No Remembrance, No Remorse for the Fallen of Iraq

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On Remembrance
Day 2007 — Veterans Day in America — the great and the good bowed
their heads at the Cenotaph. Generals, politicians, newsreaders,
football managers and stock-market traders wore their poppies. Hypocrisy
was a presence. No one mentioned Iraq. No one uttered the slightest
remorse for the fallen of that country. No one read the forbidden
list.

The forbidden
list documents, without favor, the part the British state and its
court have played in the destruction of Iraq. Here it is:

  1. Holocaust
    denial

    On 25 October,
    Dai Davies MP asked Gordon Brown about civilian deaths in Iraq.
    Brown passed the question to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband,
    who passed it to his junior minister, Kim Howells, who replied:
    "We continue to believe that there are no comprehensive
    or reliable figures for deaths since March 2003." This
    was a deception. In October 2006, 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 result of the Anglo-American invasion. A Freedom of Information
    search revealed that the government, while publicly dismissing
    the study, secretly backed it as comprehensive and reliable.
    The chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defense, Sir
    Roy Anderson, called its methods "robust" and "close
    to best practice." Other senior governments officials secretly
    acknowledged the survey’s "tried and tested way of measuring
    mortality in conflict zones." Since then, the British research
    polling agency, Opinion Research Business, has extrapolated
    a figure of 1.2 million deaths in Iraq. Thus, the scale of death
    caused by the British and US governments may well have surpassed
    that of the Rwanda genocide, making it the biggest single act
    of mass murder of the late 20th century and the 21st century.

  2. Looting

    The undeclared
    reason for the invasion of Iraq was the convergent ambitions
    of the neocons, or neo-fascists, in Washington and the far-right
    regimes of Israel. Both groups had long wanted Iraq crushed
    and the Middle East colonized to US and Israeli designs. The
    initial blueprint for this was the 1992 "Defense Planning
    Guidance", which outlined America’s post-Cold War plans
    to dominate the Middle East and beyond. Its authors included
    Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell, architects of
    the 2003 invasion. Following the invasion, Paul Bremer, a neocon
    fanatic, was given absolute civil authority in Baghdad and in
    a series of decrees turned the entire future Iraqi economy over
    to US corporations. As this was lawless, the corporate plunderers
    were given immunity from all forms of prosecution. The Blair
    government was fully complicit and even objected when it looked
    as if UK companies might be excluded from the most profitable
    looting. British officials were awarded functionary colonial
    posts. A petroleum "law" will allow, in effect, foreign
    oil companies to approve their own contracts over Iraq’s vast
    energy resources. This will complete the greatest theft since
    Hitler stripped his European conquests.

  3. Destroying
    a nation’s health

    In 1999,
    I interviewed Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, a cancer specialist at Basra
    city hospital. "Before the Gulf War," he said, "we
    had only three or four deaths in a month from cancer. Now it’s
    30 to 35 patients dying every month. Our studies indicate that
    40 to 48 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer."
    Iraq was then in the grip of an economic and humanitarian siege,
    initiated and driven by the US and Britain. The result, wrote
    Hans von Sponeck, the then chief UN humanitarian official in
    Baghdad, was "genocidal . . . practically an entire nation
    was subjected to poverty, death and destruction of its physical
    and mental foundations." Most of southern Iraq remains
    polluted with the toxic debris of British and American explosives,
    including uranium-238 shells. Iraqi doctors pleaded in vain
    for help, citing the levels of leukemia among children as the
    highest seen since Hiroshima. Professor Karol Sikora, chief
    of the World Health Organization’s cancer program, wrote in
    the BMJ: "Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy
    drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States
    and British advisers [to the Sanctions Committee]." In
    1999, Kim Howells, then trade minister, effectively banned the
    export to Iraq of vaccines that would protect mostly children
    from diphtheria, tetanus and yellow fever, which, he said, "are
    capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction."

    Since 2003,
    apart from PR exercises for the embedded media, the British
    occupiers have made no attempt to re-equip and resupply hospitals
    that, prior to 1991, were regarded as the best in the Middle
    East. In July, Oxfam reported that 43 per cent of Iraqis were
    living in "absolute poverty." Under the occupation,
    malnutrition rates among children have spiraled to 28 per cent.
    A secret Defense Intelligence Agency document, "Iraq Water
    Treatment Vulnerabilities", reveals that the civilian water
    supply was deliberately targeted. As a result, the great majority
    of the population has neither access to running water nor sanitation
    — in a country where such basic services were once as universal
    as in Britain. "The mortality of children in Basra has
    increased by nearly 30 per cent compared to the Saddam Hussein
    era," said Dr. Haydar Salah, a pediatrician at Basra children’s
    hospital. "Children are dying daily and no one is doing
    anything to help them." In January this year, nearly 100
    leading British doctors wrote to Hilary Benn, then international
    development secretary, describing how children were dying because
    Britain had not fulfilled its obligations as an occupying power
    under UN Security Council Resolution 1483. Benn refused to see
    them.

  4. Destroying
    a society

    The UN
    estimates that 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing the country every
    month. The refugee crisis has now overtaken that of Darfur as
    the most catastrophic on earth. Half of Iraq’s doctors have
    gone, along with engineers and teachers. The most literate society
    in the Middle East is being dismantled, piece by piece. Out
    of more than four million displaced people, Britain last year
    refused the majority of more than 1,000 Iraqis who applied to
    come here, while removing more "illegal" Iraqi refugees
    than any other European country. Thanks to tabloid-inspired
    legislation, Iraqis in Britain are often destitute, with no
    right to work and no support. They sleep and scavenge in parks.
    The government, says Amnesty, "is trying to starve them
    out of the country."

  5. Propaganda

    "See
    in my line of work," said George W Bush, "you got
    to keep repeating things over and over again for the truth to
    sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

    Standing
    outside 10 Downing Street on 9 April 2003, the BBC’s then political
    editor, Andrew Marr, reported the fall of Baghdad as a victory
    speech. Tony Blair, he told viewers, "said they would be
    able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end
    the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points
    he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely
    ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight
    he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a
    result." In the United States, similar travesties passed
    as journalism. The difference was that leading American journalists
    began to consider the consequences of the role they had played
    in the buildup to the invasion. Several told me they believed
    that had the media challenged and investigated Bush’s and Blair’s
    lies, instead of echoing and amplifying them, the invasion might
    not have happened. A European study found that, of the major
    western television networks, the BBC permitted less coverage
    of dissent than all of them. A second study found that the BBC
    consistently gave credence to government propaganda that weapons
    of mass destruction existed. Unlike the Sun, the BBC has credibility
    — as does, or did, the Observer.

    On 14 October
    2001, the London Observer’s front page said: "US hawks
    accuse Iraq over anthrax." This was entirely false. Supplied
    by US intelligence, it was part of the Observer’s staunchly
    pro-war coverage, which included claiming a link between Iraq
    and al-Qaeda, for which there was no credible evidence and which
    betrayed the paper’s honorable past. One report over two pages
    was headlined: "The Iraqi connection." It, too, came
    from "intelligence sources" and was rubbish. The reporter,
    David Rose, concluded his barren inquiry with a heartfelt plea
    for an invasion. "There are occasions in history,"
    he wrote, "when the use of force is both right and sensible."
    Rose has since written his mea culpa, including in these pages,
    confessing how he was used. Other journalists have still to
    admit how they were manipulated by their own credulous relationship
    with established power.

    These days,
    Iraq is reported as if it is exclusively a civil war, with a
    US military "surge" aimed at bringing peace to the
    scrapping natives. The perversity of this is breathtaking. That
    sectarian violence is the product of a vicious divide-and-conquer
    policy is beyond doubt. As for the largely media myth of al-Qaeda,
    "most of the [American] pros will tell you", wrote
    Seymour Hersh, "that the foreign fighters are a couple
    per cent, and then they’re sort of leaderless." That a
    poorly armed, audacious resistance has not only pinned down
    the world’s most powerful army but has agreed an anti-sectarian,
    anti-al-Qaeda agenda, which opposes attacks on civilians and
    calls for free elections, is not news.

  6. The next
    blood letting

    In the
    1960s and 1970s, British governments secretly expelled the population
    of Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean whose people
    have British nationality. Women and children were loaded on
    to vessels resembling slave ships and dumped in the slums of
    Mauritius, after their homeland was given to the Americans for
    a military base. Three times, the High Court has found this
    atrocity illegal, calling it a defiance of the Magna Carta and
    the Blair government’s refusal to allow the people to go home
    "outrageous" and "repugnant." The government
    continues to use endless recourse to appeal, at the taxpayers’
    expense, to prevent upsetting Bush. The cruelty of this matches
    the fact that not only has the US repeatedly bombed Iraq from
    Diego Garcia, but at "Camp Justice", on the island,
    "al-Qaeda suspects" are "rendered" and "tortured",
    according to the Washington Post. Now the US Air Force
    is rushing to upgrade hangar facilities on the island so that
    stealth bombers can carry 14-ton "bunker busting"
    bombs in an attack on Iran. Orchestrated propaganda in the media
    is critical to the success of this act of international piracy.

    On
    22 May, the front page of the London Guardian carried
    the banner headline: "Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive
    to force US out of Iraq." This was a tract of unalloyed
    propaganda based entirely on anonymous US official sources.
    Throughout the media, other drums have taken up the beat. "Iran’s
    nuclear ambitions" slips effortlessly from newsreaders’
    lips, no matter that the International Atomic Energy Agency
    refuted Washington’s lies, no matter the echo of "Saddam’s
    weapons of mass destruction", no matter that another bloodbath
    beckons.

Lest we forget.

November
16, 2007

John
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 in June.

©
John Pilger 2007

John
Pilger Archives

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