Few of us would claim we never told a lie, but neither that we did so enthusiastically. Just the innocent deception of our own children with the Santa Claus fairy tale is a lie, even if told for the most altruistic of reasons. Perhaps that illustrates the conundrum, and need for some distinction between “innocent lies” and egregious ones, and those in between.
These last – the “justifiable lies” – must include those told “for Queen and Country”, or as we like to say in Australia “in the interests of National Security”, to make it less obvious that neither the Queen nor the Country are truly ours.
Going on their recent performance, members of the Australian Government seem to have a rather broad definition of justifiable lies, told ostensibly in the National Interest but clearly also in the interests of some other Nations, and favoured corporations. Even justifiable, and toothless in deceiving no-one, they are still lies.
As most of us who have also – reluctantly – told a less innocent lie at some time would know, one little lie often begets another – and so ad infinitum! And it can be seen that what applies to the personal also applies to the national; the language may be different but the deception is the same.
Perhaps it’s because we have some personal empathy with our habitually mendacious leaders that we may cut them more slack than they deserve. Recent proposals from some Independent MPs to have an “Integrity Commission” charged with setting higher standards of behaviour for Parliamentary representatives are an admirable attempt to rectify this problem. We might well suspect that the Government’s own copycat proposal is a less admirable attempt to dodge the moral spotlight.
What is becoming increasingly apparent however, is that one sector of the “public service” is immune to such criticism, despite displaying the same casual attitude to the truth. In fact it could be said that the core business of our “Intelligence Agencies” is “plausible lying”, whether publicly or privately, to other states or to each other. Even though we know this to be the case, the advice of Intelligence agencies is presented as sacrosanct, and we believe that these agencies and their Directors must be acting in our interests.
Those who question such advice – such as the renowned “Intelligence” on Iraq’s non-existent WMDs – are in an extreme minority. Even in that case, where there was widespread exposure of the intricacies of deception, and the covert agenda of those who made the case for the unprovoked pre-emptive strike on Baghdad, there remain many who still believe the ends justified the means and would “do it again”.
As it happens, some new information has recently emerged that demonstrates the Howard government’s extreme mendacity over the supposed intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs; Howard himself clearly misled Parliament in March 2003, when “the intelligence had been fixed around the policy”. As explained here by James O’Neill, that advice to create the pretext for war came from the head of MI6 at the time – Sir Richard Dearlove. One might imagine that since Australia was part of the advance planning to attack Iraq, it also played a part in “fixing” the intelligence.
At the very least, Howard appears to have been part of this joint US/UK conspiracy that set out to deceive the Western public into supporting the illegal “war for Oil”, and in a way that also misled Australia’s own military. Fixing the intelligence in this case merely meant concealing the planning and the motivation from the public until everything was in place for “Shock and Awe”.
While the devastating effects of that war on Iraq are barely addressed or recompensed today, the current state of affairs does not allow us the luxury of some “truth and reconciliation” commission. Not only do the orchestrators and perpetrators of that crime remain unbowed and unpunished, their political offspring are already mired in the same morass of lies and deceptions, and on multiple fronts.
Recent developments over the involvement of US coalition forces – including Australia – in military campaigns in Syria and Iraq have suddenly re-opened the Iraqi wound, with Iraqi parliamentarians uniting in anger and opposition to the continuing US presence. The multiplicity of lies being told to facilitate the US coalition’s new strategic objectives demand attention and exposure which is so far quite lacking from Australian state and corporate media.
How this can happen – the elaborate construction of a completely false narrative that conceals the most egregious crimes committed by our own “Democratic” countries against innocent victim populations – requires a little more background on the fabric of lies that supports it, before examining this most recent deception.
Nowhere is elaborate and organised deception more evident than in the fabrications over alleged chemical weapons use by Syria and Russia, and in particular the claims that Russia tried to kill Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent. Even at the start, those claims had little credibility given the obvious lack of any motive, but the subsequent development of the “Novichok” story has the classic features of the “chain of lies” alluded to earlier, explored at great length by many analysts. (I should note that I first wrote this for an Australian audience, for whom no alternative vision is available on the Skripal poisoning. For the better informed however, the corroborating evidence in Utkin’s report is still very useful).
Unlike in many controversial cases where little solid evidence is available to identify the perpetrators of a crime, in the case of the Skripal poisoning the wealth of circumstantial evidence is backed up by solid, even incontrovertible scientific evidence.
Not only does the extreme toxicity of such nerve agents make death the most likely symptom of exposure, it poses a lethal hazard to the “user” as well as any other living thing in the vicinity. It is simply impossible for anyone with a little technical knowledge to accept the case as presented by the UK Government and its Intelligence agencies.
It is also clear that from the start the Russians could not accept the UK’s claims, even to the slightest degree. This is not because of their lack of involvement or knowledge of the Skripals’ poisoning, but because the claims are simply ridiculous and transparently false. This lengthy technical analysis by highly experienced and qualified Russian scientist Anton Utkin makes that clear. Utkin’s experience as a UN CW inspector in Iraq, and involvement in the CW destruction program means his observations on Novichok must be accepted or credibly refuted; they cannot be ignored.
Why then should we accept any of the pronouncements of Western coalition leaders on their motives and intentions in the Middle East, if they subscribe to the “litany of lies” around the Salisbury poisonings? The intimate association between those involved in the Skripal poisoning conspiracy and in the staging of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria by the White Helmets further discredits all those who accept these fabrications as true.
It also makes them responsible and culpable for illegal and lethal actions taken against Syria and Russia and their allies, based on these false claims. The chains of lies told knowingly to support those actions can only be described as “egregious” and unjustifiable in any sense – for Queen, country or even “responsibility to protect” – the dishonest framing of those actions in such humanitarian terms hugely magnifies the crime.
Which brings us back to the current deception over the US move to withdraw forces from Syria, where they have operated illegally for eight years – according to President Trump. In reality their announced presence in Syria was “authorised” by the Iraqi government in 2014; a year later the Australian government followed suit, but without such authorisation. While the withdrawal from Syria will finally allow the Syrian Army and allies to eliminate Islamic State forces from east of the Euphrates, with the cooperation of the Iraqi army, it now appears that the US is merely redeploying its troops to the Iraqi side of the Syrian border – not coincidentally to the Ayn al Asad airbase that the Trumps visited at Christmas
Given that Australian PM Scott Morrison also paid a surprise visit to the troops in Iraq just before Christmas, and with apparent foreknowledge of Trumps Syria plans, why should we believe any assurances on the true reason for the Australian presence in Iraq, or claims of its absence in Syria? Have Iraqi officials expressed a desire for Australian forces to leave Iraq, or protested at Morrison’s plans that they will remain there?
On whose behalf are Australian forces actually deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria? And in whose interest?
While the discussion and disputes over the US pulling out of Syria continue, I have to date heard no Government representative comment on Australia’s intentions, nor any media pose the question. Instead we have heard how one single Australian who went to fight in Syria with IS, and is now in a Turkish jail – for reasons unknown – will have his citizenship cancelled. He might wish he’d joined the White Helmets!