- We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion of
Iraq. A man cuddles the body of his in-fant daughter; her blood drenches
them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven
in her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she
happens to be standing next to a man in a uniform. "I'm sorry,' he
says, "but the chick got in the way."
- Covering this in a shroud of respectability has not been
easy for George Bush and Tony Blair. Millions now know too much; the crime
is all too evident. Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, a Labour
MP for 41 years, says the Prime Minister is a war criminal and should be
sent to The Hague. He is serious, because the prima facie case against
Blair and Bush is beyond doubt.
- In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments
of the "necessity' for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours.
"To initiate a war of aggression,' said the tribunal's judgment, "is
not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime
differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself
the accumulated evil of the whole.'
- To this, the Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi adds, "a
deep and unconscious racism that imbues every aspect of Western policy
towards Iraq." It is this racism, she says, that has cynically elevated
Saddam Hussein from "a petty local chieftain, albeit a brutal and
ruthless one in the mould of many before him, [to a figure] demonised beyond
- To Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, the Iraqis,
like all Arabs, were "niggers', against whom poison gas could be used.
They were un-people; and they still are. The killing of some 80 villagers
near Baghdad last Thursday, of children in markets, of the "chicks
who get in the way' would be in industrial quantities now were it not for
the voices of the millions who filled London and other capitals, and the
young people who walked out of their schools; they have saved countless
- Just as the American invasion of Vietnam was fuelled
by racism, in which "gooks' could be murdered with impunity, so the
current atrocity in Iraq is from the same mould. Should you doubt that,
turn the news around and examine the double standard. Imagine there are
Iraqi tanks in Britain and Iraqi troops laying siege to Birmingham. Absurd?
Well, it would not happen here. But the British military is doing that
to Basra, a city bigger than Birmingham, firing shoulder-held missiles
and dropping cluster bombs on its population, 40 per cent of whom are children.
Moreover, "our boys" are denying water to the stricken people
of Basra as well as to Umm Qasr, which they have controlled for a week.
It is no wonder Blair is furious with the al-Jazeera channel, which has
exposed this, and the lie that the people of Basra were rising up on cue
for their liberation.
- Since 11 September 2001, "our' propaganda and its
unspoken racism has required an imperial distortion of intellect and morality.
The Iraqis are not fighting like lions, in defence of their homeland. They
are "cowardly' and subhuman because they use hit-and-run tactics against
a hugely powerful invader - as if they have any choice. This belittling
of their bravery and disregard of their humanity, like the disregard of
thousands of Afghans recently bombed to death in dusty villages, confronts
us with a moral issue as profound as the Western response to that greatest
act of terrorism, the wilful atomic bombing of Japan. Have we progressed?
In 2003, is it still true that only "our' lives are of value?
- These Anglo-American invasions of weak and largely defenceless
nations are meant to demonstrate the kind of world the US is planning to
dominate by force, with its procession of worthy and unworthy victims and
the establishment of American bases at the gateways of all the main sources
of fossil fuels. There is a list now. If Israel has its way, Iran will
be next; and Cuba, Libya, Syria and even China had better watch out. North
Korea may not be an immediate American target, because its threat of nuclear
war has been effective. Ironically, had Iraq kept its nuclear weapons,
this invasion probably would not have taken place. That is the lesson for
all governments at odds with Bush and Blair: nuclear-arm yourself quickly.
- The most forbidden truth is that this demonstrably militarist
British government, and the rampant superpower it serves, are the true
enemies of our security. In the plethora of opinion polls, the most illuminating
was conducted by American Time magazine among a quarter of a million people
across Europe. The question was: "Which country poses the greatest
danger to world peace in 2003?' Readers were asked to tick off one of three
possibilities: Iraq, North Korea and the United States. Eight per cent
viewed Iraq as the most dangerous; North Korea was chosen by 9 per cent.
No fewer than 83 per cent voted for the United States, of which, in the
eyes of most of humanity, Britain is now but a lethal appendage.
- Only successful propaganda, and corrupt journalism, will
prevent us understanding this and other truths. Rupert Murdoch has been
admirably frank. In lauding Bush and Blair as "heroes', he said, "there
is going to be collateral damage in Iraq. And if you really want to be
brutal about it, better we get it done now.' Every one of his 175 newspapers
carries that sinister message, more or less, as does his American television
network. The 80 villagers rocketed to death on Thursday are proof of the
urgency he describes; other victims in other countries are waiting.
- For those journalists who see themselves as honourable
truth-tellers, there are difficult choices now: rather like the choice
of the young woman at the GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham who allegedly leaked
documents revealing that US officials were trying to blackmail members
of the Security Council; rather like the two British soldiers who face
court martial because they exercised their right, enshrined by the Nuremberg
judges, to refuse to fight in a criminal war that kills civilians.
- For journalists who are not "embedded' and are deeply
troubled by the kind of propaganda that consumes even our language, and
who, as James Cameron put it, "write the first draft of history',
similar courage is required. Brave Terry Lloyd of ITN, killed by the 'coalition',
demonstrated this. The threats are now not even subtle, such as this from
our Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon. "One of the reasons for having
journalists [embedded],' he said, "is to prevent precisely the kind
of tragedy that occurred to an ITN crew ... because [Terry Lloyd] was not
part of a military organisation. And in those circumstances, we can't look
after all those journalists ... So having journalists have the protection
of our armed forces is both good for journalism. It's also good for people
- Like a mafia boss explaining the benefits of a protection
racket, Hoon is saying: do as you are told or face the consequences. Indeed,
Donald Rumsfeld, Hoon's superior in Washington, often quotes Al Capone,
the famous Chicago mobster. His favourite: "You will get more with
a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.'
- How do we face this threat to all of us? The answer lies,
I believe, in understanding the extent of our own power. Patrick Tyler
wrote wisely in the New York Times the other day that America faced a "tenacious
new adversary' - the public. He says we are entering a new bi-polar world
with two new superpowers: the Bush/Blair gang on one side, and world opinion
on the other, a truly popular force stirring at last and whose consciousness
soars by the day. Wasn't it the poet Shelley who, at a time like this,
exhorted us to: "Rise like lions after slumber'?