In his book The New Rulers Of The World, the renowned investigative journalist John Pilger (p.65-67) describes his stay at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed Hotel shortly before the allied invasion of Iraq in March 2003:
“I met an assistant manager who had been at the hotel since the 1980s, and whose sardonic sense of western double standards was a treat. “Ah!, a journalist from Britain”, he said. “Would you like to see where Mr Douglas Hurd stayed, and Mr David Melon [sic] and Mr Tony Newton, and all the other members of Mrs Thatcher’s Government…These gentlemen were our friends, our benefactors.”
He has a collection of the Baghdad Observer from ‘the good old days’. Saddam Hussein is on the front page, where he always is. The only change in each photograph is that he is sitting on his white presidential couch with a different British government minister, who is smiling or wincing.
There is Douglas Hurd, in 1981, then a Foreign Office minister who came to sell Saddam Hussein a British Aerospace missile system and to ‘celebrate’ the anniversary of the coming to power of the Ba’ath (Redemption) Party, a largely CIA triumph in 1968 that extinguished all hope of a pluralistic Iraq and produced Saddam Hussein.
There is Hurd twice: on the couch and on page two, bowing before the tyrant, the renowned interrogator and torturer of Qasr-al-Nihayyah, the ‘palace of the end’. And there is the corpulent David Mellor, also a Foreign Office man, on the same white couch in 1988.
While Mellor, or ‘Mr Melon’ as the assistant manager preferred, was being entertained, his host ordered the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the town of Halabja, news of which the foreign office tried to suppress…..As the subsequent inquiry by Sir Richard Scott revealed, these celebrities of the Baghdad Observer knew they were dealing illegally with the tyrant. “Please give Mr Melon my greetings”, said the assistant manager.
Twenty seven years later, ‘Mr Melon’ can be heard presenting a phone in show alongside Ken Livingstone every Saturday morning on LBC Radio. I phoned the programme a few weeks ago to remind Mellor of this unfortunate episode in his career. Needless to say, I was cut off immediately.
In Chapter 13 of his book, Web Of Deceit, British historian, Mark Curtis highlights – with reference to the views expressed in the Scott inquiry mentioned above – that elites do not think the public are entitled to know what the decision-making processes are that give rise to their decisions.
They are especially keen to deflect criticism away from the ruthless and violent nature of the British state towards the perpetuation of the myth that British foreign policy is historically predicated on the idea of benevolence. This involves the promotion of high and noble principles – democracy, peace, human rights and development – in its foreign policy.
Any critiques of Britain’s role in wars within the mainstream media are normally marginalized or presented within narrow limits which show “exceptions” to, or “mistakes” in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence. Curtis believes that overall:
“People are being indoctrinated into a picture of Britain’s role in the world that supports elite priorities. This is the mass production of ignorance. It actively works against our interests, which is precisely why the ideological system is critical to the elite, who essentially see the public as a threat…. As the chapters on Kenya, Malaya, British Guiana, Iran and others have shown, the reality of British policy is systematically suppressed” .
Has anything fundamentally changed since BBC founder Lord Reith wrote of the establishment: “They know they can trust us not to be really impartial”?  Why did the British and American mass media fail to challenge even the most obvious government lies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the invasion in March 2003? Why did the media ignore the claims of UN weapons inspectors that Iraq had been 90-95 per cent “fundamentally disarmed” as early as 1998? .
What Curtis convincingly shows is that Blair’s contempt for international law in relation to Iraq is part of an historical continuum. As Caroline Lucas put it: “By imposing regime change in Iraq… Tony Blair is not so much following the US as continuing a national tradition.”.
After studying declassified British government files, Curtis concluded that:
“British ministers’ lying to the public is systematic and normal…In every case I have ever researched on past British foreign policy, the files show that ministers and officials have systematically misled the public. The culture of lying to and misleading the electorate is deeply embedded in British policy-making” .
Just as the public didn’t need the Scott Inquiry to tell them that the Thatcher government illegally sold weapons of mass destruction to Saddam that were used to deadly effect against the Kurds, so we don’t need £10 million (and counting) of our money wasted in a whitewash of an inquiry into Blair’s deceptions in relation to Iraq.
All that is required is a cursory glance at the contents of the Downing Street memo which provides the public with an invaluable record of a meeting in July 2002, between Blair and Sir Richard Dearlove. The memo reveals that Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington military action was now seen as inevitable
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy . In other words, what this memo shows is Blair knew that the decision to attack Iraq had already been made; that it preceded the justification.