In the build-up to the laying down of facts on the ground by power elites, newzak has been an important instrument in holding off opposition to the project, whatever it is. When facts on the ground have been accomplished there is then a bored resentment from its perpetrators at attempts to look closely at what actually happened. In the modern age of the global media, it must be accommodated. With a largely compliant media, newzak techniques are recycled, and processes of ambiguity and forgetting brought into play, so that if the facts are truly scandalous or the pure cynicism of these elites is at all in the open, there are unlikely to be any consequences.
Early on in his novel, The Book of Laughing and Forgetting, Milan Kundera tells of a photograph, well-known in Czechoslovakia, which records a historic moment in its history when leader Klement Gottwald spoke on a balcony in Bohemia Square to begin the history of ‘Communist Bohemia.’ “Gottwald was flanked by his comrades with Clementis standing close to him. It was snowing and cold and Gottwald was bareheaded. Bursting with solicitude, Clemetis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald’s head.” A photograph taken on the balcony was reproduced hundreds of times. “Four years later Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history, and of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald’s head.”
As has been remarked many times, such authoritarian state crude tactics cannot be so effective over time as the more diffuse methods of capitalist, free societies in neutralizing memory-with-consequence, and that even without what PhotoShop is capable of. Not that this means the power elites of these societies can’t be crude themselves, no hanging but instead the smearing and belittling of (what is now euphemistically called ‘spinning against’) critics of their policies, and especially those who have been in the loop of relatively privileged knowledge people like David Kelly in the UK, and in present day USA, Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke. More often, after-the-event investigations into these policy projects are mounted by the same elite, with a brief and caveats decided by itself and, especially in the UK, long after the events have taken place. In addition to which it employs a range of tactics so that any consequences will be minor, affecting minor personnel, if indeed there are any consequences at all.
In the present period, given that long after one fait accompli or another has been achieved some evidence does emerge of western support for military dictatorships for example, or systematically cruel behaviour by its own forces, the “that-was then-this is now” approach is increasingly common. This approach is also the standard response of UK prison authorities when the Inspector of Prisons (their contracts never renewed) reports on the scandalous conditions in Dartmoor, Feltham, Wormwood Scrubs, Durham and many others. The director of the Prison Service or a prison Governor gets a routine grilling on the radio and says, ah, that was then, you should what it’s like now. Of course, we have no chance to know how it is now, the inspector has other places on the list. What stands out most is how recent the ‘then’ can be, a month, two months. In these instances, there is an eagerness to prove that there have been consequences, everything is on the mend, lessons have been learned and so on. This is not always the case with the geo-political “then and now” when what is often at stake is obscuring the relation between cause and consequence, but what is common to both is that we shouldn’t be bothering with what went before. The past is the past.
Naturally enough, the rich and powerful are not keen on history, unless they can appropriate the heroic actions of others to themselves, as at the Cenotaph or the recent D-Day anniversary, or universalize the odd rag-to-riches narrative. Naturally neither they nor their employees are keen for it to be clear as to how the rich and powerful came to be as they are, nor how they have maintained their power and both protected and developed their costly-to-the-world interests. When faced with demands say for some recompense for the scandal of slavery, they adopt a puzzled, smiling frown, and make no answer to all the evidence as to how slavery and rip-off colonialism were integral to the development of the globalized capitalism of now, but simply say it was a long time ago, and those calling for it therefore cranks.
In a laconic, angry novel of Joan Didion, The Last Thing He Wanted, set in the world of the Iran-Contra ‘scandal’, the narrator tries to question one of its movers about a particular incident, one which is the plot of the novel. “To bring up 1984 implied that the past had consequences, which in situ was not seen as a useful approach. This unspoken suggestion of consequences was in fact sufficiently unthinkable as to drive Mark Berquist to mount a broad-based defence.” Distancing of consequence from cause is widespread whether it be between glowing supermarkets and super exploitation by the sub-contractors of sub-contractors employing ‘illegal’ immigrant labour; or between al Qaeda and western activities (initiated by Jimmy Carter) to destabilize a progressive government in Afghanistan; while the broad-based defence these days has been shifted to phrases such as ‘it’s time to move on’ or ‘it’s time to draw a line under it.’
The Iran-Contra business of the Reagan Administration was both a scandal and a conspiracy. Those who carried the can for a small part of it were well looked after, so that with in a day of the September 11th massacre, an event with consequences eagerly created by the rich and powerful, ex-Colonel Oliver North, the evidence shredder, was confidently blaming the event on Bill Clinton as a neutral commentator on the BBC with no mention of his own dirty history. The chief executor of the policy, the then Admiral Poindexter is now in charge of the Bush Administration’s scary , post-September 11th Information Awareness Office, with its aim of ‘total information awareness’, of incorporating all existing state databases into one massive distributed database. Others, the cocaine dealers and smugglers so integral to this US government scheme, their licence a lot more provisional in what she calls the “counterfeit machismo of it, the extent to which it was about striking and maintaining a certain kind of sentimental pose.” Liberating the poor people of Nicaragua from the yoke of the Sandanistas who had overthrown a previous American-backed dictator and who now, in their freedom are by far the lowest paid banana plantation workers in the low paid Latin American banana ‘industry’.
In the end there were the well-looked after fall guys and the not well-looked after operators of light aircraft and landing fields, but the bulk of the various investigations into the affair remained inconclusive and therefore without consequences. On this, on how even when some consciousness does arrive after the fait accompli it is blunted and left vague, that Joan Didion is so sharp. She describes the hundreds of pages of hearings before a select committee thus:-
“…sixty three days of testimony arresting not only for its reliance on hydraulic imagery (there were conduits, there was the pipeline, there was of course the pipeline) but for its collateral glimpses of life on the far frontiers of the Monroe Doctrine. There was for example the airline that operated out of St Lucia but had its headquarters in Frankfurt…and either was or was not (conflicting testimony on this) ninety nine percent owned by a former Air West flight attendant who either did or did not live on St Lucia. There was for example the team of unidentified men…who either did or did not (more conflcting testimony) arrive on the northern Coast Rican border to burn the bodies of the crew of the unmarked DC-3 that at the time it crashed appeared to be registered to the airline that was or was not ninety-nine percent owned by the former Sky West flight attendant who did or did not live on St Lucia.”
This is when they say, the stink of smugness in the voice, ‘the jury’s still out on that one’. As if they’d let a jury anywhere near such an inquiry. Instead we get what Guy Debord describes as the consequence of the destruction of history: “contemporary events themselves retreat into a remote and fabulous realm of unverifiable stories, uncheckable statistics, unlikely explanations and untenable reasoning.” A world in which “there is no room for verification.” (Reflections on the Society of the Spectacle). No wonder that the post-modernism of alternative narratives, and the impossibility of an ‘objective’ truth as to what “really happened” in any given situation has become an attractive tool to the power elite. That there is ‘no room for verification’ was made blindingly clear by what happened to the pre-Iraq-invasion UN Weapons Inspectors. In his courageous decision not to support a second UN resolution to ‘justify’ the invasion President Lamine Sidime of Guinea, with a temporary seat on the Security Council, demanded something definable and measurable about what constituted Iraqi compliance. This was intolerable to the US-UK axis.
Once the fait accompli has been accomplished, inquiries thereafter are either just whinging or quibbling: as was the response to those saying it was the West who supplied Iraq with the technology for biological and chemical weapons (that-was-then-this-is-now); as the present Bush team played it in the 2000 coup d’etat in Florida; or as of now in 2004, ‘the tyrant Saddam has been removed, what are you on about’; or, as with the prison governors, ‘lessons have been learned’, said glibly and with undue haste; or the inquiries are, in nearly all cases, finally inconclusive in the ‘did or did not’ manner Joan Didion captures so well, just as she also gets at the overlay of the smothering effect of the mass of detail that has no consequences. The published transcripts of the hearings she describes runs to “ten volumes, two thousand five hundred and seven pages”.
Vagueness is one more tactic employed by the power elite when at all pressed, the power elite which does not want, which refuses to be pinned down by certainties or principles, which wants nothing conclusive unless it is in its own interests. Describing the tactics of the George H. Bush administration when climate negotiations first began in earnest, J Gupta writes, “It was instrumental in ensuring ambiguity regarding both principles and targets.” (Our Simmering Planet: Zed Books). In the Gulf War of 1991, the same Administration was equally coy when it came to just how many Iraqi conscripts were killed in the night-time duck shoot at Mutla Ridge. 200,000 was a Pentagon estimate but, it was reported, no official figures were to be issued and no formal study to produce the numbers. Instead the statistics were to be kept as vague as possible because the true picture was so horrifying. An interest it no doubt shared with Saddam Hussein. Later on, when Saddam had a free hand attacking the popular uprising against him, the Daily Telegraph (25/3/91) reported that the “White House has mysteriously backed away from earlier warnings that Saddam must not use attack helicopters.” And that in response the Presidential Press Secretary Fitzwater said “there’s an element of murkiness we want to preserve.”
Nothing definitive thank you very much, investigative processes are dragged out and finally reach some final ambiguity, or, ‘the jury’s still out on that one. It’s ambiguity which, however fallacious, becomes a badge of adulthood within the worlds dominated by the power elite. In this instance, elites really are interchangeable, and this interchangeability not just an ultra-leftist fantasy, as we can see in the case of the assault on Bosnia where the ideologues of complexity in the USA and UK prevented any action to stop a process of ethnic cleansing until it was yet one more accomplished fact. There is also planned ambiguity. The most chilling information from ex-Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, relentlessly smeared before the Iraq invasion for detailing how there was no “WMD” , was after the destruction of liquid biological weapons by the UN Inspectors in 1995 an American on the team, Dick Spertzel would not do sampling there because he did not want to give the Iraqi state the benefit of a negative reading. This so it could always be said that this was a black hole data-wise, a grey area, and this despite the sophistication of the surveillance equipment available. A grey area as various British lords, including ‘that perfect poppinjay’ Lord Owen, said so many times of Bosnia between 1991 and 1995.
If all else fails persistent denial and a refusal to accept that anything has been definitively proved has become standard. On this last technique, Joan Didion is again right on song with a further question from the narrator to the Mark Berquist character.
“’The period I had in mind was more the period of the resupply to the Nicaraguan contra forces.’
‘In the first place any reference to the so-called contra forces would be totally inaccurate,’ Mark Berquist said. ‘In the second place any reference to the so-called resupply would be totally inaccurate.’
I suggested that both “contra” and “resupply” had become in the intervening years pretty much accepted usage for the forces and events in question.”
Challenged on this by the narrator citing official literature on the subject, the Berquist character replies after a long silence. “These are matters about which there has already been quite enough misrepresentation and politicization.”
It is uncanny, as if she knew in advance the tactics of Tony Blair and George W.Bush. Now and then bolder elements of the media will talk of them being in denial, but Blair’s blank refusal to admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction is not just playing for time, it keeps hold of a not 100% impossible ambiguity. Even now, as he admits that WMD may not be found, it is not an admission that they were not there. The Bush Administration has now adopted a similar tactic in relation to the independent inquiry they did not want into how the September 11th attack came to happen and its conclusion that there is no evidence of Iraqi-al Qaeda connections before the US invasion. Just before publication Vice President Dick Cheney asserted there was such a connection, as evidence of which he cited the many-times discredited story of Mohammed Atta meeting an Iraqi agent in Prague airport.
In the UK, a classic version of this tactic took place in a TV programme in 2003 on the events of Bloody Sunday 1972 when unarmed demonstrators, British citizens, were shot dead by British soldiers in Derry. The programme took place during the latter stages of the long drawn-out Saville Inquiry into those events, which has still not issued its Report. A British judge Popplewell, said it still might be the case the troops had been fired first, it was open to doubt. By luck Eamonn McCann was on the programme and swift to challenge this ‘muddying of the waters’ and to declare it for what it was, since that at least was no longer in doubt, that they had not been fired on. There has of course been plenty of time for events to be muddied, and given that the Inquiry has ruled out looking at the original Inquiry, the disgraceful Widgery Report, it is hard to be sanguine about how it will turn out, whether it will have the ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ aims it began with. And even if it is critical, the British army, while admitting nothing, is likely to say of that period, that was then, this is now.
This tactic is at one level the not-me-guv attitude of the Power Elite when faced with consequences of things they could have prevented, or which they set in motion themselves, consequences which billions of people in this world see clearly are for the worse. In the case of Mr Blair his state of denial is that kind of playing for time which assumes general boredom will set in at some point and even though the line put under it will be fuzzy, he can move on. This passionate believer in the invasion of Iraq and other things, is also enthusiastically legalistic when the need arises, not-me-guv. You could believe Joan Didion had seen him coming too in her description of Treat Morrison, the government guy who is a mover, a shaker, a can-do guy but who is also dishonest, “dishonest in the more radical sense, dishonest in that he remained incapable of seeing things straight.”
This legalism allied with the non-acceptance of uncomfortable facts as facts has been helped by large swathes of the mass media who declare of one scandal or another that “there is no smoking gun”. In the case of Bloody Sunday, the British army made sure there wasn’t, destroying most of the guns in question. A stand-out case was the BBC’s Steven Sackur declaring early on in the unraveling of Enron that in the case of President Bush that there was no smoking gun. Well that was that then, as if that was all that mattered. Besides, despite all the numerous links between the company and Bush and his Administration, even with fingerprints all over the smoking gun, a battery of wiseguys would have come up with an alternative narrative. But the concentration on whether the Administration was implicated or not, took attention away from the real question as to who were the mugs on to whom these dodgy shares were offloaded, as indeed is the real question with so much of the dotcom and telecoms bubbles.
Other help provided by a compliant media was recently evidenced in a BBC World Service interview with one Mark Bell, a spokesman for the occupation administration in Iraq, the CPA (17/6/04). A poll they themselves had commissioned showed that 55% of Iraqis would feel safer if foreign troops left. Safer! There was also a low level of support for the interim government. He was immediately helped by the interviewing asking if he was surprised? As if that was the relevant question. No, he was not surprised, Bell said, as if that was all right then, as if him not being surprised, the result expected, somehow took away its significance. This is similar one of the processes of Newzak, that is speculation as to what such and such a report will say, there are invariablty leaks-nothing official-so that when the official report emerges, any impact it might have had has been blunted. Unfortunately for him, Bell then pushed the interviewer into a corner by saying that the poll had been small, forcing the other point out that Bell and the CPA were the people who’s commissioned it. At which point Bell fell back on the ‘that was then, this is now, line; that the result would be very different if it was held now, some few weeks later, something of course we had no chance of knowing one way or another.
The ‘smoking gun’ is closely related to another tactic of the power elite and its employees, which is to exaggerate what is being said against it, saying that it was accused of things no one had accused them of, in order to discredit them. This was an important tactic in the concerted attack on an Iran-Contra scandal story written by a journalist called Gary Webb for The San Jose Mercury in 1995. This was some ten years after the events and normally might be one more case of what Guy Debord called ‘the consciousness that always comes too late’, this one was specific and had an edge to it whereby for once, scandal might have some consequences, in that it homed in on the hard drugs. He got the lead from another reporter called Robert Parry working for AP in 1985 who had been intimidated off the case (at one point with his writing partner Brian Barger was accused of poisoning Oliver North’s dog which had died of natural causes.) Following this up, and with some leads from an investigation headed by John Kerry, yes, the same one and who was himself on the end of various attempts to discredit him, Webb made the story specific.
It was about how two prominent Nicaraguan Contra supporters and smugglers Meneses and Blandon, and how they had hooked up with a black LA crack cocaine dealer, Freeway Ricky Ross who, at the time of his arrest was said to be shifting 700 kilos of the stuff per month. Webb wrote “It was a sort of collision, Crack was coming up anyway, and it ran slap bang into these cheap loads of cocaine that the Contras were bringing in and you have an explosion. And that’s essentially what my story is about. This collision of events.”
The assault on the story with no doubt promptings from those who had denied all drug-Contra links to the Kerry Committee, was lead by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post which are not owned by Rupert Murdoch. One of the team on the LA Times, one Jesse Katz, who had just two years previously described Ricky Ross as ‘the criminal mastermind behind crack’s decade-long reign, attacked the story by saying that Ricky Ross was a no one who had shifted very little. The Washington Post then chipped in by saying that Webb had said that the CIA had deliberately brought crack into the inner cities to fuck up the black population, something which was or was not true in the case of heroin in the Vietnam War period. In fact he had said no such thing, but this lie made it easy to dismiss the story and put it into the realms if “internet conspiracy stories”.
Of course there are such stories on the net, fascistic as well as ‘leftist’, and sometimes fascistic camouflaged as ‘leftist’ as well as the plain loopy or, but it’s clearly in the interests of the mainstream media to put down alternative net journalism. But to really get to grips with the business of how what is scandalous gets nullified, demands a look at what is, and is not conspiracy theory as well as what consequences it might have.
The Iran-Contra ‘affair’ was by any standards, a conspiracy, but the partial revelations of what happened had few consequences. Since then, almost any attempt to impugn the motives of the USA-UK axis for example, or to unravel the steps from cause to consequence, is dismissed as ‘conspiracy theory’. There is of course such stuff, when I was young it was the Gemstone file, a reductionist narrative which featured Onassis as the global politico-criminal mastermind. This is conspiracy theory with an amphetamine flavour. As I’ve written elsewhere (Frankenstein and the Chickenhawks: such stuff when it is not downright dangerous as with standard anti-semitism, is usually a waste of time for the people pursuing it. It is, on the other hand, a morbid symptom of a secrecy characteristic of the power elite. It is invariably defended on the grounds of necessary security, the need-to-know of spy stories, or business confidentiality. As we know, calls for transparency by Western leaders applies only to others.
It is also Daniel Ellsburg has testified, so addictive to those in the loop. “When you become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information…you’ll be aware of the fact that you have it now and others don’t…and all those other people are fools.”
Outside the loop, this can allow for endless speculation because the aim of those in the loop is to try and ensure that nothing can ever be decisively proved; or that if some things should be conclusively shown it will be at a time far too late to have any impact in that present. Those professional opinionists, all too eager to dismiss those who raise concern about discrepancies between what is said and what is being done, at the silenced links between cause(s) and consequence(s), as conspiracy theorists, always caricature it as ‘dastardly plotting’. In fact the precedent in English Conspiracy Law is that ‘a nod and a wink’ will do, a green light or, more likely, an ambiguous orange. In the recent case of prisoner abuse by the USA in Iraq, one of the two. The blame is firmly placed on ‘white trash’ soldiers, but seeing Donald Rumsfeld in action, it’s easy to see a deniable green light for the parameters of what was permissible being widened. The problem is that until recently, even when the link was shown to be there, the scandal revealed, this has, by itself, had no consequences. That it is in this instance having consequences is because there are ruthless and well-organized anti-American and other occupation forces.
Conspiracy theory became in the Gulf War, a catch-all phrase that encompassed a put-down of the way links were put into the open, links with other things going on in the Middle East, whereas for the West, everything was on a case-by-case basis, something as unreal as the worst conspiracy theory; and exploring the hidden links between cause and consequence. Both in themselves are worthwhile aims for those who want to live with a true picture of the world. Problems arise especially in four forms. First that most of the time, if the links between cause and consequence really are the product of some devious and immoral fixing, it is very, very unlikely that they will ever be proved in any definitive way. It becomes a Holy Grail kind of business. Second, it sometimes over estimates the power of the elite to control everything, something which can only make for a kind of defeatism. Third, if the link-makers have their own axe to grind, one that is often hidden however thinly. And in some cases, too much of an over-estimation of the motive-consequence sequence. After a while a person becomes as sick of the politico-psychological motivation of Tony Blair as of the man himself.
In the case of the Gulf War in which massive military force was used with the most modern tools, the suggestion was made that the USA administration had given the green light, or rather the orange to an eager Saddam Hussein, to invade Kuwait, and that this had been done with the express purpose of the justifying a subsequent attack on ‘his’ Iraq. And that further such an attack was a display of US firepower against a weakened constructed foe in order to intimidate the whole region.
The idea may, or may not be true. Whichever way, it was at least not some amphetamine–fuelled poetic paranoia. Instead it centred on what US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie did or did not say to Saddam Hussein on 25th July 1990; what Saddam Hussein may or may not have understood from what she said, and therefore what was or was not permissible in his interpretation. On this last point of course, there is no ambiguity, he had no right to interpret what she said as being an orange light for the invasion of Kuwait.
There was some history to all this. An agreement to increase oil prices had been made with both American and Saudi blessing (the Americans having oil producers of their own have never wanted the price too low, it is having some control over the price that matters); this was undermined by increased Kuwaiti production. At the same time Kuwait was insisting on immediate repayment of its loans to Iraq to finance the war against Iran, just at the time Saddam was having to publicly admit that this horrendous, wasteful and protracted war, in which hundreds of thousands died, had achieved nothing with a concession to Iran on the Shat-al-Arab waters. Why the Kuwaitis should have acted so provocatively was a question raised by the radical Arab journalist Said Aburish at the time. A successful invasion of Kuwait and the consequent undermining of Saudi control of OPEC and make it more pliable and accepting of the long term stationing of US troops in the kingdom. This is what did happen just as had been predicted by the independent and scrupulous scholar Marion Sluglett.
In the event, Iraq did invade Kuwait, and with all-round Western backing, the USA showed just how nasty it could be. Several months before the USA’s 1991 attack, US General Scwharzkopf and his fellow Generals played a serious war game in Tampa, Florida with Iraq as the target, and with input from Schwarzkopf himself. This is The Guardian of 22nd February 1991, re-reporting the Washington Post: “During the annual staff war-gaming last year General Schwarzkopf developed a scenario in which Iraq was preparing to attack Iraq. Even before the paper-and-computer exercise ended in August the hot line rang with a call from General Colin Powell…’Well they have crossed.’ Powell said, And I said, I’m not surprised you know. Now it’s going to be interesting to see what they do’…In the build up to the initial wave of 240,000 troops, he said, there were few deviations from the war-game plan.”
The text of the Saddam-Glaspie meeting was released in Arabic by the Iraqis and clearly could not be taken at face value. It was however printed almost in full by The New York Times. They agreed that an oil price of $25 a barrel was reasonable and then Glaspie is alleged to have said that the US ‘has no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border dispute with Kuwait.’ It was not until the war was over, some 7-8 months after her meeting with Saddam, that April Glaspie surfaced officially to refute this ‘disniformation’, which excluded her warning that the dispute with Kuwait should be settled peacefully; Saddam was too stupid to understand what she was saying, she said. Which is of course all too believable of this brutal and stupid man, but it did seem strange that the State Department had kept her under wraps for such a long time before allowing her to refute this disinformation, and that when she did so, she insisted so strongly that neither president nor State Department boss James Baker, had had no involvement in what was said at the meeting.
Nothing did or could come of all this, it was a matter of interpretation. Too much circumstantial stuff without the wealth of detail of Gary Webb’s story. But there was no happy ending to that, he was not the hero journalist who won with the truth, as say in the film Defence of the Realm. Instead his paper started to qualify the story and he resigned in protest. Both acts were taken by the big-time mainstream papers as proof that the story was wrong, and they derided it as being like internet conspiracy stuff. But you can get that in the mainstream press too. Look at how the foolish Michael Meacher in his Guardian article of 6th September 2003 in which he says “it is clear the US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11” backed by some very selective evidence, often taken out of context, how his article was leapt on in pure gratitude by professional opinionists who had supported the invasion of Iraq and were feeling a little wrong-footed by the non existence of Iraqi WMD. Meacher in fact was yet one more wise-after-the-event people who was still in the Blair government until June 2003. Since then he has been a godsend to those ex-Bolshevik pro-warriors who still can’t shake off that Bolshevik tic of never being in the wrong.
I can quite believe Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are capable of almost anything, if nothing else the Florida coup tells us this is the case. It is obviously true that the September 11th attacks have created the opportunity to exercise military power and create both the exercise of domestic authoritarianisms and a raft of precedent for more in the future. But Meacher now a born-again cold war leftist with their trademark dislike of Bosnians for having the cheek to have been helped very late in the day by the West in their fight not to be ethnically cleansed, does not have the necessary scrupulousness of Gary Webb to talk of a collision of events. Instead he gives a misleadingly selective chronology of the response to the hijackings, “the standard FAA intercept procedures” and from this asks the rhetorical questions, “Was this inaction simply the result of key people disregarding, or being ignorant of, the evidence? Or could US air security operations have been deliberately stood down on September 11th? If so, why, and on whose authority?”
This is fairly classic conspiracy theory prose. Mr Meacher now says they are doing a Gary Webb on him, exaggerating what he said, but the rhetorical questions say otherwise. Besides, it was totally mis-timed from someone who did nothing when it mattered in the real scandal of the thoroughgoing deceit in selling the invasion of Iraq within the UK-US axis, and now has his own axe to grind, one in which the consequences-domestic authoritarianism and pre-emptive strikes-must have been designed, and the Bush Administration omnipotent in bringing it all about. The consequence of Bloody Sunday was to start a process whereby the provisional IRA, still a bit of a joke at the time despite the heroics of the Markets, become a serious military organization. It might be that this is what the Heath government of the time wanted, to militarize the struggle as preferable to the participatory democracy of Free Derry. Maybe they just wanted to teach the Micks, the Republican Micks, a lesson, but in a sense it doesn’t matter which, the struggle was militarized and the dynamics of Free Derry squeezed out. It is possible to over-egg motivation. As Hannah Arendt argued with such courage of the Eichmann trial, what Eichmann did was all the more ‘evil’ when his motivation was of no importance.
In the regular put-downs of arguments, however true or false, as ‘conspiracy theory’ during the Gulf War, it was counterposed, when things were obviously wrong with ‘cock-up’ theory. I do not want to embrace that as a catch-all looking at the evidence heard in the Kean Inquiry into 9-11. It’s report due in July is likely to be full of ambiguity though it has spoken out firmly against the al-Qaeda-Saddam link still peddled out, and pushed ex-CIA chief Tenet into a pre-emptive strike resignation. At the same time it is all too believable that the CIA-FBI engaged in turf wars and were incompetent, and also that they were ironically overloaded with information as had been the case earlier with their failure to anticipate the Indian nuclear bomb test. Believable that these masters of the universe and their systems panicked, that indeed they had not taken the threat seriously-not from Arabs at any rate, the ones the Israelis always had the last laugh on. Not taken it seriously because it had been such a concern of the despised Clinton Administration, and would only get in the way of their own obsession with kicking butt in the Middle East. Most of all there is the cutthroat irony that attempts by the Clinton Administration to tighten security on domestic flight being lobbied against by airline companies concerned about turnover time and profit, and stopped.
To go beyond this and imply that the whole thing was planned, that the Administration are mass murderers of their own people, serves only to obscure the real scandal which is the deceit involved in the invasion of Iraq, which is itself in danger of being muddied over by too many inquiries without definitive conclusions, and too much bureaucratic detail.
In an Italian noir-type novel by Andrea Camilleri a Communist broadcaster says, “The quickest way to make people forget about a scandal is to talk about it as much as possible, on television, in the papers and so on. Over and over you flog the same dead horse, and pretty soon people start getting fed up.” This is perhaps the deadliest of neutralizers, post-facto newzak.
Recently the true British scandal – the deceit involved in making Britain a ‘partner’ in the invasion-is treacle’d by a newzak process. A series of boxed-off inquiries; pre-leak expert speculation as to what the inquiries should do, and what they might say; selected leaks; post-leak expert speculation as to what it will say and what that will mean; publication of the report with news conference and news deference; post-publication expert commentary; predictable post-report media positions taken; analysis of post-media positions taken, and what this will mean. A similar process in the USA has taken place and even though there the inquiries have been less constrained, the results have been the same, no verifiable deceit was involved, and if there is a report on this question it will be after the Presidential elections and thus shorn of immediate consequence. After the most recent inquiry in the UK, the Butler Report, The Guardian of 17th July said that ‘the Blairites’ now hoped that complaints about the Iraq invasion were “running out of steam.” It will require perseverance not to forget, and be an unforgiving jury.