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Home > Politics

Don't Take It Seriously... I'm Only Bugging

Article taken from this week's Friday Thing

27 February 2004

At night, in bed, with the curtains drawn and the world at bay, of what does Tony dream? What is going on in his once-handsome head as it snuffles down upon the pillow and his ear catches upon the soft ribbon of drool which stretches like a fairy bridge from Cherie's lolling mouth?

Three things we can be sure of:

1) He can fly.
2) Gordon Brown can't fly.
3) Clare Short is dead.

My God, Tony must hate Clare Short. Every time he tries to slip off and quietly break a bit of international law, there she is - shouting and pointing and hissing through her teeth.

Her latest whistle blow has been to accuse the British government of 'spying on Kofi Annan's office'. She made this accusation on Thursday's edition of the Today programme. My God, Tony must hate the Today programme.

Clare said:

"I have seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations. Indeed, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to war thinking 'Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying'."

Kofi... Kofi... the name rings a bell. Oh yes, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Remember him...? The chap who was sort of in charge of things before the US-UK coalition decided to rumble straight over his toes in their desire to go to war.

How strange it must have been for Tony Blair to have been breaking international law by listening in to Kofi Annan privately accusing him of breaking international law by invading Iraq without a UN mandate. Doubly thrilling! He probably got a chub on.

The reaction of the UN to the bugging story has been hilariously diffident. They've just shaken their heads and tutted: "We would be disappointed if this were true," said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard. "This is something which is not entirely surprising," said Andreas Nicklisch from the UN's Brussels office. "It's illegal of course, but it's also unnecessary because we work in complete transparency and openness."

It's as if they don't care. Tony has jumped over the fence and had a shit on their lawn, but they've just smiled and gone: 'never mind, it's just high spirits - and it's good for the lawn anyway.'

Tony himself was a little more forthright:

"Our security services in this country exist for a reason as they always have done, and that is to protect Britain, to protect this country. And in an era of global terrorism, where we know there are highly dangerous and repressive states out there developing weapons that could do enormous damage to the stability of the world, their work is even more necessary than ever before."

Necessary work like bugging the UN. Yup, that'll keep those highly dangerous and repressive states out there from developing weapons...

"That is why we and previous governments have never commented on intelligence except to say that this country always acts in accordance with domestic and international law."

Like bugging the UN...

"And whether intentionally or not, those who do attack the work that our security services are doing undermine the essential security of this country. It is wrong, and it should not happen. It is as simple as that."

Wrong? Wrong wrong wrong!

Are we supposed to be living in a nation where we cannot question the legality of our government's actions? Apparently we are...

"Many of their people work in circumstances of very great danger and it really is the height of responsibility to expose them to this type of public questioning and scrutiny in a way that can do absolutely no good to the security of this country."

Oh per-lease. When suddenly did "public questioning and scrutiny" become a bad thing? Tony is employing such a dangerous ideology here: arguing that 'the security of this country' is what determines right and wrong. A thoroughly American ideology.

The world is too small these days (and weapons are way too big) to have moral autonomy on an international scale. Which, by the way, is precisely the rationale given (in retrospect) for the Iraq war: that bad things are happening and 'someone' had to step in and do something about it. But now we have Tony Blair, with a completely straight face, brazenly defending the actions of his security services with the shield of moral self-interest: saying that one cannot attack the security forces because they are protecting the country.

(Serious question: were Saddam's Republican Guard fighting to defend the 'essential security' of Iraq? - should their actions have been questioned?)

This is what's so dangerous about saying that we should have unquestioning support for our nation's security services, and that whoever questions the actions of the government is wrong: that it brings Tony Blair down to the level of Saddam Hussein. While you're about it, Tony, you might as well turn the old War Rooms under Horseguard's Parade into a torture chamber. Chuck dangerous people like Clare Short down there and beat her with sticks. It's all fine: as long as its for the good of the country.

The long and the Short of it is this: a country can either operate out of self-interest, or choose to obey international law. Can choose to bug Kofi Annan's office or not.

"It's as simple as that," as Tony might say.

Article taken from this week's Friday Thing

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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