Sinister Events in a Cynical War

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are questions that are not being asked about the latest twist of
a cynical war. Were explosives and a remote-control detonator found
in the car of the two SAS special forces men "rescued"
from prison in Basra on 19 September? If true, what were they planning
to do with them? Why did the British military authorities in Iraq
put out an unbelievable version of the circumstances that led up
to armored vehicles smashing down the wall of a prison?

to the head of Basra’s Governing Council, which has cooperated with
the British, five civilians were killed by British soldiers. A judge
says nine. How much is an Iraqi life worth? Is there to be no honest
accounting in Britain for this sinister event, or do we simply accept
Defense Secretary John Reid’s customary arrogance? "Iraqi law
is very clear," he said. "British personnel are immune
from Iraqi legal process." He omitted to say that this fake
immunity was invented by Iraq’s occupiers.

"embedded" journalists in Iraq and London, attempting
to protect the British line was like watching a satire of the whole
atrocity in Iraq. First, there was feigned shock that the Iraqi
regime’s "writ" did not run outside its American fortifications
in Baghdad and the "British trained" police in Basra might
be "infiltrated." An outraged Jeremy Paxman wanted to
know how two of our boys — in fact, highly suspicious foreigners
dressed as Arabs and carrying a small armory — could possibly be
arrested by police in a "democratic" society. "Aren’t
they supposed to be on our side?" he demanded.

reported initially by the Times and the Mail, all mention of the
explosives allegedly found in the SAS men’s unmarked Cressida vanished
from the news. Instead, the story was the danger the men faced if
they were handed over to the militia run by the "radical"
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "Radical" is a gratuitous embedded
term; al-Sadr has actually cooperated with the British. What did
he have to say about the "rescue"? Quite a lot, none of
which was reported in this country. His spokesman, Sheikh Hassan
al-Zarqani, said the SAS men, disguised as al-Sadr’s followers,
were planning an attack on Basra ahead of an important religious
festival. "When the police tried to stop them," he said,
"[they] opened fire on the police and passers-by. After a car
chase, they were arrested. What our police found in the car was
very disturbing — weapons, explosives and a remote control detonator.
These are the weapons of terrorists."

episode illuminates the most enduring lie of the Anglo-American
adventure. This says the "coalition" is not to blame for
the bloodbath in Iraq — which it is, overwhelmingly — and that foreign
terrorists orchestrated by al-Qaeda are the real culprits. The conductor
of the orchestra, goes this line, is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian.
The demonry of Al-Zarqawi is central to the Pentagon’s "Strategic
Information Program" set up to shape news coverage of the occupation.
It has been the Americans’ single unqualified success. Turn on any
news in the US and Britain, and the embedded reporter standing inside
an American (or British) fortress will repeat unsubstantiated claims
about al-Zarqawi.

impressions are the result: that Iraqis’ right to resist an illegal
invasion — a right enshrined in international law — has been usurped
and de-legitimized by callous foreign terrorists, and that a civil
war is under way between the Shi’ites and the Sunni. A member of
the Iraqi National Assembly, Fatah al-Sheikh said this week, "There
is a huge campaign for the agents of the foreign occupiers to enter
and plant hatred between the sons of the Iraqi people and spread
rumors in order to scare the one from the other . . . The occupiers
are trying to start religious incitement and if it does not happen,
then they will start an internal Shi’ite incitement."

Anglo-American goal of "federalism" for Iraq is part of
an imperial strategy of provoking divisions in a country where traditionally
the communities have overlapped, even intermarried. The Osama-like
promotion of al-Zarqawi is integral to this. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel,
he is everywhere but nowhere. When the Americans crushed the city
of Fallujah last year, the justification for their atrocious behavior
was "getting those guys loyal to al-Zarqawi." But the
city’s civil and religious authorities denied he was ever there
or had anything to do with the resistance.

is simply an invention," said the Imam of Baghdad’s al-Kazimeya
mosque. "Al-Zarqawi was killed in the beginning of the war
in the Kurdish north. His family even held a ceremony after his
death." Whether or not this is true, al-Zarqawi’s "foreign
invasion" serves as Bush’s and Blair’s last veil for their
"war on terror" and botched attempt to control the world’s
second biggest source of oil.

23 September, the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Washington, an establishment body, published a report that accused
the US of "feeding the myth" of foreign fighters in Iraqi
who account for less than 10 per cent of a resistance estimated
at 30,000. Of the eight comprehensive studies into the number of
Iraqi civilians killed by the "coalition," four put the
figure at more than 100,000. Until the British army is withdrawn
from where it has no right to be, and those responsible for this
monumental act of terrorism are indicted by the International Criminal
Court, Britain is shamed.

28, 2005

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

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