Thursday, 5 February 2004

Blair's New Weapon Of Mass Deception

by John Pilger

IN THE wake of the Hutton fiasco, one truth remains unassailed: Tony Blair ordered an unprovoked invasion of another country on a totally false pretext, and that lies and deceptions manufactured in London and Washington caused the deaths of up to 55,000 Iraqis, including 9,600 civilians.

Consider for a moment those who have paid the price for Blair's and Bush's actions, who are rarely mentioned in the current media coverage. Deaths and injury of young children from unexploded British and American cluster bombs are put at 1,000 a month. The effect of uranium weapons used by Anglo-American forces - a weapon of mass destruction - is such that readings taken from Iraqi tanks destroyed by the British are so high that a British Army survey team wore white, full-body radiationsuits, face masks and gloves. Iraqi children play on and around these tanks. British troops, says the Ministry of Defence, "will have access to biological monitoring".

Iraqis have no such access and no expert medical help; and thousands are now suffering from a related catalogue of miscarriages and hair loss, horrific eye, skin and respiratory problems.

Neither Britain nor America counts its Iraqi victims, and the fact, let alone the extent of the human carnage and material devastation is not even acknowledged by a government that says it is "vindicated" by Lord Hutton, whose report most British people clearly regard as a parody worthy of the Prime Minister's resignation.

Blair has now announced an inquiry into the "failure of intelligence" that has mysteriously denied him evidence of weapons of mass destruction, which he repeatedly said were his "aim" in attacking Iraq. Just as the brawl with the BBC and the Hutton inquiry were quite deliberate distractions, so this latest inquiry is another panic measure. It is clear that George W Bush, as one American journalist put it, "is now hanging Tony Blair out to dry".

Blair has, as ever, followed Bush. In announcing at the weekend his own inquiry into an "intelligence failure", Bush hopes to cast himself as an innocent, aggrieved member of the public wanting to know why America's numerous spy agencies did not alert the nation to the fact, now confirmed by Bush's own weapons inspector, David Kay, that there were no weapons of mass destruction and probably weren't any since before the 1991 Gulf War, and that the premise for going to war was "almost all wrong". "It was", Ray McGovern told me, "95 per cent charade". McGovern is a former high-ranking CIA analyst and one of a group of ex-senior intelligence officers, several of whom have described how the Bush administration demanded that intelligence be shaped to comply with political objectives, and the role of Britain in the charade.

"It was intelligence that was crap," a former intelligence officer told the New Yorker, "...but the brits wanted to plant stories in England and around the world". He described how "inactionable" (unreliable) intelligence reports were passed on to British intelligence, which then fed them to newspapers.

Former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter says this false information was spread systematically by British intelligence. The clue to this secret operation was given by the weapons expert David Kelly the day before his suicide and which Hutton later ignored. Kelly told the Prime Minister's intelligence and security committee: "I liaise with the Rockingham cell."

As Ritter reveals, this referred to the top secret "Operation Rockingham" set up within British intelligence to "cherry pick" information that might be distorted as "proof" of the existence of a weapons arsenal in Iraq. It was an entirely political operation, whose misinformation, says Ritter, led him and his inspectors "to a suspected ballistic missile site. We...found nothing. However, our act of searching allowed the US and the UK to say that the missiles existed."

RITTER says Operation Rockingham's bogus intelligence would have been fed to the Joint Intelligence Committee. The committee was behind the two "dossiers" in which Blair government claimed Saddam Hussein was a threat. Ritter says that Rockingham officers were acting on political orders "from the very highest levels".

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