"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Paymasters Of Carnage

The Ghost at Gleneagles

In the orgy of summit coverage something has been overlooked: the two men at the heart of it, telling us how the world should be run, are the men responsible for Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

Over the past two weeks, the contrast between two related "global" events has been salutary. The first was the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul; the second the G8 meeting in Scotland and the Make Poverty History campaign. Reading the papers and watching television in Britain, you would know nothing about the Istanbul meetings, which produced the most searing evidence to date of the greatest political scandal of modern times: the attack on a defenceless Iraq by America and Britain.

The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. "We are here," said the author Arundhati Roy in Istanbul, "to examine a vast spectrum of evidence [about the war] that has been deliberately marginalised and suppressed - its legality, the role of international institutions and major corporations in the occupation; the role of the media, the impact of weapons such as depleted-uranium munitions, napalm and cluster bombs, the use and legitimation of torture . . . This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record: to document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily vanquished."

"Temporarily vanquished" implies that, even faced with such rampant power, the Iraqi people will recover. You certainly need this sense of hope when reading the eyewitness testimonies, which demonstrate, as Roy pointed out, "that even those of us who have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq".

The most shocking was given by Dahr Jamail. Unless you read the internet, you will not know who Dahr Jamail is. He is not an amusing Baghdad blogger. For me, he is the finest reporter working in Iraq. Together with Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and a few others, mostly freelancers, he shames the flak-jacketed, cliche-crunching camp followers known as "embeds". A Lebanese with US citizenship, Jamail has been almost everywhere the camp followers have not. He has reported from the besieged city of Fallujah, whose destruction and atrocities have been suppressed, notably by the BBC. (See [http://www.medialens.org/alerts]).

In Istanbul, Jamail bore his independent reporter's witness to the thousands of Iraqis tortured in Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons. His account of what had happened to a civil servant in Baghdad was typical. This man, Ali Abbas, had gone to a US base to inquire about his missing neighbours. On his fourth visit, he was arrested without charge, stripped naked, hooded and forced to simulate sex with other prisoners. This was standard procedure. He was beaten on his genitals, electrocuted in the anus, denied water and forced to watch as his food was thrown away. A loaded gun was held to his head to prevent him from screaming in pain as his wrists were bound so tightly that the blood drained from his hands. He was doused in cold water while a fan was held to his body.

"They put on a loudspeaker," he told Jamail, "put the speakers on my ears and said, 'Shut up, fuck, fuck, fuck!'" He was refused sleep. Excrement was wiped on him and dogs were used on him. "Sometimes at night when he would read his Koran," said Jamail, "[he] had to hold it in the hallway for light. 'Soldiers would walk by and kick the Holy Koran, and sometimes they would try to piss on it or wipe shit on it,' [Abbas] said." A female soldier told him, "Our aim is to put you in hell . . . These are the orders we have from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell."

Jamail described how Fallujah's hospitals have been subjected to an American tactic of collective punishment, with US marines assaulting staff and stopping the wounded entering, and American snipers firing at the doors and windows, and medicines and emergency blood prevented from reaching the hospitals. Children were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood.

The two men ultimately responsible for this, George W Bush and Tony Blair, attended the G8 meeting at Gleneagles. Unlike for the Iraq tribunal, there was saturation coverage, yet no one in the "mainstream" - from the embedded media to the Make Poverty History organisers and the accredited, acceptable celebrities - made the obvious connection with Bush's and Blair's enduring crime in Iraq. No one stood and said that Blair's smoke-and-mirrors "debt cancellation" at best amounted to less than the money the government spent in a week on brutalising Iraq, where British and American violence was the cause of the doubling of child poverty and malnutrition since Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

In Edinburgh, a shameless invitation-only meeting of Christian Aid supporters and church leaders was addressed by Gordon Brown, a paymaster of this carnage. Only one person asked him, "When will you stop the rape of the poor's resources? Why are there so many conditions on aid?" This lone protester was not referring specifically to Iraq, but to most of the world. He was thrown out, to cheers from among the assembled Christians.

That set the theme for the G8 week: the silencing and pacifying and co-option of real dissent and truth. It was Frantz Fanon, the great pan-Africanist intellectual/activist, who exposed colonial greed and violence dressed up as polite do-goodery, and nothing has changed, in Africa as in Iraq. The mawkish images on giant screens behind the pop stars in Hyde Park beckoned a wilful, self-satisfied ignorance. There were none of the images that television refuses to show: of murdered Iraqi doctors with the blood streaming from their heads, cut down by Bush's snipers.

On the front page of the Guardian, the Age of Irony was celebrated as real life became more satirical than satire could ever be. There was Bob Geldof, resting his smiling face on smiling Blair's shoulder, the war criminal and his jester. Elsewhere, there was a heroically silhouetted Bono, who celebrates men like Jeffrey Sachs as saviours of the world's poor while lauding "compassionate" Bush's "war on terror" as one of his generation's greatest achievements; and there again was Brown, the enforcer of unfair rules of trade, saying incredibly that "unfair rules of trade shackle poor people"; and Paul Wolfowitz, beaming next to the Archbishop of Canterbury: this is the man who, before he was handed control of the World Bank, devised much of Bush's so-called neoconservative putsch, the mendacious justification for the bloodfest in Iraq and the notion of "endless war". And if you missed all that, there is a downloadable PDF kit from a "ONE Campaign" e-mail to "help you organise your very own ongoing Live 8 party". The suppression of African singers and bands, parked where Geldof decreed, in an environmental theme park in Cornwall far from the vaunted global audience, was described correctly by Andy Kershaw as "musical apartheid".

Has there ever been a censorship as complete and insidious and ingenious as this? Even when Stalin airbrushed his purged comrades from the annual photograph on top of Lenin's mausoleum, the Russian people could fill in the gaps. Media and cultural hype provide infinitely more powerful propaganda weapons in the age of Blair.

With Diana, there was grief by media. With Iraq, there was war by media. Now there is mass distraction by media, a normalising of the unmentionable that "the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people", as Arthur Miller wrote, "and so the evidence has to be internally denied". Deploying the unction of Bono, Madonna, Paul McCartney, a pop-up Andrew Marr and of course Geldof, whose Live Aid 20 years ago achieved nothing for the people of Africa, the contemporary plunderers and pawnbrokers of that continent have pulled off an unprecedented scam: the antithesis of 15 February 2003, when two million people brought both hearts and brains to the streets of London.

"[Ours] is not a march in the sense of a demonstration, but more of a walk, " said Bruce Whitehead of Make Poverty History. "The emphasis is on fun in the sun. The intention is to welcome the G8 leaders to Scotland and ask them to deliver trade justice, debt cancellation and increased aid to developing countries."


In Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter to show her the way out of wonderland. They did, over and again, this way, that way, until she lost her temper and brought down her dream-world, waking her up. The people killed and maimed in Iraq and the people wilfully impoverished in Africa by our governments and our institutions, in our name, demand that we wake up.

John Pilger
This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.

© New Statesman 1913 - 2005

Blair Put Us in the Firing Line

The War on Iraq Made the Attack on London Inevitable

Amid all the punditry about whether there was an al-Qaida connection to Thursday's attacks on London commuters, it should not be forgotten that the bloody trail of blame leads straight to 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister's early return to Westminster was a fitting response to the carnage unleashed on the capital. It was the only hint of personal responsibility for our entanglement in a war that has made prime targets of innocent Britons.

The fury generated by Tony Blair's decision to coat-tail George Bush into what only the blind still call a justified war has put us all in the firing line. When Blair led us into the war on terror, he knew that a country with which Islamist networks had no immediate axe to grind would be drawn into their sphere of hate as a consequence.

That is why we have had tightened anti-terrorism laws, public scares and training exercises for emergency services. They were all premised on the inevitability of blowback for Blair's foreign exploits. In the calculation that staked our security against some ill-conceived national interest in occupying Iraq, our government has turned us all into expendable pawns, in the same way it did Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan.

Not that this outrage is likely to shock us into realising we have become involuntary martyrs for Blair in the service of his master's imperial cause. In the politics of fear, attacks like Thursday's rarely lead to awareness beyond the most immediate danger. Those further down the chain of causation usually escape censure in the resulting wave of revulsion.

So it came as little surprise to see Blair trotting out the same tired juxtaposition of our civilisation and their barbarism. Those responsible have no respect for human life, he said. At such times of high emotion we can perhaps forgive him for losing a sense of perspective. It might serve him well to remember our conduct in a conflict waged without rules and mercy. Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the bombing of innocent Afghans in their homes might conjure up images of US brutality, but our policies and military action ever since the first Gulf war, including sanctions and the use of depleted uranium, have maimed and wiped out hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, whose only crime was to live under a tyrant of our making - not theirs.

Blair is in too deep for us to hope for extrication in the lifetime of this parliament. The anti-war protests have come to a halt in the cul-de-sac of Downing Street. Iraq is now a forgotten war in the national media. Besides, it has taken on a momentum of its own and too much blood has been spilled for any party to make a clean break. Perhaps the bombings are an attempt to remind us that, however we try to put it out of our minds, Bush and Blair's war goes on.

Nor can we be clear that the perpetrators are Bin Laden's lieutenants, despite the internet claims being attributed to groups linked with al-Qaida. In 1995 Paris was hit by metro station bombings, believed to be the work of Algerian Islamists punishing the French for their support of the Algiers government. No one declared responsibility for the attacks, and they were attributed to the GIA, one of Algeria's more radical anti-government groups. But subsequent evidence under oath from former members of the Algerian military, now widely acknowledged to have infiltrated the GIA, pointed the finger at the Algerian secret services.

Whoever carried out Thursday's abomination, the fallout is likely to have an impact on Britain's Muslims. Community organisations are receiving reports of verbal assaults and of Muslims afraid to venture out.

Many have asked the community to be on its guard in the knowledge that Islamophobic incidents are directly proportional to terrorist atrocities. We are all victims in this phoney war on terror, some of us more than others.

· Faisal Bodi is news editor at the Islam Channel