Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Rights and Wrongs

The government is puzzled at the power that the Iraqi conflict continues to hold over domestic politics. Whilst they wish to play to their perceived strengths - the Economy - Iraq still throws grit in their wheels. It is not a major issue for the majority of the public, but the politicised class have viewed the whole episode as an exercise in deceit, coating the government with dishonesty, just as sleaze tarred the Tories. These attitudes, exacerbated by the rise in taxes and the deterioration in the quality of life, have toppled New Labour's longstanding and undeserved reputation.

The Conservatives maintain their darting opportunism that a 'cut and run' is defeatist whilst inflicting minor cuts on Labour with their attacks on the intelligence used. Their statements should have been dismissed by Labour as fodder for their own left-wing dissent (the "unofficial opposition") and yet the focus groups must be demanding a response. Thus, we are beginning to witness the two weapons that the spindoctors deploy to manipulate their mainstream media audience: the 'apology that is not an apology' and the airbrush of history.

The government is no longer able to justify the intelligence claims that it utilised to go to war in Iraq. This is the acknowledgement that the intelligence was flawed, not a mea culpa, not an apology - just a new consensus based upon the rejection of certain 'facts' that were crucial for the presentation of the 'war party':

"I do not accept, even with hindsight, that we were wrong to act as we did," Straw said during a question and answer session in the House of Commons. Though Straw admitted that some of the intelligence was incorrect, he insisted: "I continue to believe the judgments we made and the actions we took were right."

To have given Saddam the benefit of the doubt at the time would have required "a huge leap of faith," Straw said. "We would have had to conclude that all the intelligence — not just our own, but from many other agencies around the world — was wrong," Straw said. "Although we can now see that some of the intelligence was wrong, I continue to believe the judgments we made and the actions we took were right. "It was the whole of the international community and every one of the 15 members of the Security Council which concluded that Saddam posed a threat to international peace and security."

The information presented to Parliament in order to justify the decision to go to war was erroneous, but that decision was entirely correct. The arguments are now presented with the Manichaean logic that politicians prefer. The unified international community viewed Iraq as a menace and the consensus of their intelligence agencies supported this perception. On this basis, Iraq was either invaded or given the "benefit of the doubt". The diplomatic conflicts, the calls for further inspections, the range of alternative strategies considered, are set at nought, since their remembrance would call into question the right of this government to go to war. In this case, too many wrongs make a right.

Even those of us who supported the war, and still entertain grave doubts at the argument for withdrawal of British troops, can reject the stance taken by Labour. When the causes of war fall away, they rely upon rhetoric and trust for moral justification. In the week that Derrida graces the obituarist's pen, is there a finer testament to his deconstructionist philosophy than Jack Straw's simplisms in Parliament.

(00.00, 13th October 2004)


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