SCOTT BURCHILL. On the Russian gas attack

Mar 29, 2018

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. 

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