February 11, 2003
asks Greg Palast:
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
BuzzFlash.com is honored to bring you our fourth interview with Greg Palast.
Greg Palast is an American investigative reporter whose exposés appear on BBC Television's Newsnight and Britain's Guardian newspaper. After spending several years in London, he now reports from New York. Despite being one of the most honored and awarded investigative journalists, Greg Palast is largely unknown in the United States, since his work is shut out by the corporate media.
Palast has broken some of the biggest political investigative stories in recent years -- how Katherine Harris stole the 2000 election for Bush by illegally removing African-Americans from voter rolls and how Bush killed off the FBI's investigation of the bin Laden family prior to the 9/11 attack. One of Greg Palast's biggest investigative stories was exposing corruption and lobbying practices inside Tony Blair's cabinet.
Greg Palast's Special new U.S. Edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons and High Finance Fraudsters, will be available February 25th, 2003. Stay tuned to BuzzFlash.com to hear more about Greg's latest publication.
At www.GregPalast.com you can read and subscribe to Greg Palast's London Observer columns and view his reports for BBC Television's Newsnight.
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BUZZFLASH: The United States essentially has only one major ally that's supporting this attack Iraq agenda, and it's England. And I guess our question to you is: what the hell is Tony Blair thinking?
GREG PALAST: Tailgunner Tony has figured out a way to shoot down a couple of enemies at once. All politics is local, including international relations. Tony Blair is using the war on terror and the war in Iraq as a way to smash his only political opposition, which is the left wing of his party. There is no opposition from the Tory Party or from the third party, the Social-Democrats. And if Blair was to ever lose his job as Prime Minister, it's because he would be voted out by the members of his own Labor party.
And there was a very good chance of that because he was losing ground. Basically he was running a Thatcher-lite program -- privatizing the subway system for example. I mean, he'd gone on a real ultra-right economic binge, anti-government, anti-union, anti-social spending.
The thing is that the average Briton likes Americans, and Americans like the British. Blair is counting on that. On the other hand, you have to worry that Britons really don't like George Bush at all. But the average Briton thinks Americans are just terrific. They watch ER just like Americans, and they think that Bill Clinton is just a great guy. In fact, Clinton could probably be Prime Minister of Britain tomorrow morning if he ran.
However, the people of Britain have read, for example, my stories on how Bush stole the election. My stuff is, don't forget, front page of the paper over there, talking about how Bush rigged the energy plan to pay off his buddies. And now, once again, the war on terrorism is stuffing the pockets of his cronies and benefactors.
Britons see that stuff and they fear Bush -- they see him as a pinhead potentate who seized power illegally and is not a democratically elected leader, and never met a war toy he didn't want to play with. They know Bush is a cowboy, military service dodger who is personally afraid to go to war, but doesn't mind sending other kids to war.
BUZZFLASH: Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were very similar. They were centrists. They were able to get elected by being moderates to both sides of the aisle. And Blair, like Clinton, is known as an intelligent man, unlike George Bush. People are so surprised that Blair is not only supporting Bush's agenda, but is in lockstep, as if he's following the orders of the Bush administration. And I'm not kidding when I tell you that we've gotten a slew of e-mails from BuzzFlash readers that suggest Karl Rove must have embarrassing pictures of Tony Blair, and they're blackmailing him. And it sounds ridiculous, but how do you explain this intelligent man walking his country and his soldiers into hell following the orders of George W. Bush?
PALAST: You're getting warm. The answer is Irwin Stelzer. He is the guy who is a good friend of George Bush from the Hudson Institute, and the most powerful lobbyist in Britain representing British-American interests and, by the way, chief lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch. As soon as Bush seized the White House, Stelzer walked into Blair's office and said we noticed that you were supporting Mr. Gore during the Presidential election' - even though clearly that didn't carry many states. Blair's effective endorsement of Al Gore did not go unnoticed. And there was a price to be paid. Blair was given a list of the things that would befall Britain from military subsidies and equipment, to a reduction of value in the dollar versus the pound, which would destroy England's exportability. And Blair was basically told get in line, stand up and salute or "here's your last cigarette, Tony."
BUZZFLASH: Do you think that Tony Blair -- should the U.S. and Britain attack Iraq -- will survive a vote of confidence in Parliament?
PALAST: Absolutely. Blair wants to force the left wing opposition in his party into being seen as unpatriotic. What he has to worry about is that Bush is putting him in an untenable position by being a bugged-eye berserker. That is Blair's problem -- that Bush makes it difficult for Blair to stand next to him.
BUZZFLASH: There is a huge anti-war movement in England. How can Blair survive that and support a U.S. war agenda?
PALAST: Well, if there is a U.N. resolution backing the war in Iraq, and I don't doubt there will be, the average Briton is not going to care about the headlines in the Guardian about how the U.S. muscled the Security Council to agree to a war agenda. One of the problems with the British left is its suicidal tendencies to be very anti-American, and therefore politically they blow themselves up. And that is a big problem in that most Britons aren't anti-American. Anti-war, yes; anti-American, no. That's the balance that Blair's working with.
Unfortunately, the radical left of Blair's own party said that the United States was to blame for Americans being attacked on September 11th. In my own paper there were endless and ridiculous editorials saying that 3,000 Americans deserved to die in New York because of the history of U.S. foreign policy. And that allowed Blair to literally use the phrase [referring to the far left in Britain], "there they are, they're shameless."
Blair's counting on the continuing ability of the British far left to continue to commit suicide. For example, one British MP had his picture taken having tea and cookies with Saddam Hussein.
BUZZFLASH: France and Germany have made it clear that they don't want the Iraq crisis solved through war. They believe that inspectors should be allowed time to work. What does this mean for NATO? I don't think anyone is suggesting NATO won't survive this, but is there going to be any fallout if some of the ranking members of NATO and the European Union do not support this war?
PALAST: Let me first say that, quoting, T.S. Elliot, "The last temptation is the greatest treason. To do the right thing, for the wrong reason."
The French and German policies are oil poisoned. They have some control with the Russians of the Iraqi oil fields right now and the British and the Americans are locked out. And the French, Germans and Russians like it that way. And that's what's driving their policies. The French are some of the most vicious imperialists on this planet. And as far as Tony Blair, when you say that Tony Blair's following George Bush, no one gives lessons to the British on imperialism. I have no doubt that Blair is telling Bush some of what to do.
The French and Germans will be brought along and they'll be given their slice of the oil pie. If there is an invasion, the oil production will get ramped up in Iraq, way beyond what is pumped out right now. The U.S. and American oil companies will get their slice of the action. This is a way for the French and Germans to bargain their economic interests. I am sorry to say that underneath the drive toward war is a drive for oil. But in the case for the French and Germans, the drive for peace is also a drive for oil.
BUZZFLASH: Lastly, Secretary of State Colin Powell called the British intelligence dossier on Iraq a "fine document" when he presented his case to attack Iraq at the U.N. on February 5th. The next day the news broke over BBC News as well as in The Guardian, that significant pages of the intelligence brief were essentially plagiarized from a graduate student's thesis along with copies from the Internet. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1-569669,00.html)
damage control people for the British intelligence and Tony Blair
said, well it doesn't undermine the essence of the evidence
presented.' The Guardian points out that Hans Blix, the chief
U.N. weapons inspector, dismissed some of the claims by George Bush
that Iraq has mobile labs that are moved prior to inspection or that
Iraqi spies know in advance of searches.
It creates a pattern that there is no new evidence of Iraq hiding weapons of mass destruction. Some of the information in the dossier pointed to information from the Gulf War, not the current situation. There wasn't any "new evidence" to speak of.
PALAST: Well, first of all, BuzzFlash has it right again. Even my own paper, The Guardian, got the wrong end of the stick on this one. The issue is not whether Colin Powell is cribbing on his test to the U.N., and that he should get an F on his paper for copying out of the encyclopedia. The issue is that he claimed that he had hot new evidence, and then we discover he's just downloading some old stuff off the Internet. So, you know, what is the hot new evidence?
But we have to be very careful. I mean, there is plenty of evidence that Saddam Hussein is a bloodthirsty killer, lying thief. He hides weapons of mass destruction and probably has several Mason jars filled with ugly little bugs. To me, we have to be careful going to the bait -- that the issue is not whether Saddam Hussein is, you know, keeping some botulism in his medicine cabinet. The real question is: "Is war the answer?"
We've always known that he's had weapons of mass destruction. The reason we know that is that the United States encouraged him to begin that nuclear weapons program, as I disclose in my new book. We gave Hussein a wink and a nod to manufacture a nuke because we believe that he was going to vaporize the Iranians in the 1980's during their war. That's how we know he has a program -- because we built it for him. And no one wants to talk about that, especially Mr. Bush since his daddy was the architect of the Iraqi program -- using the Saudi Arabians as the "cut-out."
It was our good friends the Saudis who gave Saddam $7 billion to build the bomb -- at BBC we discovered that from a Saudi diplomat who defected, with documentation, to the US. That's how we know about it.
As Scott Ritter says so eloquently, the issue is not, does Saddam have bomb parts: we know he does because the US helped him obtain them. And the issue is not whether Saddam is a scuzball liar -- he is. That's what we have to be careful of -- just accepting the terms of the debate handed to us by this un-elected administration.
The real question is, do we need to send our kids to die on the street corners of Baghdad and blow up Iraqi cities -- what did we kill last time, 100,000 people? mostly civilians -- to stop a guy who is no real threat to us.
Is war the answer? It wasn't in 1991, it isn't now. Remember, Poppy Bush slaughtered thousands of Iraqis in '91 -- families fleeing the city of Basra -- for what? Supposedly to save the democracy of Kuwait from evil Saddam. Well, we still have evil Saddam -- but where's the democracy in Kuwait? Today, Kuwait more totalitarian than Iraq.
If you read my book, you'll find the only winner of our last war was Chevron Oil. After he was booted from office by the American electorate, Poppy Bush called in his favors with the Kuwait dictators. Bush, having saved the sheiks' Rolls Royces from Saddam, wrote a letter to the Kuwaiti oligarchs requesting they give an oil concession to Chevron. Chevron, after Bush made the pitch for them, was quite nice to the Bush family; the oil company give over half a million dollars to the Republican party for Bush Junior's presidential run.
So that's who won the last war with Saddam: Chevron Oil -- and the Republican party treasury.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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Past BuzzFlash interviews with Greg Palast:
Palast, Author of "Best Democracy Money Can Buy," Exposes
the Continued Suppression of Florida's Black Vote in Election 2002
- November 4, 2002
Greg Palast, In Which He Reveals The Letter He Received From Katherine
Harris, Cruella Herself - June 6, 2002
Palast, BBC Investigative Reporter and Author of "The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy" - March 11, 2002
otherwise noted, all original