IdleRich

IdleRich
Randomly happened to catch a film called Official Secrets which I had never heard of about the nefarious attempts of those perennial good guys - the US and the UK - to gain some kind of fig leaf of respectability for their Iraqi adventure by strong arming the UN into passing a second resolution declaring war on Iraq and their huge arsenal of weapons of mas destruction which was poised to launch a devastating attack on the west.

Shamefully I recall very little of the particular incident it depicts, I suppose because at the time it was just one more disgraceful episode to file with countless others that confirmed what we all knew - that the decision to invade had been made long before at the highest level and while our leaders were prepared to tell the most outrageous lies in the hope that the public would accept their story and go merrily charging off to war believing it was absolutely necessary for the preservation of the world's civilisation, even if that public wasn't taken in for one second, that war was gonna happen anyway just the same.

However, with twenty years having passed and us no longer buried to our necks with news about Iraq the film really brings home the breathtaking cynicism which characterised the build-up to war and the utter contempt with which the citizenry was viewed by those horribly misnamed public servants that made it happen.

The film focuses on a worker at GCHQ* who became a whistle blower when she decided that an order that passed across her desk was so outrageous that she couldn't simply turn a blind eye to it. She saw a memo which was ordering GCHQ workers, on behalf of the US, to spy on UN staff from countries that were ostensible allies of the UK with the aim of gathering information to blackmail them into supporting the resolution in question. This was clearly illegal and immoral. The US couldn't win its resolution without cheating as it had no real evidence of WMD - possibly cos Iraq had no such weapons - but if the resolution did pass, it would of course be taken as a mandate to invade Iraq. In other words, this order represented an attempt to trick the UN into signing off on war in a situation that did not meet even the controversially low threshold the US insisted was sufficient. As lots of people might, this woman Katherine Gun felt uncomfortable being party to an illegal act which could lead to thousands of deaths - unlike lots of people however, she also had the balls to do something about it and so she leaked the memo to an anti-war campaigner who in turn passed it on to the Observer, and the film follows their attempts to authenticate the documents before they print them, and then to find off claims that they are fake.

Once this chicanery was known about the chance of the UN voting for war was gone, however, as we now know of course, if she had thought that preventing the resolution might actually mean that the invasion would not happen then she had naively underestimated the cynicism of the US and UK governments who just pressed on without it and also did everything they could to throw the book at her as a traitor and a spy, using laws Thatcher had brought in when her government had been embarrassed by a whistle blower and which basically removed any means for such a person to defend his or her self.

The film covers all this pretty well and succeeds in bringing back memories of just how relaxed both governments were about lying repeatedly and blatantly. Clips of Tony Blair were very effective in instantly bringing back his slimy power and when you see the protagonist shouting at the telly in frustration it rang very true, I'm sure many of us did exactly the same.

Nowadays I completely expect the Attorney General to give "legal advice" that amounts to simply saying that whatever the government wants to do is completely fine, but at the time it was actually shocking to me, and, if I recall correctly, to lots of other people too. In fact it feels as though the governments we have had lately which view the law as a minor inconvenience that doesn't really apply to them had their origins in that period.

So the film is pretty good at reminding you of recent history and its role in how we ended up here. It's also good on a more individual level as we see the problems someone faces when they break the law cos it's the right thing to do. It's tense at times without going into James Bond style silliness.

The film also reminds me of another one about politically sensitive documents being leaked to a paper and the battle between public interest and national security, the other being a US film with the papers in question related to Bush's service in the Home Guard, they claim that he never actually did the flying hours he was signed off as having completed. In that film the news channel that has the documents has to tread carefully regarding their authenticity as Bush was standing for election and they may be fakes created to destroy him. I forget the name of that film but if you can work out what I'm talking about then it would make a great double-header with this one.


*For those outside the UK, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is the part of the civil service which spies on phone calls and radio messages and so on, both inside the UK and in the rest of the world
 

Clinamenic

The Wild Drunkard
Oh I thought you meant interval of time during the day. When I saw the film, there wasn’t any intermission - although now that you mention it, it probably could have used one.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Oh I thought you meant interval of time during the day. When I saw the film, there wasn’t any intermission - although now that you mention it, it probably could have used one.
Oh I thought you meant interval of time during the day. When I saw the film, there wasn’t any intermission - although now that you mention it, it probably could have used one.
Ah I get you, well three of us have got tickets for Friday anyhow.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Another completely random watch, a film called Freaks of Nature, one of those stupid things where there is a town with loads of vampires and moronic zombies, and even more moronic jocks. And somehow it's really really funny. At least in parts. I laughed a lot, much to my surprise. It's got that guy out of Succession in it and the girl from Halt And Catch Fire and the plot is this ridiculous town is disturbed when there is an alien invasion. And going by the voice the head alien is Werner Herzog - I'd advise you to catch this film in such a way that it takes you by surprise and you're more than half cut and have had no sleep and you'll probably agree with me that it is the funniest thing you've seen for quite some time., Well, it's possible anyhow...
 
Top