Monday, 11 May 2009

Iraq War Myth No.2

"The second Gulf war of 2003 followed the first Gulf war of 1991 which resulted directly from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait..."*

Indeed, the second Gulf war of 2003 followed the first Gulf war of 1990-1991 just as 1 p.m. follows midday, or age follows beauty; there was no basis whatsoever for the two events to have been linked (No Kuwait; No Kurds; No Tanks) had not the US administration, bloated with colonial bravado, decided to find some pretext upon which to wage war against a nation stripped down by 12 years of crippling sanctions, bombings and the first Gulf war. "Toppling Saddam remains the unfinished business of the first Bush administration. His defiant hold on power infuriates the Bushies", noted the Guardian in 2001. But this jingoistic claim does not reflect the whole story; that there was an ever-growing, authentic and powerfully persuasive grass-roots resistance to Saddam Hussein's authority that could genuinely have challenged both it and US attempts to open Iraq to Western markets. This resistance continues today, though it is amalgamated with the brutal partisan attempts to gain control over areas of destabilised Iraq: to those who wanted to finish what Bush No. 1 started, such resistance was a red rag to a bull.
If Saddam Hussein wanted to create and use chemical weapons in a war against the West, he would have found the pretext to do so as a response to the hellish sanctions imposed on his increasingly desperate population. In 1998, Denis Halliday, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, resigned after 34 years with the UN, "declaring the US and British sanctions regime imposed on Iraq 'genocidal'. Halliday, who ran the UN's 'oil for food' programme in Iraq, continues to openly place blame for the excess deaths of 600,000 Iraqi children under five, as reported by the United Nations Children's Fund, squarely on the shoulders of the US and British governments. In February 2000, Halliday's successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, also resigned after 30 years with the UN, asking,
'How long should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?'I've been using the word genocide, because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq. I'm afraid I have no other view at this late stage.'
In 1993 Madeleine Albright, head of the same group responsible for 'educating' Iraqis about democracy and orchestrating US-sympathetic campaigns prior to the 2005 election said, in response to the question "I have heard that a half a million children have died [because of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And - you know, is the price worth it?"

Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."

These sanctions had been imposed after George Dubya Senior played a game of cat-and-mouse with Iraq following the 1990-1991 bust-up between Iraq and the UK, USA and Saudi Arabia (tho' forces from 31 other countries were involved); a bust-up which bore absolutely no relation to the second Gulf War which began some 12 years later. And no weapons were found.
However, the news of the time would have it otherwise: every newspaper's leaders on Iraq - not to mention their editorials - gave a detailed play-by-play of the emotions and opinions of those entrenched in Afghanistan or observing the conflict from a soi-distant armchair. Forget logic: Condi Rice, and Donald Rumsfeldt (the supreme architect of disaster capitalism who was already rebuilding Iraq before it had been decimated), and unnamed sources in the Pentagon, were all commenting knowledgeably upon the motivations of the Bush team. The general consensus seemed to be that Dubya Jnr insisted on finishing what Daddy had started, regardless of lack of provocation.
Had Bush Snr et al been in office in 1998 and able to chase after Saddam Hussein in the exhaustive way in which today's US administration has systematically obliterated Iraq, he would have been able to cite a breach of UN sanctions; Iraqi officials prevented US inspectors from inspecting suspected weapons sites. Even then, UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter says, "as of December 1998 we had no evidence Iraq had retained biological weapons, nor that they were working on any. In fact, we had a lot of evidence to suggest Iraq was in compliance." By 2001, over 95% of the weaponry - that which posed a real, tangible and immediate threat - was gone. Ritter changed his 1998 perspective, stating that the threat from Iraq was 'zero'. Zero. That doesn't present the merest possibility of viable chemical or biological weapons capable of causing localised or global terror being found or fabricated in Iraq. It means that the empty mustard gas shells found in a warehouse were the sum total of Iraq's supposedly devastating cache of WMDs. But as Ritter, who was so conveniently swept out of the limelight after a police sting operation in 2003, put it so eloquently:

The United States needed to find a vehicle to continue to contain Saddam because the CIA said all we have to do is wait six months and Saddam is going to collapse on his own volition. That vehicle is sanctions. They needed a justification; the justification was disarmament. They drafted a Chapter 7 resolution of the United Nations Security Council calling for the disarmament of Iraq and saying in Paragraph 14 that if Iraq complies, sanctions will be lifted. Within months of this resolution being passed--and the United States drafted and voted in favor of this resolution--within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly, not privately, publicly that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained through the maintenance of sanctions and facilitated regime change. It was never about disarmament, it was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. It started with George Herbert Walker Bush, and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency, and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush Administration." (Pitt, William R. War On Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know)


To the West, Saddam Hussein had become an untenable nuisance: unstable, yet resistant to outside attempts to squeeze him out of power. Based upon his psychological profile, it is likely that had he had chemical weapons, he would have used them as retribution for the sufferings of Iraq in such a way as to precipitate a large-scale confrontation. In fact, Hussein's Iraq was in the same state of dire and worsening economic poverty that prompted him to invade Kuwait in the 1990s. But Hussein did not precipitate a confrontation. His country was already in a perilous state of decay; he had virtually no friends or allies, and had not forged the kinds of links with Iran that would have created a powerful United Eastern Islamic state. He followed to the letter 'those who would prepare for war, seek war': he had not prepared for it, nor had he sought it.

*An indepth discussion of WMDs, including UNSCOM, the ISC and Rockingham's role, to follow.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Iraq War Myths No. 1

"Millions of Iraqis risked death to elect their government. Their government therefore has a greater legitimacy than almost any other government in the world!"

At the time of the first 'democratic' elections in Iraq, America had already lost 1100 troops and spent $2oo billion on waging war. In the light of such gross expenditure of lives and money (the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died not having been factored into this analysis, of course: they were merely 'collateral damage') it is unlikely that said occupying force, having overtly and exaggeratedly stated that its real intent in invading and occupying Iraq was to install 'democracy', would permit the population to vote for that which had always passed previously as government. The very obvious fact that a nation under US occupation* is by very nature undemocratic and therefore cannot be considered capable of holding free and unbiased elections and the Blairite propagandist message that the Iraqi people could only choose between 'democracy and terror' aside, one must question just how many were able to participate in the Iraq elections. The refugees bombed out of their homes? The street children? Those held under vague or no pretext in Allied jails?
Given the extraordinary state of daily upheaval in a country that had been systematically obliterated, it is hard to see how many Iraqis could bear witness to the message that the New U-Turning US President, one who condemned the war from outside office and supported it in it, spieled out:
"We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government - and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life - that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible."
We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government: does that sound like democracy to you? Democracy at the end of a bayonet? Or that sovereignty might be established by external forces? In a country which now doesn't even possess basic sanitation? But it gets worse. Before the first Iraqi elections in 2005, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute were given over $80 million to orchestrate political and electoral activities in Iraq. Two of the major players: Madeleine Albright and John McCain. These 'extensions' of the State Department, claimed Prof. William Robinson of the Global and International Studies Programme at the University of California,
"are trying to select individual leaders and organisations that are going to be very amenable to the US transnational project for Iraq... pacifying the country militarily and legitimating the occupation and the formal electoral system...[will ensure that Iraq will be controlled by] economic, political and civic groups that are going to be favourable to Iraq's integration into the global capitalist economy".
Within Iraq, independent news ceased. Al-Jazeera was shut down for the duration of the elections, and newspapers critical to US endeavours were stifled. Any hint that the population protested against the continuing occupation and wished to reinstate the Baath leadership was banned by the US Proconsul, Paul Bremer. Those who did seek to report the news as it was actually happening were threatened by the army, police and insurgent forces: 'we're unable to get access to anybody. We're frightened', said a Baghdad journalist. Cramped in on three sides, what was the response by those Iraqis who sought to challenge a unilaterally US subsidised news force and an interim PM who had formerly been a CIA asset? The truth is that we don't know; there was absolutely no canvassing, panelling or analysis of media freedom or the people's response to it in the six months leading up to the elections, yet British and American newspapers, who incidentally made no mention of either the NDI/IRI involvement or the blanket ban on critical media resolutely reported that the elections were 'democratic' and 'free'. Attention now turned to the 'brave' Iraqis and the 'rebel insurgents' who apparently threatened their ability to vote:
"American and Iraqi officials have warned that rebels determined to expel foreign forces could step up attacks before Iraq's first free election in decades." (Sunday Express, Dec. 19, 2004) This just before another 1000 troops were shipped into Iraq: could there be a better pretext? Or a less legitimate 'free' election?
Unanimously, across the so-called political spectrum, all other newspapers extolled how 'we went to Iraq to make it free'; the point was no longer whether the war and occupation was legitimate or not, but that a 'democratic' election would hasten the USUKA exit strategy formulation. Leaving Iraq suddenly became the cross-party unifier. Even Menzies-Campbell regurgitated the Blair line: "Failure to hold elections on January 30 would be seen as a major triumph for the insurgence... But if these elections are to be credible they must cover the whole country and the whole population. No one should minimise the difficulty of carrying this through." Of course, the 'exit strategy' is pure fabrication: the UKUSA are tied up in Iraq for at least 30 years, having built and continuing to build military bases and outposts; and the multinationals also have moved in and laid claim to Iraq's oil supply for the next forty years too. Should Iraq become too bolshy in the near or even distant future and elect a leadership of which the West disapproves, the military will be there to make sure that the 'Arab facade' toes the line. Given that the country, having been demolished, is already divided by insurgent factions trying to lay claim the biggest piece of the pie, it is likely that Iraq will continue to dominate our headlines for the next ten years; but those who are most affected by sectarian violence, the 'ordinary' Iraqis, will continue to suffer unnoticed.
In the most recent Iraqi elections, voters had to pass through security checks. The President Nour al-Maliki hoped to build a successful election strategy on promising electricity and sewerage processing: civic amenities we take for granted, and which Iraqis took for granted before America bombed their processing plants to smithereens. According to a Baghdad journalist, "Saddam is viewed by most [Arabs] as a heroic and impeccable figure and they believe and understand that everything that has happened in Iraq ever since his oust[ing] has been catastrophic." The US model of democracy hasn't trickled down very far, then. In fact, according to the latest intelligence on the Enduring America wire, al-Maliki's party is prepared to enter into a coalition with the outspoken Allies-hating Moqtada al-Sadr in order to establish an Islamic state - which, if al-Sadr's past rhetoric is anything to go by, will almost certainly mimic Mahmoud Ahmedenijad's Iranian state paradigm. The UKUSA method of 'making an omelette by breaking eggs' doesn't work when it comes to making democracy by breaking the backs of nations, it seems.
Finally, the opinions of Iraq ex-patriots, rarely sought, are illuminating. In 2005 less than 1 in 10 registered to vote which, according to Abu Khaleel, is remarkable: "Anybody who knows even a few Iraqis is aware how passionate they generally are regarding politics. Furthermore, most of these people have had their lives severely disrupted by politics and tyranny. It cannot be that they don't care how Iraq is governed...why didn't they register to vote? Aren't they interested in democracy and elections?

The answer is simple: They are against "these" elections."

*To be discussed in a later post

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Doublespeak

Humanity has a lot to be proud of. It's produced what we would justly call wonders: the Pyramids, the sadly-eroded Colossus, the Great Wall. It's also given us Mozart, and Avicenna, and Aristotle and, rather dubiously, Philip Roth and Bob Hope. It has a lot to be ashamed of on a large and a small scale: petty cruelties conflated into colonialism, science exploited and abused to dehumanise other cultures.
We know that things don't change - not really; there is very little new under the sun. The young have to reinvent everything anew; otherwise life would be unbearable. One of the great problems with living in a trash culture is that we're exposed constantly to the feeble thoughts of actresses and singers as if they were original truths; and, of course, the vapid-minded drink from the dregs of this non-knowledge and use it to affirm their existences. Those of us who are impatient with such moronic witterings look more closely at life; we scrutinise its history, its meaning, its purpose, the etymology of the word 'life' itself, and try to work out a way in which we can exist authentically, acknowledging the other without being turned into the Other.
Our task is made all the more difficult by the floods of disinformation and doublespeak that pour like a poison stream from the mouths of our politicians and their ever-churning propaganda machines. It will be a wonder indeed if we will ever be able to look upon life and see truth in it again. And the one responsible, who is now lurking behind his cloak of new-found piety, is being paid millions every year to get away with spewing forth more doublespeak, perpetuating the lies that have led to the deaths of around two million people. That's more than the number murdered in Rwanda, under the Khmer Rouge, in the Korean War, during the Troubles in Northern Island, US casualties in Vietnam, the Twin Towers and under Idi Amin. The man? Tony Blair. The war? Iraq.
Iraq's no longer a country. Even before the UKUSA found a shoddy pretext to go to war, Rumsfeldt and other disaster merchants were batting around ideas for its reconstruction. Blair stood up in Parliament without compunction and, hand on heart, lied. He claimed that everything that was good and pure and just in the world was at stake. He played shamelessly on people's moral convictions. Knowing full well that there was no justification for the claim that Saddam Hussein, once the West's Golden Boy, had WMDs, he added one fiction to another, Ossa atop Pelion, and built a fraudulent case against the dictator. And, having chummed up with the States, chased the UN inspectors out to unleash Operation Firefox and then lying further, claiming that Saddam Hussein had chased those inspectors out, he systematically set out to obliterate Iraq.
There is nothing left there: it was blown to smithereens, razed to the ground, turned to dust. One of the most ancient civilisations on earth is now a stinking cesspit filled with terrified, bewildered citizens and angry fundamentalist aggressors for whom the idea of the best healthcare and education the Middle East had to offer is a distant memory. Hospitals, schools, mosques, museums: gone. The only ones living in any semblance of luxury are those on military bases or occupying the plush Western-style condos that sprang up overnight. The antiquities have been looted or destroyed. The roads are full of holes; electricity is sporadic; AIDS is drastically on the rise, food is scarce, children are homeless. In fact, half of those dead are children. But they're not children to the self-acclaimed Saviour of the Middle East: they're collateral damage. It's 'regrettable'. I think he may have offered his sympathy at some point. Too late: they're dead.
If a child goes missing in this country, it's 24/7 news. The search for little Madeleine McCann goes on. But how many children have gone missing in Iraq? And who cares? What is to happen to this lost generation, the survivors of a grossly unjust and unnecessary war?
Way back when, we marched against the war. We lost. But that does not mean we give up the fight now. We cannot let journalists claim that Blair believed there were WMDs. It's nonsense; a fabrication. And it implies that because a politician believes something, it must be right. That's a very subjective and dangerous fantasy to be playing with. We can't allow our media to report the war through such a distorted lens. Again, playing with the truth and using such highly subjective terms - Iran is 'hostile' and a 'troublemaker' but America is 'committed to democracy' - is very dangerous. Iran is a 'troublemaker', yet America, which has illegally invaded two nations, is 'democratic'? What a leap in logic! Such bias breeds hostility and contention. Years later, many more will die because of the errors of today, of now.
By all rights, Blair should be on trial for war crimes. He is a mass murderer; a class A charlatan with Messianic delusions and a moral compass that points straight to Ego. He is a despicable phoney, a liar and a thief: he has stolen an entire country's history, its future, its resources and its lives. He does not deserve to enjoy freedom; were he tried at Nuremberg he would have been hanged. Instead, he is wafting around and dispensing advice on 'peace'. And he goes unchallenged, save by us. The media may be in a straitjacket of doublespeak, but we are not. If there is to be any honesty, let it be in politics, let us be saying it, and let it be now.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Happiness is a Warm Gun

I've just returned from Addenbrooke's Hospital, where I spent 4 hours in A&E waiting to see if I'd broken my ankle. Finally, having had a huge walking boot fitted by a breathtakingly handsome and genuinely nice young Gilbert Blythe-ish doctor (of course, I was looking like hell: spectacles, hoodie and jogging bottoms, smeared mascara. Add a dowager's hump, stick a tent over me and charge admission), I lurched out past a little family: two responsible parents, and a angelically pretty little girl who'd just been bought a teddy bear from the hospital giftshop. She was chattering away to parents who were clearly interested in what she had to say. She won't be needing the happiness lessons proposed by the notorious Jim Rose, then.
I googled Jim Rose; the first two entries were for circuses, which seems quite appropriate as the man relentlessly proposes clownish embellishments to our already beleaguered, over-cosseted, under-educated little guinea pigs who have suffered under successive burdens of 'progressive' teaching methods to the extent that they're going to grow up lazy, incurious and unemployable. Now, along with all the other bits of social engineering rubbish (because they don't want anyone to start forming exclusive groups by themselves: that's hierarchical and classist and non-Utopian) children have got to learn to analyse their emotions and develop happiness strategies. Which will have the effect of creating huge amounts of business for psychiatrists, but will damage children irreparably.
You can't teach unformed minds how to develop coping strategies for things they haven't experienced. You can't quantify happiness. And it's very difficult to qualify it. To do so is to orchestrate someone's existence for them, because you're telling them what should or even must make them happy. And to self-examine complex emotions behind feelings is a skill most adults don't even have, one which is still being developed because psychology is not a finite subject: different models are constantly being proposed, and the practise of it is ever-evolving. I find the suggestion that the State can dictate what passes for 'joy' - in their grey, dull, Health & Safety orientated, homogenized world - sinister in the extreme. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's a recipe for disaster, a reason to contemplate ending one's existence. Because you see, if they get hold of the children's minds, then the kind of world we grow old in is going to be a very terrifying one, one in which everything is done 'for our own good', but no-one can remember what 'good' entails.
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison