"AS ANY inept DIY bodger could tell you, whitewash, applied carefully and thinly will last years. Too thick and it will flake off in no time." (Letter to The Guardian, 29 January)
The long awaited report by ’Lord’ Hutton on the ’Kelly affair’ was so blatantly and crudely one sided that it has produced a massive public backlash against the ’exonerated’ Tony Blair and his crony Alistair Campbell.
The ’collateral’ damage to the government and its legal hit man, Hutton, is unprecedented in its scope and intensity. Polls taken a few days after in newspapers and in TV programmes show that three times as many people were prepared to accept the BBC’s version of the truth as that of the government. Blair’s personal rating in the ICM poll in The Guardian was minus 17 points, with 55% of voters unhappy with his performance.
Support for the war has dropped by six points, with less than half of voters now in support. Contrary to Hutton, 45% of voters believe the prime minister lied over his claim that he did not authorise the leaking of Dr Kelly’s name. More people believe that Blair should have resigned than those who supported Greg Dyke resigning as the head of the BBC.
An avalanche of criticism and condemnation has rained down on Hutton. Even pillars of the establishment, such as Lord Rees Mogg, former deputy chairman of the BBC, have waded in, declaring: "I don’t have any confidence in Hutton." Many capitalists luminaries like this, unlike the socialist and the Socialist Party, did have confidence that Hutton, one of their kind, would act fairly and ’judiciously’.
BUT WHY should this scion of the aristocratic Unionist ascendancy of Northern Ireland act any differently than he did? He was a defending barrister of soldiers arising from the discredited Widgery inquiry set up after the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland in 1972. Moreover, there is a long standing tradition of ’inquiries’, judicious or otherwise, being used by governments, usually Tory governments, to cover up their crimes and misdemeanours.
The difference this time is that the inquiry was public, shedding light into the dark corners, the intrigues, dirty dealings and dishonesty of capitalist governments and their state.
The documented evidence overwhelmingly pointed to the guilt of Blair on the key issues. This showed that the intelligence evidence was changed by Blair and Campbell, that (a) they colluded in the ’outing’ of Kelly who was alleged to have taken his own life, and (b) that the notorious 45-minute claim was altered to give the impression that Britain could be attacked by Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes notice.
The original title of the intelligence dossier – "programmes of weapons of mass destruction" – was altered. The word ’programme’ was eliminated.
Both Blair and Bush are now falling back on this word as justification for the war. But this and Hutton’s report cut no ice with the British people, outraged at this colossal cover up. In their millions they protested in the last year against the war and its effects. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, as well as troops, estimated at 55,000 by John Pilger, together with British, US and other troops, died for what a Tory, Max Hastings, has called a "war on a false prospectus".
It is this massive anti-war feeling, together with the fact that Britain is no longer a deferential society, which explains the indignation of Hutton and Blair. The gloating of Blair and Campbell the day after the report undoubtedly reinforced the sense of public outrage. One Labour apparatchik triumphantly declared of Hutton: "Make that man a duke." Instead of this, however, the report and its author have been discredited in a matter of days.
Weapons of mass destruction
BLAIR HIMSELF, rather than basking in the afterglow of this ’triumph’ came under pressure to emulate his buddy, Bush, in declaring, ’it wasn’t me, guv, it was the intelligence spooks who got it wrong’. Up to now, like the character in the famous Monty Python sketch who declares that the parrot is still alive despite all the evidence, Blair has insisted that WMDs, or at least ’programmes’, will be discovered. But now David Kay, Bush’s own hunter for WMDs in Iraq, has concluded what we and others consistently argued before the Iraq invasion, that Saddam’s WMDs do not exist. He has declared: "We were all wrong."
This ’we’ refers to Blair, Bush and their pro-war supporters and, yes, they did get it wrong while the millions who marched against the war, and who still oppose the war and its consequences, were right. If the ’intelligence community’ got it wrong it shatters the whole premise of the Bush doctrine of ’pre-emptive strike’.
Will Blair and Bush, therefore, follow the example of Dyke and Davis at the BBC and ’fall on their swords’, resign? Not a bit of it. Bush is preparing to set up another "inquiry into US intelligence" and the information allegedly supplied to him on WMDs. Blair is to follow suit, thereby hoping to deflect responsibility for the war onto the ’un-intelligence community’ in Britain and the US.
This manoeuvre, however, is fraught with difficulties, perhaps more for Blair than Bush. Bush hopes that his congressional supporters can delay the results of such an inquiry until after November’s presidential elections. If Blair concedes an inquiry, again narrowly restricting it to intelligence issues and not the overall reasons for war, then it is likely to report well before a general election is called.
New mass party
THOSE WHO opposed and demonstrated against the war, as well as the dead and mutilated victims in Iraq, have no need for any more whitewashes, cover-ups in the form of more US and British ’inquiries’. No trust in capitalist governments to honestly and democratically examine their own actions, particularly on the most crucial of events, going to war!
If there are to be any more ’inquiries’ let them be convened by the organisations of working class people in Britain and the US and, moreover, on the broad general reasons for this war and the culpability of capitalist politicians, and not on this or that aspect, which can allow the perpetrators of the Iraq adventure to go unpunished.
Blair and Bush and their cronies unleashed a war not for ’liberation’ in Iraq, but for the imperialist plunder of Iraqi resources, particularly oil. They have created devastation and terrible suffering for the peoples of Iraq and the world.
They should be driven from office. But the alternative is not their capitalist critics, whose concern is not for the British or Iraqi people but in defending their own system and preventing similar adventures in the future which could endanger this. The real alternative is a new mass party of the working class, pledged to oppose war and militarism by establishing a new democratic socialist society.
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales