War comes back home

As the colonial crimes in Algeria, Vietnam and Afghanistan blew back to their perpetrators, so the e

Freedom is being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message. Police can wilfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie, and expect to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The Foreign Secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the Justice Secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The list is cursory; there is much more.

Indeed, there is so much more that the erosion of liberal freedoms is symptomatic of an evolved criminal state. The haven for Russian oligarchs, together with corruption of the tax and banking systems and of once-admired public services such as the Post Office, is one side of the coin; the other is the invisible carnage of failed colonial wars. Historically, the pattern is familiar. As the colonial crimes in Algeria, Vietnam and Afghanistan blew back to their perpetrators, France, the US and the Soviet Union, so the cancerous effects of Britain’s cynicism in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home.

The most obvious example is the bombing atrocities in London on 7 July 2005; no one in the British intelligence mandarinate doubts these were a gift from Blair. And yet “terrorism” describes only the few acts of individuals and groups, not the constant, industrial violence of great powers. Suppressing this truth is left to the credible media. On 27 February, the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, in reporting President Obama’s statement that America was finally leaving Iraq, as if it were fact, wrote: “For Iraq, the death toll is unknown, in the tens of thousands, victims of the war, a nationalist uprising, sectarian infighting and jihadists attracted by the US presence.” Thus, the Anglo-American invaders are merely a “presence” not directly responsible for the “unknown” number of Iraqi deaths. Such contortion of intellect is impressive.

In January last year, a report by the respected Opinion Research Business (ORB) revised an earlier assessment of deaths in Iraq to 1.033 million. This followed a peer-reviewed study in 2006 by the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, published in the Lancet, which found that nearly 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion. US and British officials immediately dismissed the report as “flawed” – a deliberate deception. Foreign Office papers obtained under Freedom of Information disclose a memo written by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Roy Anderson, in which he praised the Lancet report, describing it as “robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to ‘best practice’ given [the conditions] in Iraq”. An adviser to the Prime Minister commented: “The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones.” Yet, speaking a few days later, the Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman said: “The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern.”

The episode exemplifies the scale and deception of this state crime. Les Roberts, co-author of the Lancet study, has since argued that Britain and America might have caused in Iraq “an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide”. This is not news. Neither is it a critical reference in the freedoms campaign organised by the Observer columnist Henry Porter. At a conference in London on 28 February, Lord Goldsmith, Blair’s former attorney general, who notoriously changed his mind and advised the government the invasion was legal, when it wasn’t, was a speaker for freedom. So was Timothy Garton Ash, a “liberal interventionist”. On 17 April 2003, shortly after the slaughter had begun in Iraq, a euphoric Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian: “America has never been the Great Satan. It has sometimes been the Great Gatsby: ‘They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things . . .’” One of Britain’s jobs “is to keep reminding Tom and Daisy that they now have promises to keep”. Less frivolously, he lauded Tony Blair for his “strong Gladstonian instincts for humanitarian intervention” and repeated the government’s propaganda about Saddam Hussein. In 2006, he wrote, “Now we face the next big test of the west: after Iraq, Iran” (my italics). This also adheres precisely to the propaganda; David Miliband has declared Iran a “threat” in preparation for the next war.

Like so many of New Labour’s Tonier-than-thou squad, Henry Porter celebrated Blair as an almost mystical politician who “presents himself as a harmoniser for all the opposing interests in British life, a conciliator of class differences and tribal antipathies, synthesiser of opposing beliefs”. Porter dismissed as “demonic nonsense” all analysis of the 11 September 2001 attacks that suggested there were specific causes: the consequences of violent actions taken by the powerful in the Middle East. Such thinking, he wrote, “exactly matches the views of Osama Bin Laden . . . With America’s haters, that’s all there is – hatred.” This, of course, was Blair’s view.

Freedoms are being lost in Britain because of the rapid growth of the “national security state”. This form of militarism was imported from the United States by New Labour. Totalitarian in essence, it relies on fear-mongering to entrench the executive with venal legal mechanisms that progressively diminish democracy and justice. “Security” is all and it relies on propaganda promoting rapacious colonial wars, even as honest mistakes. Take away this propaganda, and the wars are exposed for what they are, and the fear evaporates. Take away the obeisance of many in Britain’s liberal elite to American power and you demote a profound colonial mentality that covers for epic criminals such as Blair. Prosecute these criminals and change the system that breeds them, and you have freedom.