Iran May be the Greatest Crisis of Modern Times

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The Israeli
journalist Amira Hass describes the moment her mother, Hannah, was
marched from a cattle train to the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.
“They were sick and some were dying,” she says. “Then
my mother saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just
looking. This image became very formative in my upbringing, this
despicable ‘looking from the side’.”

It is time
we in Britain and other Western countries stopped looking from the
side. We are being led towards perhaps the most serious crisis in
modern history as the Bush-Cheney-Blair “long war” edges
closer to Iran for no reason other than that nation’s independence
from rapacious America. The safe delivery of the 15 British sailors
into the hands of Rupert Murdoch and his rivals (with tales of their
“ordeal” almost certainly authored by the Ministry of
Defense — until it got the wind up) is both a farce and a distraction.
The Bush administration, in secret connivance with Blair, has spent
four years preparing for “Operation Iranian Freedom.”
Forty-five cruise missiles are primed to strike. According to Russia’s
leading strategic thinker General Leonid Ivashov: “Nuclear
facilities will be secondary targets… at least 20 such facilities
need to be destroyed. Combat nuclear weapons may be used. This will
result in the radioactive contamination of all the Iranian territory,
and beyond.”

And yet there
is a surreal silence, save for the noise of “news” in
which our powerful broadcasters gesture cryptically at the obvious
but dare not make sense of it, lest the one-way moral screen erected
between us and the consequences of an imperial foreign policy collapse
and the truth be revealed.

One million
Iraqis fill the streets of Najaf demanding that Bush and Blair get
out of their homeland — that is the real news: not our nabbed
sailor-spies, nor the political danse macabre of the pretenders
to Blair’s Duce delusions. Whether it is treasurer Gordon Brown,
the paymaster of the Iraq bloodbath, or John Reid, who sent British
troops to pointless deaths in Afghanistan, or any of the others
who sat through cabinet meetings knowing that Blair and his acolytes
were lying through their teeth, only mutual distrust separates them
now. They knew about Blair’s plotting with Bush. They knew
about the fake 45-minute “warning.” They knew about the
fitting up of Iran as the next “enemy.”

Declared Brown
to the Daily Mail: “The days of Britain having to apologize
for its colonial history are over. We should celebrate much of our
past rather than apologize for it.” In Late Victorian Holocausts,
the historian Mike Davis documents that as many as 21 million Indians
died unnecessarily in famines criminally imposed by British colonial
policies. Moreover, since the formal demise of that glorious imperium,
declassified files make it clear that British governments have borne
“significant responsibility” for the direct or indirect
deaths of between 8.6 million and 13.5 million people throughout
the world from military interventions and at the hands of regimes
strongly supported by Britain. The historian Mark Curtis calls these
victims “unpeople.” Rejoice! said Margaret Thatcher. Celebrate!
says Brown. Spot the difference.

Brown is no
different from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the other warmongering
Democrats he admires and who support an unprovoked attack on Iran
and the subjugation of the Middle East to “our interests”
— and Israel’s, of course. Nothing has changed since the
US and Britain destroyed Iran’s democratic government in 1953
and installed Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose regime had “the highest
rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian
courts and a history of torture” that was “beyond belief”

Look behind
the one-way moral screen and you will distinguish the Blairite elite
by its loathing of the humane principles that mark a real democracy.
They used to be discreet about this, but no more. Two examples spring
to mind. In 2004, Blair used the secretive “royal prerogative”
to overturn a high court judgment that had restored the very principle
of human rights set out in Magna Carta to the people of the Chagos
Islands, a British colony in the Indian Ocean. There was no debate.
As ruthless as any dictator, Blair dealt his coup de grâce
with the lawless expulsion of the islanders from their homeland,
now a US military base, from which Bush has bombed Iraq and Afghanistan
and will bomb Iran.

In the second
example, only the degree of suffering is different. Last October,
the Lancet published research by Johns Hopkins University
in the US and al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad which calculated
that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the Anglo-American
invasion. Downing Street officials derided the study as “flawed.”
They were lying. They knew that the chief scientific adviser to
the Ministry of Defense, Sir Roy Anderson, had backed the survey,
describing its methods as “robust” and “close to
best practice,” and other government officials had secretly
approved the “tried and tested way of measuring mortality in
conflict zones.” The figure for Iraqi deaths is now estimated
at close to a million — carnage equivalent to that caused by
the Anglo-American economic siege of Iraq in the 1990s, which produced
the deaths of half a million infants under the age of five, verified
by Unicef. That, too, was dismissed contemptuously by Blair.

Labour government, which includes Gordon Brown as much as it does
Tony Blair,” wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet,
“is party to a war crime of monstrous proportions. Yet our
political consensus prevents any judicial or civil society response.
Britain is paralyzed by its own indifference.”

Such is the
scale of the crime and of our “looking from the side.”
According to the Observer of 8 April, the voters’ “damning
verdict” on the Blair regime is expressed by a majority who
have “lost faith” in their government. No surprise there.
Polls have long shown a widespread revulsion to Blair, demonstrated
at the last general election, which produced the second-lowest turnout
since the franchise. No mention was made of the Observer’s
own contribution to this national loss of faith. Once celebrated
as a bastion of liberalism that stood against Anthony Eden’s
lawless attack on Egypt in 1956, the new right-wing, lifestyle Observer
enthusiastically backed Blair’s lawless attack on Iraq, having
helped lay the ground with major articles falsely linking Iraq with
the 9/11 attacks — claims now regarded even by the Pentagon
as fake.

As hysteria
is again fabricated, for Iraq, read Iran. According to the former
US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, the Bush cabal decided
to attack Iraq on “day one” of Bush’s administration,
long before 11 September 2001. The main reason was oil. O’Neill
was shown a Pentagon document entitled “Foreign Suitors for
Iraqi Oilfield Contracts,” which outlined the carve-up of Iraq’s
oil wealth among the major Anglo-American companies. Under a law
written by US and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is
about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of
oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.

Nothing like
this piracy has happened before in the modern Middle East, where
OPEC has ensured that oil business is conducted between states.
Across the Shatt al-Arab waterway is another prize: Iran’s
vast oilfields. Just as nonexistent weapons of mass destruction
or facile concerns for democracy had nothing to do with the invasion
of Iraq, so nonexistent nuclear weapons have nothing to do with
the coming American onslaught on Iran. Unlike Israel and the United
States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, of which it was an original signatory, and has allowed routine
inspections under its legal obligations. The International Atomic
Energy Agency has never cited Iran for diverting its civilian program
to military use. For the past three years, IAEA inspectors have
said they have been allowed to “go anywhere.” The recent
UN Security Council sanctions against Iran are the result of Washington’s

Until recently,
the British were unaware that their government was one of the world’s
most consistent abusers of human rights and backers of state terrorism.
Few Britons knew that the Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of
al-Qaeda, was sponsored by British intelligence as a means of systematically
destroying secular Arab nationalism, or that MI6 recruited young
British Muslims in the 1980s as part of a $4bn Anglo-American-backed
jihad against the Soviet Union known as “Operation Cyclone.”
In 2001, few Britons knew that 3,000 innocent Afghan civilians were
bombed to death as revenge for the attacks of 11 September. No Afghans
brought down the twin towers. Thanks to Bush and Blair, awareness
in Britain and all over the world has risen as never before. When
homegrown terrorists struck London in July 2005, few doubted that
the attack on Iraq had provoked the atrocity and that the bombs
which killed 52 Londoners were, in effect, Blair’s bombs.

In my experience,
most people do not indulge the absurdity and cruelty of the “rules”
of rampant power. They do not contort their morality and intellect
to comply with double standards and the notion of approved evil,
of worthy and unworthy victims. They would, if they knew, grieve
for all the lives, families, careers, hopes and dreams destroyed
by Blair and Bush. The sure evidence is the British public’s
wholehearted response to the 2004 tsunami, shaming that of the government.

they would agree wholeheartedly with Robert H. Jackson, chief of
counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders
at the end of the Second World War. “Crimes are crimes,”
he said, “whether the United States does them or whether Germany
does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal
conduct which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

As with Henry
Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld, who dare not travel to certain countries
for fear of being prosecuted as war criminals, Blair as a private
citizen may no longer be untouchable. On 20 March, Baltasar Garzón,
the tenacious Spanish judge who pursued Augusto Pinochet, called
for indictments against those responsible for “one of the most
sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history”
— Iraq. Five days later, the chief prosecutor of the International
Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, said that Blair
could one day face war-crimes charges.

These are critical
changes in the way the sane world thinks — again, thanks to
the Reich of Blair and Bush. However, we live in the most dangerous
of times. On 6 April, Blair accused “elements of the Iranian
regime” of “backing, financing, arming and supporting
terrorism in Iraq.” He offered no evidence, and the Ministry
of Defense has none. This is the same Goebbels-like refrain with
which he and his coterie, Gordon Brown included, brought an epic
bloodletting to Iraq. How long will the rest of us continue looking
from the side?

13, 2007

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 in June. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.

John Pilger 2007

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