16 Dec 2014

Time to un-redact the mother of parliaments

Every waking day brings a new reminder of the Iraq war. The war that begat Isis together with the effective demolition of Iraq as a recognisable nation state. Every waking day brings a further reminder of the war in Afghanistan.


The Senate report into the torture activities of the CIA and others lingers in the air. Every waking day brings the reminder that the “mother of democracy” has been failed by its democratic institutions in getting to the root of the decision making that ever took us to two of the longest wars the United Kingdom has waged in modern times.

The Chilcot inquiry has been reduced to a charade – a dance of so many veils that no one knows if or when it will ever be published. Chilcot’s report has been so long in delivery that one member of the inquiry has already retired due to ill health – the others are ageing.

Now the call goes up for a “judge–led” inquiry to investigate the redacted sections of the Senate report and to determine to what extent Britain and British functionaries were involved in torture. The call has been led by none other than one of the members of the very parliamentary committee that is supposed to protect the electorate from its own security services. In other words, an elected MP has lost faith in his own capacity to hold parliament to account on the matter.

We are in a bad place on war. Now there are perhaps even questions relating to our compliance with international treaties to which we are party – the UN torture treaty and the Geneva Convention not the least. A number of MPs, not a few of them Labour, have spoken against the idea of a judge-led investigation.

Both Labour and the Conservatives voted for war in both Afghanistan and in Iraq. But it was Labour in power at the time we went to war. Those decisions still inform many in Britain as to how they vote. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, John Reid, and later David Miliband were some of the “big beasts” who were on deck during the crescendo of war. Beyond the public hearings held by Chilcot so long ago, there has been no reckoning.

My own reporting, particularly in Scotland, but in many other places idn Britain too, leads me to believe that part of the vast alienation from parliament that many people feel is in part informed by their horror and misgiving of what has been done in their name in the Middle East and beyond.

A vast, if distant, endeavour has been undertaken in our name, and upon our behalf, with some appalling outcomes. Much of what has happened has been US-led and American-dominated. Now we have the Senate report. That report is about us, we were in “coalition”, we were allies. No wonder some of those who voted for war, indeed some of those who executed the war, now want to keep what is redacted, redacted.

We are in the midst of political failure. How did we allow the United States to arrive at a place of inquiry into the war which still finds the UK suppressing its own inquiry and still wrangling about how to investigate our own role in torture and war crimes?

Perhaps we in the media are to blame too. Perhaps the moment is come when media and willing politicians toil together to achieve what our own democracy has manifestly failed to do – investigate our own misdeeds that flowed from our often misguided response to 9/11. The cry is up – if you have  a conscience, if you care about your country’s integrity and decency, you guys, start leaking!

Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

13 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    It would be nice to believe this latest disgusting “revelation ” – revealed redactions or no – would lead to changes that matter in capitalist politics or in their media.

    My suggestion is you don’t hold your breath.

    The sordid system that rules our lives will never change. In our daily lives “austerity” is the merest tip of the iceberg. The rest of it is the subversion, invasion and mass murder inflicted on countries that have the “temerity” to act independently. Democracy had nothing whatever to do with what the West and its criminal acts of terror in the Middle East and now Ukraine as well.

    The politicians are of course the front men. But the deliverers of their evil propaganda are you people in the media. By not asking the right questions at the right time too many of you lie by omission. This is why journalists are detested every bit as much as our de facto one party state. This includes the “reports” of Hilsum, Frei, Rugman and Miller of C4 News, none of whom would know the truth if they tripped over it coming out of a Vauxhall Cross wine bar.

    Where you are concerned you may be a good and decent man, but you are also too often willfully ignorant, a sort of media Pontius Pilate. The classic example is your blog from Cairo during the “Arab Spring” when you mentioned a meeting with “a spook.” Within the hour the blog was taken down. I subsequently asked you for an explanation, but answer came there none. So I’ll ask you again: WHY DID YOU TAKE IT DOWN? IF YOU DIDN’T DO IT YOURSELF, WHO ASKED OR TOLD YOU TO DO SO AND WHY?

    This is why this blog, welcome as it is, has all the bearing of self-righteous crocodile tears.

    This is also why, welcome as that is too, some of us didn’t need the Feinstein Committee report. The evidence was already there for those who wanted to see, just as was the evidence of British and European government “intelligence” agencies involvement. The whole disgusting, murderous charade shames everybody.

    My bet – though I hope I’m wrong – is that the furor will be allowed to play itself out and you people in the media will forget your duty to honesty and truth. I also forecast that would happen over the “Arab Spring” and sadly I turned out to be right.

    So….what’s it to be Jon? Telling the truth without fear or fervour – or keeping De Pear happy with “the Jon Snow Show”?

    1. PhilD says:

      So true. I’m sure they are all good people but the system will not tolerate honest journalism. More war, more austerity, more colonisation and brutality in Palestine and economically elsewhere. Our so called allies, Saudi Arabia and others will continue to destabilise the ME and destroy more futures. Russia will continue to be demonized in the interests of neo-liberal and neo-con ambitions and so on. The fourth estate will sign them off and bread and circuses readily available, willl infantilise and slowly enslave. Onward! Happy Christmas!

  2. Caroline J says:

    Agree – wholeheartedly.

  3. Alan says:

    You appeal to a system that represents international financial/corporate interests. What are you expecting? Vague appeals to it’s proponents won’t change what we all understand, but are possibly too afraid to say.

  4. Mark Edwards says:

    I fully agree with all your thoughts and hopes Jon. I am one of many whom feel betrayed by politicians, betrayed by the smugness of unaccountable ministers, the patronising comments that are spun daily from Westminster. I have no respect for any of these elected sheep. I was a member of The Labour Party but never liked Blair, campaigned with and for Martin Salter, (did not bother to vote on Iraq war) and now understand why UKIP are seen as OK, because of the dishonesty and behaviour of all the other parties, UKIP are seen as no different to them. As a part-time postal worker whom has always been very political, I see no party that will represent me or my sense of fairness, morality and beliefs. My local councillors were door knocking last weekend, (they did not answer why they had not responded to your cycling email that I had posted to them) or my questions on Trident, banks, House of Lords, tax avoidance, lobbying? When I asked why should I vote for you? They left. They were the same Labour people I once campaigned with. My vote no longer counts so why should I use it? The men and women whom died in the recent wars are called heroes who gave their lives? Yes they were, their lives were not given but taken, taken by the lies and liars we voted for. The revolting details of these wars are slowly being exposed but important details will remain secret for now. America does not have a code of amorta like the mafia. Lance Armstrong was found out because of the religious morality of one of his team. It will not be long before our political leaders will start to be exposed, the truth will hopefully be available for all to see, the sad part is that it will come from America and not from any investigation or enquiry organised by the network of old school tie and cronyism so deep rooted in this country. I despise UKIP and all that it stands for but it has shown how desperate the other parties are to pander to 15% of the voters while still ignoring people like myself whom have many questions but are ignored. My hope is that you can get to the truth. I will vote at the next election but with no excitement or enthusiasm for the future, it seems to me that money and favours are more important than a healthy democratic society, where negative campaigns and silence on important issues and broken promises are accepted, we deserve better than the shouty clowns that are elected If you have read this and my rant is understandable then it was worth banging out. Thanks.

    1. Greg Dring says:

      Mark, don’t despair, try the Green Party

  5. Namche says:

    Few journalists seem to want to go there, but I recommend Ian Cobain who has spent many years piecing together Britain’s past and present role in torture around the world which his documented in his book “Cruel Britannia – A secret History of Torture”

  6. barbara says:

    Media responsibility is sometimes non existent, particularly if any criticism or discussion is made. More like a unique form of terrorism.

  7. Meg Howarth says:

    I believe my MP, Emily Thornberry, is one of those who failed to support ‘the idea of a judge-led investigation’. Ms Thornberry was shadow attorney general, of course, until recently…

  8. Andrew Dundas says:

    Not only the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ should end redactions, but it’s youngest daughter too.

    Being in Gray’s Inn Road means you probably don’t know that Holyrood can deny access to any information about its decisions, confident that no-one can appeal against the Scottish Information Commissioner’s decisions to keep its governments’ information secret. This is a lot worse than the info secrecies you complain of. Which is why so many SNP blarney couldn’t be challenged: it was all covered by denial of info that the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ allowed Holyrood.

  9. Mike Harland says:

    How about an interview with Alayne Fleischmann, since you deem CM too difficult? Another person who is willing to ruin her future career to blow the whistle on the banking scandal that continues to blight our lives – she is trying to pre-empt the 10-year statute of limitation that will free those who are the real cause and winners of the Crash from any blame whatsoever forever – they have been biding their time and relying on their get-out-of-jail-card with no comment on this from the MSM for years. So how about blowing this mainstream? I really can’t see what your invitation was for, if not … no D-notice on this one surely?

  10. anon says:

    Dear Mr Snow and team

    thank you for your outstanding work to try to make the world a better, kinder place as it should be and could be. Thank you for your great courage and hunger for justice, putting the needs of others before your own safety, while others who could help do nothing.

    please just keep plugging away, one day the world will be as it should be,
    take care, could I just ‘borrow’ and amend a motto of some other very brave people,

    they who care -win -eventually

  11. Barbara says:

    Very interesting blog Jon.

Comments are closed.