Since the London bombings, the elected leaders of nations that invaded Iraq are sinking deeper into the swamp, grinning wildly as they go, taking our freedoms with them. Long used to lying to their own citizens, George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard, are also lying to themselves. How can it be claimed that the upsurge in terrorism is unrelated to our presence in Iraq? The argument rests on the assumption that the 9/11 strike on America stemmed solely from a blind hatred of western lifestyle, that it was unprovoked and that it lacked a geo-political context. It’s as if the CIA’s covert actions in Afghanistan, which led to the empowerment of the Taliban, had never happened. Or that no-one had noticed the 35,000 US troops propping up the House of Saud. Or…. but why go on? Politicians are loath to acknowledge ‘blowback’, as Chalmers Johnson points out, because it implicates them in the deaths of their own citizens. Perhaps Tony Blair’s addiction to cosmetics derives from an unconscious need to save face.
When a victim of the London bombers, Louise Barry, was visited in hospital by John Howard, she braved the TV crews and her alarming neck brace to suggest her assailants had been motivated by our invasion of Iraq. Taken aback, the PM looked shifty and disagreed. Yet the British newspaper, The Independent, now reveals new research into how the bloodbath in Iraq is “inspiring a worldwide insurgency”. The paper’s correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, a seasoned visitor to Iraq, quotes an Israeli study of 154 foreign fighters which found that almost all had been radicalised by Iraq alone. Another study of 300 Saudi fighters found that “very few had any previous contact with al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist organisation previous to 2003”. These insurgents are supported by a “homegrown network of sympathisers and supporters who provide safe houses, money, explosives, detonators, vehicles and intelligence”. In short, the worst way to hit back after 9/11 was to invade a Muslim country without links to Al Q’aeda or any plan to bomb the West.
It now turns out we started the war to export democracy, which is wonderful news for all the political prisoners in Burma, China and our comrade in arms, Uzbekistan. Hang in there.
Meanwhile, our own democracy continues to shrink, a process that started the moment the Iraq war plot was hatched. Tricking the public into backing an illegal invasion had little to do with democratic elections or representative assemblies, and much to do with faking the evidence and feeding the media. “Decisions were taken among small groups of people in private”, notes historian Eric J. Hobsbawm, “not very different from the way they would have been taken in nondemocratic countries”. Yesterday we lost the right to joke at airports. Today the Murdoch media calls for a ban the pamphlets of Mullahs (as if its own editorials were any less inflammatory) and our students are questioned by secret police about their taste in text books. While the escalation of terror may require a reduction of freedoms, what will tomorrow bring? Web censorship, suspicious commuters to be shot on sight, martial law?
The war mongering nations have ceased to feel like democracies. Not one of them possesses an opposition party worthy of the name. Not one of them has accepted responsibility for the gruesome chain of murders triggered by our invasion - over 500 suicide attacks in Iraq over the last year. Not one “visionary leader” (Murdoch on Howard) has admitted that life for Iraqis is hell Those who concocted the intelligence that led to war have been congratulated, those who give the nod to torture have been promoted, those who bombed the hospitals, mosques, water plants and suburbs of Fallujah, are jangling with medals. Hollywood will convert their skyborne terrorism into Boys Own heroics. Our furtive use of depleted uranium raises the rates of leukemia, deformities and babies born without eyes. But politicians are more likely to bomb an Iraqi children’s ward than to visit one. John Howard took a “secret trip to Baghdad” to talk about cricket to soldiers as the cameras whirred, continuing an 80 year colonial tradition.
Back in the 20’s the British navy was converting to oil and Iraq was gushing with the stuff, but the natives were restless. Punitive bombings were prescribed. A typical raid took place in February 1923 on a village in southern Iraq, where Bedouins were celebrating 12 weddings. An eyewitness, Saleh 'Umar al Jabrim, reported bodies scattered everywhere, including those of women, children and four camels. In 1924, a distinguished Air Commodore, Lionel Charlton, resigned his post as a staff officer in Iraq after he paid a hospital visit to the armless and legless casualites of a British bombing of a Baghdad market. How quaint. These days Generals don’t even count the dead, much less visit the victims.
While all three Coalition of the Killing leaders were re-elected, despite the Iraqi cock-ups, it’s John Howard who goes from strength to strength, a beaming Machiavelli in a Vodaphone tracksuit, posing as a Churchill. This week, the LA Times reports on the growing number of unarmed,innocent civilians, “including people who are considered vital to building democracy”, who are being killed by U.S. troops.
Our country is under a spell, sleep walking towards disaster, while its decent, distracted citizens ponder interest rates, the footy and whether to put a plasma opposite the Jacuzzi. Our poets are lost for words, our comedians fiddle the stock market, our movie stars flock to the Imperial Court, our auction-star painters extrude sullen abstracts, while singing hymns at Howard’s table.
There’s a widespread switch off about crimes in Iraq. Mention Fallujah to the bright Westerners who “dedicate their waking hours to media-induced sensations, to their pursuit and their creation” and they’ll probably think it’s a Turkish pastry. Nothing seems to matter anymore, except what’s on a screen. If a tsunami had struck Asia in the age of radio, no-one would have noticed. And yet what’s on screen about Iraq is filtered through three thick flags, a legacy of the lost war in Vietnam. Our exporting of freedom requires limits on free speech, which is why the Marines tend to jail independent camera crews, or shoot them. ends.
See the main site:
Iraq images not shown on TV:
Shooting Civilians update:
The mysterious quote about "media induced sensation comes from Thomas de Zengotita, who's worth Googling.
Thanks to Sydney artist Peter Kingston for this image of the fateful meeting: