"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, September 25, 2005

'Outside Powers'...Yeah, the U.S. and Britain

"And a familiar bleat is rising from the sheep pen. "Outside powers" are interfering in southern Iraq. Thirty-five years ago, it was the Irish Republic that was assisting Britain's IRA enemies. Now it is Iran that is supposedly urging the Shia of Basra to revolt. In other words, it's not our fault--yet again, it's the bloody foreigners what's to blame."

Blame Iran

What we were actually doing in Basra was to turn a blind eye on abuse, murder and anarchy

"Water is your friend" was the advice regularly given to a truly good friend of mine here in the Middle East. The speaker was a member of the One-Thousand- Litres- a-Day-Keeps-Dehydration-at-Bay Brigade, although I have to say that the Arabs take a different view. After generations of sword-like desert heat, they take tea in the morning, endure an oven-like day without sustenance, and then sip another scalding tea at dusk. The less you drink, the less you perspire, the less you need to drink. In a land with few oases, it's a craft worth learning.

The problem is that today, water is not our "friend". It comes smashing into New Orleans; it drowns the nursing home elderly in their baths; it assaults Galveston and Houston; it kills millions in Bangladesh, dozens in Andhya Pradesh; it floods south from the great ice-cold green bays of the Arctic; it carries 19th-century houses through the centre of Prague, and it bubbles into the bars of English pubs from the ancient, overflowing river-banks of Kent. Water has become our enemy.

There is a beautiful, delicate, inevitably cruel irony at the way in which nature and man conspire to uncover the lies of the rich and powerful. Just as President Bush's disastrous environmental policies are now destroying the southern coast of the United States--yes, it is global warming that causes this massacre of the innocent--America is preparing to receive its 2,000th dead soldier back from Iraq. No bodies, please--let's not dishonour the dead of New Orleans by taking photographs of them. Nor the American dead of Iraq by taking pictures of their coffins en route home. Death, as usual, is what happens to other people.

But the photographs of British soldiers, cowled in fire, hurling themselves from the top of their Warrior fighting vehicle in Basra this week, were the final iconic images of our uniquely British folly in Iraq. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara's henchmen have concocted another monstrous lie about all this, of course. The Iraqi policemen who protested at Britain's destruction of their prison--and the crowds who set fire to the Warrior (and its crew) -- were only a few hundred people. Who were we to suggest they represented the millions of Shia Muslim voters who solemnly went to the polls last January? Ho, ho, ho. Yes, and who were we to suggest that the "few hundred" Saddam "remnants" identified as troublemakers in mid-2003 represented a Sunni insurgency? And who were we, back in 1971, to suggest that a few hundred stone-throwers in the Falls Road and Short Strand in Belfast represented "the vast majority of ordinary peace- loving Catholics" in Northern Ireland?

I speculated some weeks ago as to when the bubble will burst. With the insurgent capture (and massacre) of a US base in Iraq? With the overrunning of the Green Zone in Baghdad? Every day now brings Vietnam-style evidence of our collapse. The Americans batter their way into Tal Afar and kill, so they say, "142 insurgents". Get that? US forces manage to kill 142 of their enemies, not a single innocent man, woman or child among them!

But let's go back to the Brits. Remember how we were told that our immense experience of "peace- keeping" in Northern Ireland had allowed us to get on better with the Iraqis in the south than our American cousins further north? I don't actually remember us doing much "peacekeeping" in Belfast after about 1969--the rest, I recall, was about biffing the IRA--but in any case the myth was burned out on the uniforms of British troops this week.

Indeed, much of the war in Northern Ireland appeared to revolve around the use of covert killings and SAS undercover operatives who blew away IRA men in ambushes. Which does raise the question, doesn't it, as to just what our two SAS lads were doing cruising around Basra in Arab dress with itsy-bitsy moustaches and guns? Why did no one ask? How many SAS men are in southern Iraq? Why are they there? What are their duties? What weapons do they carry? Whoops! No one asked.

What we were actually doing to "keep the peace" in Basra was to turn a Nelsonian "blind eye" on the abuse, murder and anarchy of Basra since 2003 (including, it turns out, quite a bit of abuse by our very own squaddies). When Christian alcohol sellers were murdered, we remained silent. When ex-Baathists were slaughtered in the streets--including women and their children, a civil war if ever there was one--our British officers somehow forgot to tell the press. Anything to keep our boys out of harm's way.

But this is what has been happening in Basra. As the locally recruited police force (paid by the occupation authorities) sucked into its ranks the riff-raff of every local militia--as it did in Sunni areas to the north--we ignored this. Even when an American reporter investigating this extraordinary phenomenon was murdered--almost certainly by these same policemen--the British remained silent. We were "controlling" the streets. In Amara--by awful coincidence, the very same Kut al-Amara with whose name, I'm sure, my favourite prime minister will soon be ennobled--British soldiers now operate just one heavily armed convoy patrol a day. That is the extent of our "control" over Amara. Now we are reducing our patrols in Basra. You bet we are.

And a familiar bleat is rising from the sheep pen. "Outside powers" are interfering in southern Iraq. Thirty-five years ago, it was the Irish Republic that was assisting Britain's IRA enemies. Now it is Iran that is supposedly urging the Shia of Basra to revolt. In other words, it's not our fault--yet again, it's the bloody foreigners what's to blame.

Alas, it is not. Iraqis do not need Iranian weapons or military expertise. Their country is afloat with weapons and they learned how to make bombs--in their millions--during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Half the Iraqi cabinet are linked to Iran--have the British forgotten that their honourable Dawa party government officials in Baghdad worked for the very same Dawa party that blew up the US and French embassies in Kuwait, and tried to kill the emir in the late 1980s? That these same gentlemen belong to a party which was effectively controlling the western hostages in Beirut during this same period?

No. All this is forgotten. Blame Iran. Later, no doubt, we'll blame those ungrateful Iraqis and then we'll declare victory and do what Defence Secretary John Reid claims we won't do: cut and run. And there again, we're in danger of forgetting the origin of such things. Faced with the imminent destruction of his vessel, a sailing ship captain would cut his anchor or sail ropes to allow his ship to move away from rocks or from being overwhelmed by the waves. Cutting and running was often an eminently sensible thing to do. But not for John Reid. We're not going to cut and run. We're going to be blown on to the rocks.

Robert Fisk
09/24/05 "The Independent"
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

A Policy of Absolute Barbarism?

Basra; another milestone in war on terror

"What our police found in their car was very disturbing - weapons, explosives, and a remote control detonator. These are the weapons of terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets."
Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, spokesman for the Mehdi Army

We are only interested in one thing regarding the melee that broke out in Basra following the arrest of two British commandoes on September 20: whether or not the car they were driving contained explosives? The answer to that question could decide the future of Iraq as well as the fate of Bush's war on terror. Nothing should deter us from getting to the bottom of this crucial question and no extraneous fact or fiction should divert our attention from uncovering the answer.

If it can be clearly established that there were explosives in that vehicle then we can say with some degree of certainty that the wave of terrorism that is spreading across Iraq is, at least, in part the work of British and American Intelligence. That would imply that current counterinsurgency efforts now involve the premeditated killing of innocent people to achieve the stated policy objectives. This is the very definition of terrorism.

Early news reports from both the BBC and the Washington Post confirmed allegations that bomb-making material was discovered in the captured vehicle. The Post's Ellen Knickmeyer stated, "The Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or TRYING TO PLANT EXPLOSIVES." (Washington Post, 9-20-05; "British Smash into Jail to Free Two Detained Soldiers) Neither the Post nor the BBC have printed retractions or clarifications on this story even though it has swept across the internet with a fury not seen since the Downing Street memo. In fact, this story is significantly more important. The entire war on terror is predicated on the belief that the murdering of innocent people cannot be rationalized. The incident in Basra puts all that into question.

Bush has marshaled the public fear from 9-11 into a rallying cry for his global-onslaught. He has waved the bloody-shirt of terror to enhance his power as executive and declare a permanent state of war. Terror has provided the foundation for savaging civil liberties, imprisoning American citizens, and acting with complete impunity.

"The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out on September 11 were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war", Bush boomed. The powers of the "war president" depend entirely on his nebulous war on terror.

The same is true for Tony Blair. The British PM has acted-out the same rituals as Bush; railing against the "evil ideology" of Muslim fanaticism saying, "We must confront and deal head on with the extremism that is based on a perversion of the true faith of Islam."

Blair's fulminations have resulted in the most extraordinary attack on civil liberties in the last 100 years. His pretentious rhetoric has produced a de facto state of martial law for Muslims living in England.

Now his muddled justification for endless war and butchery is facing its greatest challenge; a Ford Cressida packed with a trunk-load of explosives on the streets of Basra. If proof emerges that the car contained bombs then Bush's war of terror will fall apart like a mobile home in a Texas hurricane.

The Chinese news service Xinhuanet reported that, "A police patrol followed the attackers and captured them to discover that they were two British soldiers. The soldiers were using a civilian car packed with explosives." (Xinhuanet 9-20-05) The same basic story appeared on Syrian and Turkish TV, and in other news reports in the Gulf States

The Washington Post's foreign office filed a similar report by Jonathan Finer stating that, "Monday's clashes stemmed from the arrest by Iraqi police on Sunday of two Britons, WHOM IRAQI POLICE ACCUSED OF PLANTING BOMBS".

And then there was this from Syrian correspondent in Baghdad Ziyad al-Munajjid:

"Many analysts and observers here had suspicions that the occupation was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions that lacked proof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a longer period." Abdel al-Daraji, Muslim cleric in Baghdad told the UK Telegraph that "Britain was plotting to start an ethnic war by carrying out mass-casualty bombings targeting Shia civilians and then blaming the attacks on Sunni groups."

"Everyone knows the occupiers agenda, said al-Daraji. "Their intention is to keep Iraq an unstable battlefield so they can exploit their interests in Iraq."

Whether the reports are accurate or not is almost irrelevant. They feed the widespread dissatisfaction with the occupation and contribute to the conspiracy theories that animate the national discourse. The belief that the British and American black-ops are behind the violence has captured the popular imagination and will be impossible to dispel. The damage to the occupation is incalculable.

As the story spreads through Iraq, support for the al-Jaafari government is certain to wane and the Shi'ites will increasingly drift towards the resistance. The occupation leaders will have to devise a strategy to restore confidence in their legitimacy or face the steady erosion of support. If that proves to be impossible, then we're bound to see more radicalized Shi'ites entering the rival camp. A massive movement of Shi'ites into the resistance would pose a serious challenge to the ongoing American-British presence.

The Basra incident is a fatal blow to the Pentagon's narrative of foreign terrorists stirring up trouble in Iraq. The military depends heavily on the al-Zarqawi myth to feed public fears and divert attention from a brutish occupation. From this point forward every terrorist bombing and random act of violence will be scrutinized as (potentially) the work of British or American agents.

How can Bush and Blair hope to allay the suspicions of Iraqi people after Basra?

What can they possibly do to rebuild faith in the stated goals of the occupation?

The Basra incident is another milestone in the faltering war on terror. The questions that emerge are fundamental to understanding whether we are engaged in a noble effort to liberate and democratize the Iraqi people, or complicit in the deliberate murder of innocent civilians.

If the car driven by the two commandos was loaded with explosives, then we can assume that it would have been used to kill civilians.

Why does this surprise us?

We've already seen the "Shock and Awe" invasion that cost tens of thousands of lives. We've already seen the horrific photos of tortured and sadistically abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib. We've already heard the news of the 200 prisoners at Guantanamo who are starving themselves to death under the Pentagon's watchful eye. We've already chronicled the calculated destruction of Iraqi society and the daily assault on their main cities. We've already read of the use of napalm, cluster-bombs, unidentified chemicals and other banned weapons on civilian enclaves. And, we've already noted the growing number of young Sunni men who bob-along the Euphrates River after being shot in the back of the head by the CIA-trained goons at the Interior Ministry.

Is it so hard to believe that Special Forces are now directly involved in attacks on civilians?

Aren't we seeing the logical extension of a policy that rejects all ethical and moral constraints? A policy of absolute barbarism?

Basra will tell.

Mike Whitney
09/24/05 "ICH"