Thomas Huxley said the deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Accepting this supposition, it seems reasonable to postulate that the second biggest sin against the human mind is to believe evidence of things without question.
World opinion, international institutions, and their laws were ignored; and the US-UK military machines, in a monument to cowardice, unleashed violence on the sanctions ravaged body of Iraq. In the US, the genuflecting media accepted the war pretexts issued from Washington and dutifully regurgitated the government line to the largely unwitting masses of Americans. The British media was less deferential but kowtowed for the most part, easing British entry into the aggression.
It is now apparent that the US-UK regimes were outright lying about any solid intelligence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So American and British soldiers were shipped overseas to put their lives on the line for an ill-concealed American oil grab. It is particularly insidious for the UK since British companies are only being fed the reconstruction deal scraps for their part in the so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Tony Blair is feeling increasingly hot-under-the-collar for all the unwanted media attention. His vaunted sincerity is in tatters and his moistened grip on power is sliding
Plants of incriminating documents have already been discovered and reported on by gullible journalists. Reporters from the Toronto Star and Daily Telegraph discovered documents while combing through the remnants so conveniently left behind by the CIA that purported a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein; this story quickly disappeared. (1) Then there was the damning evidence that incriminated maverick British Labour Party MP George Galloway as having been in the paid service of Saddam Hussein.
Earlier I wrote about a broadside by Johann Hari of The Independent against Mr. Galloway. (2) In his column of 27 April 2003 Mr. Hari was quick to seize on the allegation of Mr. Galloway’s wrongdoing and insinuate it as certainty. Mr. Hari wrote that “[I]t wasn’t a great shock,” to hear of Mr. Galloway being so implicated and then he proceeded to impugn the actions of antiwar demonstrators: “If you cheered Galloway at the anti-war rally, now is the time to pause and ask yourself: what did I do?” (3)
This question was a red herring. The anti-war views of Mr. Galloway do not necessarily diminish in validity because of any alleged wrongdoing of the purveyor of the view.
The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) took the correct action when it issued a mea culpa: “It is important to set the record straight: We are convinced the documents are bogus. We apologize to Mr. Galloway and to our readers.” (4)
It seems an apology to Mr. Galloway and the anti-war movement and a retraction are in order from Mr. Hari. Mr. Hari responded to my email query on this.
“I was talking about the Telegraph allegations (the CSM allegations came after I wrote the article, for a start, so it was impossible for me to comment on it). I have never commented on the CSM allegations, which always smelt a bit dodgy to me. The Telegraph allegations have not even been legally challenged by Galloway yet; Galloway has now admitted he was in Iraq on the dates mentioned in the documents, a fact he initially denied. I do not know if the allegations are true or not, but they have certainly not been disproved.”
Mr. Galloway responded to my email on 24 June: “The writ on the Telegraph will be filed this week. I have never denied being in Baghdad on Boxing Day 1999; this is a flat lie.”
I noted my puzzlement to Mr. Hari over his pointing out that the documents “have certainly not been disproved.” I wrote: “In the UK one is innocent until proven guilty, yes. Then the authenticity of the documents needs to be proved and not vice versa. This presumption of innocence was missing from your article. You never used the word ‘alleged’ once.”
William Bowles was dubious about the evidence.
Now forgive me if I'm skeptical but what are the odds of anyone going into a building that from the look of it, has been well and truly fried from top to bottom and finding files that conveniently incriminate an outspoken critic of the war? And why look for a file marked ‘Britain’?
The Telegraph journalist when asked how come out of all this mess he managed to find these files, instead of answering the question he responded by asking his own, namely what are the odds of these files being planted just where he happened to look? Well of course, we have to ask the question, what prompted him to look in just this room out of all the rooms in the building and then in just this one box? Of course the question was never asked. (5)
Simon Waldman suggests why Mr. Galloway might be hesitant to serve a writ to The Telegraph.
If he sues and loses, George Galloway faces financial and professional ruin....if he wins and/or is proved right (and the two are by no means the same thing), then the Telegraph faces...errr, sanctions, internal conflict and, no doubt, ultimately regime change.
Galloway's defence is that the documents are fake. This piece gives him some teeny comfort that they were planted there.
Parts of the letter troubled some experts in Arabic and the Iraq regime yesterday. They expressed surprise that its heading included the name of the organization -- Iraqi Intelligence Service (Iris) -- in English, together with a rather amateurish logo showing an eye. They were also surprised at the letter's elaborate border, although some suggested that this might contain hidden messages.
And as David Blair the (depressingly young) reporter who broke the story wrote: "Why the contents of the room with the box files survived is a mystery...Its walls are blackened by fire or smoke, yet most of the folders are intact.” (6)
In an email Mr. Hari writes of Mr. Galloway: “This is a man who has saluted Saddam, repeatedly lauded him, and who is loathed by all the Iraqis I know.”
It is not just Mr. Hussein but also Mr. Stalin. Mr. Galloway's relationship with Stalinism, however, is described as “ambiguous.” (7) But his email is unambiguous. Mr. Galloway “is a defender of Saddam and of Stalin; he is not a democrat.”
Mr. Hari also takes issue with me: “I note that you don't condemn Stalin or Galloway’s support for him; indeed, you are going out of your way to defend a man who lauds Stalin and Saddam. There are so many good and decent opponents of the war; why don't you write about them?”
First, Mr. Hari never asked me about my view on this. Second I am not defending anyone’s views on Mr. Stalin or Mr. Hussein. Third, this story is about launching an attack on people based on unsubstantiated evidence.
Certainly I find fault with praising the brutal Saddam Hussein. Not understanding Mr. Galloway's motivations, it appears on the face of it as pathetic and more than regrettable. Mr. Stalin was a horrible tyrant according to my understanding of history. I also take issue with heaping praise on war criminals George Bush and Tony Blair. Nevertheless, the point is not about who Mr. Galloway was praising, the point is about whether he was on the payroll of the Iraqi tyrant.
I believe Mr. Hari also owes an apology to Mr. Galloway’s “friend and ally,” the journalist John Pilger.
Mr. Hari made an elliptical citation from the writing of Mr. Pilger: “Saddam Hussein was careful to use the oil wealth to create a modern secular society and a large and prosperous middle class ... All this was smashed by the Anglo-American embargo.” The implication was, ”Saddam was broadly good, then, before the wicked Americans came along.” This led Mr. Hari to characterize the far left, of which Mr. Pilger is associated, as “deranged.” This argument does not necessarily follow from the premises. It argues that good people behave in an exclusively good manner and bad people solely in a wicked way. Most people will recognize this as transparently false. (8)
Contrarily Mr. Hari stepped up the fury of his impugnment. “Re: Pilger, there is no guilt by association. He is guilty because he said Saddam was killing ‘only’ 300 people a year, an outright and outrageous lie. Pilger crossed from a principled opponent of the (often evil) excesses of US foreign policy into defending Saddam when he wrote that sentence.”
Mr. Hari didn’t produce a citation of Mr. Pilger’s “‘only’ 300” remark. The closest citation that my search finds is in Mr. Pilger’s article “Journalism is Rotting Away.” (9) “David Edwards of MediaLens asked Amnesty International (AI) about this. Amnesty produced a catalogue of Saddam's killings that amounted mostly to hundreds every year, not millions. It is an appalling record that does not require the exaggeration of state-inspired propaganda.” Mr. Pilger’s standpoint was that the killing itself was horrible enough without hyperbolizing the numbers killed. In Mr. Hari’s view, it seems that citing reports of AI data leaves one open to be branded an “outright and outrageous” liar. One can only imagine the low esteem in which Mr. Hari holds AI.
Mr. Hari’s writing is replete with fulminating attacks on people and places. His dislike of Mr. Pilger is palpable. He describes Mr. Pilger as “infuriating, arrogant, narrow-minded -- and invaluable.” The last little attribution provides some balance. In his review of Pilger’s book New Rulers of the World, Mr. Hari often personalizes his attacks. Once in the review did he provide a rationale for his attack.
For example, [Pilger] describes Indonesia's outbreak of dengue fever, a horrific disease, as “a disease of globalisation.”
He justifies this claim by saying that “as the camps [shanty towns building up around factories] grew and people migrated from rural areas looking for work, the mosquitoes followed them.” In fact, then, it is a disease of urbanisation, and would occur even in a socialist utopia. (10)
Mr. Hari neglects that under socialism, as it is correctly understood, there shouldn’t be shantytowns; a salubrious environment and healthcare for the people should be a given in any utopia. Under capitalism, however, these concerns are subordinate to profit and are under the guidance of the “invisible hand.” Thus Mr. Hari’s argument is spurious.
Mr. Galloway has refused acceptance of the apology by the Christian Science Monitor. He noted that the Monitor’s reporting was unprofessional in that they didn’t even bother to corroborate the story with him before defaming his reputation internationally on its front pages.
Likewise it would have been more professional and fair-minded if Mr. Hari had also sought Mr. Galloway’s side of the story before publishing his harangue against him and those of a similar political ideology.
The Daily Telegraph, which still asseverates its version is authentic. Said the editor of the Daily Telegraph Charles Moore: “The Christian Science Monitor’s retraction has no bearing on the Daily Telegraph’s story.”
“Our story was based on a different set of documents found in a different set of circumstances. They were not supplied or given to us, but unearthed by our reporter, David Blair, in the foreign ministry in Baghdad.” (11)
Mr. Moore ostensibly doesn’t recall the similar circumstances surrounding the find of papers linking Osama bin Laden and Mr. Hussein by his own reporter; this information must be in the memory hole.
With the reams of forgeries and phony intelligence involved in the Persian Gulf Slaughter the Telegraph’s position looks tenuous and incredulous. As it stands now, the discovery of any weapons of mass destruction is bound to be greeted with a derisive mix of doubt and scorn.
People are justifiably skeptical now.
Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) CBC News Online staff, “Saddam, bin Laden link found: Canadian reporter,” CBC News, 28 April 2003: www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/04/26/saddam_osama030426
(2) Kim Petersen, “Presumed Innocence and Ad Hominem,” Dissident Voice, 24 April 2003: www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles4/Petersen_Galloway-Pilger.htm
(3) Johann Hari, “I'd rather it was money than belief that made George Galloway support Saddam,” The Independent, 23 April 2003:
(4) Staff writers, “Galloway papers deemed forgeries,” Christian Science Monitor, 20 June 2003: http://search.csmonitor.com/search_content/0620/p01s03-woiq.html
(5) William Bowles, “There’s
Lies, Damn Lies, and then there’s the Corporate Press,” Information
Clearing House, 24 April 2003:
(6) Simon Waldman, “That Galloway story in brief,” words of Waldman, 23 April 2003: www.simonwaldman.co.uk/archives/000120.html
(7) Johann Hari, “Stalin died 50 years ago, but his legacy lives on,” The Independent, 5 March 2003:
(8) Hari, “I'd rather it was money than belief that made George Galloway support Saddam,” Ibid
(9) John Pilger, “Journalism is Rotting Away,” Dissident Voice, 26 April 2003: www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles4/Pilger_Rotting-Journalism.htm
(10) Johann Hari, “Infuriating and invaluable,” Chartist, 3 May 2003: www.chartist.org.uk/articles/reviews/may03hari.htm
(11) Alison Hardie, “Galloway rejects apology over newspaper claims,” The Scotsman, 21 June 2003: www.thescotsman.co.uk/index.cfm?id=680562003