by Norman Solomon
t r u t h o u t
Thursday 25 September 2008
Of course, Katharine Gun was free to have a conscience, as long as it didn’t interfere with her work at a British intelligence agency. To the authorities, practically speaking, a conscience was apt to be less tangible than a pixel on a computer screen. But suddenly – one routine morning, while she was scrolling through email at her desk – conscience struck. It changed Katharine Gun’s life, and it changed history.
Despite the nationality of this young Englishwoman, her story is profoundly American – all the more so because it has remained largely hidden from the public in the United States. When Katharine Gun chose, at great personal risk, to reveal an illicit spying operation at the United Nations in which the US government was the senior partner, she brought out of the transatlantic shadows a special relationship that could not stand the light of day.
By then, in early 2003, the president of the United States – with dogged assists from the British prime minister following close behind – had long since become transparently determined to launch an invasion of Iraq. Gun’s moral concerns were not unusual; she shared, with countless other Brits and Americans, strong opposition to the impending launch of war. Yet, thanks to a simple and intricate twist of fate, she abruptly found herself in a rare position to throw a roadblock in the way of the political march to war from Washington and London. Far more extraordinary, though, was her decision to put herself in serious jeopardy on behalf of revealing salient truths to the world.
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