In advance of the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago, the UK media parroted government lies and fabrications uncritically and became an enthusiastic part of the state’s propaganda machine. An inquiry into British reporting of the Iraq war is well past due.
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Twenty years ago, Tony Blair provided the British public with false information about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction in order to make the case for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Sir Tony has never gone on trial. He has suffered no personal consequences. Nor have his spy chiefs and advisers. He was recently awarded the Order of the Garter, the highest honour in British public life.
Not one of the British journalists who published Sir Tony’s lies and falsehoods about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction has suffered professionally. Many have gone on to greater things.
Meanwhile, those who revealed the illegality and barbarism of the war have suffered. Julian Assange, who revealed so many of the war crimes committed by US forces, now languishes in jail.
In the United States, there have been agonised inquests into the misreporting of Iraq. Not so in Britain, where much of the press and broadcasting media became an enthusiastic part of the state propaganda machine.
Britain’s most senior and respected journalists passed on government lies uncritically, very often adding fresh fabrications of their own.
The Guardian swallowed the Blair government’s false claim that Saddam Hussein’s agents were scouring Africa for uranium to buy a nuclear bomb – and went much further.
The Sunday Telegraph pumped out oceans of state propaganda, floating sensational but insubstantial reports which inflamed the mood of public alarm on the eve of war.
The Sun splashed ‘Brits 45 minutes from doom’ – nonsense.
Meanwhile, critics of the war were marginalised or smeared. Scott Ritter, the United Nations weapons inspector repeatedly questioned British and United States claims about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. His well-informed interventions, amply justified as it turned out, were downplayed, while attack stories were boosted.
The late Sir John Chilcot did a scrupulous (if too long delayed) job in holding British politicians to account for the conduct of the Iraq invasion. No similar examination has been carried out of British journalists, though independent organisations, above all Media Lens, forensically exposed the complicity of corporate media with the state machine right from the start.
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