25 Feb 2004
It was arguably an abuse of power by US intelligence operatives who asked for phone and email taps of some UN member officials. A great deal was at stake. Those who wished the UN to assume its responsibilities were becoming exasperated and needed to know if its failure was for genuine or trivial or devious reasons, but in the view of most people the request was inappropriate and ill advised. It fits into a whole category of behaviour which has caused public opinion to harbour contradictory opinions and emotions about the US and its current administration. Whereas from time to time it has been fashionable to suppose that US Intelligence services habitually operate at a level of autonomy to permit denial of their actions by the President and his close advisers, today the perception would be that instructions came from (at least) Donald Rumsfeld. In addition, just as with the speech about an 'axis of evil', this is seen as a failure of diplomacy.The advice to speak softly and carry a big stick has gone out the window as the rhetoric of swagger, supposedly engaged to rally good people to a fine cause, is carelessly used in a way that causes offence to innocent people caught up in the age-old game of national survival and domestic politics that gives rise unintended international effects

But Catherine Gun's reasons for her actions are unbelievably arrogant and a much more serious abuse of privilege. What makes this naive woman think that the inside of her head is the forum in which the merits of the future of  Saddam Hussein, Iraq and the contingent political realities can be judged, rather than all the parliaments, seminars, organisations, universities that make up the structure of democratic states. No operation of its kind was subject to more transparent discussion. The UK Prime Minister and his cabinet and foreign office experts listened and took note of every argument raised in favour of leaving Saddam in power without his acknowledging and complying with UN authority. Those arguments included those voiced by Ms Gun.The Attorney General gave his opinion, and that is what he is appointed to do. Catherine Gun was also given an important job. But she failed to do it and decided that the Attorney General was wrong. Instead of taking her concerns to her supervisor she went to the Observer. Our democracy depends, for its proper functioning, on people doing the job they have committed themselves freely and knowingly to do, with the safeguards that are officially in place to satisfy their personal consciences.

It is pretty clear why the prosecution has decided to drop the case. In a country where 80% of the public think Princess Diana was assassinated, where they will believe anything the BBC says even if it is the output of a single reporter from single misquoted source, the chance of a jury finding Catherine Gun, a pretty face that clearly has ambitions to overrule elected governments through telegenesis, it is a waste of time. There is not sufficient evidence to win, which is the official reason that has been given. Even that appears to be too much for the media gurus to understand ( don't think ! ).

We have now got to the stage where the Home Secretary is asking the above public how he should do his job. When he does not take their advice, they will no doubt accuse him of not listening. The fact that he might have listened carefully but be better informed than most of them won't cross their minds. We are even thinking of reducing the voting age so that smartarses with even less experience and understanding can influence who gets elected to parliament. In a society where numeracy and literacy are inadequate, where is the logic?

It is now being suggested by some that Gun is not guilty because the case has been dropped, even though she has admitted guilt. The level of absurdity is reaching dramatic proportions. If a single person breaks the law on a manner of conscience, which they are perfectly entitled to do, they must face the consequences. In this case, Gun has been lucky enough to be spared a trial because, as I have noted above, in a country where the public are so out to lunch that 80% think the intelligence services assassinated the Princess of Wales, the only thing to do with this silly woman is to ignore her before we end up wasting more time and at the end being saddled with an acquittal based on emotion and prejudice which would leave the law in a state of breakdown.

It is ironic that Gun claims it is right to break oaths and commitments and the law on grounds of conscience when, if her own interpretation of events is correct (which it is not), the governments of ALL the coalition countries broke international law on exactly the same basis, but before doing so engaged not the single brain of a naive and incredibly ignorant woman but teams of the most dedicated and informed political, economic and military specialists ever known on this planet.  Gun denies to the legitimate leading bodies of society the right that she claims for herself. This is he equivalent of holding the individual right to take life on the grounds of, say, 'crime passionelle' while accusing a state, that imposes capital punishment for certain crimes, of murder.
That this absurd argument is able to be sustained for more than a day would be depressing if it were not for the fact that reductio ad absurdum is sometimes the only way to clarify the thinking of uneducated and inexperienced people, or those whose continual pursuit of a political line has blinded them to free but rational thought.

Now we have Clair Short doing the same thing. Her justification is still that it was wrong to go to war, that Iraq is a mess, that the US timetable for war was unnecessary. What a dreamer. Like all of her persuasion she has no understanding that the situation in Iraq, however bad, is improving. Before the war, it was getting worse and there was no acceptable future for it of any sort. Like all of her persuasion she has not looked at the consequences of backing down on the enforcement of the UN resolutions in this case.  The UN will be furious with Short for the way she has handled her own conscience, as it is highly prejudicial to their operations. She could have done it very differently. That is why the PM has called her irresponsible.
I once admired Clair Short. No longer.