Bill Clinton was greeted with rapture at the Labour Party conference. As he walked on to the stage, delegates cheered in adulation, as if collectively saying: "Is that a cigar in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?" And the answer was: "Both."
Then Bill did what he does best, which is peddle half-baked half-truths, untruths and evasions thinly veiled as charisma. And the Labour Party conference did what it does best, which is pop its collective head under Bill's desk to show its appreciation.
In years to come, delegates will fondly recall the time Bill came to speak to them. Misty-eyed, they might even produce garments still waiting to be taken to the dry-cleaners, to prove it was him. What they won't recall is how they and the Great British Press left his lies unchallenged.
The most obvious was the "Saddam Hussein expelled the Unscom weapons inspectors from Iraq" lie. In fact, the US decided to bomb Iraq and told/advised Richard Butler, who led Unscom (the UN watchdog set up after the Gulf war to supervise the dismantling of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction), to withdraw Unscom before the allied bombing raids. Butler recounts the tale in his book Saddam Defiant.
As lies become accepted fact and the ex-president of the United States, the man who ordered the bombing, contradicts his own actions, the world becomes surreal. And the only way to fight surrealism is with surrealism! I therefore propose that Saddam Hussein sue Bill Clinton for libel and seek billions in damages. Obviously, evil murdering dictators are on dodgy ground when trying to prove that their reputations have been harmed, but it would be a start just to see these two where they belong - in a courtroom.
The press must bear responsibility for allowing the constant drip-drip of Bush and Blair's propaganda to go by unchallenged. So far, the media's in-depth questioning of the pencilled-in war seems to run along the lines of: "Should we kill starving civilians with or without a new UN resolution?" Which brings the level of debate on mass murder down to the Pepsi challenge.
On 7 October, the Guardian reported that the US would keep Israel onside in the event of war by providing the Israelis with free Patriot missiles. If Saddam Hussein launched a Scud missile attack on Tel Aviv, the Patriots (anti-missile missiles) would shoot them from the sky. This would ensure that Israel, in turn, doesn't enter the conflict and provoke the fury of Arab states.
After the Gulf war, Bush Sr appeared at the Raytheon Patriot production plant - which produced the missile defence system deployed in Israel - and declared: "Forty-two Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted."
The workers cheered and the share price went through the roof.
It was the General Accounting Office, the US government watchdog, that finally revealed the truth: not one Scud had been shot down by Patriot missiles. This piece of information was missing from the Guardian story. It was not apparently deemed important that the Americans' apparent concern and planning for regional stability is nothing but a rather hollow and cynical PR gesture.
If the press refuses to question these minor deceptions, what hope is there of it uncovering the major ones?
It is the tireless work of academics such as the Iraq sanctions expert Dr Eric Herring at Bristol University and the economist Dr Colin Rowat at Birmingham that is producing the most relevant information on the situation. Both have pointed to a simple fact: Iraq is one of the poorest nations on the planet. At best, the country is as poor as Sierra Leone and a bit richer than Rwanda.
Iraq gave a report to the UN secretary general in April 1991 that declared Iraq's external debt to be $42.1bn as of 31 December 1990, with an annual rate of interest of 8 per cent. As the UN forbids Iraq from servicing its debt, by December 2002 that debt will be more than $106bn. Iraq also excluded approximately $40bn of loans from Arab Gulf states, which when added put the sum between $146bn and (if the Arab loans run at 8 per cent interest) $206bn.
Iraq has only managed to pay $15bn of the $36bn compensation it must pay for the Gulf war, adding another $21bn, to make a total of somewhere between $167bn and $227bn. I have not included the possible $250bn worth of compensation claims for the Gulf war that have not been adjudicated.
There are some who say war is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop it. They have the luxury of defeatism. If we can't be motivated by the moral repugnance of this situation, then we should all join the Labour delegates under Bill's table, ignoring the world in order to have their brush with power and fame.