Blairite triumphalism raged across Britain for a second day while you
slept – and everyone from the Tory Telegraph to Rupert’s Sun marked the
occasion by putting the boot into the BBC.

Not that they didn’t deserve it.
 
Indeed, we should all be angry with the Beeb – and their cousins down at ABC headquarters at Ultimo.

Not because they stumbled across something that seems to be true – that
the official reason for war on Iraq, the existence of weapons of mass
destruction, was a load of bullsh – but because the smug and sneering
arrogance with which they broadcast this news gave Blair and our own
Deputy Sheriff an escape.

The Aunties have allowed their governments to play holier than thou
while hiding behind a smokescreen while their spooks and spinners make
it all the harder for any genuine dirt to stick.

In Britain, the Beeb was well and truly on the defensive
yesterday.  Its chairman, Gavyn Davies, resigned.  All it
could managed was hinted-at attacks on the Blair government for being a
pack of sleazy spin-doctors.

Its journalists know from their close contacts with Whitehall that this
is true – but by overstepping the mark last year and not pulling back
when Blair reacted so strongly, they could do nothing in the wake of
the Hutton findings.

Indeed, they seemed amazed that anyone – Law Lord or dishwasher – should question their credibility.

Bad move.  No wonder Alastair Campbell was smiling.

And no wonder our own Prime Minister was smugly saying: “We didn’t
manipulate intelligence in Australia anymore than Tony Blair, according
to Lord Hutton, manipulated this particular piece of
intelligence.  Those who have accused us of taking Australia to
war on a lie owe me as much an apology as much as those who made an
equal accusation again Tony Blair, owe him an apology.”

It is, alas, never enough for the media to know they are right. 
They need to be able to prove it – or at least mount a highly credible
case.

That didn’t happen in the one single matter – one single matter, note –
that Hutton investigated.  A whole raft of allegations is now
discredited.

We know in Australia after children overboard that our Government lies.

We know after Peter Reith used unprecedented powers to suppress Freedom
of Information requests over the 1998 waterfront dispute – and the way
Peter Costello is using them now to block requests from The Australian
to hide documents that show how ordinary Australians are paying more
tax under his policies – the extent to which the Howard Government will
go to control the flow of information.

We also know that no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found in
Iraq and, despite the myriad of other good reasons to overthrow Saddam
Hussein’s regime, that the formal justification for last year’s war is
yet to stand up.

And if we have been following the international debate, we would have
seen the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, back away from the WMD
claims as the man who lead his nation’s search, David Kay, says
intelligence was flawed.

Still, Howard and Blair and being smug little so and sos, even after
Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune reported “Vice President Dick
Cheney has continued, in speeches at home, to assert not only that Iraq
probably had banned weapons but that it had links to Al Qaeda
terrorists – even after President George W. Bush said there was no
evidence of this. But in speaking to business and government leaders in
Rome on Monday he used more cautious formulas. ‘The world’s democracies
must send an unmistakable message,’ he said, ‘that the pursuit of
weapons of mass destruction only invites isolation and carries with it
great costs.’ ”

The media, however, cannot assume that middle Australia, or middle
Britain or middle America, are as aware of the reality as they are.

That was the BBC downfall.

PS  There’s an absolute gem nestled amongst the acres of newsprint
devoted to Hutton if you look hard enough – and in the nastiest
place.  The Star – Britain’s scummiest tabloid – has a hilarious
yarn on how the country’s smuggest broadsheet – The Guardian – filled
up its pages on the big day here.

Peter Fray

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