Iraq, intelligence and media manipulation – lessons from the UK

It occurred to me that this story might not get all that much mainstream air time in the US, for reasons that will become obvious.

We’ve been having an inquiry into the background to the Iraq war over here. There was another enquiry back in the Blair era, Hutton, summarised by wikipedia:

On 18 July 2003, Kelly, an employee of the Ministry of Defence, was found dead after he had been named as the source of quotes used by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. These quotes had formed the basis of media reports claiming that Tony Blair‘s Labour government had knowingly “sexed up” the “September Dossier“, a report into Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. The inquiry opened in August 2003 and reported on 28 January 2004. The inquiry report cleared the government of wrongdoing, while the BBC was strongly criticised, leading to the resignation of the BBC’s chairman and director-general.

The reported intelligence in the run-up to the war, and the result of this enquiry, both  stank to high heaven at the time, to many.

We’re a safe distance from those events now, Blair has his £5m per annum sinecure with JP Morgan, the political imperatives have changed, and you can’t kick the British establishment around, the way Blair and cronies did, without there being some scores to settle. So the official verdict, on the pre-war intelligence at least, is now somewhat different. From the FT:

So now we know. Iraq posed no real threat prior to the Anglo-American invasion of March 2003. There was no credible intelligence to suggest any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But what the assault on Iraq did do was proliferate jihadism across the Middle East and incubate Islamist extremism in the UK, leading to the London Tube and bus bombings five years ago and 15 other “substantial plots”.

Now we know? Hmm. Noted commie radical pinko Eliza Manningham-Buller, (I jest), weighs in with what has pretty much been the anti-war protesters’ view all along. FT again:

“Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director-general of MI5, the British domestic security service, told the UK war inquiry this week.

And the Hutton conclusion may or not have been right about Gilligan’s specific allegations, but it is now a matter of public record that  there were attempts to manipulate the intelligence to show a greater threat from Iraq than actually existed. FT again (my emphasis):

…what makes Lady Manningham-Buller’s testimony so devastating is that this was the advice her service gave Tony Blair’s government at the time. Indeed, MI5 refused a request “to put in some low-grade” intelligence to beef up the September 2002 government document making the case for war “because we didn’t think it was reliable”.

A former UK diplomat, a Carne Ross, very angry about the victimization of David Kelly, described the manipulation process; FT again for the key summary:

Mr Ross…says containment of Saddam was working but neither the UK nor the US seemed interested in taking obvious steps to reinforce it. Instead, they gradually exaggerated the threat he posed, suppressing contrary opinion.

“This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty. But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies,” Mr Ross said.

“Lies”. Well, I did say, former diplomat. In fact he resigned from the Foreign Office in protest at the way the run-up to the war was conducted. He is slightly more indirect about the Hutton enquiry, but you don’t have to read very diligently between the lines to see that as the same sort of manipulation.

So…pending a similarly frank and revelatory enquiry in the States, I would recommend judicious scepticism about reports, let’s say, of alarming Iranian nuclear plans. If I understand the import of this enquiry testimony aright, I can’t imagine that supporting British intelligence will feature much in any such reports – the US will have to make its own evidence up next time. A chap can act as a poodle up to a point, but there’s a limit.

Of course you can transfer that scepticism across to anything else the adminstration of the day really, really wants to do. But I think many of you do that already.

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  1. psychohistorian

    While the inquiry may not occur in the US as provided by our govt. and the toady media I believe that the alternatives available via the internet are clearly showing to many the ugly underbelly of the American beast.

    Will it matter? I think that in time the fear used to manipulate the populace will come round to bite the oligarchy hard. Anger has a way of overwhelming fear and the pot is heating.

    One can only hope for a more humanistic society on the other end of this journey.

    1. phil_hubb

      “One can only hope for a more humanistic society on the other end of this journey.”


      I hope by “humanistic” you meant to say compassionate.
      Humanism is for the dogs.

      Hegel and Nietzsche killed it. Heidegger buried it. Foucault delivered the eulogy.

      Their arguments against Humanism are simply irrefutable.
      Give it up.

  2. burnside

    Richard, to you and I these events seem quite recent. I must say I’m not so convinced as you that offshore intelligence – even from the UK – might very well continue. Certainly the temperature has been raised where Iran is concerned and, while to some of us the mechanism is in plain view, I find busy Americans in their millions quite easily misled.

    Thanks for an excellent report. Wish I could share your measured optimism.

  3. Doug Terpstra

    “We’re a safe distance from those events now, Blair has his £5m per annum sinecure with JP Morgan, the political imperatives have changed … the US will have to make its own evidence up next time. A chap can act as a poodle up to a point, but there’s a limit.”

    At $10 million (?!), Blair is certainly a well-pampered poodle, as Willie Clinton before him, and soon Obama. It makes one wonder about Greenspan’s undisclosed sin-cure at John Paulson & Company. In the end, I really doubt that imperatives have changed—only the price.

    Never “misunderestimate” the stupidity of the Anglo-American public. War on Iran is now even more imminent after Wikileaks revelations that Iran and Pakistan are fueling the Afghani resistance. All we need is the pretext, and the incessantly-repeated past is prologue.

    1. Parvaneh Ferhad

      I had the same thoughts about these ‘revelations’ about Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.
      In fact it could be another attempt to manipulate public opinion, this time by using a whistleblower-site, seemingly beyond reproach of manipulating information, to plant the manipulated information.

  4. i on the ball patriot

    “Of course you can transfer that scepticism across to anything else the adminstration of the day really, really wants to do. But I think many of you do that already.”

    You can transfer that skepticism across to the past forty years and look at how the gangster financial war on domestic populations was sexed up with ‘free market’, ‘free trade’, ‘private property’, Ayn Rand, make believe fantasy.

    The same bullshit lying GLOBAL media that sexed up and sold the gangster Iraq and Iran INVASIONS is also the same bullshit lying media that sexed up and sold the VERY INTENTIONAL debt trap bubble bombs and counterfeit derivative bunker buster weapons and the dismantling of the regulations that allowed their use in rolling global financial bombing attacks.

    The comparisons should be fleshed out and documented side by side on the internet in a public court of opinion (the only real court left to the people) fashion. It should include a fantasy gallows.

    Who do you think deserves the fantasy gallows?

    Blair, Bush, Colin Powell, Greenspan, Bernanke, Jaime Dimon, Reagan, Clinton, etc.?

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. michael

      I see no reason to condemn Colin Powell.
      They put him in a pony show – and at that time it was a tough decision for him to either go with it or put his reputation on the line, get fired, and hope to turn out being right.

  5. Dwight Baker

    Looks like a giant bubble of hope just hit the deck on the ship we
    Call Freedom.
    By Dwight Baker
    July 27, 2010

    Interesting is the concept of Wikileaks, it seems that reading for the benefit of others has been the wrong thing to do. Also often thought today is the idea that say’s say it in 50 words or less and get on with it brother.

    So, for anyone that has a common thread with most living today —- reading over 91 thousands pages of documents is a far cry from being tuned in. For civil societies have changed over and over again and at this time speed to process large amounts of information wisely seems to be the best way. However speed reading and comprehension are not the same thing and often times those who retain the greatest amounts of truth filled information have been trained to do so by their masters in education instructions.

    Now back to Wikileaks and what is their success really about?

    Maybe their success is all about giving their perceived truth in such large multiple doses with proof documents that now no one can deny that their perceived truth does not exist.

    Another way to think about it and say it might be, the lawyers who show up in court pulling one little wagon filled with printed pages after another proves or just gives out the persona they have studied long and hard those pieces of evidence to prove out their case.

    Therefore if that is the case and I am thinking yes it is, the Few in the Many that must lead out the people held in tyrannical bondage today. Have found solace in that proof filled documents do abound for all to read that do exist to help them tell the people following STOP THE WAR. WAR IS NOT JUST; WAR IS FOR MAKING MONEY, BRING OUR TROOPS HOME. PROSECUTE THOSE WHO LIE ABOUT THE NEED TO MAKE WAR.

  6. Brannon

    I think US administrations need to stop declaring war on abstract concepts. It is impossible to win a “War on Terrorism” or a “War on Drugs”. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the US needed an arch enemy to steer public opinion.

  7. anonymous

    Everybody was fooled? Not likely. I’d say very few were fooled. Far many more fooled themselves. I recall one military analyst appearing on Aaron Brown just moments before hostilities actually broke out who objected to the carnival joy of the commentators and and ordinary Americans keen to see the blood of the brown man flow. Cut to commercial break and presto! One less troublesome fly to hear from. In Britain, the opposite was true.

    The story has not yet been fully told and I’d be extremely surprised if it’s simple and morally uncomplicated when more of the facts come out.

    What interests me far more, is our ability to re-configure Bush’s needless war of choice into a ‘humanitarian mission’.

    Worse is yet to come. Count on it.

  8. Friedman's Ghost

    Article I section 8 of the US Constitution states Congress has the power:

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    From the same section the reason why: To declare war.

    Article 2 Section 2 states the President is the Commander in Chief.

    To me, this document (Constitution) is no longer workble as it was originally intended. As an American I believe we should withdraw from all nations where we currently have our military and bring them to the US to stand at the borders. Let the world fend for itself and use it’s GDP to defend itself.

    I am tired of paying for weapons systems we do not use.

    The Declaration of Independence states when a Government becomes destructive to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness it is the right (and obligation) of the people to throw off that government.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: Declaration of Independence states

      No “piece of paper” can keep the sociopaths from winning. The rules have been changed for 200 years now. Rules are always changed. That’s the only purpose of rules actually; they are a legal form of natural selection. Those that break the rules successfully have an advantage over the dumbasses that follow the rules.

      A society the doesn’t enforce its traffic laws has no chance at enforce something as complex as a “Constitution”.

      Paraphrasing Harry Caray: The Sociopaths WIN, The Sociopaths WIN!

  9. Mark Rutherford

    The Duelfer Report shows that Saddam had WMD capabilities. Even the incomplete Food-for-Oil Volcker investigation shows that containment of Saddam had all but unraveled – with connivers even within the UN Secretary General’s office. Saddam violated his undertaking to the UN to allow inspections to verify these matters, as even Hans Blix admitted at the time. These are obvious facts – I suppose you could argue that it is a matter of opinion that every intelligence service in the world at the time thought that Saddam had dangerous arms, but it is fact as well. And there was the fact that Saddam was arming and funding terror and murdering his own internal enemies on a vast scale.
    On the other hand, you have the testimony of two people who always thought they were right and everyone else was wrong to the effect that they were right and everyone else was wrong.
    Your new data points are trivial and stale. The facts remain – the invasion was justified, wise, and created a great increase in human happiness. The post-invasion policy is arguable – but not determined.

    1. Glenn Stehle

      Mark Rutherford said: “Saddam violated his undertaking to the UN to allow inspections to verify these matters…”

      But my personal favorite Bush lie is when he insists that the United States invaded Iraq to enforce a United Nations resolution and that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “chose war” by barring U.N. weapons inspectors.

      Bush dusted off that old canard on Nov. 7 while standing next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy during a press conference at George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

      Responding to a question from a French journalist about Bush’s dispute with France over the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. president said:

      “We had a difference of opinion with your great country over whether or not I should have used military force to enforce U.N. demands. … I just want to remind you that [U.N. Resolution] 1441 was supported by France and the United States, which clearly said to the dictator, you will disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. Now, I’m the kind of person that when somebody says something, I take them for their word.”

      Bush has made this same false argument scores of times dating back to July 2003, several months after the invasion when it was becoming clear that Saddam Hussein had told the truth when his government reported to the U.N. in 2002 that Iraq’s WMD stockpiles had been eliminated.

      Hussein also relented in fall 2002, allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to travel freely around Iraq checking out suspected WMD sites. The U.N. inspectors found nothing and reported growing Iraqi cooperation in the early months of 2003. In other words, Hussein was complying with Resolution 1441.

      Nevertheless, Bush was determined to invade Iraq and tried to get the U.N. Security Council to go along. However, France and most other members of the Security Council rebuffed Bush and sought more time for the inspectors.

      Then, in defiance of the U.N. – and in violation of the U.N. Charter which prohibits aggressive wars – Bush forced out the U.N. inspectors and launched his “shock and awe” assault. After a bloody three-week campaign, U.S.-led forces toppled Hussein’s government, but found no WMD caches.

      Instead of admitting the obvious facts – that he had launched an unprovoked war on false pretenses – Bush rewrote the history. Starting at a White House press briefing on July 14, 2003, Bush began insisting that he had no choice but to invade Iraq because Hussein wouldn’t let the U.N. inspectors in.

      Bush told reporters: “We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

    2. Dirk

      I talked once with a scientist who was on the last UN inspection just before the invasion. Knowing bombs were about the fall, the Iraqis were offering to show the inspectors anything they wanted. Nothing was found (and never was found as we have subsequently seen) on that inspection, but then you can’t prove a negative, can you?

    3. nick

      “The facts remain – the invasion was justified, wise, and created a great increase in human happiness.”

      People still buy that crap, after all we know (hell, after everything we knew at the time of the invasion)?

      Bush invaded rather than let Hans Blix complete his inspections, because he and the poodle knew their case was bogus. If they let Blix finish his inspections, the lies all unravel.

      It was a damned war crime, and people should hang.

      1. jdmckay

        Bush invaded rather than let Hans Blix complete his inspections,

        Bush, Fox news & associated winger media led a massive kill campaign against Blix. Just like they did against “old Europe”, “Chamberlain passivists”, etc. etc. etc.

        Speaks directly to rapidly diminishing US well being as a whole, that that episode could be executed here… and really, nobody… not a one, ended up in jail.

        US richly deserves it’s impoverishment.

  10. Hal

    “Exaggerated the threat Iraq posed.” Exaggerated?! It didn’t pose any threat at all. It was militarily feeble in the extreme. Get real, people.

  11. LeeAnne

    great increase in human happiness

    “The Iraqi diaspora refers to native Iraqis [millions] who have left for other countries as emigrants or refugees, and is now one of the largest in modern times, being described by the UN as a “humanitarian crisis” largely due to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

    American military occupation of Iraq destroyed its culture and infrastructure, professionals dispersed into the diaspora for the purpose of US total political and economic banker USD control the runs parallel with US banker’s centralization and destruction of US economic life. Brother of Iraqi drug lord is America’s main man.

    A Banana Republic: Impoverished and dependent population; dictatorship rights -rendition, torture, on a whim. No posse commitatus; threat of martial law on a whim; no individual citizen right not to be stopped and searched; arrest on police whim, no attorney, held indefinitely if charged as terrorist; assets seized on drug charge.

    Brits used money terrorist charge against Iceland to seize assets for bankers, on and on and on.

    If the point was to get rid of Saddam that could have been taken care of without destroying the country and its culture.

    Obviously that was not the point. The point was and is to control Iraq and the oil and the fate of the USD.

    1. nick

      But–dude didn’t say there was a great increase in IRAQI happiness.

      Some people were obviously happy to get their war on. It just wasn’t those poor f*****s living in Iraq.

  12. Blurtman

    Lancet. 2004 Nov 20-26;364(9448):1857-64.
    Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.
    Roberts L, Lafta R, Garfield R, Khudhairi J, Burnham G.

    The findings are disturbing. Approximately 100,000 civilian casualties, the majority children, women and the elderly.

  13. NOTaREALmerican

    There is no point in arguing with “true believers”. A large percentage of the population will never question authority. “My country right or wrong” didn’t start with Bush and Iraq. And liberals who think Krugman is right about “just one more bubble” are cut from the same cloth.

    Human history shows most people will believe anything if you repeat it enough and if the source of the bullshit is authoritative enough.

    There are natural human fascists (the large kick-ass daddy party) and natural human socialists (the large smothering mommy party). Together these two groups of humans are more than half of humanity. Which is why history must be what it is: dumbasses manipulated by sociopaths. What other form could society take?

  14. e

    It would be too much to expect from a crook like Mark Rutherford to come clean about his bias.

    “Mark Rutherford” is not a “regular” forum or blog participant.

    “Mark Rutherford” is a whore. A prostitute. A dime-crack ho.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: come clean about his bias

      How could anybody do this if they were a “true believer”? The concept doesn’t make sense. It’s like asking “committed” liberals or conservatives to “change their minds”.

      Belief in a particular Party Authority (the “ism” leaders) isn’t a choice; it’s the way the individual’s brain works. The brain WILL generate enough bullshit stories to “prove” that the Party Authority is “correct”.

      * Krugman: More debt will solve a debt problem; we’ll pay it back next time. (Honest, we really will… I need a hit, man).
      * Beck: blah blah blah “those people” blah blah blah “those people” blah blah

      What’s the difference? Just different bullshit for different brains.

  15. e


    “Some people were obviously happy to get their war on. It just wasn’t those poor f*****s living in Iraq.”

    ->> Yeah. U should hear what is being said above the fray, across the world right now, about “those poor f*****s living in tha USA.”

    And no, the last place U’ll hear about it ain’t going to be CNN or FOX-SH IT.

  16. madamab

    And these revelations will cause Blair to experience what? A mild gastrointestinal fluctuation?

    Wake me when the people actually demand accountability for war crimes, which these were. Powell, Rummy, Rice, Bushie and Cheney should all be tried and imprisoned in the Hague forever, along with their equally horrible counterparts in the UK.

    You’d never catch the French prime minister doing crap like this. The French would all go on strike till he resigned.

    Would that we in America were so firm with OUR leaders.

  17. LeeAnne

    I envy the French their strikes, demonstrations and pitchforks; not to mention their guillotines.

  18. Kevin Smith

    As the facts come out, the policy in Iraq and Afghanistan looks a lot like “extend and pretend”.

    In what other areas of our society and government will we find “extend and pretend”?

    Could “extend and pretend” become the dominant meme of this decade?

  19. Bernard

    oh but there are countless individuals who thrive on being led, following just to follow. and who but to fill their wishes should arise such as those who aim to please. and take the suckers money.

    just another scam using fear of the “other” for a profit making venture that people and Corporations call “war.” send us your children and we will make a lot of money killing the “other” and “your child.”

    amazes me that people would want to kill their children by following such “leaders.” talk about Kool aid

    obviously, history was never taught to these people, or they willingly avoid reality as i have come to experience it. wanting to kill someone for money is what and why we have Xe-Blackwater, Bush, Blair, the whole Consortium of Company that profit so well off of their country’s children.

    here in America this kind of perverted thinking started with the Republican party PR campaign by our own kind, St. Ronnie. it works so well for what it was designed to do. a real success story.

    screw Americans, kill their children and what society as existed, take their money and use it to wage wars to control the Energy/Oil they need to fuel their Businesses.

    that’s America. We are an efficient killing machine, just like Rome.

  20. Bernard

    it should have said,”here in America this kind of perverted thinking started with the Republican party PR campaign from “our own King.”

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