ill-begot honors offer neither deterrent nor disincentive to current and future intelligence chiefs tempted to follow suit and corrupt intelligence rather than challenge their political leaders with hard, un-“fixed” facts. Integrity? In this milieu integrity brings one knowing smirks rather than honors. And it can get you kicked out of the club.
Fixing Intelligence on Iran
Are we in for another round of “fixing” — this time on Iran? We may know soon. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing the terrorist attack in Bulgaria, has already provided what amounts to a variation on Dearlove’s ten-year-old theme regarding how war can be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”
According to the Jerusalem Post on July 17, Netanyahu said all countries that understand that Iran is an exporter of world terror must join Israel in “stating that fact clearly,” in order to emphasize the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday as well as on Fox News Sunday, Netanyahu returned to that theme. Blaming the July 18 terrorist attack in Bulgaria on Hezbollah supported by Iran, he asked TV viewers to imagine what would happen if the world’s most dangerous regime got the world’s most dangerous weapons.
This has too familiar a ring. Has it been just ten years?
Will MI6 chief Sawers model his conduct today on that of his predecessors who, ten years ago, “justified” war on Iraq? Will he “fix” intelligence around U.K./U.S./Israeli policy on Iran? Parliamentary overseers should demand a briefing from Sawers forthwith, before erstwhile bulldog Britain is again dragged like a poodle into another unnecessary war.
Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service (the U.S. counterpart is the FBI), and Ray McGovern is a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and CIA analyst.
- Con Coughlin making up stuff about Iran and the MI6 again (alethonews.wordpress.com)