disaster in Iraq is rotting the Blairite establishment. Blair himself
appears ever more removed from reality; his latest tomfoolery about
the "discovery" of "a huge system of clandestine
weapons laboratories," which even the American viceroy in Baghdad
mocked, would be astonishing, were it not merely another of his
vapid attempts to justify his crime against humanity. (His crime,
and George Bush's, is clearly defined as "supreme" in
the Nuremberg judgment.)
is not what the guardians of the faith want you to know. Lord Hutton,
who is due to report on the Kelly affair, will provide the most
effective distraction, just as Lord Justice Scott did with his arms-to-Iraq
report almost ten years ago, ensuring that the top echelon of the
political class escaped criminal charges. Of course, it was not
Hutton's "brief" to deal with the criminal slaughter in
Iraq; he will spread the blame for one man's torment and death,
having pointedly and scandalously chosen not to recall and cross-examine
Blair, even though Blair revealed during his appearance before Hutton
that he had lied in "emphatically" denying he had had
anything to do with "outing" Dr. David Kelly.
guardians have been assiduously at work. The truth of public opposition
to an illegal, unprovoked invasion, expressed in the biggest demonstration
in modern history, is being urgently revised. In a valedictory piece
on 30 December, the Guardian commentator and leader writer
Martin Kettle wrote: "Opponents of the war may need to be reminded
that public opinion currently approves of the invasion by nearly
two to one."
favorite source for this is a Guardian/ICM poll published
on 18 November, the day Bush arrived in London, which was reported
beneath the front-page headline "Protests begin but majority
backs Bush visit as support for war surges." Out of 1,002 people
contacted, just 426 said they welcomed Bush's visit, while the majority
said they were opposed to it or did not know. As for support for
the war "surging," the absurdly small number questioned
still produced a majority that opposed the invasion.
the world, the "majority backs Bush" disinformation was
seized upon – by William Shawcross on CNN ("The majority
of the British people are glad he [Bush] came…"), by the
equally warmongering William Safire in the New York Times
and by the Murdoch press almost everywhere. Thus, the slaughter
in Iraq, the destruction of democratic rights and civil liberties
in the west and the preparation for the next invasion are "normalized."
"The Banality of Evil," Edward S. Herman wrote, "Doing
terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on u2018normalization'…
There is usually a division of labor in doing and rationalizing
the unthinkable, with the direct brutalizing 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
normalize the unthinkable for the general public."
"normalizing" is expressed succinctly by Kettle: "As
2003 draws to its close, it is surely al-Qaeda, rather than the
repercussions of Iraq, that casts a darker shadow over Britain's
future." How does he know this? The "mass of intelligence
flowing across the Prime Minister's desk," of course! He calls
this "cold-eyed realism," omitting to mention that the
only credible intelligence "flowing across the Prime Minister's
desk" was the common sense that an Anglo-American attack on
Iraq would increase the threat from al-Qaeda.
the normalizers don't want you to know is the nature and scale of
the "coalition" crime in Iraq – which Kettle calls
a "misjudgment" – and the true source of the worldwide
threat. Outside the work of a few outstanding journalists prepared
to go beyond the official compounds in Iraq, the extent of the human
carnage and material devastation is barely acknowledged. For example,
the effect of uranium weapons used by American and British forces
is suppressed. Iraqi and foreign doctors report that radiation illnesses
are common throughout Iraq, and troops have been warned not to approach
contaminated sites. Readings taken from destroyed Iraqi tanks in
British-controlled Basra are so high that a British army survey
team wore white, full-body radiation suits, face masks and gloves.
With nothing to warn them, Iraqi children play on and around the
the 10,000 Americans evacuated sick from Iraq, many have "mystery
illnesses" not unlike those suffered by veterans of the first
Gulf war. By mid-April last year, the US air force had deployed
more than 19,000 guided weapons and 311,000 rounds of uranium A10
shells. According to a November 2003 study by the Uranium Medical
Research Center, witnesses living next to Baghdad airport reported
a huge death toll following one morning's attack from aerial bursts
of thermobaric and fuel air bombs. Since then, a vast area has been
"landscaped" by US earth movers, and fenced. Jo Wilding,
a British human rights observer in Baghdad, has documented a catalogue
of miscarriages, hair loss, and horrific eye, skin and respiratory
problems among people living near the area. Yet the US and Britain
steadfastly refuse to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency
to conduct systematic monitoring tests for uranium contamination
in Iraq. The Ministry of Defense, which has admitted that British
tanks fired depleted uranium in and around Basra, says that British
troops "will have access to biological monitoring." Iraqis
have no such access and receive no specialist medical help.
to the non-governmental organization Medact,
between 21,700 and 55,000 Iraqis died between 20 March and 20 October
last year. This includes up to 9,600 civilians. Deaths and injury
of young children from unexploded cluster bombs are put at 1,000
a month. These are conservative estimates; the ripples of trauma
throughout the society cannot be imagined. Neither the US nor Britain
counts its Iraqi victims, whose epic suffering is "not relevant,"
according to a US State Department official – just as the slaughter
of more than 200,000 Iraqis during and immediately after the 1991
Gulf war, calculated in a Medical Education Trust study, was "not
relevant" and not news.
normalizers are anxious that this terror is again not recognized
(the BBC confines its use of "terrorism" and "atrocities"
to the Iraqi resistance) and that the wider danger it represents
throughout the world is overshadowed by the threat of al-Qaeda.
William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA,
has attacked the antiwar movement for not joining Bush's "war
on terror." He says "the left" must join Bush's campaign,
even his "preemptive" wars, or risk – that word again
– "irrelevance." This echoes other liberal normalizers
who, by facing both ways, provide propaganda cover for rapacious
power to expand its domain with "humanitarian interventions"
– such as the bombing to death of some 3,000 civilians in Afghanistan
and the swap of the Taliban for US-backed warlords, murderers and
rapists known as "commanders."
criticism ignores the truth in Amnesty's own studies. Amnesty USA
reports that the Bush administration is harboring thousands of foreign
torturers, including several mass murderers. By a simple mathematical
comparison of American and al-Qaeda terror, the latter is a lethal
flea. In the past 50 years, the US has supported and trained state
terrorists in Latin America, Africa and Asia. The toll of their
victims is in the millions. Again, the documentation is in Amnesty's
files. The dictator Suharto's seizure of power in Indonesia was
responsible for "one of the greatest mass murders of the 20th
century," according to the CIA. The US supplied arms, logistics,
intelligence and assassination lists. Britain supplied warships
and black propaganda to cover the trail of blood. Scholars now put
Suharto's victims in 1965–66 at almost a million; in East Timor,
he oversaw the death of one-third of the population: 200,000 men,
women and children.
the mass murderer lives in sumptuous retirement in Jakarta, his
billions safe in foreign banks. Unlike Saddam Hussein, an amateur
by comparison, there will be no show trial for Suharto, who remained
obediently within the US terror network. (One of Suharto's most
outspoken protectors and apologists in the State Department during
the 1980s was Paul Wolfowitz, the current "brains" behind
the sublime days before 11 September 2001, when the powerful were
routinely attacking and terrorizing the weak, and those dying were
black or brown-skinned non-people living in faraway places such
as Zaire and Guatemala, there was no terrorism. When the weak attacked
the powerful, spectacularly on 9/11, there was terrorism.
is not to say the threat from al-Qaeda and other fanatical groups
is not real; what the normalizers don't want you to know is that
the most pervasive danger is posed by "our" governments,
whose subordinates in journalism and scholarship cast always as
benign: capable of misjudgment and blunder, never of high crime.
Fueled by religious fanaticism, a corrupt Americanism and rampant
corporate greed, the Bush cabal is pursuing what the military historian
Anatol Lieven calls "the classic modern strategy of an endangered
right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into nationalism,"
inspired by fear of lethal threats. Bush's America, he warns, "has
become a menace to itself and to mankind."
unspoken truth is that Blair, too, is a menace. "There never
has been a time," said Blair in his address to the US Congress
last year, "when the power of America was so necessary or so
misunderstood or when, except in the most general sense, a study
of history provides so little instruction for our present day."
His fatuous dismissal of history was his way of warning us off the
study of imperialism. He wants us to forget and to fail to recognize
historically the "national security state" that he and
Bush are erecting as a "necessary" alternative to democracy.
The father of fascism, Benito Mussolini, understood this. "Modern
fascism," he said, "should be properly called corporatism,
since it is the merger of state, military and corporate power."
Blair and the normalizers now speak, almost with relish, of opening
mass graves in Iraq. What they do not want you to know is that the
largest mass graves are the result of a popular uprising that followed
the 1991 Gulf war, in direct response to a call by President George
Bush Sr. to "take matters into your own hands and force Saddam
to step aside." So successful were the rebels initially that
within days Saddam's rule had collapsed across the south. A new
start for the people of Iraq seemed close at hand.
Washington, the tyrant's old paramour who had supplied him with
$5bn worth of conventional arms, chemical and biological weapons
and industrial technology, intervened just in time. The rebels suddenly
found themselves confronted with the United States helping Saddam
against them. US forces prevented them from reaching Iraqi arms
depots. They denied them shelter, and gave Saddam's Republican Guard
safe passage through US lines in order to attack the rebels. US
helicopters circled overhead, observing, taking photographs, while
Saddam's forces crushed the uprising. In the north, the same happened
to the Kurdish insurrection. "The Americans did everything
for Saddam," said the writer on the Middle East Said Aburish,
"except join the fight on his side." Bush Sr. did not
want a divided Iraq, certainly not a democratic Iraq. The New
York Times commentator Thomas Friedman, a guard dog of US foreign
policy, was more to the point. What Washington wanted was a successful
coup by an "iron-fisted junta": Saddam without Saddam.
has changed. As Milan Rai documents in his new book, Regime
Unchanged, the most senior and ruthless elements of Saddam's
security network, the Mukha-barat, are now in the pay of the US
and Britain, helping them to combat the resistance and recruit those
who will run a puppet regime behind a facade. A CIA-run and -paid
Gestapo of 10,000 will operate much as they did under Saddam. "What
is happening in Iraq," writes Rai, "is re-Nazification…
just as in Germany after the war."
knows this and says nothing. Consider his unctuous words to British
troops in Basra the other day about curtailing the spread of weapons
of mass destruction. Like so many of his deceptions, this covers
the fact that his government has increased the export of weapons
and military equipment to some of the most oppressive regimes on
earth, such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Nepal. To oil-rich Saudi
Arabia, home of most of the 11 September hijackers and friend of
the Taliban, where women are tormented and people are executed for
apostasy, go major British weapons systems, along with leg irons,
gang chains, shock belts and shackles. To Indonesia, whose unreconstructed,
blood-soaked military is trying to crush the independence movement
in Aceh, go British "riot control" vehicles and Hawk fighter-bombers.
and Blair have been crowing about Libya's capitulation on weapons
of mass destruction it almost certainly did not have. This is the
result, as Scott Ritter has written, of "coerced concessions
given more as a means of buying time than through any spirit of
true cooperation" – as Bush and Blair have undermined
the very international law upon which real disarmament is based.
On 8 December, the UN General Assembly voted on a range of resolutions
on disarmament. The United States opposed all the most important
ones, including those dealing with nuclear weapons. The Bush administration
has contingency plans, spelt out in the Pentagon's 2002 Nuclear
Posture Review, to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, Syria,
Iran and China. Following suit, the UK Defense Secretary, Geoffrey
Hoon, announced that for the first time, Britain would attack non-nuclear
states with nuclear weapons "if necessary."
is as it was 50 years ago when, according to declassified files,
the British government collaborated with American plans to wage
"preventive" atomic war against the Soviet Union. No public
discussion was permitted; the unthinkable was normalized. Today,
history is our warning that, once again, the true threat is close
Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, film-maker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. This article first appeared in the