Disgust and Horror
In Praise of Integrity
by Kim Petersen
March 27, 2003
Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons.
-- Thomas Hardy
There is hardly a contrast. There was British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman quoted as saying: "’The Prime Minister's reaction was horror, both at the deaths and at the fact that the pictures were being shown.’" (1) It is more than disconcerting to equate the video footage of two slain British soldiers with their deaths. What did Mr. Blair expect when he sent his fighters off to this moral war? Mr. Blair ostensibly claims higher moral ground than the Pope, his own country’s church leaders, 41 Nobel laureates, a bevy of world leaders past and present, including French, German, Chinese, and Russian leaders, Mr. Nelson Mandela, and Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev. Even many of the families of the 9-11 victims are opposed to revenge of their loved ones.
But Mr. Blair insists it is a moral war. Yet he engages in immoral behavior to win his case for war. He presented plagiarized papers as the latest intelligence and is complicit in all the “garbage” presented as intelligence to UNMOVIC by the UK and US. Mr. Blair lied about the UNSCOM inspectors being ordered out of Iraq by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In fact Mr. Blair tries to exculpate himself and US President Bush by placing all the blame on Mr. Hussein. Mr. Hussein is held responsible for the litany of deaths brought about by the genocidal UN sanctions even though the UK and US opposed any moves to end the sanctions. The fact is that the UK and US could have lifted the sanctions and brought an end to this genocide. The UK and US were overwhelmingly responsible for the blockage or holding back of many needed items such as medicine and equipment to provide clean water. Mr. Hussein did not block these items from entering.
Mr. Hans von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary General and humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq gave up his long career in the UN in disgust at the killing of Iraqis by the organization he was working for. Mr. Von Sponeck would not stand quietly by: “As a UN official I should not be expected to be silent. How long must the civilian population be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?” His successor Mr. Dennis Halliday also resigned shortly after on the same grounds. These men acted according to conscience and paid a career price. Their actions speak to integrity, a key quality required to claim any moral high ground. It is this integrity that Mr. Blair cannot lay claim to. Much is made of Mr. Blair’s sincerity in the British media but even this is dubious. (2)
In a sketch by Mr. Simon Carr, Mr. Blair is quoted in response to a wish for “a United Nations-led administration in post-war Iraq, not a United States-led one” as saying "’I don't believe there will be any need to persuade President Bush of that.’" “The President, according to the Prime Minister, is as keen as the next man to get UN agreement to the post-Saddam administration.” (3)
But there is Mr. Blair in the same newspaper and on the same day described as “lined up staunchly behind George Bush last night in agreeing that the United States military should administer a post-Saddam Iraq before handing the country over to the United Nations.” (4) It smacks of speaking out of both sides of the same mouth. This can hardly be construed as sincerity.
Mr. Hussein is an abhorrent dictator but that does not entitle the UK and US do deflect censure for crimes against humanity by pinning everything on the Iraqi tyrant. Mr. Hussein did invade Kuwait and was driven out. He did have biological and chemical weapons. The evidence is strong that he was “fundamentally disarmed” by UNSCOM. The most scathing evidence of this is the suppressed evidence of Iraqi defector Mr. Kamal Hussein. Denial of UNSCOM findings and the withholding of key evidence prolonged a genocide. This does not bode well for any pretence to lofty morality. Even UNMOVIC head Mr. Hans Blix is on record now as being curious of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Then there is the contrast with the courageous journalist for the British newspaper The Independent, Mr. Robert Fisk. Mr. Fisk has often spoken and written on ethical reporting. He eschews the Orwellian language of government officials that is unquestioningly accepted by many mainstream media writers (NB I know Mr. Fisk doesn’t like the nominal labeling of mainstream and alternative media and I quite agree with him). He retains his independence and reports what he observes and feels, adroitly revealing nonsense and inserting a reasoned voice. Mr. Fisk is not one to find himself embedded in an army press corps, wearing the uniform of a particular army. No, Mr. Fisk is in Baghdad, an eyewitness to the fury and devastation of “Shock and Awe.” He is the voice of the civilians living the nightmare of bombs raining down upon them. He portrays war in most vivid language helping the reader to picture what the war is; he gives a name to the victims of war -- they are not collateral damage. They are fellow humans with hopes, fears, families, and friends. The writing of Mr. Fisk is visceral. Fear becomes palpable; his depiction of human tragedy leaves one misty-eyed; anger is anger. The joie de vivre is lacking in Mr. Fisk’s writings. Such is not common fare in war zones and strife-torn areas.
His recent piece 'It was an outrage, an obscenity,' was classic Fisk. It would be difficult for any reader to avoid a lump in the throat and the need to express a sense of anger at the outrage being perpetrated on the serially punished Iraqi people. (5) Mr. Fisk wrote of the disgust at the carnage of something so lopsided and yet is still called a war. Mr. Tony Blair is an accomplice in this violence. Mr. Blair can don his “hairshirt of morality” and rabbit on about how Mr. Hussein is to blame that UK and US bombs hit his Iraqi people while he sits perched on his chair. It is clear whose actions are those of a man with integrity. Industrialist Peter Scotese declared “Integrity is not a 90 percent thing, not a 95 percent thing; either you have it or you don't.”
Mr. Fisk has it.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. Email: email@example.com
(1) Donald Macintyre, “Blair's 'horror' over TV footage of dead soldiers,” The Independent, 27 March 2003:
(2) Kim Petersen, “Whither the UN? Logical Contortion, Hypocrisy, and the Absurd,” Dissident Voice March 22, 2003:
(3) Simon Carr, “The Sketch: Every day, in every way, Tony grows more charming,” The Independent, 27 March 2003:
(4) Andrew Grice, Paul Waugh, and David Usborne, “Blair says US military should control post-Saddam Iraq, The independent, 27 March 2003: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/story.jsp?story=391157
(5) Robert Fisk, “'It was an outrage, an obscenity,'” The Independent, 27 March 2003: http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=391165