Media Lies

Monday, August 23, 2004

And Again, Ann Clwyd

The mills of God grind slow, but they do grind on. Thus Saviour Blair’s humble cogwheel, Ann Clwyd, has been in touch with me again after a gap of only three months, quoting herself in Hansard. It will be remembered (or then again, quite possibly, it won’t be remembered) that a few days after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in the British press, the Blessed Annie hastened to ask some stern questions of the Defence Secretary in the Commons. Well, one stern question, anyway.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, I have supported action to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein since the 1990s. As he also knows, I was appointed as special envoy to the Prime Minister on human rights in Iraq in May 2003. Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explain why his officials failed to show me the ICRC reports when they arrived?
Mr. Hoon: I am in exactly the same position in answering my hon. Friend's question as I was in answering questions from the Opposition. As far as officials were concerned, the interim report contained material about the United Kingdom that had already been resolved. Therefore, there was no need, as far as the interim report was concerned, for Ministers to be involved. (Hansard, 10 May 2004; quoted in email, Ann Clwyd to Philip Challinor, 23 August 2004)

This is certainly interesting. It confirms that the Blessed Annie’s zeal to depose Saddam Hussein dated from the 1990s, as did that of everyone else who matters. Presumably that clears up the vexed question of where the Blessed Annie stood on Saddam’s regime while he was doing his repulsive worst in the 1980s.

As I mentioned about three months ago, in my previous instalment on this thrilling correspondence (“Glory Be”), I found it a little strange that the Blessed Annie should be asking Geoff Hoon about the Red Cross report, rather than finding out about conditions herself. I replied to her email today:

Thanks for your message. Of course I was aware that, once the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, you had asked the Defence Secretary why his officials failed to give you the ICRC report. I'm afraid I still don't understand why, as Human Rights Envoy, you failed to find the time to look into the matter any earlier. The ICRC report, as I mentioned before, was merely a summary of briefings given to the US authorities over a period of months before the scandal reached the British press. As a representative of the Bush Administration's main ally, and as an Envoy with, presumably, some small professional interest in whether people were being tortured or not, why didn't you ask the Red Cross their opinion of Abu Ghraib in May 2003, rather than Geoff Hoon in May 2004? (Email, Philip Challinor to Ann Clwyd, 23 August 2004)

I sent the above at 6:37pm. At 6:42pm, I received the following:

Dear Mr. Challinor,

Ms. Clwyd did raise this issue with the Red Cross on a number of occasions, in her capacity as Special Envoy. You may find it useful to access their website for an explanation of how their confidentiality and reporting guidelines work - to summarise, however, working papers and reports on conditions in detention facilities in Iraq were only given to the US authorities.

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Montgomery (Email, Office of Ann Clwyd MP to Philip Challinor, 23 August 2004)

So there. It is indeed true that Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the Red Cross director of operations, mentioned at a press conference that the report was confidential and that the ICRC was somewhat chagrined that it had been leaked.

So let’s see where that leaves us. As we all know, because Tony’s friends in the Press have told us, things would be much worse in Iraq if it weren’t for the British presence. If it weren’t for our tact and restraint, the Americans might have slaughtered four million Iraqis instead of forty thousand, and the West might be looking a little unpopular out there. The reason we can exercise our tact and restraint so effectively is because we are the United States’ number one ally. Tony stands shoulder to shoulder with the Bush administration, and hence, by anatomical necessity, he has privileged access to the chimp’s ear. That is why things in Iraq are not worse than they are, and we ought all to be rejoicing at the fact.

But it appears, from the testimony of the Blessed Annie and her disciples, that Tony’s very own special envoy on human rights has access neither to the US authorities, our intimate allies, whose better nature she is supposed to be bringing gently to the surface; nor to the reports by human rights organisations which expose their dismal record. (Our own dismal record, as reported in the Daily Mirror, has of course disappeared from the media consciousness nearly as rapidly as Piers Morgan from the Mirror building.) The Blessed Annie has to wait for the abuses at Abu Ghraib to be splashed all over the Press, and then go cap in hand to Bomber Hoon for an excuse as to why she wasn’t informed about them. Which brings us to your homework question, a nice easy one this week: As a Human Rights Envoy who can find out nothing about human rights abuses except from the government which employs her and which doesn’t really give a damn – what earthly good is she?