British Prime Minister Tony Blair, sharing dishonesty expertise with US President George W. Bush, lied to his citizens about the reasons for invading Iraq.
And, if his recent statements during a tough election campaign can be believed, he also lied about reforming the UK’s cannabis laws.
Before the British government reclassified cannabis from Class B to Class C in January, 2004, thus decreasing penalties for cannabis possession and signaling to police that cannabis was to be a lower priority, Blair and his government experts said a thorough review of marijuana and marijuana laws indicated that reclassification was well justified. Blair and his senior officials said they were satisfied that marijuana was not harmful enough to justify being in Class B.
But now, with anti-marijuana shills screeching about “new and damning evidence against cannabis” suddenly discovered in the 16 months since marijuana was reclassified, Blair in a close-fought election campaign appears to be signaling that if his “New Labour” party and himself are re-elected, that he will reverse the reclassification.
Blair’s lies about Iraq are well-known to the British public, but it’s instructive to note them in the context of his government’s dishonesty and apparent about-face concerning marijuana.
Before the Iraq invasion, Blair told his country Iraq was importing aluminum tubes to be used for developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly explained that the tubes could not be used in a nuclear weapons program.
Blair said Iraq had pilotless drone aircraft and missiles equipped with chemical and biological toxins that could be used to attack British forces outside Iraq. No such toxins, aircraft or missiles were found in Iraq by invading forces.
Blair claimed that United Nations (UN) weapons inspector Hans Blix backed Blair’s claims that Iraq had active chemical, bioweapon and nuclear weapons programs. He said that these weapons programs were well-documented by the UN.
“I have got absolutely no doubt that those weapons are there, and once we have the co-operation of the scientists and the experts, I have got no doubt that we will find them,” Blair said before the war.
Three months after the invasion began, Blair and Bush claimed that two shoddy trailers found in Iraq were “mobile biological laboratories.”
“We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons,” said Blair.
Bush added, “Those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons – they’re wrong. We found them.”
Subsequent investigation revealed that the trailers contained no biological weapons labs, and that the trailers were exported to Iraq by the UK.
Another famous claim made by Bush and Blair was that Iraq was seeking to “reconstitute its nuclear weapons programs” by procuring uranium from Africa. CIA officials later revealed that documents allegedly showing Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger were forged. The UK still refuses to acknowledge the falseness of the Niger uranium claim.
When asked why UN inspector Hans Blix has repudiated claims that Iraq had biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs before the war, and why invading forces and investigators have found no Iraqi weapons programs, Blair changed his former tone of certitude, saying, “I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not.”
Blair and Bush deny that the Iraq invasion was a blatant attempt to steal Iraqi oil using military force. Blair told his Parliament that critics were falsely claiming that England and the US wanted to seize Iraqi oil and oil revenues. He publicly promised that all oil revenues would be put into a UN trust fund that would benefit the Iraqi people. In obscure UN proceedings, however, Blair co-sponsored a Security Council resolution that gave the US and UK control over Iraq’s oil revenues. There is no UN-administered trust fund for the Iraqi people, and Iraq’s oil earnings have been deducted to pay the US and UK for the cost of defending the monarchs of Kuwait in the first Persian Gulf War in 1990.
Another claim made by Blair and Bush before the Iraq war was that Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaida were working together, with Saddam providing al-Qaida with money and Iraqi training facilities.
A little-publicized British Defense Intelligence Staff report contradicts those claims, saying there were no links between Saddam and al-Qaida, and that bin Laden considers himself an enemy of Saddam.
Blair’s complicity in the mysterious “suicide” of a top British scientist who told the BBC that the British government was lying about intelligence reports in order to justify the Iraq war is still being scrutinized.
Dr. David Kelly had spoken anonymously with British journalists in 2003 about falsehoods in the dossier that Blair was using to justify the Iraq war. Someone in the Blair government leaked Kelly’s name to the media, and Kelly was subjected to a parliamentary interrogation. A few days later he was found under suspicious circumstances with his left wrist cut, dead in a park near his home.
Government officials fell all over themselves denying they had leaked Kelly’s name, then admitted that Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, probably with Blair’s approval, leaked the scientist’s name.
Blair’s official spokesman Tom Kelly (no relation to the dead scientist) ridiculed David Kelly in August, 2003, comparing the deceased man to a comical fictional character, Walter Mitty, who is seen by literary critics as an ordinary man who dreamed of being a hero.
Having always denied that he knew about the leak that identified David Kelly as the scientist who told reporters that the government’s Iraq war info was wrong, Blair stunned viewers recently when he admitted on a television show that he had indeed authorized the leak.
Opposition politician Michael Ancram is demanding that Blair face official inquiry for commenting during a TV interview that he had disclosed the scientist’s name ? something he had previously denied doing.
In a letter to Blair, Ancram said: “I would have thought that you would have learned by now how, bit by bit, the truth always comes out, on how you misrepresented the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, how you misrepresented the Attorney General’s legal advice or the part you played in naming Dr Kelly. You cannot hide from the truth forever.”
What does all this have to do with marijuana? It demonstrates what every marijuana advocate should already know, that governments lie about important issues, and that their lies can result in imprisonment, suffering and death.
In regards to cannabis, Blair is traveling around England hearing from “parent’s groups” who complain to him that their children are “becoming addicted” to marijuana. He is also being bombarded by reports from “scientists” telling him that cannabis is more dangerous than anybody thought it was, particularly in its effects on young people, mentally unstable people, and drivers.
Much of the “new” information about cannabis mimics old lies told about the plant. For example, experts are claiming that cannabis is a gateway drug that causes people to use hard drugs.
Blair is telling voters he now favors a “zero tolerance” policy for cannabis, and that he is considering reversing the reclassification.
“I know people say cannabis is different from hard drugs, and of course it is,” Blair told voters at a recent campaign rally, “but I think there is a risk that you start with cannabis and then get into other things. I also think there is increasing evidence emerging that it isn’t quite as harmless as people make out.”
During one campaign speech, Blair as much as promised that if his Labour party is re-elected as the majority party on May 5th, that cannabis will be placed back into Class B soon thereafter.
The ironic thing about this hot political issue is that placing cannabis back into the status it was in before January, 2004 really won’t amount to much of a change in cannabis law, because the reclassification scheme was somewhat of a fraud- it did not in any way legalize cannabis or please most marijuana advocates.
The UK’s “Class” drug rating system is similar to the “Schedule” drug rating system used in the US, which categorizes drugs based on their alleged harm to society and individuals. In the UK, Class B drugs are considered more dangerous than Class C drugs.
UK cannabis reclassification merely lowered penalties for cannabis possession, while increasing penalties for selling Class C drugs. The maximum UK penalty for supplying, selling, trafficking and growing cannabis continues to be 14 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for illegally selling other Class C substances, which include steroids, GHB and Valium, was increased from five years in prison to 14 years in prison.
The maximum penalty for possession of cannabis not for sale was reduced from 5 years in prison to two years in prison, and police were instructed to avoid arresting adults for cannabis unless they were selling it, smoking in a public place or causing a nuisance. Officers retain the power to confiscate cannabis.
The declassification was criticized as being discriminatory because it gave preferential treatment to adults: the new law instructed police to avoid arresting adults, but required police to arrest young people under age 18 in possession of cannabis, take them to police stations, and give them formal warnings. Repeat youth offenders are to be formally charged and prosecuted.
So why is Blair going on and on about cannabis? It’s pure politics. One of his main motivations is to take momentum away from a renegade third party, the Liberal Democrats, whose platform includes marijuana decriminalization and an end to the war in Iraq.
The Liberal Democrats are the only real alternative for British voters who oppose the Iraq war, and who favor other progressive causes. As is the situation in other Western “democracies,” voters in England are faced with two major political parties that basically agree on most issues. In the UK, Labour and the Tories present themselves as opponents, and in small details of various issues, they do differ. But both parties support the Iraq war, the drug war, rampant capitalism, British Empire, privatization, globalization, and other old school ideologies.
The UK’s Liberal Democrats are a clear alternative to the two major parties. They’re similar to the NDP in Canada or the Green Party in the US. British voters, especially young people, are increasingly signaling that they are considering voting for Liberal Democrats. That’s why Blair is using scare tactics trying to keep from losing votes to the Lib Dems; he’s telling British voters not to express their dissatisfaction with Labour’s Iraq war mistakes by voting for Liberal Democrats.
Blair has repeatedly demonized Liberal Democrat cannabis policy, which he says will lead to legalized marijuana and people caught in possession of heroin or crack not being sent to jail.
Earlier this year, British Home Secretary (Attorney General) Charles Clarke created an Advisory Committee on Misuse of Drugs to investigate whether “new medical evidence linking cannabis use to long-term mental problems” could be justification for reversing the downgrading of pot from class B to the less serious class C. The Committee’s report is due to be published after the May 5 election.
How useful are such reports? Cannabis advocates note with amusement that the placement of cannabis into Class C was preceded by a series of scientific inquiries that showed cannabis was relatively harmless and did not belong in Class B!
Blair and his Labour party are expected to win the election, but to lose seats in Parliament due to voter dissatisfaction about the Iraq war and the domestic economy. Regardless of the election’s outcome, and unless Liberal Democrats win big, it’s likely that the baby step forward of cannabis declassification will be now taken backwards, and that people of any age who possess any amount of cannabis for personal use will again face the possibility of arrest.
Or maybe Blair is lying about his pledge to place cannabis back into Class B, just as he lied about the Iraq war.