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Jayson Bush and Pinocchio Blair

Jayson Bush and Pinocchio Blair

By Brian Cloughley

Also published in The Nation - Pakistan

Jayson Blair was a reporter for The New York Times who fooled his employers and readers by making up stories. Until a few weeks ago he embroidered, faked and invented reports that were printed in the now embarrassed NYT and was eventually found out and fired. His namesake in Britain, Tony Blair, is also adept at embroidery and has become expert in retailing grotesque fiction while his friend Bush continues with ever-increasing brazenness to use the weapons of dissemblance and deception against an unsuspecting public.

Exactly 120 years ago Carlo Lorenzini (who wrote under the name Collodi) wrote a cautionary fairy tale about a puppet called Pinocchio who had been carved from a piece of wood by the carpenter Gepetto. In one episode during his chequered career, Pinocchio was asked by a fairy where some gold pieces had gone. "I lost them" lied the animated marionette; and "As he spoke his nose became at least two inches longer". Things became more complicated for him because after he told two more lies "his nose became longer than ever, so that he could not even turn round..."

One wonders if puppet Blair, cavorting in global limelight and being jiggled up, down and sideways at the command of Jayson Bush, has experienced some nose-twitching recently, because he has embraced the lies of the Washington puppeteers with enthusiasm. Let us examine one of the most squalid international hoaxes in recent times: the flat statements by Jayson and Pinocchio that Iraq had a nuclear weapons programme.

At a media showcase on 7 September 2002 the world was regaled with a brotherly-love bonding exchange between Bush and Blair about Iraq's nuclear weapons. First on stage was Pinocchio Blair who declared "The point that I would emphasize to you is that the threat from Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons capability, that threat is real. We only need to look at the report from the International Atomic Agency this morning showing what has been going on at the former nuclear weapons sites to realize that."

Then came Jayson Bush: "We just heard the Prime Minister talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied -- finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA -- that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need." His statement was re-echoed by Blair: "Absolutely right. And what we -- what we know from what has been going on there for a long period of time is not just the chemical, biological weapons capability, but we know that they were trying to develop nuclear weapons capability. And the importance of this morning's report is it yet again it shows that there is a real issue that has to be tackled here."

There is one thing unfortunate about what these men said. They told lies.

There had been no "report from the International Atomic Agency this morning" as stated categorically by Blair. There had been no "new report" from the Agency as announced with certitude by Bush. There had been no report whatever from the IAEA stating that Iraq had a nuclear weapons programme. Nothing had been "going on" at the ramshackle, UN-sealed shanties in former nuclear sites. There was no possibility of Iraq being "six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon". What they said was not true. Let me put it another way: the prime minister of Britain and the president of the United States told us a lie. They conspired together to lie in concert to the world.

No doubt can exist about this. The statements on 7 September last year by Jayson and Pinocchio were nose-extending fables deserving of a dishonourable entry in the Guinness Book of Records in a section named "Biggest Lies Told by Politicians".

There are many examples of bonding lying by London and Washington, including, sadly, one majestically mendacious statement in the course of the State of the Union Address by Bush on 28 January. The main detectable lie the US president told in this definitive oration to the American people also concerned Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons' programme. He announced that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This pronouncement to the entire population of America (and indeed the world), was a deliberate attempt to convince his audience that Iraq presented a nuclear danger, either current or imminent. It was rubbish. The British government had learned no such thing, even though its long-nosed leader may well have told Jayson Bush there were documents purportedly revealing an Iraq-Africa nuclear nexus. In the best traditions of never letting a good story die for the sake of lack of veracity -- just as the New York Times allowed its reporter Jayson Blair to get away with fabrication for so long -- the White House ran with it.

Unfortunately for the Bush version, the documents supposedly identified by the British as indisputable evidence that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium in Africa were shown to be forged. The IAEA was permitted to examine them and politely reported "these documents are not in fact authentic". I find this peculiar and disconcerting, even decidedly fishy, because British intelligence officers are very sharp indeed and it is difficult to believe they would not very quickly detect forgery of papers about supply of anything to anyone, by anyone, anywhere in the world.

A document dated 10 October 2000, presented as evidence by Washington of a uranium deal between Niger and Iraq, appeared to have been signed by the Niger Minister for Foreign Affairs, Allele Habibou. Alas for the forgers, Mr Habibou had not occupied the post since the previous year. The whole exercise in disinformation was absurd and amateur to the point of risibility, but the non-existent Iraq-Niger nuclear connection was presented as incontrovertible fact by the president of the United States and his coalitionist Blair, with the added attraction, perhaps, that the mining of uranium in Niger is in the hands of a French company.

Pinocchio Blair said in the British Parliament on 18 March that Iraq had "10 thousand litres of anthrax . . . at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, possibly more that ten times that amount . . . unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons, and an entire Scud missile programme." OK, perhaps -- perhaps -- the Iraqis had 80 tonnes or 800 tonnes of mustard gas which has all mysteriously disappeared. But let us look at the "Scud missile programme" pronouncement, which was not a woolly allegation: it was and continues to be a recorded statement of fact to the British Parliament by the prime minister of Britain that has not been modified or retracted.

No Scud missiles have been found. There were hundreds (literally) of special forces' patrols sent to scour the country for Scuds and launchers. There was round-the-clock satellite and piloted aircraft/drone surveillance of Iraq looking for Scuds. Had they existed, these missiles and Blair's "biological poisons" would have presented a grave threat to US/UK bases in the Gulf and, even worse, to Israel, so we can imagine that the search was intense indeed. But they weren't there. If Jayson and Pinocchio had found some Scuds there would have been banner headlines. There would have been another propaganda joint bonding session with a glitzy backdrop of Scud pictures and self-satisfied smirks all round. But there wasn't and there weren't because there were no Scuds. As the Fairy said to Pinocchio, "If you lost them [the gold pieces] in the wood, we'll look for them and find them, for everything that is lost there is always found". Unless, of course, the missing objects did not exist in the first place.

"Lies, my boy," said the jovial Fairy to Pinocchio, "are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies: lies with short legs and lies with long noses. Yours, just now, happen to have long noses." So Pinocchio, "not knowing where to hide his shame, tried to escape from the room, but his nose had become so long he could not get out of the door."

Jayson Bush and Pinocchio Blair have lied to us, and their lies have long legs because decent citizens, understandably, want to believe what they are told by their leaders. But their lies also have long noses, and they will eventually discover, as did the original puppet Pinocchio and his latter-day clone at the New York Times, that in the end dishonesty doesn't pay.

© Scoop Media

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