The War Lovers

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The war lovers
I have known in real wars have usually been harmless, except to
themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam and Cambodia, where drugs
were plentiful. Bosnia, with its roulette of death, was another
favourite. A few would say they were there "to tell the world";
the honest ones would say they loved it. "War is fun!"
one of them had scratched on his arm. He stood on a landmine.

I sometimes
remember these almost endearing fools when I find myself faced with
another kind of war lover — the kind that has not seen war and has
often done everything possible not to see it. The passion of these
war lovers is a phenomenon; it never dims, regardless of the distance
from the object of their desire. Pick up the Sunday papers and there
they are, egocentrics of little harsh experience, other than a Saturday
in Sainsbury’s. Turn on the television and there they are again,
night after night, intoning not so much their love of war as their
sales pitch for it on behalf of the court to which they are assigned.
"There’s no doubt," said Matt Frei, the BBC’s man in America,
"that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to
the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East . .
. is now increasingly tied up with military power."

Frei said that
on 13 April 2003, after George W Bush had launched "Shock and
Awe" on a defenceless Iraq. Two years later, after a rampant,
racist, woefully trained and ill-disciplined army of occupation
had brought "American values" of sectarianism, death squads,
chemical attacks, attacks with uranium-tipped shells and cluster
bombs, Frei described the notorious 82nd Airborne as "the heroes
of Tikrit."

Last year,
he lauded Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the slaughter in Iraq, as
"an intellectual" who "believes passionately in the
power of democracy and grass-roots development." As for Iran,
Frei was well ahead of the story. In June 2003, he told BBC viewers:
"There may be a case for regime change in Iran, too."

How many men,
women and children will be killed, maimed or sent mad if Bush attacks
Iran? The prospect of an attack is especially exciting for those
war lovers understandably disappointed by the turn of events in
Iraq. "The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth,"
wrote Gerard Baker in the Times last month, "is that we are
going to have to get ready for war with Iran . . . If Iran gets
safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold
moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik
revolution and the coming of Hitler." Sound familiar? In February
2003, Baker wrote that "victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate
US and British claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses."

The "coming
of Hitler" is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was heard before
Nato’s "moral crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in 1999,
a model for the invasion of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia, 2 per
cent of Nato’s missiles hit military targets; the rest hit hospitals,
schools, factories, churches and broadcasting studios. Echoing Blair
and a clutch of Clinton officials, a massed media chorus declared
that "we" had to stop "something approaching genocide"
in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in 2002 in the Guardian.
"Echoes of the Holocaust," said the front pages of the
Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned
of a "Balkan Final Solution."

The recent
death of Slobodan Milosevic took the war lovers and war sellers
down memory lane. Curiously, "genocide" and "Holocaust"
and the "coming of Hitler" were now missing — for the
very good reason that, like the drumbeat leading to the invasion
of Iraq and the drumbeat now leading to an attack on Iran, it was
all bullshit. Not misinterpretation. Not a mistake. Not blunders.

The "mass
graves" in Kosovo would justify it all, they said. When the
bombing was over, international forensic teams began subjecting
Kosovo to minute examination. The FBI arrived to investigate what
was called "the largest crime scene in the FBI’s forensic history."
Several weeks later, having found not a single mass grave, the FBI
and other forensic teams went home.

In 2000, the
International War Crimes Tribunal announced that the final count
of bodies found in Kosovo’s "mass graves" was 2,788. This
included Serbs, Roma and those killed by "our" allies,
the Kosovo Liberation Front. It meant that the justification for
the attack on Serbia ("225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between
14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead," the US ambassador-at-large
David Scheffer had claimed) was an invention. To my knowledge, only
the Wall Street Journal admitted this. A former senior Nato
planner, Michael McGwire, wrote that "to describe the bombing
as u2018humanitarian intervention’ [is] really grotesque." In fact,
the Nato "crusade" was the final, calculated act of a
long war of attrition aimed at wiping out the very idea of Yugoslavia.

For me, one
of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton,
and their eager or gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm
of sedentary, effete men (and women) for bloodshed they never see,
bits of body they never have to retch over, stacked morgues they
will never have to visit, searching for a loved one. Their role
is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken truth and public lies.
That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale killers
such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former.

23, 2006

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 2006

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