Back to website

Stand Up for the Truth on Iraq, before it's Too Late

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

A reliable source, intimate with the devious art of political spinning in Downing Street tells me they are well pleased in that active hive. The past two weeks have been bloody marvellous; the media circus has moved on. Time to stop looking backwards, directs Tony Blair, let us go forth to the future. Hutton, Iraq, WMD are so passe, so yesterday. Calls on us to "move on" always come from perpetrators of bad policies and disastrous actions; victims are never in such haste to bury their pain.

John le Carre, the thriller writer, wrote this week: "The lies and falsifications concocted by the two main and cravenly echoed by the appallingly docile American and British media will reverberate to our disgrace for generations." He is wrong to equate the acquiescence of the US media post September 11 with our lot. British journalists from right to left, refused to comply with the Stalinist impulses of New Labour. They remained alive and alert and stubbornly persistent, refusing to let Blair's gang get away with deceptive claims, humanitarian pretexts, the illegal war, the sham Hutton inquiry.

Until now. Our media has suddenly capitulated. Maybe it is the terrible power Mandelson can still exert over the scribes of this nation, but this forceful resistance seemed to peter out soon after he warned that we had been misbehaving for too long, and that this would kill the "New Labour Project" and bring in the Tories. The media had been unnerved already, of course, by the cold-blooded assault on the BBC by Alastair Campbell. The Government has thrown new balls to draw our attention. And most hacks and leading lights (I salute the tenacity of the exceptions) have allowed themselves to be distracted. They blather about immigration controls (always a favoured diversion for troubled politicians and reactionary journalists) about the wobbling flesh of our obese population; drink; drugs; school examinations; oh and dangerous pancakes.

But the past cannot be allowed to fade into oblivion; it marks the future.

Much depends, as Le Carre says, on not letting this go. The dangerous postulation used to take our country to war which led to the deaths of western soldiers and civilians and the thousands (numbers forever unknown) of Iraqis was always a prototype for this belligerent Bush regime. If we let Blair off, he will commit our country to yet another such pre-emptive military adventure. Bush will whistle and the British Labrador will run to get the scraps his master throws at him. As the Democrats now wake up to their role in US politics, as the going gets harder for that Bush boy, he will seek glory elsewhere with his good follower Tony. Those who proclaim the PM as a strong leader ignore this abject servility. As deluded as Blair himself, they still think that he really has influence on American neo-con nuts.

Blair has announced that he wants to boss us around for more years. The man with no reverse gear, ignored the millions of good people of Britain who went on those anti-war demonstrations. What will we do when he takes us into the next destructive venture?

We are living in an increasingly controlled state with fewer and fewer safeguards for justice and liberty. New measures have just been announced by David Blunkett.

Then there is the occupation. Despite the secrecy of the occupiers, we are beginning to find out about civilian killings allegedly carried out by our troops, and about the high security detention camps where no independent observers are allowed to go. The occupiers are divvying up Iraq's national wealth, so that even if elections take place, the Iraqi people will be economically enslaved. As Naomi Klein says: "Any movement serious about Iraqi self-determination must call not only an end to the military occupation but to its economic colonisation too. That means reversing the shock therapy reforms that the US occupation chief Paul Bremer has fraudulently passed off as reconstruction'".

No WMDs have been found. Our Government and the US administration cynically chose to feed us information they knew was unproven. By launching a pre-emptive war, we have set a precedent which can be used henceforth by any war-hungry nation.

But listen to the lofty pro-war commentators who used to accuse me of naivete on these weapons. They knew Blair well; they knew the truth. Instead of admitting their gullibility, they now pronounce with grandiloquence that it was still worth it because it liberated the people of Iraq from our old friend Saddam.That is a wonderful thing. But if they care so much about the Iraqis, will they join protesters this Tuesday outside the offices of Bechtel, one of the US corporate giants which has been awarded $ 680m (pounds 365m) to "rebuild" Iraq?

If not that, I invite them to a meeting at Westminster university on 13 March to discuss the future of Iraq with the indefatigable Alice Mahon MP and the ex-weapons inspector Scott Ritter. Or an evening with passionate and talented supporters of the Iraqi people, among them Ken Loach, Michael Rosen, Mark Steel, Kika Markham and Michael Mansfield. Jude Law may show up too.

The pro-war apologists won't be there of course. Because they are the foot-soldiers to New Labour, the clever dicks who use their pens to justify the unjustifiable. Which is why we must use ours to stand up for truth. Before it is too late.