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|R.Fisk: A.conflict.. self-interest of America|
|02/15/03 at 08:22:29|
|Robert Fisk: The case against war: A conflict driven by the self-interest of America|
15 February 2003
In the end, I think we are just tired of being lied to. Tired of being talked down to, of being bombarded with Second World War jingoism and scare stories and false information and student essays dressed up as "intelligence". We are sick of being insulted by little men, by Tony Blair and Jack Straw and the likes of George Bush and his cabal of neo-conservative henchmen who have plotted for years to change the map of the Middle East to their advantage.
No wonder, then, that Hans Blix's blunt refutation of America's "intelligence" at the UN yesterday warmed so many hearts. Suddenly, the Hans Blixes of this world could show up the Americans for the untrustworthy "allies" they have become.
The British don't like Hussein any more than they liked Nasser. But millions of Britons remember, as Blair does not, the Second World War; they are not conned by childish parables of Hitler, Churchill, Chamberlain and appeasement. They do not like being lectured and whined at by men whose experience of war is Hollywood and television.
Still less do they wish to embark on endless wars with a Texas governor-executioner who dodged the Vietnam draft and who, with his oil buddies, is now sending America's poor to destroy a Muslim nation that has nothing at all to do with the crimes against humanity of 11 September. Jack Straw, the public school Trot-turned-warrior, ignores all this, with Blair. He brays at us about the dangers of nuclear weapons that Iraq does not have, of the torture and aggression of a dictatorship that America and Britain sustained when Saddam was "one of ours". But he and Blair cannot discuss the dark political agenda behind George Bush's government, nor the "sinister men" (the words of a very senior UN official) around the President.
Those who oppose war are not cowards. Brits rather like fighting; they've biffed Arabs, Afghans, Muslims, Nazis, Italian Fascists and Japanese imperialists for generations, Iraqis included – though we play down the RAF's use of gas on Kurdish rebels in the 1930s. But when the British are asked to go to war, patriotism is not enough. Faced with the horror stories, Britons – and many Americans – are a lot braver than Blair and Bush. They do not like, as Thomas More told Cromwell in A Man for All Seasons, tales to frighten children.
Perhaps Henry VIII's exasperation in that play better expresses the British view of Blair and Bush: "Do they take me for a simpleton?" The British, like other Europeans, are an educated people. Ironically, their opposition to this obscene war may make them feel more, not less, European.
Palestine has much to do with it. Brits have no love for Arabs but they smell injustice fast enough and are outraged at the colonial war being used to crush the Palestinians by a nation that is now in effect running US policy in the Middle East. We are told that our invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a burning, fearsome wound to which Bush devoted just 18 words in his meretricious State of the Union speech – but even Blair can't get away with that one; hence his "conference" for Palestinian reform at which the Palestinians had to take part via video-link because Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, refused to let them travel to London.
So much for Blair's influence over Washington – the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, "regretted" that he couldn't persuade Sharon to change his mind. But at least one has to acknowledge that Sharon – war criminal though he may be for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres – treated Blair with the contempt he deserves. Nor can the Americans hide the link between Iraq and Israel and Palestine. In his devious address to the UN Security Council last week, Powell linked the three when he complained that Hamas, whose suicide bombings so cruelly afflict Israelis, keeps an office in Baghdad.
Just as he told us about the mysterious al-Qa'ida men who support violence in Chechnya and in the "Pankisi gorge". This was America's way of giving Vladimir Putin a free hand again in his campaign of rape and murder against the Chechens, just as Bush's odd remark to the UN General Assembly last 12 September about the need to protect Iraq's Turkomans only becomes clear when one realises that Turkomans make up two thirds of the population of Kirkuk, one of Iraq's largest oil fields.
The men driving Bush to war are mostly former or still active pro-Israeli lobbyists. For yaars, they have advocated destroying the most powerful Arab nation. Richard Perle, one of Bush's most influential advisers, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld were all campaigning for the overthrow of Iraq long before George W Bush was elected – if he was elected – US President. And they weren't doing so for the benefit of Americans or Britons. A 1996 report, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm (http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm) called for war on Iraq. It was written not for the US but for the incoming Israeli Likud prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and produced by a group headed by – yes, Richard Perle. The destruction of Iraq will, of course, protect Israel's monopoly of nuclear weapons and allow it to defeat the Palestinians and impose whatever colonial settlement Sharon has in store.
Although Bush and Blair dare not discuss this with us – a war for Israel is not going to have our boys lining up at the recruiting offices – Jewish American leaders talk about the advantages of an Iraqi war with enthusiasm. Indeed, those very courageous Jewish American groups who so bravely oppose this madness have been the first to point out how pro-Israeli organisations foresee Iraq not only as a new source of oil but of water, too; why should canals not link the Tigris river to the parched Levant? No wonder, then, that any discussion of this topic must be censored, as Professor Eliot Cohen, of Johns Hopkins University, tried to do in the Wall Street Journal the day after Powell's UN speech. Cohen suggested that European nations' objections to the war might – yet again – be ascribed to "anti-Semitism of a type long thought dead in the West, a loathing that ascribes to Jews a malignant intent." This nonsense, it must be said, is opposed by many Israeli intellectuals who, like Uri Avnery, argue that an Iraq war will leave Israel with even more Arab enemies, especially if Iraq attacks Israel and Sharon then joins the US battle against the Arabs.
The slur of "anti-Semitism" also lies behind Rumsfeld's snotty remarks about "old Europe". He was talking about the "old" Germany of Nazism and the "old" France of collaboration. But the France and Germany that oppose this war are the "new" Europe, the continent which refuses, ever again, to slaughter the innocent. It is Rumsfeld and Bush who represent the "old" America; not the "new" America of freedom, the America of F D Roosevelt. Rumsfeld and Bush symbolise the old America that killed its native Indians and embarked on imperial adventures. It is "old" America we are being asked to fight for – linked to a new form of colonialism – an America that first threatens the United Nations with irrelevancy and then does the same to Nato. This is not the last chance for the UN, nor for Nato. But it may well be the last chance for America to be taken seriously by her friends as well as her enemies.
In these last days of peace the British should not be tripped by the oh-so-sought-after second UN resolution. UN permission for America's war will not make the war legitimate; it merely proves that the Council can be controlled with bribes, threats or abstentions. It was the Soviet Union's abstention, after all, which allowed America to fight the savage Korean war under the UN flag. And we should not doubt that – after a quick US military conquest of Iraq and providing 'they" die more than we die – there will be plenty of anti-war protesters who will claim they were pro-war all along. The first pictures of "liberated" Baghdad will show Iraqi children making victory signs to American tank crews. But the real cruelty and cynicism of this conflict will become evident as soon as the "war" ends, when our colonial occupation of a Muslim nation for the US and Israel begins.
There lies the rub. Bush calls Sharon a "man of peace". But Sharon fears he may yet face trial over Sabra and Chatila, which is why Israel has just withdrawn its ambassador to Belgium. I'd like to see Saddam in the same court. And Rifaat Assad for his 1982 massacre in the Syrian city of Hama. And all the torturers of Israel and the Arab dictatorships.
Israeli and US ambitions in the region are now entwined, almost synonymous. This war is about oil and regional control. It is being cheer-led by a draft-dodger who is treacherously telling us that this is part of an eternal war against "terror". And the British and most Europeans don't believe him. It's not that Britons wouldn't fight for America. They just don't want to fight for Bush or his friends. And if that includes the Prime Minister, they don't want to fight for Blair either.
|Re: R.Fisk: A.conflict.. self-interest of America|
|02/15/03 at 23:53:42|
WASHINGTON, DC?President Bush expressed frustration and anger Monday over a U.N. report stating that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is now fully complying with weapons inspections. "Enough is enough," a determined Bush told reporters. "We are not fooled by Saddam's devious attempts to sway world opinion by doing everything the U.N. asked him to do. Bush added that any further Iraqi attempt to meet the demands of the U.N. or U.S. will be regarded as "an act of war."
(joke though not far from reality eh)
|Re: R.Fisk: A.conflict.. self-interest of America|
|02/18/03 at 08:09:06|
|The US: A Nation Divided, With No Bridges Left to Build|
In Austin, Texas, Robert Fisk sees at first hand the vast gulf between the pro- and
anti-war movements in the United States
by Robert Fisk
The show was over, recorded for one of those nice liberal local American TV cable
channels ? this time in Texas ? where everyone agrees that war is wrong, that George Bush is in
the hands of right-wing Christian fundamentalists and pro-Israeli neo- conservatives.
Don Darling, the TV host, had just turned to thank me for my long and flu-laden
contribution. Then it happened. Cameraman number two came striding towards us through the studio
lights. "I want to thank you, sir, for reminding us that the British had a lot to do with
the chaos in the Middle East, " he said. "But I have something else to say."
His voice rose 10 decibels, his bare arms bouncing up and down at his sides, his shaven
head struck forward pugnaciously. "Yeah, I wanna tell you that the cause of this problem
is the fucking medieval Arabs and their wish to enslave us all ? and I tell you that it is
because we want to save the Jews from the fucking savage Arabs who want to throw them
into the sea that we are about to fuck Saddam." There was a pause as Don Darling looked at
the man, aghast. "And that," cameraman number two concluded, "is the fucking truth."
Darling called to the studio manager. "Where does this man come from?" he demanded to
know. The lady from the University of Texas ? organizer of this gentle little pow-wow ?
advanced on to the studio floor in horror: "Who is this person?" I didn't know whether to
laugh or cry. All of a sudden, our nice anti-war chat had been brought to a halt by a spot
of redneck reality. There really were right-wingers out there in the darkness who really
did want George Bush to zap the Arabs. I asked the guy his name: "Gregg Aykins," he said.
"And the FBI can do nothing to me if you give them my name."
It was a telling moment, a symbol of the vast gulf of reason between the pro- and
anti-war movement in America. They don't talk to each other. And if they do, neither comprehends
the other. Like the endless chat programs on Pacifica Radio and all the smaller liberal
talk shows from Boston to LA that serve up inedible dollops of anti-Bush, anti-Republican
rant, there is simply no contact between the intellectual "elite" of the left and the
less privileged Americans who work with their hands and join the military to gain a free
education and end up fighting America's foreign wars.
At a seminar at the University of North Carolina, I listened to a group of professors and
senior lecturers and "activists" debating how to influence the "path to war". "What we've
got to do is to reach out to mainstream press and bridge-build to other activists," a
lady with long gray hair announced, reading a list of proposals ? all couched in the
language of academic discourse that ensures her message is incomprehensible outside academia ?
which she wished to discuss.
Quite apart from the irredeemable nature of the "mainstream" press ? The New York Times,
The Washington Post and the rest are far too busy carrying more Iraqi horror stories from
"intelligence sources" than reporting the American anti-war movement ? the lady's desire
to "bridge-build" with fellow "activists" was all too familiar a theme.
The people with whom these liberal academics should be building bridges are the
truck-drivers and bell-hops and Amtrak crews, the poor blacks and the cops whose families provide
the cannon fodder for America's overseas military adventures. But that, of course, would
force intellectuals to emerge from the sheltered, tenured world of seminars and sit-ins
and deal directly with those whose opinions they wish to change.
When I made this very point at Harvard and several other universities, I was told, rather
patronizingly, that these people ? the phrase was almost identical ? had "so little
information" or are "not very informed". This is, in fact, untrue. I have heard as much sense
about the Middle East from a train crew en route from Washington to Georgia and from a
waiter in a St Louis diner as I have from the good folks of North Carolina.
Black Americans, for example, are uninhibited in their sympathy for Palestinians under
occupation. But when I told a lecturer in Austin that I had asked hotel staff and air crews
to turn up to my lectures on the Middle East and America ? and that all had come ? I was
treated with a kind of weird amazement, puzzlement that I should bother to ask such
unpromising material to think about the Arab-Israel conflict mixed with faint pity that I
should ever expect them to understand.
Sometimes I rather suspect that the anti-war left in America likes being in a permanent
minority. I mean no disrespect to the Noam Chomskys and Daniel Ellsbergs and Dennis
Bernsteins; they fight, amid abuse and threats, to make their voices heard. Yet I have an
uneasy feeling that many on the intellectual left are fearful that America will lose its next
war amid massive casualties ? but are even more fearful that America may win with minimal
Perhaps this is unfair. But as long as America's anti-war movement talks to itself rather
than to others, it is going to go on being surprised when the Gregg Aykinses emerge from
the darkness with their hatred and venom intact to support George Bush's forthcoming war
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