SCOTT BURCHILL. On the Russian gas attack

Given the “sexing up” and outright distortions of dodgy intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s “WMD” in 2002-3 by both the UK government of Tony Blair and US administration of George W. Bush, one can only be astonished at the credulity of those in the Fourth Estate who don’t even feel the need to ask for evidence in the case of the Salisbury gas attack on double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.  

 The pattern is clear. The intelligence is rarely definitive and open to a range of interpretations. Governments routinely lie about the intelligence for their own political motives. Gullible journalists then uncritically transcribe the lies in order to stay on the government drip feed for possible future leaks. This brief example illustrates the problem.

In July 2003, “WMD doubts are ludicrous” screamed the headline of Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian. Underneath, the paper’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, claimed that “the US has material in its possession in Iraq which, if it checks out, will be conclusive evidence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs. … The evidence that Hussein had WMD programs is so overwhelming, he [John Bolton, US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Security at the time] can barely understand how it is doubted” (Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 10 July, 2003).

Two days later Sheridan went even further: “The US has discovered what it believes is decisive proof of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and taken the material to the US for testing. …They believe the material will contain chemical weapons materials” (Greg Sheridan, The Weekend Australian, 12 July, 2003).

It didn’t. The doubts were justified and, subsequently, verified: anything but “ludicrous”. Despite claims of “conclusive” and “decisive” evidence, no WMD were found in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, a headline conceding “We’re sorry we totally mislead you but we so badly wanted to believe this leak,” never materialised in The Australian.

This hoax tells us good deal about Greg Sheridan. He was happy to play stenographer to Bolton’s lies because he was acutely embarrassed that the primary pretext for the war against Iraq, which he passionately supported, was collapsing around him.

 But it also says much about John Bolton. He didn’t hesitate to fabricate lies about the war and feed them to reliable fellow travellers in the Fourth Estate who could be relied upon to repeat them without a hint of critical evaluation.

 Sheridan’s career at The Australian was unaffected by the deception and such an “overwhelming” blunder. Bolton will soon be President Trump’s National Security Advisor. Observers of both careers can “barely understand” this.

 Now Sheridan tells us to uncritically accept UK intelligence on the nerve gas attack despite Tony Blair’s lies & distortions revealed in the Chilcot Inquiry. It seems that a love for state power, especially in Washington and London, means he can never learn from his errors

 Before rushing to another judgement based on lies and distortions, here are some articles worth reading about, most of which raise serious doubts about London’s public claims about this case.

Former OPCW official: no conclusive proof of Russian complicity in Salisbury attack

This from Peter Jennings is full of conjecture, outright nonsense & unsubstantiated claims

 Is it actually Novichok? Why is UK’s Porton Down’s analysis uncertain? “Porton Down Chemical Biological Analyst: The samples tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent or closely related agent”

Evidence submitted by the British government in court today proves, beyond any doubt, that Boris Johnson has been point blank lying about the degree of certainty Porton Down scientists have about the Skripals

Teresa May’s rush to judgment on nerve agents (Brian Toohey) –

UK foreign office (FCO) source reveals UK chemical weapon lab Porton Down agreed to FCO’s “of a type developed by Russia” formula only under heavy pressure — much like what was applied on Blair’s Iraqi WMD “dirty dossier”

“Doubts About Novichoks”, urgent briefing note published by the WG on Syria, Media and Propaganda

Why worry about evidence, just assert it as fact

What really worries the West about Russia

“Anyone who expresses scepticism is seen as an enemy of the state”

The Novichok story Is indeed another Iraqi WMD scam

Official UK govt claim that Novichok solely incriminates Russia falls apart – it potentially incriminates the US, Israel and the UK too

This Sergei Skripal case reminds us of the long + dark history of state-sponsored assassination attempts on foreign soil. Russia is far from the only suspect on this front

It’s a curious case (Ramesh Thakur)

Where’s the evidence? (Tom Switzer)

Dr Scott Burchill is Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Deakin University. 


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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5 Responses to SCOTT BURCHILL. On the Russian gas attack

  1. Avatar Kathy Heyne says:

    Thank you, Scott. I must admit, I read the headline and thought ” Oh no! Not again! And not here, on Pearls and Irritations- please, no!” But from the opening sentence of the first paragraph, I knew my fears were unfounded.

    Thank you for all the links. I’d already read some of the articles- I’ve been following the escalation of Russophobia closely over the last couple of years, it’s deeply worrying unless you fancy WW3- but some of them are new to me.

  2. Avatar David Verrall says:

    So here we are again, having never grown out of that Cold War polarity from which Turnbull, and lets face it the whole of the Australian political generation of sycophants who only know cowering to any authority but our own, obediently does what their told. My sad guess is that Australian politics, having no particular relevance in the world, want to feel relevant. Want to be noticed, and the only way feel noticed is to be a puppet to whom ever does the talking. Of course CNN, Washington Post, NYT, BBC etc own Australian media, and that’s what gets said, so the sheeple who only know one God will think they think that way too. Mention anything other than the American dictate amongst the Australian general public, and it gets a blank stare, as there are no other thoughts. If it hasn’t been said/done before, don’t know how to do it. Why think anything when all you have to do is Bang the Russian Can Again. Look at what happens to the Australian press when you throw a ball into the room.

  3. Avatar Rodney Edwin Lever says:

    As one who was present, my observations about Saddam Hussain were brushed aside at the hysterical excitement that caused Rupert Murdoch to take his aeroplane from London to America and then to Australia (and John Howard) and subsequently to the emergence from the hole in the ground where Saddam had been hiding and from where he could never carried out the kind of threat for which he was charged. The whole thing was ridiculous and ended with Hussain’s brutal strangulation. The whole incident was simply an opportunity for Murdoch to influence a group of politicians and to commit a ghastly error and to show his own power. Others may not agree even now but that is my own observation of the thing and I still maintain my belief.

  4. Avatar Simon Warriner says:

    Thank you for that comprehensive adddressing of the most serious issue on the international agenda.

  5. Avatar Robin Wingrove says:

    Thank God for at least one rational article about this joke of an affair. Reminds me of the USS Maddox in the Gulf on Tonkin which was used to involve us all in Vietnam only to be informed in 1975 by Robert McNamara, Sec. of State at the Tonkin time that the whole thing was a false flag orchestrated by the Yanks themselves. And we have so many ‘incidents’ afterwards that have led to the same result; overwhelming force employed against some small country which we, being the ‘good little diggers’ we are, faithfully follow Uncle Sam in their strategy of world dominance.

    I can’t help but wonder what this affair is hiding as it seems a case of ‘look here, look here’ so we don’t look elsewhere. Theresa May’s and the Tory’s mishandling of Brexit maybe or extreme sour grapes and bile at those who ‘don’t follow our values’, whatever they are for this week?

    And still we fall for it. I’m beyond being sick anymore, I’m just full of amazement now. Obviously we don’t believe in the future for if we did we would be more mindful of the blow-back our actions will could bring.

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