The Crime Committed in Our Name

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The invasion of Iraq, which began one year ago today,
was "organised with lies," says the new Spanish Prime
Minister. Does anyone doubt this any more?

And yet these proven lies are still dominant in Australia. Day
after day, their perpetrators seek to obfuscate and justify an unprovoked,
illegal attack that killed up to 55,000 people, including at least
10,000 civilians; that every month causes the death and injury of
1000 children from exploding cluster bombs; that has so saturated
Iraqi towns and cities with uranium that American and British soldiers
are warned not to go where Iraqi children play, for fear of contamination.

Set that carnage against the Madrid atrocity. Terrible though that
act of terrorism was, it was small compared with the terrorism of
the American-led "coalition." Yes, terrorism. How strange
it reads when it describes the actions of "our" governments.
So saturated are we in the West in the devilry of Third World tyrants
(most of them the products of Western imperialism) that we have
lost all sense of the enormous crime committed in our name.

This is not rhetoric. In 1946, the judges who tried the German
leadership at Nuremberg called the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign
country "the supreme international war crime." That principle
guided more than half a century of international law, until Bush
and Blair and Howard tore it up, covering their actions with a litany
of lies.

On February 4 last year, in a speech lasting less than an hour,
John Howard referred more than 30 times to the "threat"
posed by Saddam Hussein. He offered authoritative detail: that Iraq’s
"arsenal of chemical and biological weapons (was) intact"
and was a "massive program." All of this was false.

Ray McGovern, one of the CIA’s most senior analysts and a personal
friend of George Bush snr, told me: "It was 95 per cent charade.
And they all knew it: Bush, Blair, Howard."

The true danger is where a rampant superpower will strike next:
watch out Korea, Syria, Iran, even China.

Set that truth against the present carnage in Iraq, and set it
against the wilful destruction that preceded it, which was barely
reported in Australia.

The UN’s two senior officials in Iraq in the 1990s, Denis Halliday
and Hans Von Sponeck, both assistant secretaries-general of the
UN, have described in detail a "genocidal embargo" imposed
by America under a UN flag of convenience, aided and abetted by

"Almost a million Iraqis died as a direct result," Halliday
told me, "including at least half a million children. The UNICEF
studies are on the record. It was US policy to destroy the infrastructure
of Iraq, such as the water supply, which killed thousands of infants.
By the time Bush invaded, a once prosperous country was a stricken

In fact, UN records show that up to July 2002, more than $US5 billion
worth of humanitarian aid, approved by the UN Security Council and
paid for by Iraq, was blocked by the US.

How many Australians are aware of this and Australia’s complicity?
Howard sent RAN ships to police what in reality was a medieval-style
siege? Who dared listen to Halliday and other distinguished witnesses
that it was this terrible siege that reinforced Saddam’s rule and
prevented the Iraqi people from getting rid of him?

All this has been suppressed in Australia while the latest lies
are channelled and amplified by journalists. I am not referring
to the usual far-right windbags but those broadcasters who believe
sincerely they are being objective; by constantly framing the national
debate in the terms and cliches of mendacious power, they collude
with it, censoring by omission.

Do they ever consider that the very notion of a "war on terror"
is absurd when the power in Washington claiming to combat terror
has run an empire of terror: Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos,
Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua and now Haiti, again? By comparison
al-Qaeda is a lethal flea. The true danger is where a rampant superpower
will strike next: watch out Korea, Syria, Iran, even China.

As the prisoners begin to struggle home from the American concentration
camp at Guantanamo Bay, the scale of the crime is emerging. We now
know that the British military command virtually refused to send
troops to Iraq until Blair gave them a guarantee they would not
be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Blair’s guarantee
was worthless. And that frightens the British establishment, and
the Australian establishment, too.

Unlike the US, Britain and Australia are signatories to the ICC.
The times are changing; Washington-manipulated show trials of Third
World dictators are giving way to the promise of universal justice,
however tenuous it may seem.

The dock awaits those Westerners who bring terrorism to faraway
countries, then watch it blow back in our faces. Like al-Qaeda,
they should not be allowed to get away with it.

22, 2004

was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker 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.

John Pilger 2004

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