Most of us have become cynical about the ways our governments sell the public on their nefarious adventures. That is certainly the case with the disastrous 2003 US invasion of Iraq. While widely believed at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s now notorious address to the United Nations on February 5 making false claims about the threat supposedly posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, is now recognized as a fabrication. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Long forgotten was the effort of US and British intelligence to dig up dirt on the UN delegations that had not committed to support that war in order to pressure them to vote to authorize it. This came to light when a young translator at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) leaked an emailed memo from the US National Security Agency requesting assistance in finding intelligence they could use to sway the Security Council vote. The story of 27 year old whistle blower Katharine Gun’s efforts to prevent that war is now told in the film “Official Secrets.” Her government called her a traitor and prosecuted her under the Official Secrets Act. This is a riveting story of her courage in risking all to stop a war.
The story of British and American “dirty tricks at the United Nations” broke at the beginning of March 2003 and was briefly on front pages across the world before a bigger story (the Iraq war itself) eclipsed it. Katharine Gun did not stop the war in Iraq, but what she did demonstrated that the US and UK were prepared to twist arms to fix the vote at the UN.
Official Secrets reminds us that it is often little people with conscience and courage who expose secret official wrongdoings so the public may know what their government does in their name.
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San Miguel de Allende, GUA