A Murderous Theatre of the Absurd

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Try to laugh,
please. The news is now officially parody and a game for all the
family to play.

First question:
Why are "we" in Afghanistan? Answer: "To try to help
in the country’s rebuilding program." Who says so? Huw
Edwards, the BBC’s principal newsreader. What wags the Welsh

Second question:
Why are "we" in Iraq? Answer: To "plant a western-style
open democracy." Who says so? Paul Wood, the former BBC defense
correspondent, and his boss Helen Boaden, director of BBC News.
To prove her point, Boaden supplied Medialens.org
with 2,700 words of quotations from Tony Blair and George W Bush.
Irony? No, she meant it.

Take Andrew
Martin, divisional adviser at BBC Complaints, who has been researching
Bush’s speeches for "evidence" of noble democratic
reasons for laying to waste an ancient civilization. Says he: "The
‘D’ word is not there, but the phrase ‘united, stable
and free’ [is] clearly an allusion to it." After all,
he says, the invasion of Iraq "was launched as ‘Operation
Iraqi Freedom’." Moreover, says the BBC man, "in
Bush’s 1 May 2003 speech (the one on the aircraft carrier)
he talked repeatedly about freedom and explicitly about the Iraqi
transition to democracy . . . These examples show that these were
on Bush’s mind before, during and after the invasion."

Try to laugh,

Laughing may
be difficult, I agree, given the slaughter of civilians in Afghanistan
by "coalition" aircraft, including those directed by British
forces engaged in "the country’s rebuilding program."
The bombing of civilian areas has doubled, along with the deaths
of civilians, says Human Rights Watch. Last month, "our"
aircraft slaughtered nearly 100 civilians, two-thirds of them children
between the ages of three months and 16 years, while they slept,
according to eyewitnesses. BBC television news initially devoted
nine seconds to the Human Rights Watch report, and nothing to the
fact that "less than peanuts" (according to an aid worker)
is being spent on rebuilding anything in Afghanistan.

As for the
notion of a "united, stable and free" Iraq, consider the
no-bid contracts handed to the major western oil companies for ownership
of Iraq’s oil. "Theft" is a more truthful word. Written
by the companies themselves and US officials, the contracts have
been signed off by Bush and Nouri al-Maliki, "prime minister"
of Iraq’s "democratic" government that resides in
an air-conditioned American fortress. This is not news.

Try to laugh,
please, while you consider the devastation of Iraq’s health,
once the best in the Middle East, by the ubiquitous dust from British
and US depleted uranium weapons. A World Health Organization study
reporting a cancer epidemic has been suppressed, says its principal
author. This has been reported in Britain only in the Glasgow Sunday
Herald and the Morning Star. According to a study last year by Basra
University Medical College, almost half of all deaths in the contaminated
southern provinces were caused by cancer.

Try to laugh,
please, at the recent happy-clappy Nurembergs from which will come
the next president of the United States. Those paid to keep the
record straight have strained to present a spectacle of choice.
Barack Obama, the man of "change," wants to "build
a 21st-century military . . . to stay on the offensive everywhere."
Here comes the new Cold War, with promises of more bombs, more of
the militarized society with its 730 bases worldwide, on which Americans
spend 42 cents of every tax dollar.

home, Obama offers no authentic measure that might ease America’s
grotesque inequality, such as basic health care. John McCain, his
Republican opponent, may well be a media cartoon figure — the
fake "war hero" now joined with a Shakespeare-banning,
gun-loving, religious fanatic — yet his true significance is
that he and Obama share essentially the same dangerous prescriptions.

Thousands of
decent Americans came to the two nominating conventions to express
the dissenting opinion of millions of their compatriots who believe,
with good cause, that their democracy is evaporating. They were
intimidated, arrested, beaten, pepper-gassed; and they were patronized
or ignored by those paid to keep the record straight.

In the meantime,
Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America editor, has launched a
book about America, his "city on a hill." It is a sort
of Mills & Boon view of the rapacious system he admires with
such obsequiousness. The book is called Have a Nice Day.

Try to laugh,

12, 2008

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.

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