They Tell Lies to Nodders

Last week a newspaper editor expressed surprise about my peacenik views and emailed me accordingly. “I wonder”, he wrote, “if you could do a bit of self-psycho-analysis, and examine how a British-Australian former soldier of fairly mainstream views (as I think you were) has evolved into [your present form].” (See

I was outraged, and replied that far from having had “mainstream views”, I possessed in the fairly recent past decidedly right-stream views. Never at a loss for a cliche, I state that not long ago I was several leagues to the right of Genghiz Khan, and replied to Ye Ed that “I was a thorough-going, kill-a-commie-for-Christ, jackboot-wearing, there’s no-Gook-like-a-dead-Gook, card-carrying, liberal-hating fascist”. I am not and never have been anti-American, but I am decidedly against Bush and his Washington weirdoes, who have steered their country to aggressive and needless confrontation with every country that does not accept servile subordination to the Bush doctrine of imperial supremacy.

There was one main reason for moving from fascist to liberal, and that was the fact that Washington and London tell us lies and that these lies are accepted and resold by people who should know better. My reaction to the announcement that the British Parliament’s report concerning Blair’s exaggerations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was going to be published was that it would be a whitewash, otherwise they wouldn’t publish it. Now that is unhealthy, knee-jerk cynicism, but I didn’t get this way without a lot of help.

When PG Wodehouse wrote humorously about Hollywood he invented a genus called nodders. First there was the film company’s president, then legions of vice-presidents, then there were the nodders whose job it was to attend conferences and agree, by deferential head inclination, with everything that was said. Far too many reporters and legislators are nodders.

Take, for example, the botched attack on some vehicles and the rocketing of a tiny smugglers’ hamlet near the Iraq-Syrian border by a deeply secret bunch of US killers supported by aircraft armed with more firepower than a trio of tank squadrons. The affair was a ludicrous, ham-fisted stuff-up. They killed a young woman and her one year-old child, and wounded then took prisoner six Syrian border guards and held them for almost two weeks without explanation. The sheer arrogance of the latter action is staggering. (We won’t even discuss human rights and murdering Iraqi civilians; there’s no point.) The affair was almost as bizarre as the detention of a dozen Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq, about which we were told nothing, either. Nothing, that is, that we can believe.

These operations, I remind you, took place in our name. It was for the safety of the world that Bush and Blair went to war on Iraq, so they say, and that is you and me. And if killings and cock-ups are committed in our name, then we want to know about it. The reason we are told nothing, or lied to with blatant contempt, is that the operations were bungled, therefore they don’t want us to know about them. The Bush cabal and the Blair government-within-a-government told us grotesque lies, before, during and after their war. We all know the device of “senior government source” and “senior administration official”, and those of us who have our own sources, here and there, know on many occasions exactly who these people are. It is time – it is more than time – that the media refused to publicise ‘information’ unless the source can be named. (‘Cabal’ was the name given to a clique of devious ministers appointed by Charles II; their surnames begin with the letters of the word. What about Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Powell?)

If the Bush and Blair ju-ju men want to give the world some facts, they should go on the record. Here is one example of needlessly unattributable nonsense, from the New York Times on July 7 : “Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior Defense Department official said the soldiers who stormed the Turkish compound in Sulaimaniya on Friday were ‘acting on intelligence about possible illicit activities that were being planned against municipal officials in the region.’ A senior American military official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed this account, saying the plot appeared to be aimed at the governor of Kirkuk, a nearby city.”

I don’t believe a word of it. Associated Press recorded that “Emel Begler, a Turkish cook who was among the detained together with her 15-year-old son, told reporters the US troops broke down the doors, placed sacks over their heads and handcuffed their hands behind their backs.” So she was plotting to kill the governor of Kirkuk, was she? Ratbane in his Freedom Fries, perhaps. But if the Turkish soldiers she cooked for were indeed plotting assassination, why were they then set free? What’s the real story?

Why the anonymity in this and so many other cases? It appears to be a reflex action, like manacling and blindfolding male Iraqi civilians in order to humiliate them in front of their families. This sort of cave-man thug-stuff never used to happen. What is the point of it? All it does is feed the fires of fury against the US in Iraq, just as anonymous — cowardly, gutless, amoral — briefers exasperate and deceive us to the point that we don’t believe a damn word they say. Rumsfeld often insists he be described as a “senior defense official”, which is cowardice. If he’s got anything to say, let him be named as saying it. Creeping behind the shield of bureaucratic anonymity is the action of a lily-livered sleazebag. But the sycophantic nodders of the media hang on his every deceitful word.

When you trawl the news sites on the Internet you can obtain a lot of accurate first-hand information from Reuters, AP, AFP and other reputable agencies, but when I see a story is sourced to Fox News or CNN I don’t even bring it up on the screen. After months of slewed and slanted rubbish from these unbelievably piffling, bimbo-ridden, nodder-outlets how could anyone trust them to give the right time of day?

Do you remember the “defence department official” who told the Washington Post (which had a pretty iffy news source in one particularly well-embedded reporter) that Private Jessica Lynch had fought gamely to the last bullet and all that nonsense? She was injured, certainly — but in the shambles of a panic-stricken vehicle crash. The story about her “heroism” was fabrication. It was a downright damned lie. So who was the “official” who concocted this rubbish? He may have only briefly crawled out from beneath the large flat slimy stone under which he normally resides, but why was he not punished for telling us lies? Of course nothing of the sort will ever happen, and the reason for this is that the information system is rotten to its nodding core.

The BBC, one of the last bastions of objectivity and truth, has been attacked by Blair’s scummy little ratbag mumbo-jumbo-meister, Alastair Campbell (‘Calamity Ali’), for helping reveal that the Downing Street campaign to mislead the British public about reasons for the war on Iraq was largely successful. The outcome of the British parliamentary inquiry into this squalid affair was predictable, and not just by cynics like me. How on earth can one credit the results of an inquiry that was not allowed to interview the main liar (the prime minister), or have access to all classified reports? How could you believe a man like Blair, anyway, when he is on record, in a moment of political panic, as demanding his nodders think up some “eye-catching initiatives with which I personally can be associated”? Nothing that would benefit his country or its unfortunate citizens, you understand. Nothing of principle; just something that would look good. The man is a grubby charlatan.

In any event the inquirers were a majority of nodder Labour MPs, and the committee’s clearing of Campbell for his shoddy behaviour was achieved by the chairman (a Blair man to his bootstraps) using his casting vote. This is nodder democracy. On no account would Blair permit an independent inquiry by a trio of impartial judges, with access to every detail of the affair. Such an inquiry would be, well, impartial, and that can’t be allowed, because we might learn the truth, presented to us by people we trust. And Blair and his people wonder why we don’t trust them. They couldn’t stretch out straight in bed; that’s why we don’t trust them.

The same holds in the US. The Senate committee’s whitewash will be exactly the same as the Blair parliament’s lapdog performance, and there is no possibility that a Republican-dominated Congress could ever be critical of Bush, no matter how many lies he told. (Remember these repulsive lulus? : “Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles”; Iraq “has trained Al Qaeda in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases”; “a report came out of the IAEA that [Iraq was] six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon”. All lies.)

This is why I changed from Genghiz Khan mode. The people we should be able to trust have been lying outrageously to political and journalistic nodders, who happily passed the lies on to us without question and even with embellishment. If you fed them nails, they’d crap corkscrews. The hell with the lot of them.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes about defense issues for CounterPunch, Dawn and other international publications. He can be reached at:


Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.