- As the West prepares for an assault on Iraq, John Pilger
argues that 'war on terror' is a smokescreen created by the ultimate terrorist
... America itself.
- It is 10 months since 11 September, and still the great
charade plays on. Having appropriated our shocked response to that momentous
day, the rulers of the world have since ground our language into a paean
of cliches and lies about the 'war on terrorism' - when the most enduring
menace, and source of terror, is them.
- The fanatics who attacked America came from Saudi Arabia
and Egypt. No bombs fell on these American protectorates. Instead, more
than 5,000 civilians have been bombed to death in stricken Afghanistan,
the latest a wedding party of 40 people, mostly women and children. Not
a single al-Qaeda leader of importance has been caught.
- Following this 'stunning victory', hundreds of prisoners
were shipped to an American concentration camp in Cuba, where they have
been held against all the conventions of war and international law. No
evidence of their alleged crimes has been produced, and the FBI confirms
only one is a genuine suspect. In the United States, more than 1,000 people
of Muslim background have 'disappeared'; none has been charged. Under the
draconian Patriot Act, the FBI's new powers include the authority to go
into libraries and ask who is reading what.
- Meanwhile, the Blair government has made fools of the
British Army by insisting they pursue warring tribesmen: exactly what squaddies
in putties and pith helmets did over a century ago when Lord Curzon, Viceroy
of India, described Afghanistan as one of the 'pieces on a chessboard upon
which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world'.
- There is no war on terrorism; it is the great game speeded
up. The difference is the rampant nature of the superpower, ensuring infinite
dangers for us all.
- Having swept the Palestinians into the arms of the supreme
terrorist Ariel Sharon, the Christian Right fundamentalists running the
plutocracy in Washington, now replenish their arsenal in preparation for
an attack on the 22 million suffering people of Iraq. Should anyone need
reminding, Iraq is a nation held hostage to an American-led embargo every
bit as barbaric as the dictatorship over which Iraqis have no control.
- Contrary to propaganda orchestrated from Washington and
London, the coming attack has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's 'weapons
of mass destruction', if these exist at all. The reason is that America
wants a more compliant thug to run the world's second greatest source of
- The drum-beaters rarely mention this truth, and the people
of Iraq. Everyone is Saddam Hussein, the demon of demons. Four years ago,
the Pentagon warned President Clinton that an all-out attack on Iraq might
kill 'at least' 10,000 civilians: that, too, is unmentionable. In a sustained
propaganda campaign to justify this outrage, journalists on both sides
of the Atlantic have been used as channels, 'conduits', for a stream of
rumours and lies. These have ranged from false claims about an Iraqi connection
with the anthrax attacks in America to a discredited link between the leader
of the 11 September hijacks and Iraqi intelligence. When the attack comes,
these consorting journalists will share responsibility for the crime.
- It was Tony Blair who served notice that imperialism's
return journey to respectability was under way. Hark, the Christian gentleman-bomber's
vision of a better world for 'the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed,
the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of northern
Africa to the slums of Gaza to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan.' Hark,
his 'abiding' concern for the 'human rights of the suffering women of Afghanistan'
as he colluded with Bush who, as the New York Times reported, 'demanded
the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other
supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population'. Hark his compassion for
the 'dispossessed' in the 'slums of Gaza', where Israeli gunships, manufactured
with vital British parts, fire their missiles into crowded civilian areas.
- As Frank Furedi reminds us in The New Ideology of Imperialism
, it is not long ago 'that the moral claims of imperialism were seldom
questioned in the West. Imperialism and the global expansion of the western
powers were represented in unambiguously positive terms as a major contributor
to human civilisation.' The quest went wrong when it was clear that fascism
was imperialism, too, and the word vanished from academic discourse. In
the best Stalinist tradition, imperialism no longer existed. Today, the
preferred euphemism is 'civilisation'; or if an adjective is required,
- From Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an ally
of crypto-fascists, to impeccably liberal commentators, the new imperialists
share a concept whose true meaning relies on a xenophobic or racist comparison
with those who are deemed uncivilised, culturally inferior and might challenge
the 'values' of the West. Watch the 'debates' on Newsnight. The question
is how best 'we' can deal with the problem of 'them'.
- For much of the western media, especially those commentators
in thrall to and neutered by the supercult of America, the most salient
truths remain taboos. Professor Richard Falk, of Cornell university, put
it succinctly some years ago. Western foreign policy, he wrote, is propagated
in the media 'through a self righteous, one-way moral/legal screen [with]
positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened,
validating a campaign of unrestricted violence'.
- Perhaps the most important taboo is the longevity of
the United States as both a terrorist state and a haven for terrorists.
That the US is the only state on record to have been condemned by the World
Court for international terrorism (in Nicaragua) and has vetoed a UN Security
Council resolution calling on governments to observe international law,
- 'In the war against terrorism,' said Bush from his bunker
following 11 September, 'we're going to hunt down these evil-doers wherever
they are, no matter how long it takes.'
- Strictly speaking, it should not take long, as more terrorists
are given training and sanctuary in the United States than anywhere on
earth. They include mass murderers, torturers, former and future tyrants
and assorted international criminals. This is virtually unknown to the
American public, thanks to the freest media on earth.
- There is no terrorist sanctuary to compare with Florida,
currently governed by the President's brother, Jeb Bush. In his book Rogue
State , former senior State Department official Bill Blum describes a typical
Florida trial of three anti-Castro terrorists, who hijacked a plane to
Miami at knifepoint. 'Even though the kidnapped pilot was brought back
from Cuba to testify against the men,' he wrote, 'the defence simply told
the jurors the man was lying, and the jury deliberated for less than an
hour before acquitting the defendants.'
- General Jose Guillermo Garcia has lived comfortably in
Florida since the 1990s. He was head of El Salvador's military during the
1980s when death squads with ties to the army murdered thousands of people.
General Prosper Avril, the Haitian dictator, liked to display the bloodied
victims of his torture on television. When he was overthrown, he was flown
to Florida by the US Government. Thiounn Prasith, Pol Pot's henchman and
apologist at the United Nations, lives in New York. General Mansour Moharari,
who ran the Shah of Iran's notorious prisons, is wanted in Iran, but untroubled
in the United States.
- Al-Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan were kindergartens
compared with the world's leading university of terrorism at Fort Benning
in Georgia. Known until recently as the School of the Americas, it trained
tyrants and some 60,000 Latin American special forces, paramilitaries and
intelligence agents in the black arts of terrorism.
- In 1993, the UN Truth Commission on El Salvador named
the army officers who had committed the worst atrocities of the civil war;
two-thirds of them had been trained at Fort Benning. In Chile, the school's
graduates ran Pinochet's secret police and three principal concentration
camps. In 1996, the US government was forced to release copies of the school's
training manuals, which recommended blackmail, torture, execution and the
arrest of witnesses' relatives.
- In recent months, the Bush regime has torn up the Kyoto
treaty, which would ease global warming, to which the United States is
the greatest contributor. It has threatened the use of nuclear weapons
in 'pre-emptive' strikes (a threat echoed by Defence Minister Geoffrey
Hoon). It has tried to abort the birth of an international criminal court.
It has further undermined the United Nations by blocking a UN investigation
of the Israeli assault on a Palestinian refugee camp; and it has ordered
the Palestinians to replace their elected leader with an American stooge.
At summit conferences in Canada and Indonesia, Bush's people have blocked
hundreds of millions of dollars going to the most deprived people on earth,
those without clean water and electricity.
- These facts will no doubt beckon the inane slur of 'anti-Americanism'.
This is the imperial prerogative: the last refuge of those whose contortion
of intellect and morality demands a loyalty oath. As Noam Chomsky has pointed
out, the Nazis silenced argument and criticism with 'anti German' slurs.
Of course, the United States is not Germany; it is the home of some of
history's greatest civil rights movements, such as the epic movement in
the 1960s and 1970s.
- I was in the US last week and glimpsed that other America,
the one rarely seen among the media and Hollywood stereotypes, and what
was clear was that it was stirring again. The other day, in an open letter
to their compatriots and the world, almost 100 of America's most distinguished
names in art, literature and education wrote this:
- 'Let it not be said that people in the United States
did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted
stark new measures of repression. We believe that questioning, criticism
and dissent must be valued and protected. Such rights are always contested
and must be fought for. We, too, watched with shock the horrific events
of September 11. But the mourning had barely begun when our leaders launched
a spirit of revenge. The government now openly prepares to wage war on
Iraq - a country that has no connection with September 11.
- 'We say this to the world. Too many times in history
people have waited until it was too late to resist. We draw on the inspiration
of those who fought slavery and all those other great causes of freedom
that began with dissent. We call on all like-minded people around the world
to join us.'
- It is time we joined them. ___
- This is a revised extract from The New Rulers of the
World , by John Pilger, published by Verso. To order a copy, for £8
plus p&p (rrp £10), call the Observer Books Service on 0870 066