Official Secrets

Joanna Biggs:

In February 2003, I spent a lot of time saying ‘liar’ to my computer screen. I was twenty, in Paris on my year abroad working as a translator of press releases about mechanical diggers and franking machines, while back home my country was trying to go to war illegally. I must have looked at the Guardian website every 45 minutes; for me, the 2003 online version of the Grauniad with its central column of boxed pictures will always be the true Guardian website. The Guardian received many of my ‘liars’: it initially supported the war.


In that year the government lied, and we all knew it was lying, and people stepped forward to confirm that it was lying. We took to the streets in our millions, Paris London Rome Berlin,…

I was forty-two. Indeed, we took to the streets, I in San Francisco and Heidelberg and Berlin. We filled the streets; the war went forward. And now:

I go to museums where American tourists shake their heads in disbelief at the Freikorps, at the SA, the NSDAP, the SS. These foreign sounding names, these initials: how could those people slaughter millions of civilians because of lies? How could they do that? Those militaristic, order-loving, rule-following Germans…

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