As the daily attacks on U.S. forces and their allies in Iraq step up after a post-election lull, increasing numbers of citizens are becoming skeptical of a White House forecast for stability and a reduction in the number of American troops in the occupied nation. With suicide bombings and kidnappings an almost daily occurrence, few western journalists dare to venture very far from their hotels in the Green security zone in Baghdad to report on the war.
And as the U.S. military switches from offensive operations to training members of the Iraqi police and military, insurgents have also changed their tactics, targeting and killing large numbers of these forces. The situation for civilians has also continued to deteriorate. The United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva recently reported that the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has doubled since the U.S. invasion toppled the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Terry Jones, one of the founding members of the Monty Python comedy troupe has, since Sept. 11, been writing columns in the British press highly critical of George Bush and Tony Blair’s militaristic policies in the Middle East. His essays, laced with irony and humor, have now been published in the U.S. under the title, “Terry Jones’ War on the War on Terror: Observations and Denunciations by a Founding Member of Monty Python.” Reached by phone in London, Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jones about why he feels that the Bush-Blair policies have made the world a more dangerous place.
Terry Jones: You know, after 9/11, it seems that our “great” leaders said all the right things, but did all the absolutely wrong things. It seems that every action they took seemed to be guaranteed to have the opposite result of what they said it was going to have.
They just did â€¦ I mean, like for example, Tony Blair saying he was going to make England safe from terrorist attack — well, England wasn’t under any terrorist threat. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) had stopped bombing us. There wasn’t any reason to be scared of Muslim fundamentalists; we got along with the Islamic people in England fine. There was no threat. The only threat came when he started joining America in bombing a country that had never even threatened us. That was what was so â€¦ one of the things that was so baffling.
I mean after 9/11, for example, George Bush said all the right things. He said, “Well, we’ve got to catch the evil perpetrators of this evil deed.” So, I guess what you would do in that case is, you’d rely on secrecy and speed and catch them by surprise. What you don’t do is announce where you’re going to look for them. “We’re going to look for you in Afghanistan.” When are you going to do it? “In two weeks’ time.” And then what are you going to do to them? “We’re going to bomb them.” I mean, it’s like in two weeks’ time, there’s not going to be a single perpetrator and evildoer left in Afghanistan. It’s like playing hide and seek, not like catching a criminal.
Between The Lines: So, all the things they did you think will backfire on this country and your nation, Britain?
Terry Jones: Oh, I think so, absolutely. I mean even Tony Blair’s advisers in the Foreign Office were telling him that to actually join America in bombing Iraq would put England on the front line of terrorist attack and make it a target, rather than the reverse which was what Blair wasâ€¦ I mean it’s so stark-staring obvious that it’s amazing that it has to be spelled out. I kind of feared a lot with the columns I was writing, that I was just saying the obvious really. And it seems funny when you say the obvious, but some of the press isnâ€™t saying it.
Between The Lines: What’s the view of George W. Bush in Great Britain?
Terry Jones: I don’t know I can’t really speak for everybody, but I can give you my opinion, which is that I’m sure George Bush is a very, you know, companionable guy, someone you’d get on well with behind the locker room and having a quiet fag (cigarette) with him after school, you know things like that.
But, I don’t think it’s him that’s running the country. I think he’s just a very pliable figure head for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz — all those shadowy figures who populate the White House and the Pentagon now who are running the show basically, and they’re calling the tune. And I think they really are the sinister characters.
Between The Lines: You have an election coming up in Britain, what are the prospects for Tony Blair and how much of his policies on Iraq and alliance with George W. Bush, how much negativity do you think is going to accrue to him in the polls for his decisions?
Terry Jones: I think there is a lot of negativity in thinking people, in intelligent people, intelligent members of the Labor Party. I think there’s a big resentment there. I think a lot of people will just not vote for him — I’m speaking personally, I would just not vote for the man. I think his credibility as a truthful statesmen has been totally undermined by the pack of lies he told and the spin he gave to the dodgey dossier into stampeding people into believing that we had to bomb Iraq, and Iraq was a threat. I think he’s lost a lot of credibility there and I think once you see how much he knows he’s lost by the fact that he tries to ignore, he doesn’t want to talk about Iraq. “It’s over and done with.” The Labor Party is desperate to try to put other things on the agenda, and of course, the press is very complacent and compliant and talks about other things rather than I think what is the key thing, the fact that he took our country to war on false pretenses. And a lot of people, 100,000 Iraqis have died as a result of it, and I think it is an absolute abomination.
Between The Lines: Terry Jones, in conclusion here, certainly the landscape of the world, our two nations — Britain and the United States — is quite bleak these days. Do you take some hope that there will be change in the near- to not-to-distant future in terms of our politics, in terms of our foreign policies in terms of making an effort for peace in the world?
Terry Jones: Yeah, I think the only hope is with you, the American public, waking up to the true nature of the guys who are running the show at the moment. The true nature of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and Wolfowitz. It’s only when the word gets around about who they are, what they’re up to. I think it’s up to Americans, the American public to actually get them out of office, and get a more reasonable set of people in power. It’s going to be a tough one. But I hope they can do it. I hope it happens. I think the ball’s in your court.
“Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror: Observations and Denunciations by a Founding Member of Monty Python,” is published by Nation Books.
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending April 29, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.