Saturday, April 26, 2003


The Iranian influence on Iraqi Shiites is becoming more obvious, in this New York Times story (again, I have printed the article in its entirety, without including the cumbersome link):

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 25 — A religious edict issued in Iran and distributed to Shiite mullahs in Iraq calls on them "to seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities."

The edict, or fatwa, issued on April 8 by Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, an Iraqi-born cleric based in the Iranian holy city of Qum, suggests that Shiite clerics in Iraq are receiving significant direction from Iran as they try to assert the power of Iraq's long-oppressed religious majority. It is not yet clear how much popular support Mr. Haeri and other clerics emerging as a political force have among Iraqis.

The United States has warned Iran not to meddle in Iraqi affairs, suggesting this week that Iranian agents have crossed into Iraq to destabilize the Shiite population. The possibility of a virulent burst of Shiite religious militancy appears to be a chief threat to American plans for a democratic system in Iraq.

The edict says that Shiite leaders have to "seize as many positions as possible to impose a fait accompli for any coming government." Using the familiar language of Iranian clerics often apply to the United States, the fatwa urges the Shiite clergy to work against American influence among Shiites.

"People have to be taught not to collapse morally before the means used by the Great Satan if it stays in Iraq," the fatwa reads. "It will try to spread moral decay, incite lust by allowing easy access to stimulating satellite channels and spread debauchery to weaken people's faith."

The fatwa also instructs the cleric's followers to "raise people's awareness of the Great Satan's plans and of the means to abort them."

Following that order, Shiite mullahs in the holy city of Najaf have been dispensing money and appointing clerics to administer several key Iraqi cities, Shiite leaders said. Those clerics, in turn, are appointing officials to run everything from civil defense militias to post offices.

"We are in control of all of Iraq, especially central and southern Iraq, not only Baghdad," said Sadeq Abu Jafaar, an aide to Sheik Muhammad al-Fartusi, the cleric charged by Mr. Haeri with the administration of eastern Baghdad.

Mr. Haeri is the power behind one side of an apparent split in Iraq's Shiite clergy, which was neutralized by executions and imprisonment during Saddam Hussein's rule and is now struggling to capitalize on its new freedom. His followers have quickly installed a skeletal organization in several cities to try to take over management of basic services and establish their authority over the Shiite population.

It is unclear how much control the mullahs really have outside Baghdad and the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Even in Baghdad, their presence is thin and scattered, restricted predominantly to Shiite neighborhoods. Many of Iraq's Shiites say they are wary of the Islamic strictures the clerics would like to impose.

But the mullahs faithful to Mr. Haeri clearly have a broader administrative network on the ground than any other group in the country outside of the Kurdish held-areas in the country's north.

The Shiites are not the only ones vying for power in the wake of the American invasion, hoping to secure positions from which they will not be easily dislodged when the United States sets up a provisional government in Iraq.

In Washington today, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the United States would not allow a pro-Iranian Islamic regime to take control in postwar Iraq.

"A vocal minority clamoring to transform Iraq in Iran's image will not be permitted to do so," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked for — by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship."

The Shiites are by far the most significant group grabbing for power in central and southern Iraq both because of their dominant demographic position — more than 60 percent of Iraq's people are Shiite Muslims — and because their religion gives them an authoritative system to build upon.

Their activism presents a prickly challenge for the United States, which hopes to install an America-friendly government in Iraq but wants to minimize Islamic influence in that government's affairs.

(Page 2 of 2)

Mr. Haeri's involvement makes that issue even more diplomatically fragile because it raises the possibility of direct Iranian influence over the quickly coalescing control of Iraq's Shiite population. Iran is also a predominantly Shiite country and has been ruled by its religious clergy since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led an Islamic revolution there in 1979.

"Of course we are closer to Iran since they have the same religion as us," said Mr. Fartusi, Mr. Haeri's representative in eastern Baghdad, sitting in a cramped office of the city's al Hekmah mosque, where he now has his headquarters in Baghdad's biggest Shiite district, dubbed Al Sadr city by the activist clerics.

Mr. Haeri, who was born in Iraq's holy city of Karbala, moved to Qum in 1973 as a protégé of Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, a founder of the Iraqi Islamist Dawa Party who was executed in 1980. Mr. Haeri has long promoted the founding of an Iranian-style Islamic state in Iraq in which Shiite clerics would rule.

On April 7, the day American troops effectively toppled Mr. Hussein's government by seizing its main seats of power in Baghdad, Mr. Haeri sent a handwritten letter to the holy Iraqi city of Najaf, appointing Moktada al-Sadr as his deputy in Iraq.

In the signed letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Haeri wrote that, "We hereby inform you that Mr. Moktada al-Sadr is our deputy and representative in all fatwa affairs."

It added: "His position is my position."

In the fatwa, Mr. Haeri urged his followers in Iraq to "kill all Saddamists who try to take charge" and "to cut short any chance of the return to power of second-line Baathists."

That clause in the fatwa may explain the killing two days later of a prominent pro-Western Shiite cleric brought to Najaf by American Special Forces in hopes of winning support from the Shiite clergy there.

The cleric, Sheik Abdel Majid al-Khoei, was stabbed and shot by a mob said by locals to include supporters of Mr. Sadr after Mr. Khoei brought a Baath Party member into the city's holiest mosque in an attempt to restore the man's position as the mosque's caretaker.

In Karbala this week, a rally staged by Mr. Sadr's supporters at the close of a religious festival there carried two distinct messages: that the religious clergy of Najaf, in whose name Mr. Sadr is operating, are Iraqi Shiites' only legitimate authority and that American and British forces are not welcome in Iraq.

"Death for America, Death for Zionists," chanted some people in the crowd.

Since Mr. Haeri's fatwa was issued, Mr. Sadr has been busy sending signed letters and bundles of cash by courier to clerics in several Iraqi cities, deputizing clerics and authorizing the seizure of various public institutions. His signature has become known to Shiites all across the country from the photocopies of his announcements and edicts posted on mosque walls.

It has only been this week that Mr. Sadr's deputies have begun displaying Mr. Haeri's photo and talking openly about his role, evidently to deflect criticism of Mr. Sadr, who is not senior enough to issue fatwas on his own. "We wanted to keep it hidden," said Sheik Kadhem al-Ebadi al-Nasseri, one of Mr. Sadr's deputies in Kerbala.

At Qadessia Hospital in Baghdad's largest Shiite district, Kalashnikov-toting men defer to a group of mullahs who say they are reluctant to talk without permission from Mr. Sadr's representative, Mr. Fartusi.

At Kendi Hospital across town, another mullah, Abbas al-Zubaidi, proudly displays a notice signed by Mr. Sadr, giving him control of the hospital. It is not clear what has become of the administrators who were in charge of these institutions but Mr. Zubaidi ticks off a list of other hospitals in the city now controlled by Mr. Sadr's men.

At Al Karekh Public Food Trading and Sales Center in yet another part of the city, a guard at a food warehouse open to reporters on two previous visits apologizes for not allowing them access a third time.

"The Howza came and took control of the warehouse today," he said, referring to the seminary in Najaf, the traditional seat of Iraq's Shiite clerical power and in whose name Mr. Sadr is operating on the strength of his late father's position.

One question that cannot yet be answered is whether the Shiites under Mr. Haeri's control will give up their gains if an American-run civil administration — or a provisional Iraqi government — tells them to.

In a possible sign of trouble ahead, Mr. Fartusi, was detained for two days by the American military this week after having been found with a handgun in his car.

"We are not concerned with what the Americans think of us," he said. "We do not deal with the Americans whatsoever."

Friday, April 25, 2003


I started a new blog, dedicated to the repeal of the Patriot Act, with notes on civil liberties: We Miss You Abbie Hoffman.


Turkey is pissed at Jay Garner for his comments that Kirkuk is a Kurdish City, (and the center of Iraqi oil output), further proof that little thought actually went into the possible outcomes of this war. And Turkey is learning how little forethought does go into the formulation of American foreign policy. Newt Gingrich recently tried to discredit the State Department, and then James Baker ripped him a new asshole. Have we ever listened to the more cautious and pragmatic State Department?

The problem in reasoning with Bush and his entourage has to do with living in a house of mirrors. The triumphant five (Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rove) actually believed Iraq was a version of this American Disney World that we live in: Every movie always ends happily in Disney world. UPI has this article: (the link is humongous, so here is the article in its entirety:

ANKARA, Turkey, Apr 25, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Turkey expressed its displeasure to the United States Friday over reports that the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Ray Garner, said that the Iraqi oil center of Kirkuk was a Kurdish city. Foreign Ministry officials said a note was handed to U.S. Ambassador Robert Pearson Friday asking what the scope was of Garner's alleged remarks during a visit earlier this week to Iraqi Kurdistan. The foreign ministry officials said that what Garner reportedly said violated a declaration signed by the United States, Turkey, Iraqi Kurdish groups and Iraqi Turkomen in Ankara last March. The declaration said all Iraqi cities were a common part of Iraq. Leaving the Foreign Ministry, Pearson said he did not know whether or not Garner had made the statement attributed to him, but repeated that all Iraqi cities belong to all the Iraqi people. This U.S. policy of United States will not be changed, he said. Garner is a retired lieutenant general who directed a military mission to protect Iraqi Kurds from destruction by the forces of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following their uprising at the end of the 1991 war. Washington has placed him in charge of restoring vital services throughout Iraq and facilitating the creation of an interim Iraqi administration. In a related development, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul denied Friday's press reports that Turkish officers were detained by U.S. forces in Iraqi Kurdistan and expelled back to Turkey. He described the situation as hazy. The reports said the U.S. military charged the Turks were seeking to provide arms to Turkomen. Thursday Time magazine's Web site reported a dozen Turkish special forces troops were returned to Turkey. According to the Time report, they were in civilian dress when detained and their vehicles were found to contain a variety of weapons. "They did not come here with a pure heart," Time quoted a U.S. officer as saying. "Their objective is to create an environment that can be used by Turkey to send a large peacekeeping force into Kirkuk." According to Turkish estimates, Ankara already has around 10,000 troops already stationed inside Iraq. Ankara is worried the Iraqi Kurds could takeover Kirkuk and possibly Mosul, another major oil center in northern Iraq. The Turkish authorities have repeatedly warned that there would be serious consequences if this were to happen. During the fighting that brought down Saddam, hundreds of Kurdish militiamen poured into the two cities to the consternation of Ankara. The militiamen, known as peshmerga, later withdrew. Iraqi Kurds of all factions claim Kirkuk as properly their capital. While it is possible that Kurds may make up the largest element in its population, analysts said Kirkuk is also a home to Arabs and Turkomen. The Turkomen, who have historical claims on Kirkuk, are distant kinsmen of the Anatolian Turks. Ankara sees itself as their protector. Clashes have been reported between neighboring Iraqi Kurds and Turkomen. The Turks fear that Kurdish control of Kirkuk's oil would provide the economic underpinning for further increasing the prosperity of the Kurdish region that benefited from autonomy following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It lay beyond Saddam's control thanks to the U.S. creation of a safe haven for the Kurds, patrolled by the U.S. and British air forces. A prosperous Iraqi Kurdistan, let alone an independent one that the Turks suspect the Iraqi Kurds will seek, would, in Ankara's view, encourage separatist trends among its own large Kurdish population.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

Thursday, April 24, 2003


While most of the rest of the world works at playing the game of Life, the triumphant 5 (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Powell), are playing monopoly. After destroying Iraq's infrastructure with their bombs, now they are going to profit from its re-building. If this is not obscene, then I don't know the meaning of the word. Meanwhile, Cheney continues to receive money from Halliburton, despite the obvious conflict of interest. These triumphant five were clueless as to the competing political interests that would emerge in a post-war Iraq. They are losing control of Chalabi, and Jay Garner appears to have little political weight except with the Kurds. Garner keeps mouthing empty reassurances that all's well that ends well. Here is the latest from the New York Times regarding the chaos in Iraq (again, the link is too cumbersome; I've printed the article in its entirety, dated April 24):

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 23 — The American military moved today to strip Baghdad's self-appointed administrator of his authority and warned Iraqi factions not to take advantage of the confusion and the political void in the country by trying to grab power.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of ground forces in Iraq, issued a proclamation putting Iraq's politicians on notice, saying, "The coalition alone retains absolute authority within Iraq." He warned that anyone challenging the American-led authority would be subject to arrest.

However, the American military presence is sparse in several areas of the city. With nobody to stop them, long-banned groups ranging from Shiite radicals to communists have been seizing villas in Baghdad and adorning them with their respective emblems.

Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general who will lead reconstruction efforts, just arrived in Baghdad on Monday and has been traveling in the north these past two days. General McKiernan and his force are supposed to provide the security to enable rebuilding.

General Garner, traveling in the Kurdish-held northern region of Iraq, said today that anti-American sentiment would soon subside.

"The majority of people realize we are only going to stay here long enough to start a democratic government for them," he said. "We're only going to stay here long enough to get their economy going." Once that was grasped, General Garner added, "In a very short order you'll see a change in the attitudes and the will of the people themselves."

The toppling of Saddam Hussein two weeks ago has left a power vacuum. American military forces in Iraq continue to round up members of the old government. Today they captured four former Iraqi officials, including two senior members of Iraqi intelligence.

But American troops are still being killed and wounded as they try to make Iraq safer and as political factions and clerics rush to fill the void of authority.

Three American marines died today in an accident involving a rocket-propelled grenade near the city of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Earlier this week, an Army soldier was killed south of Baghdad when he fell from a truck. "That's the big problem we're going to face now, accidents," a Marine captain said.

But outside the military sphere, large political problems loomed. Among those engaged in the rush for power were two longtime Iraqi exiles. American concern over the activities of these two men — Muhammad Mohsen Zobeidi and Ahmad Chalabi — has begun to grow, military officials said.

Mr. Zobeidi, who recently returned to Iraq, asserts that he was chosen to lead an executive council charged with administering Baghdad. He has reportedly sought to appoint a police chief, ignoring the police official installed by the Army's Third Infantry Division, and his supporters have appropriated government vehicles.

Mr. Zobeidi, who says his qualifications for running Baghdad include participation in a disaster control management course arranged by the State Department, has also proposed sending a delegation to represent Iraq's interest at an OPEC meeting.

American officials said today that it was Mr. Zobeidi's efforts to expand his powers that prompted the Americans to crack down.

Mr. Zobeidi was given a copy of General McKiernan's proclamation, American official said, and he was informed by the American military today that he had no authority to appoint anybody.

He was asked to vacate his office at the Palestine Hotel and told to return any property seized by his men. American troops have been stationed near the hotel to provide a measure of security for the reporters who are staying there. The concern was that Mr. Zobeidi would portray the deployments as indications that the American military was actually there to protect him and to support his political aspirations.

Mr. Zobeidi has been meeting with traditional sheiks, with tribal chieftains in gold-embroidered robes and headdresses and with men in business suits. His entourage now includes police and army officers in their old uniforms, the shoulder boards spattered with stars and eagles.

Today, he held a meeting to hear neighborhood grievances, which, as gatherings here do, quickly turned into a cacophony of shouting about relatives lost under Mr. Hussein, seized property since his fall, a lack of security and the loss of electricity. "I don't have a magic wand," Mr. Zobeidi said at several points.

Then he was surrounded by aides and flanked by a Sunni tribal sheik and a Shiite clergyman whose black turban marked him as a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.

The entourage jumped in and out of a caravan of cars and pickup trucks, stopping at a fire station, a water purification plant and a hospital. It also visited the newly seized headquarters of the Kurdish Democratic Party, headed by the Barzani clan, as well as the Assyrian Democratic Movement, equipped with a purple flag and militiamen in camouflage.

Such is Iraq today: a mesmerizing labyrinth of conflicting interests operating in something close to a void as American generals strive to maintain a minimum of order and a retired American general speaks of building a stable, democratic future.

The American military is also keeping a close eye on the activities of Mr. Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, who has ensconced himself in a club in Baghdad and is seeking to play an important role in Iraq's effort to restore civil authority.

Mr. Chalabi has enjoyed strong support from Defense Department officials, who say he is committed to democracy in Iraq, a pro-Western foreign policy and the Middle East peace process.

Mr. Chalabi's role could be important as Iraqi political figures meet over the next several weeks to discuss arrangements for a temporary administration as a stepping stone to a democratic government. Some Bush administration officials, however, have been skeptical that Mr. Chalabi, who spent the past few decades in exile, would attract much of a following in iraq. And allied military officials have been concerned that Mr. Chalabi's men are throwing their weight around to build a political base for their leader.

Mr. Chalabi has about 700 fighters in his entourage who were flown to the Iraqi air base at Tallil several weeks ago by the American military at the request of Pentagon officials. American forces then scoured the country for arms and ammunition to equip the fighters so that they could participate in the campaign to oust Mr. Hussein.

American military lawyers ruled that the weapons could be provided to Mr. Chalabi's men without Congressional approval because they were not intended for a foreign government but for a fighting force attached to the American military. Special Forces were assigned to supervise the fighters, who were officially called the Free Iraqi Freedom Fighters.

But the fighting drew to a close before the fighters could join the fray. After American forces took Baghdad, some of Mr. Chalibi's fighters helped capture an aide to Mr. Hussein who was on the allies' most wanted list. But American officials are also worried that some are being reorganized as a private security force for Mr. Chalabi, and they suspect them of setting up their own checkpoints and even detaining Iraqis.

Just a few weeks after helping establish Mr. Chalabi's force, allied commanders are now considering a plan either to demobilize the force or put them formally under allied command, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Albert Whitley, the senior British officer in General McKiernan's command, put General McKiernan's edict into effort at a meeting today with railway representatives.

The allies are trying to restore Iraq's basic services, and its railroad is one of them. The allies are trying to fix the track and ensure that workers' salaries are paid. The aim is to use the railroad to move fuel to power plants and to move food north from the port of Umm Qasr.

As General Whitley opened the meeting at the central train station in Baghdad, he was told by his Iraqi counterparts that Mr. Chalabi's representatives had been in touch with them and had been taking credit for restoring the railroad.

Such claims follow a pattern, allied officials say, in which supporters of Mr. Zobeidi and Mr. Chalibi have sought to claim credit for allied efforts to rebuild the country in order to build political support.

"Nobody has authority unless General McKiernan says so," General Whitley advised. "Mr. Zobeidi and Mr. Chalabi have no authority. If we say you run the railroad, you run the railroad. If anybody comes and tells you differently, tell us. We will ask them to stop interfering. If we have to, we will arrest them."

But after General Whitley left, a vehicle appeared and aides to Mr. Chalabi got out, one witness said. They urged the railroad representatives to work with Mr. Chalabi, according to Thaibit M. Gharib, the director of the railroad."

Wednesday, April 23, 2003


Folks, I won't be, on a daily basis, charting the course of this war any longer. I have spent hours each day on this sorrowful labor of love, but honestly now I am somewhat exhausted from the effort and eager to move on to other projects. I will continue to write commentary and provide links concerning Iraq on this web log, but it will not be a daily re-hashing of media stories. I believe that I have provided enough links to news outlets so that if you want to find information, you know where to go. I don't believe the war is necessarily over. I do believe that this new-found blossoming of democracy in Iraq is in danger of being squelched by the U.S. Already, the official policy, as reflected in the words of Jay Garner, seems to be to downplay the anti-American protests as being staged and set-up by Iran extremists. This current U.S. administration will never take responsibility for its own destructive actions. I will be involved more and more in fighting (non-violently, of course) for our civil liberties here in our own country, as they are increasingly under attack from the Patriot Acts and Total Information Awareness. . The Agonist is an excellent site for daily coverage of Iraq news, and world news in general, despite his right-wing slant. Thank you for your support, and please continue to visit, as I will continue to have commentary. I will also continue to do commentary on my other web log, Red Onion.

Monday, April 21, 2003


The reports bodies of two British soldiers found in Iraq:

The bodies of two British soldiers said by the Prime Minister to have been executed were found in a shallow grave in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence said today.

The remains of Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, aged 36, and Sapper Luke Allsopp, 23, were found near Al Zubayr, outside Basra in southern Iraq.

It is feared their Land Rover was ambushed and the men shot in cold blood after they went missing on 23 March. Their lifeless bodies were then broadcast on al-Jazeera TV causing outrage in Britain.

An MoD spokeswoman said cause of deaths had not been confirmed but that execution was a possibility, and an investigation was ongoing.

Sapper Allsopp, from north London and Sgt Cullingworth, from Essex, were both members of the 33 (EOD) Engineer Regiment a specialist bomb disposal unit of the Royal Engineers.

Last month a row broke out over the deaths when Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the men had been "executed".


John Pilger of the asks, where is the outrage for this war?

Last Sunday, seated in the audience at the Bafta television awards ceremony, I was struck by the silence. Here were many of the most influential members of the liberal elite, the writers, producers, dramatists, journalists and managers of our main source of information, television; and not one broke the silence. It was as though we were disconnected from the world outside: a world of rampant, rapacious power and great crimes committed in our name by our government and its foreign master. Iraq is the "test case", says the Bush regime, which every day sails closer to Mussolini's definition of fascism: the merger of a militarist state with corporate power. Iraq is a test case for western liberals, too. As the suffering mounts in that stricken country, with Red Cross doctors describing "incredible'' levels of civilian casualties, the choice of the next conquest, Syria or Iran, is "debated'' on the BBC, as if it were a World Cup venue.

The unthinkable is being normalised. The American essayist Edward Herman wrote: "There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals ... others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.''

Herman wrote that following the 1991 Gulf War, whose nocturnal images of American bulldozers burying thousands of teenage Iraqi conscripts, many of them alive and trying to surrender, were never shown. Thus, the slaughter was normalised. A study released just before Christmas 1991 by the Medical Educational Trust revealed that more 200,000 Iraqi men, women and children were killed or died as a direct result of the American-led attack. This was barely reported, and the homicidal nature of the "war'' never entered public consciousness in this country, let alone America.

The Pentagon's deliberate destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure, such as power sources and water and sewage plants, together with the imposition of an embargo as barbaric as a medieval siege, produced a degree of suffering never fully comprehended in the West. Documented evidence was available, volumes of it; by the late 1990s, more than 6,000 infants were dying every month, and the two senior United Nations officials responsible for humanitarian relief in Iraq, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned, protesting the embargo's hidden agenda. Halliday called it "genocide".

As of last July, the United States, backed by the Blair government, was wilfully blocking humanitarian supplies worth $5.4bn, everything from vaccines and plasma bags to simple painkillers, all of which Iraq had paid for and the Security Council had approved.

Last month's attack by the two greatest military powers on a demoralised, sick and largely defenceless population was the logical extension of this barbarism. This is now called a "victory", and the flags are coming out. Last week, the submarine HMS Turbulent returned to Plymouth, flying the Jolly Roger, the pirates' emblem. How appropriate. This nuclear-powered machine fired some 30 American Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraq. Each missile cost £700,000: a total of £21m. That alone would provide desperate Basra with food, water and medicines.

Imagine: what did Commander Andrew McKendrick's 30 missiles hit? How many people did they kill or maim in a population nearly half of which are children? Maybe, Commander, you targeted a palace with gold taps in the bathroom, or a "command and control facility", as the Americans and Geoffrey Hoon like to lie. Or perhaps each of your missiles had a sensory device that could distinguish George Bush's "evil-doers'' from toddlers. What is certain is that your targets did not include the Ministry of Oil.

When the invasion began, the British public was called upon to "support'' troops sent illegally and undemocratically to kill people with whom we had no quarrel. "The ultimate test of our professionalism'' is how Commander McKendrick describes an unprovoked attack on a nation with no submarines, no navy and no air force, and now with no clean water and no electricity and, in many hospitals, no anaesthetic with which to amputate small limbs shredded by shrapnel. I have seen elsewhere how this is done, with a gag in the patient's mouth.

One child, Ali Ismaeel Abbas, the boy who lost his parents and his arms in a missile attack, has been flown to a modern hospital in Kuwait. Publicity has saved him. Tony Blair says he will "do everything he can'' to help him. This must be the ultimate insult to the memory of all the children of Iraq who have died violently in Blair's war, and as a result of the embargo that Blair enthusiastically endorsed. The saving of Ali substitutes a media spectacle of charity for our right to knowledge of the extent of the crime committed against the young in our name. Let us now see the pictures of the "truckload of dozens of dismembered women and children'' that the Red Cross doctors saw.

As Ali was flown to Kuwait, the Americans were preventing Save The Children from sending a plane with medical supplies into northern Iraq, where 40,000 are desperate. According to the UN, half the population of Iraq has only enough food to last a few weeks. The head of the World Food Programme says that 40 million people around the world are now seriously at risk because of the distraction of the humanitarian disaster in Iraq.

And this is "liberation"? No, it is bloody conquest, witnessed by America's mass theft of Iraq's resources and natural wealth. Ask the crowds in the streets, for whom the fear and hatred of Saddam Hussein have been transferred, virtually overnight, to Bush and Blair and perhaps to "us''.

Such is the magnitude of Blair's folly and crime that the contrivance of his vindication is urgent. As if speaking for the vindicators, Andrew Marr, the BBC's political editor, reported: "[Blair] said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right.''

What constitutes a bloodbath to the BBC's man in Downing Street? Did the murder of the 3,000 people in New York's Twin Towers qualify? If his answer is yes, then the thousands killed in Iraq during the past month is a bloodbath. One report says that more than 3,000 Iraqis were killed within 24 hours or less. Or are the vindicators saying that the lives of one set of human beings have less value than those recognisable to us? Devaluation of human life has always been essential to the pursuit of imperial power, from the Congo to Vietnam, from Chechnya to Iraq.

If, as Milan Kundera wrote, "the struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting", then we must not forget. We must not forget Blair's lies about weapons of mass destruction which, as Hans Blix now says, were based on "fabricated evidence". We must not forget his callous attempts to deny that an American missile killed 62 people in a Baghdad market. And we must not forget the reason for the bloodbath. Last September, in announcing its National Security Strategy, Bush served notice that America intended to dominate the world by force. Iraq was indeed the "test case". The rest was a charade.

We must not forget that a British defence secretary has announced, for the first time, that his government is prepared to launch an attack with nuclear weapons. He echoes Bush, of course. An ascendant mafia now rules the United States, and the Prime Minister is in thrall to it. Together, they empty noble words – liberation, freedom and democracy – of their true meaning. The unspoken truth is that behind the bloody conquest of Iraq is the conquest of us all: of our minds, our humanity and our self-respect at the very least. If we say and do nothing, victory over us is assured.
21 April 2003 18:52

Search this site:

Printable Story