Oh, what a lovely war! Murdoch’s other legacy
Murdoch’s UK papers have cheered the Iraq war and argued strongly for attacking Iran
They've hacked into the voicemail of a murdered teenager and the relatives of dead UK soldiers. They've paid police officers for information. The charge sheet against News International is a long and serious one.
But as shocking as the allegations of illegal news gathering have been, the greatest crime of Murdoch's UK newspaper empire has gone largely unreported. Namely that no other newspaper group has as much blood on its hands when it comes to propagandising for illegal and fraudulent military conflicts.
There hasn't been a war - or potential war - involving Britain in recent years that Murdoch's British titles haven't been gung-ho about.
More than two years before the publication of the government's dodgy dossier on Iraq's non-existent WMD, News International papers were already doing their best to convince the public of the dire threat from Saddam Hussein.
On Christmas Eve 2000, the Sunday Times published a story headlined 'Saddam builds new atom bomb' in which it was claimed that the Iraqi leader "has ordered his scientists to resume work on a programme aimed at making a nuclear bomb".
A couple of months later the same paper ran another piece entitled 'Saddam has tested nuclear weapon' based on the testimony of a mysterious Iraqi whistleblower named 'Leone'.
"Personally, I think the evidence is compelling," wrote the article's author, film-maker Gwynne Roberts.
As war drums were being beaten louder, the pro-war propaganda became ever more outrageous. Just a few days before the war began, the Times ran an article by the pro-war Labour MP Ann Clwyd which claimed that Saddam used a people-shredder to dispose of his enemies. 'See men shredded, then say you don't back war,' was the article's provocative headline.
The Sun meanwhile published a cartoon showing French President Jacques Chirac, who opposed the war, as Saddam Hussein‘s whore.
"The whole civilised world, not just Britain, is disgusted with the way France's president and politicians have behaved over Iraq," the paper declared. "Last month we accused Chirac of behaving like a worm. Today we say to the people of France: We did not go far enough. Your president is not just a worm. He has behaved like a Paris harlot."
In taking this aggressive line, News International editors were only taking the cue from their paymaster Rupert Murdoch, a strong supporter of invading Iraq and toppling Saddam.
"The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy... would be $20 a barrel for oil," Murdoch enthused. He also lavished praise on President George Bush for "acting very morally and very correctly" and lauded his fellow warmonger Tony Blair for "being extraordinarily courageous and strong".
It was later was revealed that Murdoch had three conversations with the "extraordinarily courageous and strong" British prime minister in the nine days preceding the war.
Murdoch and his papers got the war they desired and more than one million people died. Despite the absence of Iraqi WMD and people shredders, there was no apology in News International publications for the false information that they had published, which had done so much to boost support for the conflict.
On the contrary, it was time to move on to the next country in the neo-con 'to do' list: the Islamic Republic of Iran.
"I cannot understand those who, like the New York Times, insist on clarity about our intentions or those like Jack Straw who, as foreign secretary, repeatedly said that military action against Iran was inconceivable," bemoaned the Times' influential comment editor and columnist Daniel 'I am a neocon' Finkelstein.
While conceding that an invasion of Iran would be a "stupid idea", and that military strikes should be "a last resort", Finkelstein nevertheless argued: "There is a much stronger case for military strikes against nuclear installations. Naturally, the Iranians would be enraged and there would be massive international condemnation."
On New Year's Day 2010, the Times started the year as it meant to continue, running a belligerent piece on Iran by the then shadow defence secretary Liam Fox, entitled 'The world must neutralise Tehran's toxic threat'.
Just in case there were any readers still not convinced of the Terrible Toxic Threat that Iran posed, the paper also proclaimed, in December 2009, a dramatic exclusive - that it had obtained "confidential intelligence documents" which it claimed showed that Iran was "working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb".
The "confidential intelligence documents" were, needless to say, revealed to be forgeries.
Despite the relentless campaign against Iran waged by the Murdoch empire, there have, thankfully, been no military strikes as yet against the Islamic Republic.
But there has been a new war - this time against Libya, another Muslim country, and once again the Times and its stable-mates have been bellicose cheerleaders.
Of course, other British newspapers have played their part in warmongering - the Telegraph newspapers, then under the proprietorship of Conrad Black (now in jail for fraud) and his neocon wife Barbara Amiel, deserve a special mention for their hawkishness in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But the News International group stands out for the intensity of its focus.
The 4,000 or so suspected victims of News International phone hacking will eventually receive some form of redress. But there will be no compensation for the relatives of those who lost loved ones died in the illegal military conflicts Rupert Murdoch's UK newspapers so enthusiastically endorsed. ·