After the damning conclusions of John Chilcot yesterday, and the continued diminution of Tony Blair - live on radio and TV - came the real problem for all those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet: many of them backed the Iraq adventure to the hilt. The questions Chilcot says should have been asked were not even considered by the press in its headlong rush to urge death and destruction - but on someone else’s country.
The self-pitying front page
For the Murdoch mafiosi at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, there was one course of action, and one alone: dump on Blair - who, after all, had incurred Don Rupioni’s displeasure when he “consoled” Wendi Deng without telling The Boss - and hope that the readers had short enough memories that they would not notice the screeching U-turn and the lingering whiff of rank hypocrisy. It didn’t work.
Pass the sick bucket
The apologia is straightforward enough: today’s Sun front page tells readers “Blair savaged for Iraq war and squaddie deaths … “Secret letter to Bush: I’ll be with you whatever … WEAPON OF MASS DECEPTION”. Chilcot is declared to be a “damning dossier”. And it’s the most shameless and squirming hypocrisy since the all too similar excuses were deployed over reporting of the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
The helpless victimhood in practice - front page ...
Then, as with the 2003 Iraq War, the Sun used a single source as its cue for action, took the information provided as unvarnished fact, produced reams of thundering, bellicose, snarling and self-justifying copy, patronised and ridiculed any dissenters to the point of viciousness, and conned its readers rotten. And in both cases A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. The poor dears in the Baby Shard bunker are mere helpless victims.
... the overblown inside page frightener ...
The roll of shame in 2002 and 2003, just in case anyone missed it at the time, included a Sun front page telling “HE’S GOT ‘EM … LET’S GET HIM”, with an inside page headline claiming “BRITS 45min FROM DOOM … Cyprus within missile range” and a paragraph at the foot of the page headed “NUCLEAR BOMBS”, which Saddam Hussein didn’t have either. Rupert Murdoch threw more than 170 newspapers behind the war.
... and the hit job on dissenters
The Sun even ran an article called “Open fire on traitors”, which urged readers to “SCORE a direct hit on the war wobblers with the Sun dartboard”. Those vilified included Robin Cook and Charles Kennedy - who were right about the conflict - as well as then German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French president Jacques Chirac. Clare Short, who resigned from the cabinet over the war, was given especially sneering treatment.
And what did Murdoch have to say about Tony Blair back then? “I think Tony is being extraordinarily courageous and strong ... It's not easy to do that living in a party which is largely composed of people who have a knee-jerk anti-Americanism and are sort of pacifist. But he's shown great guts as he did”. Murdoch and his papers could have equivocated. Instead they backed the Iraq adventure all the way..
So when the Sun mounts its high horse and attempts its sham campaign of deflection, I have only one thing to say. As Billy Connolly once said, there’s going to be some swearing - F*** OFF.