all the coverage of last week’s bombing of London, a basic truth
is struggling to be heard. It is this: no one doubts the atrocious
inhumanity of those who planted the bombs, but no one should also
doubt that this has been coming since the day Tony Blair joined
George Bush in their bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq. They
are "Blair’s bombs," and he ought not be allowed to evade
culpability with yet another unctuous speech about "our way
of life," which his own rapacious violence in other countries
Indeed, the only reliable warning from British intelligence in the
run-up to the invasion of Iraq was that which predicted a sharp
increase in terrorism "with Britain and Britons a target."
A House of Commons committee has since verified this warning. Had
Blair heeded it instead of conspiring to deceive the nation that
Iraq offered a threat, the Londoners who died on Thursday might
be alive today, along with tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
Three weeks ago, a classified CIA report revealed that the Anglo-American
invasion of Iraq had turned that country into a focal point of terrorism.
None of the intelligence agencies regarded Iraq as such a flashpoint
before the invasion, however tyrannical the regime. On the contrary,
in 2003, the CIA reported that Iraq "exported no terrorist
threat to his neighbours" and that Saddam Hussein was "implacably
hostile to Al-Qaeda."
Blair’s and Bush’s invasion changed all that. In invading a stricken
and defenceless country at the heart of the Islamic and Arab world,
their adventure became self-fulfilling; Blair’s epic irresponsibility
has brought the daily horrors of Iraq home to Britain. For more
than a year, he has urged the British to "move on" from
Iraq, and last week it seemed that his spinmeisters and good fortune
had joined hands. The awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London created
the fleeting illusion that all was well, regardless of messy events
in a faraway country.
Moreover, the G8 meeting in Scotland and its accompanying "Make
Poverty History" campaign and circus of celebrities served
as a temporary cover for what is arguably the greatest political
scandal of modern times: an illegal, brutal and craven invasion
conceived in lies and which, under the system of international law
established at Nuremberg, represented a "paramount war crime."
Over the past two weeks, the contrast between the coverage of the
G8, its marches and pop concerts, and another "global"
event has been striking. The World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul
has had virtually no coverage, yet the evidence it has produced,
the most damning to date, has been the silent spectre at the Geldoff
The tribunal is a serious international public inquiry into the
invasion and occupation, the kind governments dare not hold. Its
expert, eyewitness testimonies, said the author Arundathi Roy, a
tribunal jury member, "demonstrate that even those of us who
have tried to follow the war closely are not aware of a fraction
of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq." The most
shocking was given by Dahr Jamail, one of the best un-embedded reporters
working in Iraq. He described how the hospitals of besieged Fallujah
had been subjected to an American tactic of collective punishment,
with US marines assaulting staff and stopping the wounded entering,
and American snipers firing at the doors and windows, and medicines
and emergency blood prevented from reaching them. Children, the
elderly, were shot dead in front of their families, in cold blood.
Imagine for a moment the same appalling state of affairs imposed
on the London hospitals that received the victims of Thursday’s
bombing. Unimaginable? Well, it happens, in our name, regardless
of whether the BBC reports it, which is rare. When will someone
ask about this at one of the staged "press conferences"
at which Blair is allowed to emote for the cameras stuff about "our
values outlast [ing] theirs"? Silence is not journalism. In
Fallujah, they know "our values" only too well.
While the two men responsible for the carnage in Iraq, Bush and
Blair, were side by side at Gleneagles, why wasn’t the connection
of their fraudulent "war on terror" made with the bombing
in London? And when will someone in the political class say that
Blair’s smoke-and-mirrors "debt cancellation" at best
amounts to less than the money the government spent in a week brutalising
Iraq, where British and American violence is the cause of the doubling
of child poverty and malnutrition since Saddam Hussein was overthrown
The truth is that the debt relief the G8 is offering is lethal because
its ruthless "conditionalities" of captive economies far
outweigh any tenuous benefit. This was taboo during the G8 week,
whose theme was not so much making poverty history as the silencing
and pacifying and co-opting dissent and truth. The mawkish images
on giant screens behind the pop stars in Hyde Park included no pictures
of murdered Iraqi doctors with the blood streaming from their heads,
cut down by Bush’s snipers. Real life became more satirical than
satire could ever be.
There was Bob Geldoff on the front pages resting his smiling face
on smiling Blair’s shoulder, the war criminal and his knighted jester.
There was an heroically silhouetted Bono, who celebrates men like
Jeffrey Sachs as saviours of the world’s poor while lauding "compassionate"
George Bush’s "war on terror" as one of his generation’s
greatest achievements; and there was Paul Wolfowitz, beaming and
promising to make poverty history: this is the man who, before he
was handed control of the World Bank, was an apologist for Suharto’s
genocidal regime in Indonesia, who was one of the architects of
Bush’s "neo-con" putsch and of the bloodfest in Iraq and
the notion of "endless war." For the politicians and pop
stars and church leaders and polite people who believed Blair and
Gordon Brown when they declared their "great moral crusade"
against poverty, Iraq was an embarrassment. The killing of more
than 100,000 Iraqis mostly by American gunfire and bombs —
a figure reported in a comprehensive peer-reviewed study in The
Lancet — was airbrushed from mainstream debate.
In our free societies, the unmentionable is that "the state
has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people,"
as Arthur Miller once wrote, "and so the evidence has to be
internally denied." Not only denied, but distracted by an entire
court: Geldoff, Bono, Madonna, McCartney et al., whose "Live
8" was the very antithesis of 15 February 2003 when two million
people brought their hearts and brains and anger to the streets
of London. Blair will almost certainly use last week’s atrocity
and tragedy to further deplete basic human rights in Britain, as
Bush has done in America. The goal is not security, but greater
control. Above all this, the memory of their victims, "our"
victims, in Iraq demands the return of our anger. And nothing less
is owed to those who died and suffered in London last week, unnecessarily.
Pilger 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. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs, is
published by Jonathan Cape next month. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.
John Pilger 2005