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Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World by Mark Curtis (Vintage: London, 2003, 512 pp.)
On September 28, Tony Blair once again lied to the British public on the BBCs Breakfast With Frost program, saying of Saddam: Why on earth was he obstructing the inspectors all the way through the 1990s? Why did we have to go, as we did with America, to bomb Baghdad in 1998 when the inspectors were driven out?
In fact, inspectors had not been continuously obstructed and they were not driven outthey were withdrawn for their own safety ahead of the four-day series of air strikes that were Operation Desert Fox.
The attacks began the day before Clintons impeachment referendum on the Monica Lewinsky affair was scheduled and were called off two hours after the vote. Chief UNSCOM weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, reports that just prior to the strikes, Inspectors were sent in to carry out sensitive inspections that had nothing to do with disarmament, but had everything to do with provoking the Iraqis.
Ritter was reported as saying at the time: What [head of UNSCOM] Richard Butler did last week with the inspections was a set-up. This was designed to generate a conflict that would justify a bombing. U.S. government sour- ces had told Ritter three weeks earlier, the two considerations on the horizon were Ramadan and impeachment.
An anonymous UN diplomat commented: There were something like 300 inspections [in recent weeks] and we encountered difficulties in five.
These five difficulties came after Iraq had complied in disarming fully 90-95 percent of its weapons of mass destruction, leaving only bits and pieces of programs left, according to Ritter and others.
In his new book, Web of Deceit, Mark Curtis points to an even darker possibility concerning the abandonment of the UNSCOM arms inspections. He quotes RAND Corporation analyst Daniel Byman who, writing in Foreign Affairs, suggested that an impasse over inspections is actually the best realistic outcome for the United States and its allies. The most dangerous scenario was the possibility that Saddam will cooperate which could spell...the end of sanctions.
In a similar vein, the Financial Times wrote in 1998 that the U.S. dilemma would grow even sharper if a diplomatic solution is devised which satisfies the UN and its arms inspectors. A U.S. intelligence official said the White House will not take yes for an answer.
In other words, Clinton and Blair may have bombed Baghdad in December 1998 precisely to prevent UN inspectors from completing their work, which would have given Iraq a clean bill of health and would have meant the lifting of sanctions without U.S. control of Iraqi oil.
In the foreword to Web Of Deceit, John Pilger writes: My own view is that had the great broadcasting institutions and newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic not merely channeled and echoed the agendas and lies of government, but instead exposed and challenged them, the Bush/Blair attack on Iraq would have been made untenable.
does seem clear that Blair and his entourage carefully crafted their
lies according to their perception of likely media challenges. When
UK foreign secretary Jack Straw finally got challenged on his claim
that UNSCOM had been thrown out in 1998, he changed
tack in subsequent interviews claiming that the inspectors had been
forced to leave. When that failed, he resorted to claiming
that they had been unable to do their work. Britains
leading interviewersthe Dimblebys, Frosts, and Paxmans (all
millionaire TV celebrities) said nothing while government
spokespeople like Straw blatantly fabricated pretexts for war.
Mark Curtis is one of a tiny number of commentators willing to tell the uncompromised truth. He swiftly exposes government lies about Iraqi WMD, links with al-Qaeda, and the idea that the invasion had nothing to do with oil. As for the 1991-2003 sanctions regime, he writes: It is simply amazing that a government policy which, by credible indicators, has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people has been widely met with only murmurs of objections.
Likewise, of the more than 3,000 Afghan civilian deaths from U.S. bombing, Curtis notes, Their deaths have received the barest of concern from political leaders and the mainstream media, who have essentially deemed Afghan lives expendable to avenge the attack on the U.S.
Nevertheless, with breathtaking complacency, the Guardian describes how the wests commitment to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties and the terrorists proven wish to cause as many civilian casualties as possible... is still a key difference.
This seems reasonable to the Guardians editors because the thousands of civilians we do kill, and the hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of lives we turn upside down, do not register as meaningful tragedies. The fact, as Curtis notes, that a quarter of a million starving Afghan refugees were forced to flee U.S. revenge bombing through winter snows to Iran and Pakistan just doesnt seem that bad.
Curtis examines the long U.S.-UK tradition of guilt-free crushing of these unpeople. The claimed concern for democracy in Iraq, for example, is made absurd by declassified documents [which] show that British and U.S. policy has always been to support the authority of favoured repressive ruling regimes in the Gulf and has helped them counter internal challenges...
Curtis reviews how, at the October 2001 Labour Party conference, Tony Blair pledged to help heal a scar on the conscience of the world by addressing poverty and conflict in Africa. A month earlier, representatives of both sides of the conflict between Uganda and Angola had attended a major British arms exhibition. The International Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria reported of the conflict: Britain is inflaming the situation by arming both sides.
The true concern, Curtis notes, is hardly in doubt: Britains basic priorityvirtually its raison detre for several centuriesis to aid British companies in getting their hands on other countries resources. As Lord Mackay, then Lord Chancellor, revealed in the mid-1990s, the role of MI6 is to protect Britains economic well-being by keeping a particular eye on Britains access to key commodities, like oil or metals [and] the profits of Britains myriad of international business interests.
Britain kept a particular eye on its interests throughout its war in defence of the rubber industry in Malaya and through its many interventions to crush independent nationalism in British Guiana, Kenya, Indonesia, and Irancynical exercises in realpolitik exposed with shocking clarity here.
Despite this mass of evidencemuch of it readily available in declassified documents ignored by both media and academiaCurtis notes: I do not think I have ever seen a media article that mentions that Britain might in some way systematically contribute to poverty in the world. Is this not extraordinary? Britains partial responsibility for maintaining and deepening poverty globally is unmentionable.
Curtis has worked in the field of international development for ten years and understands the real role of the World Bank: Real participation is generally non-existent, as numerous recent studies show. It is not peoples involvement in policy-making that is being promoted. Rather, civil society groups are being consulted to ratify decisions on policies being made by elites. In most countries there are few opportunities to shape policy, still fewer to implement alternatives.
Curtis brilliantly assembles the facts and sources we need to challenge the web of government lies. But even more importantly, in my view, he exposes the crucial role of the mass media in making these lies credible.
David Edwards is co-editor of Media Lens and a ZNet commentator.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.