Was Tony Blair just doing Murdoch’s bidding on Iraq?

Even the distance of history may never reveal all the real reasons for the Iraq War.  That Rupert Murdoch through his media outlets was one of the most strident advocates of the Iraq war because of their (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction was always clear. But quite how close he was to Tony Blair is becoming apparent only now.

The latest revelations – let-slip by Wendi Deng Murdoch in an interview with Vogue – show that Tony Blair was very close indeed to Rupert Murdoch. The claim of Tony Blair being in Murdoch’s pocket is no longer so far-fetched. His just following Murdoch’s orders regarding the Iraq war would also explain Blair’s obduracy in “sexing-up” the Iraq dossier with a bunch of lies and half-truths.

BBC News

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s young children, it has emerged. Mr Blair was present last March when Mr Murdoch’s two daughters by his third wife, Wendi Deng, were baptised. The revelation comes in an interview with Ms Deng in a forthcoming issue of fashion magazine Vogue. Tony Blair’s office declined to comment on the report, which sheds new light on Mr Blair’s ties with the media mogul. Mr Blair, who is said to have been “robed in white” during the ceremony, is the godfather to Grace, the second youngest of Mr Murdoch’s six children.

As The Guardian puts it 

So much falls into place with the revelation that Tony Blair became godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s two young daughters and attended their baptism on the banks of the river Jordan last year. …. Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi Deng, who let slip the information in an interview with Vogue, described Blair as one of Rupert’s closest friends. Blair’s account of the relationship in his memoirs is somewhat different, portraying Murdoch as the big bad beast, who won his grudging respect. That is clearly disingenuous. As other memoirs and diaries from the Blair period are published, we see how close Murdoch was to the prime minister and the centre of power when really important decisions, such as the Iraq invasion, were being made.

image : guardian.co.uk

But bringing this back to what is known about Rupert Murdoch’s views and what was thought to be his staunch support of the neo-conservative cause suggests that Murdoch may have been a leader rather than just a supporter. And in that scenario Murdoch led Tony Blair by the nose into the quagmire of Iraq.

Before the Iraq war Murdoch declared that the war would ensure oil at $20 per barrel which would be the equivalent of a tax cut. The three members of the Coalition of the willing were Australia, the US and the UK — all countries where Murdoch is the most powerful media player. Spain was the tentative fourth member of the Coalition and when Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was defeated in 2004, Rupert showed his loyalty to those who backed the Iraq invasion by promptly installing him on the News Corp board.

After running the unsuccessful Tory campaign in 2004, former federal Liberal Party director Clinton Crosby publicly stated that News International backed one last term for Blair because of his support for the Iraq invasion. John Howard received similar treatment. Some Murdoch papers may have endorsed Kevin Rudd at the 2007 federal poll, but Howard was strongly supported by the Murdoch press in 1998, 2001 and 2004. Besides, News Corp’s Harper Collins book division ended up paying John Howard the biggest six-figure cheque of his career for his memoirs after leaving office.

Rupert Murdoch Profile

Considered a close ally of neoconservative activists, Murdoch has helped bankroll neoconservatism’s more important media outlets, including the William Kristol-edited Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and Fox News. A sign of Murdoch’s commitment to this rightwing faction’s causes was his willingness to support the Standard in spite of yearly losses in the millions. The magazine is widely credited as a pivotal force in building support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to a report by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, “With a circulation of about 65,000 and annual losses estimated from $1 million … to $5 million … the Standard represented only a tiny fraction of Murdoch’s vast media empire.”

Murdoch is frequently criticized for using his media empire to advance his political agenda. During the lead up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example, the editors of Murdoch’s media holdings vociferously supported President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pro-war campaign. One British newspaper opined: “You have got to admit that Rupert Murdoch is one canny press tycoon because he has an unerring ability to choose editors across the world who think just like him. How else can we explain the extraordinary unity of thought in his newspaper empire about the need to make war on Iraq? After an exhaustive survey of the highest-selling and most influential papers across the world owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, it is clear that all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Some are bellicose baritone soloists who relish the fight. Some prefer a less strident, if more subtle, role in the chorus. But none, whether fortissimo or pianissimo, has dared to croon the antiwar tune. Their master’s voice has never been questioned.”

It does begin to seem very plausible – and not just some conspiracy theory – that Rupert Murdoch – and not Bush or Cheney or Blair – was the “deep” force behind the entire Iraq adventure and all the hundreds of thousands killed there. And the price of oil at $80 – 100 in these days is a long way from $20.

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