A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with “friendly fire”, spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: “Listen, that’s the sound of freedom.”
Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer’s page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: “The moment young Omar discovered the price of war”. These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples.
No true epitaph for them in
And where were the pictures from the
“To initiate a war of aggression,” said the judges in the
Nothing Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing boys and their media court do now will change the truth of their great crime in
I have mentioned these two men often in these pages, partly because their names and their witness have been airbrushed from most of the media. I well remember Jeremy Paxman bellowing at Halliday on Newsnight shortly after his resignation: “So are you an apologist for Saddam Hussein?” That helped set the tone for the travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport. In a leaked e-mail Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, described the BBC’s war coverage as “extraordinary – it almost feels like World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you’re switching between battles”.
He is talking about murder. That is what the Americans do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in
They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: “We shot the shit out of it.” Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals – hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by
Heller would appreciate the sideshows. Take the British helicopter pilot who came to blows with an American who had almost shot him down. “Don’t you know the Iraqis don’t have a fucking air force?” he shouted. Did this pilot reflect on the truth he had uttered, on the whole craven enterprise against a stricken third world country and his own part in this crime? I doubt it. The British have been the most skilled at delusion and lying. By any standard, the Iraqi resistance to the high-tech Anglo-American machine was heroic. With ancient tanks and mortars, small arms and desperate ambushes, they panicked the Americans and reduced the British military class to one of its specialities – mendacious condescension.
The Iraqis who fight are “terrorists”, “hoodlums”, “pockets of Ba’ath Party loyalists”, “kamikaze” and “feds” (fedayeen). They are not real people: cultured and cultivated people. They are Arabs. This vocabulary of dishonour has been faithfully parroted by those enjoying it all from the broadcasting box. “What do you make of
On the same day, in a Guardian letter, Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, pointed us to evidence of this “hugely encouraging” truth – fleeting pictures on Sky News of British soldiers smashing their way into a family home in Basra, pointing their guns at a woman and manhandling, hooding and manacling young men, one of whom was shown quivering with terror. “Is Britain ‘liberating’ Basra by taking political prisoners and, if so, based on what sort of intelligence, given Britain’s long unfamiliarity with this territory and its inhabitants . . . The least this ugly display will do is remind Arabs and Muslims everywhere of our Anglo-Saxon double standards – we can show your prisoners in . . . degrading positions, but don’t you dare show ours.”.
Roger Mosey says the suffering of Um Qasr is “like World Cup football”. There are 40,000 people in Um Qasr; desperate refugees are streaming in and the hospitals are overflowing. All this misery is due entirely to the “coalition” invasion and the British siege, which forced the United Nations to withdraw its humanitarian aid staff. Cafod, the Catholic relief agency, which has sent a team to Um Qasr, says the standard humanitarian quota for water in emergency situations is 20 litres per person per day.
Cafod reports hospitals entirely without water and people drinking from contaminated wells. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million people across southern
A British colonel laments to his “embedded” flock that “it is difficult to deliver aid in an area that is still an active battle zone”. The logic of his own words mocks him. If
There is something especially disgusting about the lurid propaganda coming from these PR-trained British officers, who have not a clue about
No one disputes the grim, totalitarian nature of the regime; but Saddam Hussein was careful to use the oil wealth to create a modern secular society and a large and prosperous middle class.
Why are the British yet to explain why their troops have to put on protective suits to recover dead and wounded in vehicles hit by American “friendly fire”? The reason is that the Americans are using solid uranium coated on missiles and tank shells. When I was in southern
With honourable exceptions (Robert Fisk; al-Jazeera), little of this has been reported. Instead, the media have performed their preordained role as imperial
George Bush has said: “It will be no defence to say: ‘I was just following orders.’” He is correct. The
Dalyell, 41 years a member of the Commons, has said the Prime Minister is a war criminal who should be sent to
A growing body of legal opinion around the world agrees that the new court has a duty, as Eric Herring of Bristol University wrote, to investigate “not only the regime, but also the UN bombing and sanctions which violated the human rights of Iraqis on a vast scale”. Add the present piratical war, whose spectre is the uniting of Arab nationalism with militant Islam. The whirlwind sown by Blair and Bush is just beginning. Such is the magnitude of their crime.