Paul Foot

War based on lies

‘We need to concentrate on
the big deception’

(26 July 2003)

From Socialist Worker, No.1861, 26 July 2003.
Downloaded with thanks from the Socialist Worker Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Paul Foot writes on what really matters among the claims and counter-claims this week

BIG FLEAS have little fleas on their backs to bite ’em. Little fleas have smaller fleas, and so ad infinitum. It’s the same with lies. Big lies generate all sorts of little lies, and in a political world where real ideas and real ideology have been shovelled into the background, the politicians and their media become obsessed with the little lies, and churn them over incessantly so that their audiences and their readers become confused and disorientated.

The big lie that dominates the political world at the moment is the one that justified the invasion and occupation of Iraq by American and British troops. This was the lie that the corrupt and murderous regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq posed such a threat to the world that the most powerful armed forces were entitled to rub it out by force, and impose on Iraq a disgusting and apparently endless imperialist occupation.

This lie was perfectly plain to millions of people in Britain long before the invasion. It was not, however, plain to the government, the Tory opposition or the BBC. The government and their secret agencies circulated the lie, the Tories almost unanimously took it up and echoed it, and so did the BBC.

From that big lie all three organisations seek to divert our attention. There is, for instance, no high-powered public inquiry into the reasons for war and the so called “intelligence” that led us into it. Instead there is to be an inquiry by a single judge into the suicide of a weapons inspector.

Mountains of trivia are endlessly debated to distract us from the big lie. What role did Alastair Campbell and the intelligence boffins play in compiling the deceitful dossiers last September and February? What did Dr David Kelly say to Andrew Gilligan of the BBC (who freelances, apparently, for the odious Mail on Sunday) over lunch at the Charing Cross Hotel? What did the doctor say to the BBC’s Susan Watts? Was he bullied by the craven MPs on the foreign affairs select committee? Was he driven to his death by his bosses or by his own uncertainty?

Commentators rush to take sides in the trivial debates that follow. Some support the government, others the BBC. The death of Dr Kelly inspires a great outpouring of bogus media grief. Somehow the swarms of little lies and other trivia manage to obscure the big lie, and the big liars – the government, its intelligence chiefs, the Tory leaders and the BBC mandarins – all manage to cling to office.

The outstanding achievement of the Stop the War Coalition was that it concentrated the minds of masses of people on the big lie, and organised millions in opposition to it.

In all the flurry of little lies we need to concentrate once more on the main question, the big deceit. Did the government, in particular the prime minister, the foreign secretary and the defence secretary, deceive the people in the run-up to the war? Yes they did.

Were they supported in that deception by the Tory party and the BBC? Yes they were. Should all these people now pay the price for that deception and get out? Yes they should.

Last updated on 10 May 2010