THE "LIBERATION" OF IRAQ
HOW (NOT) TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
Published in Two Parts - Part
Editorial Note: Related editions of On Target
are listed under References (1)(2)(3). We have added the emphasis where
we have considered this justified throughout the following pages.
BARBARIANS THROUGH THE GATES
These Waters Run Deeper Than We May Think
We have discussed the Middle East on several
occasions with On Target subscriber, Ian Dean-Netscher, son of
a British Army surgeon, who worked professionally in the oil industry
in the region. We have our own experience of the Middle East, and the
benefit of the extensive knowledge of journalist Felicity Arbuthnot
and others. It is quite true that Western resources and expertise were
used in developing the oil industry in the Middle East. We must, however,
remember that this was in the interests of the Western, capitalist countries.
But we must also remember that in Biblical times, when our ancestors
were still painting themselves with woad, the Middle East was the centre
of a highly developed and sophisticated civilization.
In the early years of the Twentieth Century,
after five hundred years of gradual decay in the Middle East under Ottoman
rule, and under growing Western influence, Iraq was achieving the levels
of development of a modern society. We therefore have to ask, as we
should ask in the case of the Third and Developing Worlds, mainly of
the southern hemisphere, if the exploitation of indigenous natural resources
represents a fair exchange and could, or should, this continue on the
present economic basis in the longer term?
We must also see the mighty oil industry, like
the pharmaceutical and agri-chemical industries, not in the service
of the likes of we ordinary mortals, of whatever perceived social class,
but as conglomerates, under the control of a Ruling Elite; multinational
corporations that have become a politically dominant end in themselves
for the purpose of control and profit within the global economic model.
British interests in this environment are often, and with superficial
logic, seen as paramount in what one has to accept is this supranational
and ruthlessly competitive global economic scenario.
But in the United Kingdom this is too readily
associated in some minds with traditional Tory values based on the imperial
tradition - the position of what we tend to see as that of the "squirearchy".
Conversely, attitudes critical of what is now in reality International
Finance-Capitalism come to be erroneously identified with the political
Left, or "progressive" faction. However, we must remember that the invasion
of Iraq was pursued, against strong public opposition from all sections
of the community, by a Labour Government. Objections to what was reported
by B.B.C. journalists and others ("B.B.C. hits back over 'rhetoric'
claims", The Independent on Sunday, 13th April, 2003), was neither
politically Left or Right. Objections came from those who had justified
the invasion - when it suited them - on the grounds that the intention
was to "liberate" the people of Iraq. It did not run contrary to British
"interests". It was the unpalatable truth for those who precipitated
and supported the invasion as events unfolded. It was reported by seasoned
journalists such as Robert Fisk, John Pilger and John Simpson as his
convoy of Kurds and American Special Forces was bombed by an American
aircraft with the loss of 18 lives. John Pilger wrote, in The Independent
on Sunday of 6th April, 2003, under the heading "We see too much. We
know too much. That's our best defence":
We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion
of Iraq. A man cuddles the body of his infant daughter; her blood drenches
them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven
of her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she
happens to be standing next to a man in uniform. "I'm sorry," he says,
"but the chick got in the way." We were reminded, as we studied the
wealth of information and commentary surrounding the Anglo-American
invasion of Iraq in March this year, of the perceptive satire of the
late Peter Sellers. On the point of leaving the Colonial Service in
Darkest Africa, "Brigadier Sir John Hanley-Adamant" discoursed on the
selection and training of native servants. When one of these "honest
Blacks", these "quaint creatures", committed a misdemeanour, the more
serious offences were punished with a "varying number of lashes from
a rhinoceros-hide whip". It was not without some wry amusement we read
that when Colonel Sir Mark Sykes visited India in 1915 to discuss the
problems of Baghdad and Kut el Amara, he was "greatly shocked to find
that he, a soldier and staff officer, was expected in time of war to
have brought civilian evening dress to dine in"(4).
In what was then Mesopotamia Kut, it may be
remembered, was the scene of the siege of the ill-fated British force
under General Townshend, from 8th December, 1915, to 29th April, 1916,
that finally ended in Townshend's surrender to the Turks. More importantly,
Mark Sykes was responsible with M. Georges Picot for drawing up what
became the Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1919. The full title was "The Arrangement
Between Great Britain, France And Russia, Regarding Syria, Mesopotamia
And Eastern Asia Minor". This marked the early role of France in the
share out of influence in the Middle East. The United States were nowhere
to be seen. France may thus be seen as no different to any other Western
Nation in pursuing its own interests. It just happens that France challenged
United States hegemony by refusing to support the use of military force
against Iraq; ultimately by pre-empting a largely cosmetic second United
Nations Resolution to justify what was a premeditated invasion in any
We believe the greater issue to be the uneasy,
competitive, but conter-minous relationship between International Finance-Capitalism
and International Socialism. This brings links between the European
Union and the former Soviet Union and its satellites; now with the Russian
The United Kingdom and European Nations are not
alone under the growing control of an oppressive, Politically Correct
Socialist bureaucracy. Rose L. Martin recorded in compelling detail
how International Fabian Socialism reached the United States from Europe
from the end of the Nineteenth Century(5). The image of a "Land of the
Free" under an historic Constitution becomes less plausible as one realises
that the doctrine of Political Correctness is not only Marxist-Leninist
in origin(6), but has leached back across the Atlantic from the United
States(7). Only when we peer behind the veneer do we recognise the reality
in a headline such as "Banned from U.S. textbooks: owls, ketchup, dinosaurs
and old ladies with cats" (The Sunday Telegraph, 4th May, 2003).
In Soviet Analyst, Christopher Story has
postulated the dangers of bilateral agreements between European Nations
and the former Soviet Union, with special reference to France(8). Eduard
Shevardnadze, former Soviet Foreign Minister, and Hans-Dietrich Genscher,
Foreign Minister in the Federal German Government of Chancellor Helmut
Kohl, have been attributed with the ideal of a Common European "Home"
from the Atlantic to the Urals, and from the Urals to Vladivostok. Anatoliy
Golitsyn has written that the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites
and transformation to "Social Democracy" has been a "Trojan Horse" strategy
eventually to control an European Union Superstate(9)(10).
France and Germany have proposed a European
Defence Force that must automatically challenge the role of a NATO controlled
by the United States for the purpose of deployment outside Europe in
pursuance of what are preeminently United States interests(11)(12).
A further clue in this complex strategic picture
comes with an earlier United States-driven invasion, that of Kosovo,
in 1999. The Morning Star of 25th April, 2003, reported that
"Kosovo heads down the privatisation road". We are seeing the same moves
in the post-Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe. There, privatisation
must inevitably involve multinational corporations and the United States
dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.). Was it
thus surprising that these candidate member states of the European Union
supported the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. This would seem to have
the potential to become a divisive factor within the European Union
for any Franco-German challenge to United States hegemony in Eastern
Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East. This divisive strategy was
explicit with an announcement from Washington that Poland was to play
a military role in post-war Iraq. This implied that Poland, due to join
the European Union in 2004, would be able to finance its overseas military
role for the United States, whilst concurrently expecting to receive
agricultural subsidies and structural development funds from Brussels.
United States Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, sees this as "'old'
Europe, with France and Germany as leaders of the anti-war coalition
and the pro-United States 'new' Europe, led by former Communist countries."
(The Financial Times, 5th May 2003).
Double Standards And The Fallacies Of Leadership
In the first instance attention must focus on
British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Any analysis is likely to be a matter
for contention, nor can we be "inside the head" of any individual. We
have been offered one private view of Tony Blair as a far-sighted strategic
genius who has manipulated world opinion to avert the threat of a greater
global conflict with its epicentre in the Middle East. We disagree.
We believe that Tony Blair is a Walter Mitty figure, dangerously ambitious
with scant practical experience and an almost juvenile thirst simplistically
to uproot a 2,000-year domestic heritage. He undertakes his high-profile
global perambulations whilst the domestic infrastructure is concurrently
in chaos; virtually broke with a Chancellor "robbing Peter to pay Paul"
on the basis of conventional debt-usury economics. In this situation
no politician of the necessary stature or experience on any scale above
the "belly-button" of party politics appears to exist.
During almost six years in office, the Prime
Minister had gone along with a continuation of the needlessly draconian
United States-driven "United Nations" sanctions against Iraq. The deliberate
destruction of the civilian infrastructure during the 1991 Gulf War,
and imposed shortages of medical equipment and drugs since have resulted
in the deaths of 1,000,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including 500,000
children. Yet the Prime Minister was hypocritical enough to rail against
Saddam Hussein for the deaths of 1,000,000 other Iraqis. No man who
condones this situation can conceivably call himself "Christian". Furthermore,
Blair also continued the unilateral, and thus illegal Anglo-American
policy for patrolling the "no-fly" zone over Iraq, which has resulted
in numerous civilian deaths and loss of civilian property.
This policy was extended, equally illegally, to include the pre-emptive
destruction of the Iraqi air defence system well before the "decision"
to invade had been taken.
The war against Iraq was forced through against
the strongest public and political opposition. Blair's impassioned rhetoric
has been shown to be pure candyfloss. He repeatedly shifted his ground
in justifying the invasion of Iraq; from the terrorist threat, to regime
change, to the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction, to liberation
of the Iraqi people. Meanwhile the search for the elusive Weapons of
Mass Destruction goes on. Not the slightest account appears to have
been taken by the United States, or the United Kingdom, beyond haggling
with the United Nations, of the administrative support that would be
urgently required on the ground immediately behind the military campaign.
In the Boston Globe of 2nd May, 2003,
H.D.S. Greenway wrote:
In World War II the United States began planning the occupation of Germany
in 1942. In contrast, little planning for controlling Iraq once the
shooting stopped seemed to have been done. The subsequent chaos at the
war's end, not the least of which was the destruction of 10,000 years
of Mesopotamian archaeology and history, has lost the United States
much of the good will it might otherwise have had for ridding the country
of Saddam Hussein. The United States was determined on the war; which
was premeditated, with the roots going back to around 1996. It is also
known that planning took place throughout 2002, which would have allowed
ample scope for the requisite civilian infrastructure by comparison
with the scale of World War II. Clearly, the United States was hell-bent
on war per se.
We find further proof in the meeting of the United
Nations Security Council at the beginning of February, 2003, when Chief
United Nations Weapons Inspector Dr Hans Blix exposed the evidence against
Saddam Hussein, provided by the United Kingdom, as a fabrication. The
United States simply disregarded this and rode rough-shod over any reservations
about the legality of the war. Nevertheless, Tony Blair despatched a
seriously ill-equipped, under-manned, underfunded and over-stretched
British Force of some 30,000 to the Persian Gulf in February this year.
There was insufficient opportunity against a purely political time scale
for acclimatisation, shake-down training, or the establishment of proper
command and control systems at working level with the United States
Forces. Incidents of friendly fire and the attrition rate of journalists
would seem to bear witness to this. If we misjudge the situation, perhaps
some one would explain?
The military ethic is that of making the best
of any given situation. But we found one of the most distasteful episodes
was the Prime Minister's choice - it could only have come from the spin
machine - to take the Passing Out Parade at the Royal Military Academy,
Sandhurst, on 11th April this year. Claims by some Labour politicians
that Blair had "played a blinder" once the conventional military campaign
was over were sycophantic non-sense. In their "Barbie Doll" world of
military strategy, neither Prime Minister Blair or his Secretary of
State for Defence, "Geoff", "Holiday" Hoon, displayed an understanding
of the military ethos. Hoon's reference to looting was irresponsible
and stupid, and displayed total ignorance of the Iraqi culture ("Carry
on looting, Hoon tells civilians in Basra", The Daily Telegraph,
8th April, 2003). Even if he had purported to allude to official government
property or that of Saddam Hussein, both are sacrosanct to the Iraqi
people regardless of provenance. The laughter he evoked simply emphasised
the banality and crass political ignorance of the House.
From the safety of his Westminster "bunker" Hoon
also sought to justify the use of cluster bombs on civilians, whom the
war was intended to "liberate". For junior Defence Minister Adam Ingram
to discount the effects of Depleted Uranium (D.U.), ammunition on the
grounds that there was no reliable evidence, despite evidence from the
sharp increase in various forms of cancer amongst Iraqi civilians in
the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, was dishonest, but no more so than the
disappearance of medical records in the quest to investigate causes
of Gulf War Syndrome! Had either Hoon or Ingram bothered to consult
the maverick politician, George Galloway, or Two-hour-old baby from
the Zubair area of Southern Iraq, which was heavily bombed in the Gulf
War. The baby was born without eyes, nose, mouth, genitalia or anus.
The legs are twisted and joined. Ibn Gahzwan Hospital, Basra, January,
1999. Photograph - Karen Robinson attended his Conference on Depleted
Uranium, in July 1999, they would have had little doubt about the scientific
Nor were they apparently aware of the concern
now expressed by no less than the Royal Society for the widespread effects
on servicemen and civilians ("Allied troops 'risk uranium exposure'",
the Financial Times, 25th April, 2003).
The Perpetual Story Of Double Standards
Dr Edward "Ed" Said is a Palestinian-American
academic domiciled in the United States. He was born in Egypt and raised
in the Middle East. An authority on the region, he is a close friend
of the Jewish-American Professor Noam Chomsky. Both men have written
extensively on the Middle East generally; both are severe and outspoken
critics of Israeli treatment of the dispossessed Palestinian people.
In the "Diary" page of the London Review of Books, 17th April,
2003, Dr Said provides interesting insights into the situation surrounding
the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The following paragraphs are extracts:
* Let's get straight to the point about what
is so unwise about this war, leaving aside for the moment its illegality
and international unpopularity. In the first place, no one has satisfactorily
proved that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction that furnish
an imminent threat to the United States. Iraq is a hugely weakened and
ineffective Third World state ruled by a hated despotic regime; there
is no disagreement about that anywhere, least of all in the Arab and
Islamic world. But that after 12 years of sanctions it is a threat of
any kind to any other state is a laughable notion, and not a single
journalist of the overpaid legions who swarm around the Pentagon, State
department and the White House has ever bothered to investigate it.
. . . One can't fault these people [Iraqi expatriates] for wanting to
rid the world of Saddam Hussein; we'd all be better off without him.
The problem has been the falsifying of reality and the creation of scenarios
for unchecked American policy planners to foist on a fundamentalist
President and a largely misinformed public. In all this, Iraq might
as well have been the moon and the Pentagon and White House Swift's
Academy of Lagado.
* Another thought stopping premise underlying
the campaign in Iraq is that the map of the Middle East can be redrawn
in such a way as to set in motion a "domino effect" that will introduce
Israel friendly democracies all over the territory. According to this
model, the Iraqi people are a blank sheet on which to inscribe the ideas
of William Kristol, Robert Kagan and other deep thinkers of the Far
Right. As I said in an earlier article for the London Review of Books
(17th October 2002), such ideas were first tried out by Ariel Sharon
in Lebanon during the 1982 invasion, and then more recently in Palestine,
where, in terms of security, peace and subaltern compliance, there's
been nothing to show for it. Never mind: well trained United States
special forces have practised and perfected the storming of civilian
homes alongside Israeli soldiers in Jenin.
It is hard to believe, as this ill conceived
war advances, that things will be very different in Iraq. On the other
hand, with countries like Syria and Iran involved, their shaky regimes
shaken even further, and general Arab outrage inflamed to boiling point,
one cannot imagine that victory in Iraq will resemble any of the simple
minded myths posited by Bush and his entourage.
* What is truly puzzling is that the prevailing
American ideology is still underpinned by the view that United States
power is basically benign and altruistic. This surely accounts for the
outrage expressed by United States pundits and officials that Iraqis
should have had the gall to resist at all, or that, when captured, United
States soldiers were exhibited on Iraqi Television. Apparently this
is much worse than showing rows of Iraqi prisoners made to kneel or
lie spread eagled in the sand. Breaches of the Geneva Conventions are
invoked not for Camp X Ray but for Saddam, and when his forces hide
inside cities, that is cheating, while high altitude bombing is playing
fair. This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about
imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence
or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant
in its violence and the cruelty of its technology. What winning, or
for that matter losing, such a war will ultimately entail is unthinkable.
But pity the Iraqi civilians who must still suffer a great deal more
before they are finally "liberated"
The Shifting Sands Of Double Standards
Apart from his friendship with Dr Ed Said, Professor
Noam Chomsky is an internationally recognised expert on Linguistics.
He has long been an outspoken critic of what might be termed the forces
and interests of the so-called "New World Order" of International Finance-Capitalism
and the consequences for the people of the Third and Developing Worlds.
In April, 2003, Michael Albert sought the views of Noam Chomsky on the
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. His response to the question "Why did
the United States invade Iraq" included the following observations:
* These are naturally speculations, and policy
makers may have varying motives. But we can have a high degree of confidence
about the answers given by Bush Powell and the rest; these cannot possibly
be taken seriously. They have gone out of their way to make sure we
understand that, by a steady dose of self contradiction ever since last
September when the war drums began to beat. One day the "single question"
is whether Iraq will disarm; in today's version (April 12th): "We have
high confidence that they have Weapons of Mass Destruction that is what
this war was about and is about." That was the pretext throughout the
whole United Nations disarmament farce, though it was never easy to
take seriously; UNMOVIC was doing a good job in virtually disarming
Iraq, and could have continued, if that were the goal. But there is
no need to discuss it, because after stating solemnly that this is the
"single question," they went on the next day to announce that it wasn't
the goal at all: even if there isn't a pocket knife anywhere in Iraq,
the United States will invade anyway, because it is committed to "regime
change." The next day we hear that there's nothing to that either; thus
at the Azores summit, where Bush Blair issued their ultimatum to the
United Nations, they made it clear that they would invade even if Saddam
and his gang left the country. So "regime change" is not enough. The
next day we hear that the goal is "democracy" in the world. Pretexts
range over the lot, depending on audience and circumstances, which means
that no sane person can take the charade seriously.
* The one constant is that the United States
must end up in control of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was authorized to suppress,
brutally, a 1991 uprising that might have overthrown him because "the
best of all worlds" for Washington would be "an iron fisted Iraqi junta
without Saddam Hussein" (by then an embarrassment), which would rule
the country with an "iron fist" as Saddam had done with United States
support and approval (New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent
Thomas Friedman). The uprising would have left the country in the hands
of Iraqis who might not have subordinated themselves sufficiently to
Washington. The murderous sanctions regime of the following years devastated
the society, strengthened the tyrant and compelled the population to
rely for survival on his (highly efficient) system for distributing
basic goods. The sanctions thus undercut the possibility of the kind
of popular revolt that had overthrown an impressive series of other
monsters who had been strongly supported by the current incumbents in
Washington up to the very end of their bloody rule: Marcos, Duvalier,
Ceausescu, Mobutu, Suharto, and a long list of others, some of them
easily as tyrannical and barbaric as Saddam.
Had it not been for the sanctions, Saddam
probably would have gone the same way, as has been pointed out for years
by the Westerners who know Iraq best, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck
(though one has to go to Canada, England, or elsewhere to find their
writings). But the overthrow of the regime from within would not be
acceptable either, because it would leave Iraqis in charge. The Azores
summit merely reiterated that stand.
Shaping A Repressive Colonial Regime Bush
Taps Anti-terrorism Adviser As Iraq Pro Consul
by Bill Vann, May 2003
Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
The Bush administration has selected of L. Paul
Bremer, the former "counter terrorism ambassador" of the Reagan administration,
to become the top United States official overseeing the creation of
a new puppet regime in Iraq. Media reaction to the announcement has
focussed almost entirely on the internecine disputes between the State
Department and the Pentagon. Most press reports have asserted that with
the ascendancy of a former career diplomat, Secretary of State Colin
Powell has scored a victory against his powerful rivals headed by Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. There no doubt exist bitter divisions within
the administration over strategy and tactics in Iraq. It became increasingly
clear, moreover, that retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, selected
by Rumsfeld to head a Pentagon controlled Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Assistance, was far out of his depth in attempting to forge
a United States controlled "transitional government" in the face of
massive popular opposition. Yet Bremer's selection is significant above
all for what it reveals about the nature of the regime that Washington
is seeking to create.
The question must be asked: what precisely are
this man's qualifications to oversee the Bush Administration's purported
goal of establishing "government of, by and for the Iraqi people?"
While Bremer served for 23 years as a career State Department diplomat,
he has enjoyed the closest ties to the Right Wing of the Republican
Party for at least two decades. In 1981, then President Ronald Reagan's
Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, appointed him as his special assistant
in charge of the Department's "Crisis Management" Centre. Four years
later, he was named Ambassador at Large for counter-terrorism, responsible
for developing and implementing United States policies to combat terrorism.
It was during this period that Washington labelled the African National
Congress of South Africa (A.N.C.), and virtually every other national
liberation movement as "terrorist" organizations.
It was on Bremer's watch that the Reagan administration
ordered United States warplanes to carry out a terrorist bombing of
Libya killing 40 civilians, including the adopted daughter of the country's
leader Muammar Gadhafi. In an earlier version of "pre-emptive strike,"
the Administration described the bombing raid as "self defence against
future attack." After leaving the State Department, Bremer joined Kissinger
Associates [one-time Director, Lord Carrington], the consulting firm
headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, where he was named
Managing Director. Among the principal clients of the firm are United
States multinationals seeking assistance in penetrating foreign markets.
In 1996, Bremer drafted an opinion piece for
the Wall Street Journal entitled "Terrorists' friends must pay
a price", in which he called for the Clinton Administration to deliver
ultimatums to and then launch unprovoked military attacks against countries
throughout the Middle East. The countries that he said should be targeted
included Libya, Syria, Iran and Sudan. Curiously, Iraq was omitted.
In 1999, the Republican controlled House of Representatives
placed Bremer in charge of a Commission on Terrorism, largely as a means
of goading the Clinton Administration on issues of national security.
In October 2001, he became the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
of the Crisis Consulting Practice of Marsh Inc., a subsidiary of Marsh
& McLennan Companies that advises corporations on threats of terrorism
and other potential crises. In the aftermath of the September 11th,
2001 terrorist attacks, Bremer became increasingly involved as an advisor
to the Administration. He headed a panel on counter-terrorism formed
by the Heritage Foundation, a Right Wing think tank close to the Bush
White House. His principal advice consisted of ending restrictions on
the C.I.A. going back to the 1975 Church Commission, which investigated
the Agency's involvement in the assassination of foreign leaders and
the overthrow of elected governments. He also called for the lifting
of rules requiring C.I.A. agents in the field to obtain permission from
higher ups in the agency before placing known killers on the agency's
Earlier this year, Bremer participated with ex
C.I.A. Director James Woolsey [fellow "neoconservative hawk along with
Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Richard Perle and others] in a "teach
in" organized by a group called "Americans for Victory over Terrorism"
and the U.C.L.A. [University of California at Los Angeles] student Republicans.
It was at that conference that Woolsey, a close associate of Bremer,
described the ongoing "War on Terrorism" as the "fourth world war,"
predicting that it would last far longer than either World War I or
World War II.
"Over the decades to come," he said, " . . . we will make a lot of people
very nervous." Referring to various Arab leaders, he added, "We want
you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred
years, this country and its allies are on the march."
Woolsey, one of the most vociferous proponents
of the United States war on Iraq, is reportedly being considered for
a leading role as well in the Iraqi "reconstruction" operation. Deflating
the widespread reports about Bremer's appointment representing a victory
for Powell and "moderation," the Washington Post noted: "But
Bremer, 61, is described as a hard nosed hawk who is close to the neoconservative
wing of the Pentagon. He is supported by Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense
Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, officials said, and White House aides said
the appointment affirms Bush's satisfaction with Pentagon control over
Iraq until a new government is in place."
So what are Bremer's qualifications? He is a
figure whose entire career is bound up with, on the one hand, national
security, intelligence and United States military aggression; and, on
the other, servicing the needs of United States based multinational
corporations. Nothing could more clearly define the type of regime that
Washington aims to establish in Iraq. Its overriding task will be ruthlessly
to suppress the mass opposition of the Iraqi people and facilitate the
looting of the country's wealth by the US banks and big business.
General Garner, meanwhile, will reportedly stay
on, reporting to Bremer. He is supposedly in charge of repairing Iraq's
infrastructure and seeing to humanitarian needs. He has repeatedly insisted,
however, that the country faces no real problems. "There is no humanitarian
crisis . . . and there's not much infrastructure problem here, other
than getting the electrical grid structure back together," he told reporters
earlier this week. Garner argued that, instead of worrying about the
Iraqis, the United States media should join him in a triumphalist celebration
of the war. "We ought to be beating our chests every day," he said.
"We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests
and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans!'"
Shortly after Garner made these remarks, a coalition
of eight major international relief organizations issued a statement
implicitly criticizing apparent United States indifference to a major
humanitarian crisis developing in the country. The statement said in
part: "Already under severe strain and under resourced before the war
began, hospitals, water plants and sewage systems have been crippled
by the conflict and looting. Hospitals are overwhelmed, diarrhoea is
endemic and the death toll is mounting. Medical and water staff are
working for free, but cannot continue for long. Rubbish, including medical
waste, is piling up. Clean water is scarce and diseases like typhoid
are being reported in southern Iraq."
Garner and the United States occupation forces
are deliberately covering up this crisis in an attempt to stifle any
questioning of United States activities in Iraq and to prevent any international
agencies from getting in the way of the fulfilment of United States
war aims. The general began his military career as a United States Army
"advisor" supervising the "strategic hamlet" programme during the Vietnam
War in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese peasants were forced off
their land and driven into concentration camps surrounded by barbed
In a recent interview with the New York Times,
Garner commented: "If President Bush had been president we would have
won the Vietnam War", adding that the United States could have invaded
the North. This is the face that America is presenting to the people
The task of Bremer and Garner is quickly to patch together a figurehead
Iraqi regime made up of corrupt emigres, former Ba'athists and anyone
else who can be bought. The job of this regime will be to legitimize
continued United States military occupation and the takeover of the
country's oil industry by United States corporations. The conditions
and rights of the Iraqi people will count for nothing. Instead, those
in charge are determined to mete out unrestrained repression and violence
to enforce American colonial domination.
DESECRATION AND DESTRUCTION - A CULTURAL VACUUM
Political And Military Power Out Of Control
Both American and British troops have smashed
their way into, and taken up residence in, Saddam Hussein's palaces
and other official buildings. In particular United States units have
displayed a singular lack of military discipline. On the 10th April,
2003, The Daily Telegraph reported that United States troops
were ransacking buildings in search of suitable mementoes such as flags,
badges, clocks, door name plates and even Iraqi fire service equipment.
The Morning Star of 24th April, 2003, reported the theft by
soldiers of the United States 3rd Division of some $650,000,000 during
an operation to prevent looting by the civilian population.
Uncontrolled looting and destruction of priceless
historical artefacts as United States troops stood by has been widely
reported. Idiotic parliamentary comments by British Defence Secretary,
"Geoff" Hoon, that condoned the looting, merely exacerbate the situation
and reveal the crass ignorance of those politically responsible. Indications
are that a shallow North American culture and tradition of less than
300 years compares ill with 2,000 years of European heritage and does
not even begin to relate to several thousand years of Mesopotamian history.
The United States, as the world's greatest ever
military Power, had been spoiling for this contrived war well before
the attack on the World Trade Centre, in New York, on September 11th,
2001. Extremely tenuous links with this event to Iraq, spuriously massaged
by such authors as Laurie Mylroie, simply provided the pretext. The
public rivalry between the State Department and the Pentagon, like two
warring Mafia families had - and continues to have - the deadly potential
for the rest of the world of a match in a barrel of gunpowder. Thus
the invasion was inevitable.
There can be little doubt that ample time existed
for careful and comprehensive planning of the invasion; not simply for
the operational and tactical training of military units, some of which
did take place in the United States. Before any large-scale military
operation can properly be launched, this must be preceded by extensive
and detailed studies. These must include the local geography, the political
situation, the administrative infrastructure, the local population and
its characteristics, the politico-military objectives.
To this must be matched the composition and scale
of the resources required. Also required to be studied and in place
are the civilian logistic requirements from such as the United Nations
and the International Red Cross. We need hardly be surprised that instead
the true priorities appeared to be opportunities for reconstruction
and the business rehabilitation - "take-over" - by principally American
The potential for urban, guerrilla warfare, and
the implications for the civilian population were well-known and could
have been allowed for with the appropriate training and organisation.
Instead, and in full knowledge of this, the Coalition Forces simply
went in like a blunt instrument using conventional European military
tactics of heavy armour and massive aerial bombardment. The heritage
of the people they had come to "liberate" was smashed along with the
civilian infrastructure, such as power and water services, and the death
or injury of thousands of innocent civilians.
It is significant that the Morning Star
of 19th April, 2003, reported that two cultural advisers to the Bush
Administration had resigned in protest, which alone confirms the spurious
pretext for the invasion of a weakened country that posed no imaginable
threat to the United States. Below we publish extracts, edited for space,
from the writing of journalists Felicity Arbuthnot and David Lindorff.
Conditions in Iraq were known at least two years
before the invasion. In a parliamentary debate recorded in Hansard,
for 8th February, 2000, Tam Dalyell, M.P., referred to Felicity Arbuthnot
as "Not popular in the Foreign Office"! He went on to say that:
Felicity Arbuthnot, who recently returned, describes a society that
is breaking down. People are selling all their possessions - even their
marriage presents. There is no work for all the talented engineers.
The trauma caused by the [Anglo-American] bombing is felt every single
day. Iraqi children are the most traumatised on earth. Those should
not be the effects of a Labour Government's policy. What is the point
of bombing flocks of sheep? All we succeeded in doing was letting loose
rockets and killing a few shepherd boys. What is the long-term object
of it all?
Iraq Memories by Felicity Arbuthnot
It feels as if I have a memory of every building
that falls, crushed and broken to the ground. In 1998, beloved, gentle,
intellectual friend Mustafa, spoke to me from Baghdad, his voice cracking
as he described the damage of the four day Christmas and Eid blitz on
his country damage to Munstanstarya University, thought to be the world's
oldest; the 9th century Abbasid Palace with its great arches, which
recreate themselves reflections in shadows, created by the inspiration
of the inspired nearly a thousand years ago(13). The list went on and
on. Barely a month later, Mustafa was dead. He died on the 17th January,
anniversary of the start of the first Gulf War. All who knew him said
he died of a broken heart, destroyed by his inability any longer to
protect his family and those and the city he loved so much. My pain
could never be that of those who are losing their loved ones, limbs,
homes, history and all that is familiar to them in Mesopotamia, the
"cradle of civilisation"; "land between two rivers" the great Biblical
Tigris and Euphrates it must be only really a second best pain, but
it surely feels like the real thing.
The Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad has not
fallen yet, it is described as swaying, shaking and shuddering as the
bombs fall. A B.B.C. correspondent broadcasting from there, rather than
the Ministry of Information formerly home to all correspondent's offices
which has been hit twice described the hotel as a "bit of a dump." "Welcome
home, welcome home", the Palestine staff said to me repeatedly less
than a month ago (as I write), beaming their generous welcome on imminent
eve of disaster. Jemilla, one of the employees, ran home in her lunch
hour to pick me flowers from her garden for my room. Mohammed, gentle
historian, who now works there to earn hard currency from foreign visitors,
brought me another of his precious books on the Middle East from a dwindling
collection he sells for ridiculously little, to a few selected guests.
He needs the money desperately, but his lifetime's collection must go
to a loving home. Susan, who runs the small shop in the lobby is a survivor
of the Ameriyah Shelter bombing of the 1991 Gulf war, which killed at
least four hundred and five people, leaving just eight survivors. Beautiful,
poised, generous to a fault, dispensing sweets and sweetmeats far in
excess of what one spends, she suffers terrible physical scars under
her jeans and silk shirt. And worse mental ones she lost her parents,
brothers and sisters in the inferno at five years old and still greets,
hugs and feeds visitors from the countries who decimated her young life
and incinerated her family.
The Palestine's Orient Express restaurant was
the last stopping point before Istanbul on that Rome to Istanbul train.
It has a 1920's model of the Express, lovingly restored by Mohammed.
A short time ago the proud hotel which the Palestine is, was reduced
to sheets sewn side to middle, and so thin that a wrong move could rip
them. This visit boasted new sheets, fluffy towels and both flowers
and a large basket of fruit in my room. A small, but huge triumph, a
phoenix from the ashes of the most draconian United Nations embargo
in history. The "bit of a dump" which is the Palestine deserves a book,
not an article.
Next door is the Al Fanar Hotel, long host to
peace activists. Just before I left Baghdad they had a structural survey
to assess whether it would withstand vibrations from bombings. Probably
not, was the verdict. The welcome equals the Palestine. Making a local
phone call from the lobby, I asked how much I owed. "Nothing, it is
on the house" said the owner. "Everything is on the house here", I replied,
referring to the fact that breakfast, dinner and much else, seems to
be complimentary. "Yes, of course, unless, unless . . . " he replied,
pointing skywards . . . unless the house falls down.
Five minutes drive away, along the Tigris, past
evocative Ottoman buildings, riverside restaurants which sell Iraq's
most famous dish, masgouf freshly caught fish, embalmed in herbs and
slowly cooked over open wood fires, is the Ministry of Information.
Correspondents in Iraq have a love hate relationship with the Ministry;
the world's media had their offices there. Permits to travel are issued
or refused there, "minders" allotted and many hours consumed often wheedling,
pleading. Usually it all works out and after all one reminds oneself
during moments of exasperation, it is a country which has been on a
war footing for twenty years. With or without the regime, any nation
would be paranoid. The Ministry too has poignant memories the elegant,
educated official who hesitantly attempted to sell me his wife's mink
coat for fifty dollars then broke down, tears streaming down his face:
"Oh, what this embargo is doing to us. . . . "
A "minder" known as "little Mohammed" there are
two Mohammeds and the other of course, "big Mohammed." The little one,
is quiet, wistful, can fix anything and adores children. On one visit
I went in search of him and found him more wistful than ever. No greeting,
no smile, utter withdrawal. Perhaps I had offended him in some way I
thought. In desperation I asked the question one seldom asks now in
Iraq tragedy invariably lurks in the answer: "How is your family Mohammed?"
"My wife, she is fine and my little daughter but my son, he died forty
days ago." When I had left months before, they had been celebrating
the safe arrival of a healthy baby. Forty days is the mourning period
and he was working on that last, agonising, poignant day because he
too needed the money so desperately for his remaining small family.
The Ministry, like the waiting hours, is no more.
Not far away, near Rashid Street (named after Baghdad's seventh century
founder) with its ancient, evocative, bustling, now battered, balconied
buildings is the first of the telephone exchanges to be hit. I remembered
a competition with an Italian photographer to find the most unusual
picture of Iraq's President which abound everywhere. I won the first
round: Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt. He bought dinner. Next day: "Come
with me, I have won . . ." It was a building high portrait of the President
in full military dress on a bright pink telephone. I bought two dinners.
Tragedy struck a couple of years later when the
telephone was re-painted black. Now it has struck again, the building
is no more, terrified families unable to check on those they love and
did those irreplaceable antique buildings in Rashid Street survive the
blast, or was it a vibration too far? As the coalition boasts of bombing
palaces and the Olympic stadium to erase symbols of the regime, they
are also erasing a culture, for which they will not be thanked. It is
incumbent upon leaders, from the time of the caliphs, to leave something
more magnificent than their prede-cessor. Whatever about this or many
other leaders, in a most ancient of civilisations this will be seen
as a cultural assault. And whilst there is little love for [Saddam's
elder son] Uday, they were proud of their stadium.
Down what has become known as "sniper's alley"
(in fact the highway of death resultant from the slaughter of fleeing
military and civilians after the cease-fire of 1991, by the United States)
is beautiful, battered Basra, formerly the "Venice of the Middle East."
Sinbad left for his magical journeys from here and the Tigris and Euphrates
meet at the Shatt Al Arab waterway now "secured" by the invaders.
Front line in the Iran Iraq war, the Gulf War
and now this assault, this ancient city displays tragedy everywhere.
After the 1998 bombing, empty hotels refused rooms to British or Americans
at any price. Hearts and minds are going to be hard won here. The general
hospital which has received numerous casualties from the ongoing, unsanctioned
bombings of the region by the United States and United Kingdom over
the last eleven years, was built by General Maude in the 1920s in another
British adventure. He is buried in the war graves in Baghdad. "Let them
come, there are plenty of plots next to him", was an example of the
tone of response to questions about the welcome the liberators would
Another hotel which will unlikely to be welcoming
for a while is the Sheraton, "damaged" last week. Overlooking the Shatt
Al Arab, its rooms are pure Arabian nights, with their rich hangings,
richer carpets and slatted wooden balconies, where the birds inhabiting
the Shatt weal and swirl past, as the sun falls into the water and the
sky turns peach. The birds swirl in great joyous swathes at dusk and
dawn over the corniche in the northern town of Mosul too, where the
prophet Jonah is believed buried in the great, ancient mosque named
for him. Christian monasteries include the Lourdes of the Middle East,
where Saint Matthew is believed buried and where people of all denominations
bring their sick believing in his healing powers. This is the region
which has inspired poets. "'Quinqeurine of Nineveh, from distant Ophir"
wrote John Masefield in Cargoes. This is Nineveh province. When the
cargo returned with "sandalwood, cedarwood and sweet white wine", the
wine was from Mosul grapes, watered by an irrigation system developed
twelve thousand years ago. "At one with Nineveh and Tyre . . . ." wrote
Kipling. The great walls of Nineveh still stood, a fortnight ago with
their winged bulls, guardians for millennia, testament to living history.
Are they there now?
In another sparkling pink and azure dawn on the
day I left Baghdad, (dubbed "the Paris of the ninth century" by 19th
century traveller, Sir Richard Burton ) I photographed the panoramic
views of this great, vibrant city. I would, I felt certain, never see
it like this again. . . . I never will.
Brute American Military Force And Ignorance
by Felicity Arbuthnot
One way not to win hearts and minds, is to invade,
then threaten people at road blocks going about their daily business.
Damage limitation might have included: having an arabic speaker at all
points and understanding the culture. For instance Iraqis, told they
have been "liberated", approach barriers to be met by a soldier with
his arm up and palm out. This means "welcome" in the region so they
drive through and get shot. Loutish behaviour is excused in the West
("deprived background" etc.). Courtesy is incumbent on all the Middle
East. General Garner, imposed Viceroy of Baghdad, swaggered off his
flight, shook hands and greeted Iraqi officials whilst munching gum.
Culturally: bad as it gets. He was also wearing impenetrable dark glasses
worse. None of the Middle East has been ruled by Mary Poppins' since
the mists of time, but also incumbent, is that each ruler leaves behind
something more magnificent for history than his predecessors. At their
demise, that left behind, becomes a symbol of nationalism, history.
That is what made Iraq Mesopotamia a unique archeological jewel. Bombing
palaces then United States and United Kingdom troops moving into them
is an invasion of sovereignty, instantly breeding an implacable hatred.
Note to Central Command and Ministry of Defence
move them out before those pesky Iraqis do. And; pulling down statues
and arranging destruction of portraits: a bad idea.
Note to C.I.A.: you could have saved that reported hundred millions
dollars spent on this exercise and left the Iraqis to decide. The Crusades
are "Recent" in Iraq's history a symbol of attempted slaughter and destruction
of beliefs, culture, history. "Nothing so terrible has happened to us
since the Crusades", Iraqis were saying of the embargo a couple of years
ago. Then George the Second announced after 9/11 that his ludicrous
"War on terrorism" ( bit like waging "war on secret bagel eaters"!)
was: a "Crusade". The result has indeed been just that, hardly missed
by a soul it seems, if one reads the Middle East press. Iraq Mesopotamia
history, records and buildings, lie in dust. Franklin Graham Bush Baby's
pal the Christian Fundamentalist from hell, is to send his missionaries
in with aid and a Bible. As the United States trumpeted that southern
Iraq was now "stable", "under control", calming down, no one who knows
the region believed a single word and were correct. It is none of these.
The Iraqis have been invaded for thousands of
years. The invaders have always given up, left their dead behind and
beat a bloodied retreat. "Wait until they get to Kut", those familiar
with the region also predicted. The British were defeated in an appalling
siege at Kut in the First World War. Those who survived were marched
the 900 odd miles to Turkey to be jailed. Few survived. Kut has organised
itself, demanded the "invaders" leave, said anyone who co operates with
them is a traitor and collaborator and when told they now had a police
force doing just that, burned down the police station. Told that, the
imposed Administration would bar them from the Governor's office, they
replied that it was no problem, they would run theirs from the Mosque.
Tony Blair and Donald Rumsfeld have announced
they are going to Baghdad shortly. "The embargo even extends to dialogue",
said Iraq's wily former Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, in an interview
with this writer three years ago, "why don't they talk to us?" I predict
we'll hear more from "captured" Tariq Aziz. Oh, and a word of advice
to Blair and Rumsfeld: don't do what General Garner keeps doing; addressing
the media with your backs to the crowd. And don't stay in a palace.
Iraq is not Ealing, Martha's Vineyard, or Manhattan on the Tigris.
Iraq images - Trashing, Smashing And Looting
by Felicity Arbuthnot
Many indelible images have resulted from the
invasion of Iraq, some omitted from western television screens but not
from some Arab ones dismembered bodies piled in the back of trucks,
resultant from America's rush for oil, for instance. The encouraging
or ignoring by United States troops of looting and sacking of all vestiges
of civil society. Mosul University, a unique institution, systematically
trashed and museums which represented the "heritage of humanity". Breath
taking beauty smashed and plundered. "An unbearable mourning" is how
one academic has described this modern day fall of Babylon; the barbarians
let through the gates. But amid the ruins of Mesopotamia, another image
is beginning to ascend; a true "clash of civilisations"; shaven headed
soldiers, resembling skin head thugs, posing with their loot, a portrait
of Saddam Hussein. American troops lauding it in palaces, United States
flags fluttering above them, a soldier sitting spread legged on a sofa
in Palace grounds. Palaces are not alone symbols of Saddam Hussein,
but in a fiercely nationalistic country, national symbols. Only the
other barbarians, the Mongols, allowed sacking and looting of manuscripts
and magnificence. Further, with troops who know not language or culture
barring familiar roads and accesses, a further danger has not been addressed.
Having been told they have been liberated, many
people are being shot at road blocks because they drive through. In
the region to put an arm up, with palm out, means "welcome". The shootings
at Fallujah, west Baghdad would seem to have risen from further cultural
crassness by United States troops. Having taken over a school in a country
where education is paramount, they then took up positions on the roof,
where they could see into courtyards where woman, in the privacy of
their homes, did not have their heads covered or wear an abbaya. (Indeed,
in searingly hot months, as now, at home, often the flimsiest of clothes
are worn.). For strangers to be observing them would be an anathema.
There are conflicting reports as to whether Iraqis fired guns in the
air at the soldiers as well as threw stones. Certainly it seems there
were no bullet marks on the school from it being attacked. But in the
Middle East, firing a gun in the air is a sign of celebration, disappointment
(for example, winning or losing a football match) or a warning of displeasure.
It is unlikely the crowd including women and the very young would damage
a revered educational building they were trying to reclaim. The gentle
school Principal thinks not, he is so enraged, that this lifelong academic
wants to become a martyr and kill Americans. As seventeen year old Khalil
Mutanna whose uncle, mother and grandmother were injured and another
uncle killed at Fallujah remarked: "The Americans have nothing left
with which to love them."
General Garner put it better this week,
he said: "We ought to be beating our chests every day, look in the mirror,
stick out our chests, suck in our bellies and say: Damn, we're American".
Most of Iraq too is damning Americans.
Last warning: time to go.
IOUs For Looting
by David Lindorff, CounterPunch, 31ST March, 2003
As the United States Army's Seventh Combat Support
Group, a unit of the Third Infantry Division, moved northward in the
Arabian desert west of the Euphrates River towards the town of Najaf
on March 26th, the commander, realizing his exhausted men faced shortages
of food and water, was looking for a place of refuge. He found it in
the form of two Bedouin families. Drew Brown, reporter from Knight Ridder
News Service who was embedded with the unit, reported that Col. John
P. Gardner ordered the two families to leave their land and turn it
over to his men. He reportedly gave them "receipts" for the tents. dogs,
chickens, bowls, pots and other possessions they left behind - receipts
that neither he nor anyone else could tell them how they could redeem
- and sent them off "befuddled" into the desert.
If any incident illustrates the true nature of
the Anglo United States invasion of Iraq, this one is it. A modern army
unit, bristling with the latest in high tech, high powered weaponry,
purportedly in the country to "liberate" the natives from the tyrant
who "enslaves" them, summarily casts two defenceless groups of men,
women and children out of their homes into the barren desert, handing
them worthless I.O.U.s for their trouble. Obviously Colonel Gardner
the liberator didn't do much studying of American history or he would
have known that the Third Amendment of the United States Constitution,
the one that bans the billeting of troops in private households, was
a direct result of the British practice of taking over colonial farms
and households at will for the quartering of Redcoat troops. It was
this obscene imperial behaviour, perhaps more than the issue of "taxation
without representation", that really fed the fires of rebellion in the
United States colonies.
Brown doesn't tell us what the two "nomad" families
felt or said as they were driven by Gardner and his men from their homes
and lands, but it's a fair bet they weren't awash with feelings or gratitude
at their liberation. As this war continues to look more and more like
a quagmire, this and other actions by the army of liberation are likely
to cause problems for the liberators. Take the United States attacks
on Iraqi television and on the telephone headquarters in Baghdad. Under
the doctrine of reciprocity, a country that suffers any type of attack
during a war is entitled to respond in kind, even if the initial attack
was outside the bounds of normally acceptable rules of war. This means
that should Iraq decide to respond by sending sappers to the United
States to blow up the headquarters of C.N.N. or Fox Television, for
example, such attacks would not be acts of terrorism, but of war. President
Bush said he was invading Iraq to make America safe. In fact, by going
to war in Iraq, he has, legally speaking, made the entire United States
a potential battlefront in this war, inviting Iraq to send its agents
into the country, or to get sleeper agents already here activated.
It's unlikely that Iraqi sappers would be billeting
themselves in American households, but should they do so, in an effort
to hide from Ashcroft's minions, or simply to seek temporary refuge,
they could always cite the precedent of Colonel Gardner, and say they
were just behaving reciprocally. Hopefully, if they force any American
families out of their homes, those Iraqi agents will be as thoughtful
about providing their unwilling hosts with receipts as was the Seventh
Combat Support Group. (Continued in Part 2)
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