Rough Music: Blair, Bombs, Baghdad, London, Terror by Tariq Ali

Image(First published: 2005)

This oddly titled book is a collection of political commentaries written in the aftermath of London bombings of July 7 2005. It covers British politics and media coverage of “War on Terrorism” around that time.

It particularly discusses Britain’s role in the build up to the Iraq war. A leaked secret memo from 10 Downing Street made it clear even before 2005 that, as we know now, the dossier justifying the invasion of Iraq was known to be full of lies. The author contends that Tony Blair had already decided to back George Bush on Iraq, and only after having decided on that he (Blair) looked for evidence to justify his policy.

The US and UK devised two schemes to justify Iraq war. First, they decided to trap Saddam through UN arms inspectors. They hoped that Saddam would refuse and that would provide a justification for the war but Saddam played a shrewd hand and circumvented the plan. Later on, lies about WMD were prepared, a big media hype was created and finally the invasion of Iraq was proceeded with.

The highlight of the book is in the detailed account of Blair government’s spat with the BBC. The BBC is often criticised for its uncritical war coverage in Iraq and its conformist approach toward government’s policy. This became true only after the ouster of the the Director General of the BBC, one courageous Greg Dyke, was engineered by Blair’s spin doctors.

A BBC journalist named Gilligan under Dyke’s instructions interviewed the UN weapons inspector David Kelly who informed the BBC that the evidence for the war in Iraq was completely made up. Later, David Kelly was found killed. His death was considered a suicide but something was amiss. This led to a big controversy which resulted into an inquiry led by Lord Hutton.

To cut long story short, the author argues, that it was Tony Blair and his chief spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, who made sure BBC is censured and its top positions filled with toadies who wouldn’t be critical of the government’s policies toward the Bush doctrine of war.

There is another long article that provides a detailed analysis of the role British media played in the run up to the war. It’s worth reading. There is another article about Britain’s current “first-past-the-pole” electoral system, which he calls “unrepresentative” system of a “representative” democracy.

One example of the system in place in the UK comes from 2005 general elections. Labour in that election got a mere 35% of the popular vote. Given the nature of the system, since all other parties got fewer votes than Labour, the later was to form the government and continue with its policies even though in real democratic terms Labour was unpopular with the majority of British voters.

The author argues for a change in the British electoral system towards more representative and accountable governance than this system currently produces. On my rating scale this book gets 5/5. AMAZON LINK

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