Tim Blair


New Criterion



Friday, June 27, 2003
SOME HORRORS ARE BEYOND the capacities of Uncle's stomach, George.

I was surprised to see no commentary on any of the appropriate blogs about the soapbox that Andrew Denton gave to supreme anti-intellectual Helen Caldicott.

Maybe there are younger, fitter and stronger bloggers out there to give the wild woman a whirl. I ruled Helen out of the rational component of the human race twenty years ago.

I bet it was great entertainment, not.

IT'S MY DAMN RIGHT TO EDITORIALISE bleats Auntie news-time commentator Geoff Sims, also responding to Gerard Henderson, and is fisked in bold by reader John.

Columnists mightn't have to ask questions. Reporters do, and should. Provocative questions. If asking questions is editorialising, as Mr Henderson wails, heaven help all of us. And if Mr Henderson wants to justify the war, to slag off Robin Cook and anybody else who might disagree with him, just put the case. His argument is pretty thin if he needs to drag me into it. I'm just doing a job.

Geoff Sims, ABC TV news, Ultimo, June 25.


On this morning's Radio National Breakfast, commentator Gerard Henderson was indulged, as he is every Friday, by morning mouthpiece pro tem Jennifer Byrne (no transcript, but watch Henny's opinion page).

Henderson had a merited whinge about Auntie's supine repeating of the BBC's craven apology for the "Cambridge Spies", Philby, Blunt, Burgess and Maclean. Not to put them in any particular order of monstrosity.

This big budget mini-series, screening on Sunday evenings on ABC television, is based on one dominant assumption that goes as far up Uncle's nostrils as it does Henderson's.

Its thesis, plugged with monocular persistence, is that all four were youthful idealists, devoted to the ideals of universal brotherhood and the odd bit of buggery. We are treated to a kind of Brideshead Revisited spiced up by treachery.

Wasn't it a shame they were so cruelly used by those nasty Russians.

There are a few problems with the BBC spin.

It was popular among the privileged young of the time to be left and pacifist. Few became agents of the Soviet Union like the heroes of this tale.

There were also right-wing idealists, democratic socialists and conservatives who were no happier about the miseries of the depression and the cruelties of fascism of the left and right. These inconvenient types are simply written out of history, BBC version. Instead we have our heroes acting against a backdrop of British anti-Semites and bashers of workers, with nothing between them and the pro-Soviet position.

For example, the Soviet position in Spain, supported by all four, was not just to fight Franco's rebels but also the democratic left. It was the age of the 'necessary murder' of anyone on the left who got in the way of Stalin's agents. Not a problem for these BBC heroes. Except when Philby was asked to pull the trigger on Franco he wimped out, according to the script.

All four are portrayed as distraught at the deal between Hitler and Stalin in 1939 to carve up central and eastern Europe. Given the spin of this programme, can we have any confidence that this is more than convenient fiction? Their loyalty to Stalinism survived every other bastardry perpetrated by the Soviet regime until the end of their lives. Even after they had been uncovered.

As Henderson commented, can you imagine a similar tribute to the idealism of, say, Lord Haw Haw, who broadcast open propaganda for the Nazi regime?

Indeed, why has the murderousness of the left totalitarians, who were much better at producing mounds of corpses in peace time than the Nazis, remained so much more acceptable to the left for half a century. Their hearts were in the right place? Any wonder so many refugees from the Soviet murder machine treated the Western left with contempt.

To be taken seriously this apology for treachery would need to deal also with its subjects' lust for power and privilege, narcissism, sociopathy (Philby had three wives, all of which he abandoned - in the real world, without compunction - when they got in the way of his higher loyalty to himself), incapacity for intellectual honesty and total lack of feeling for the many whose deaths they caused directly. We won't try to compute the numbers who died indirectly because of their aid to Stalinism.

At one point the script acknowledges, indirectly, that Philby knew in the 1930s precisely the nature of the regime he was working for. Philby did nothing to indicate he was critical of his masters, and neither does this script.

Idealism be buggered.

The behaviour of the Cambridge spies stands to idealism as rape stands to consensual sex.

Auntie's communards demonstrate a similarly violent attitude to intellectual integrity in screening such a whitewash without even recognising that there is any ground here for contention. Mouthpiece Byrne, who is usually unsure whether she should be gabbling or giggling, knows in her bones that Henderson is wrong, so interjects energetically, but from total ignorance.

If you know your ideology, do you need to know anything else?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
YOU REFUSE TO STOP VOTING on Saddam's future, despite my instructions. Now I've stopped the fun.

Congratulations to the large majority that picked the right answer: the Communards' scripter. I just love the way Saddam has got the left in a twist about finding the evidence he spent ten years concealing!

Too much evidence is never enough for some of us. What do you think?

Some suggestions on the new poll in the side-bar. I'm happy to add to the list of acid tests of how to keep your intestines inside without being immoral about it.

ANDREW WILKIE'S EVIDENCE to the UK Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is now available, and the Bunyip has read it.

As the circumstances indicated, and despite attempts by Auntie and Henny Herald to boost its significance, it's pathetic.

These extracts give a fair representation of Wilkie's case, or lack of it.

Q587 Mr Pope: Mr Wilkie, you said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that: "The fictions about Iraq's weapons programmes could be a best selling fairytale". In the British Government's assessment, which I am sure you are very familiar with, the British Government came to the conclusion that: "Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687, continues to attach great importance to the possession of WMD, has ballistic missiles, has the capacity to deliver chemical, biological agents"....

Mr Wilkie: Mr Pope, I found, and I still find, the British Government's September dossier fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons..... I think over-playing the unaccounted for weapons was quite misleading because, for a start, there is still a question mark over exactly what was unaccounted for. I do not think UNMOVIC ever tried to say "there are exactly X tonnes of precursor" or whatever, all they were trying to say was "We cannot account for it"....

...I am not saying that Iraq did not have a WMD programme. There is so much evidence that has been accumulated over so long that I do not think there is any doubt that Iraq had some sort of WMD programme.

Q590 Sir John Stanley: Mr Wilkie, in your interview on the Today programme in this country on 4 June you said: "I am satisfied that governments have exaggerated Iraq's WMD capability. Governments in all three capitals have exaggerated Iraq's links with al-Qaeda. The governments in all three capitals have exaggerated both the general risk of WMD terrorism as well as the specific risks of Iraq passing WMD to al-Qaeda. The governments have exaggerated what their intelligence communities have offered them". .... Just taking the Executive Summary [of the JIC September review], the Executive Summary, as far as I can see having just reread it very quickly, does not make any reference to the phrase that you used, "massive programme". It talks about a "current threat" and I know the words "imminent threat" have been used by some British politicians, but I am not sure that the phrase "imminent phrase [i.e. threat]" actually appears in this document. Certainly I do not see any reference to "massive programme". Just taking the couple of pages of the Executive Summary, could you tell us what is the wording there that you feel is unjustified against your information as to what intelligence was available?

Mr Wilkie: Okay. Before I look specifically at the Executive Summary, Sir John, I just want to remind us all that there was an awful lot more to the three governments trying to justify this war than just this dossier. In fact, I think the most emotive statements were probably oral statements in our Parliaments and so on, people standing up and saying what they said. ...

Q593 Sir John Stanley: Could I ask you to go back to my question, if you would be kind. This is a very important document for the Committee. You made this accusation of exaggeration and this is the base written document of the British Government, this was the one and only document which was an authentic document and stated to be derived from JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] sources, unlike the "dodgy dossier". From the Executive Summary, what wording in this do you consider is an unjustifiable exaggeration against the intelligence that you knew?

Mr Wilkie: I will ask for a moment just to read and think, if you do not mind. I am sure you will appreciate that this is a very quick look.

Q594 Sir John Stanley: I assume before making the claims you have made you studied the document minutely. I hope so.

In vain, Sir John. What follows from Wilkie is pure flannel.

Wilkie's reasons for opposing the liberation of Iraq are no more based on intelligence information than are Uncle's reasons for supporting it.

Wilkie is just another citizen with an opinion, and that is why he needs the assistance of Henny Herald and Auntie to look like something more.

You may have a low opinion of the critical faculties of politicians. In this case they leave some of our best and brightest journalists for dead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
THE PHLOGISTON THEORY of combustion has been sadly neglected these last two hundred years, you might say.

Would you find any reputable branch or twig of the public media to listen to you?


But you would get a good run on Late Night Live (tonight). And in Henny Herald.

All you'd need to do is find some anti-Yank angle, like the latest campaigner against the use of depleted uranium in (US) weaponry.

Trouble is, there's not a shred of logic or evidence to justify bringing out the bell, book and candle. Or the compo claims.

There's probably more evidence to think DU is good for you (via Bizarre Science). But don't add it to the Weetbix just yet.

Monday, June 23, 2003

New Zealanders sure know how to have fun.


At least that's the way Henny Herald would describe his lovable, quirky, popular racism.

Guess who's a candidate for an Adjunct Chair in Whiteness Studies.

I KNOW THIS WILL SHOCK reader Ian and a few others, but Auntie's participation in the BBC's review of what people think of America failed to keep Uncle out of bed.

Peter Ruehl in the Weekend Financial Review of last Saturday gave the dismal exercise a restrained, balanced, intelligent and good-humoured review.

It's under the headline "US or them; bleating around the Bush" and if it weren't against my religion I'd recommend you pay to read it.

ANOTHER RESPONSIBILITY of a good newspaper in Sydney is coverage of the politics of Islam in Sydney, the heartland of Islam in Australia.

On page 36 of Saturday's Herald is a brief report on the uglies of the Islamic Youth Movement, whose hatred of the culture and society that welcomed them will be well known to followers of some bloggers, notably Professor Bunyip, but mysterious to those who depend on the Herald.

By neglecting their duty to inform, the Herald has made the work of the Islamic moderates harder, reduced the credibility of moderates when the lunatics catch public attention, and threatened the credibility of the security services that keep watch on these dangerous extremists.

Since it appears that the same security operatives provide Henny with most of the little they deign to publish, their misplaced covering-up is indeed rich.

Sunday, June 22, 2003
HENNY HERALD COMES CLEAN, sort of, but it doesn't mean to.

You won't find it on Henny's website, of course, but on page 38 of Saturday's very large newspaper it is revealed that:

What remains at issue is whether Wilkie is a credible witness for Howard's - or, for that matter Tony Blair's - prosecution. The former senior analyst with the Office of National Assessments... has conceded that he was not privy to some of the most sensitive prewar intelligence material (a "small amount").

He has also admitted that his opinions were not shared by any of his former workmates, though outside the hearing he said there "are many people in intelligence community [sic]" who felt the public had been sold a pup on Iraq.

I know who's been sold a pup. Wilkie has been squired around by Herald journalists for weeks, given a front-page send off to his supposed moment of fame in London, and it took some pommy politicians to extract a couple of simple truths about the man that have been staring at us all from the first time this pathetic limelighter called a media conference.

He's not the conscience of Australian spookdom, he's a narcissistic self-promoter whose views are not shared by a single one of his former intelligence colleagues. On his own admission.

Last week, according to the ABC on-line news report, Wilkie insists there are serving officers in both countries who agree with him.

Do you think Henny, left to its own devices, would have asked the questions, or told us the answers?

Even now they try to bury their shame. The continuing campaign to turn the victory against Saddam into a political defeat for Howard is now lead on Henny's front-page by Marian Wilkinson, with the discredited Wilkie dropped to the back of the bus.

Front page for the promise of significance, back page for the reality.

Henny's London correspondent, or a Sydney editor, further obfuscate their embarrassment with a weird introduction that seeks to make much of the fact that a Wilkie's evidence was followed by "a handshake from Canberra's own "spy" at the proceedings".

The disqualificatory quotes around 'spy' mean that Peter Fray has no reason to think the High Commission staffer was a 'spy' and didn't bother to try to find out. He would rather have us believe this was 'an unexpected gesture from an Australian high commission staffer."

"But then," says Fray, "it's hard to doubt the sincerity of someone who who chucks in a well-paid public service career on a principle and then sticks his neck out to tell the world about it."

Peter Fray has never before met a politician.

Strange, since he's employed by some of the shiftiest political operators to disgrace the calling of journalism in this country.