Liars Couldn’t Expect Flowers after Bombs and Occupation

Sydney Morning Herald
August 26, 2003

Liars couldn't expect flowers after bombs and occupation
by Tariq Ali

America and its allies were warned that the situation in Iraq would quickly develop into a guerilla war, writes Tariq Ali.

The recolonisation of Iraq is not proceeding smoothly. The resistance in the country (and in Palestine) is not, as Israeli and Western propagandists like to argue, a case of Islam gone mad. It is, in both cases, a direct consequence of the occupation. Before the recent war, some of us argued that the Iraqi people, however much they despised Saddam Hussein, would not take kindly to being occupied by the United States and its British adjutant.

Contrary to the cocooned Iraqis who had been on the US payroll for far too long and told George Bush that US troops would be garlanded with flowers and given sweets, we warned that the occupation would lead to the harrying and killing of Western soldiers on a daily basis and would soon develop into a low-intensity guerilla war.

The fact that events have vindicated this analysis is no reason to celebrate. The entire country is now in a mess and the situation is much worse than it was before the conflict. The only explanation provided by Western news managers to explain the resistance is that these are dissatisfied remnants of the old regime. This week Washington contradicted its propaganda by deciding to recruit the real remnants of the old state apparatus – the secret police – to try to track down the resistance organisations, which currently number more than 40 different groupings. The demonstrations in Basra and the deaths of more British soldiers are a clear indication that these former bastions of anti-Saddam sentiment are now prepared to join the struggle.

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad shocked the West, but as Jamie Tarabay of the Associated Press reported in a dispatch from the Iraqi capital last week, there is a deep ambivalence towards the UN among ordinary Iraqis. This is an understatement. In fact the UN is seen as one of Washington's more ruthless enforcers. It supervised the sanctions that, according to UNICEF figures, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and a horrific rise in the mortality rate. Two senior UN officials, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest against these policies, explaining that the UN had failed in its duties to the people of Iraq.

Simultaneously the US and Britain, with UN approval, rained hundreds of tonnes of bombs and thousands of missles on Iraq from 1992 onwards and, in 1999, US officials calmly informed The Wall Street Journal that they had run out of targets. By 2001, the bombardment of Iraq had lasted longer than the US invasion of Vietnam.

That's why the UN is not viewed sympathetically by many Iraqis. The recent Security Council decision to retrospectively sanction the occupation, a direct breach of the UN Charter, has only added to the anger. All this poses the question whether the UN today is anything more than a cleaning-up operation for the American Empire?

The effects of the Iraqi resistance are now beginning to be felt in both the occupying countries. The latest Newsweek poll reveals that the great thinker-President's approval ratings are down 18 points to 53 per cent and, for the first time since September 11, more registered voters (49 per cent) say they would not like to see him re-elected. This can only get worse (or better, depending on one's point of view) as US casualties in Iraq continue to rise.

In Britain more than two-thirds of the population now believe that Tony Blair lied to them on Iraq. This view is shared by senior figures in the establishment. There was open disquiet within the armed forces before the war. Some generals were not too pleased by the sight of their Prime Minister, snarling at the leash like a petty mastiff, as he prepared to dispatch a third of the British army to help occupy the country's largest former colony in the Middle East.

After the capture of Baghdad, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, the former head of the joint intelligence committee and a former national security adviser to Blair, wrote an astonishing letter to the Financial Times in which he accused Blair of having deliberately engineered a war hysteria to frighten a deeply sceptical population into backing a war. Fishmongers sell fish, warmongers sell war, wrote Braithwaite, arguing that Blair had oversold his wares.

This anger within the establishment came to a head with the alleged suicide of the Ministry of Defence's leading scientist, Dr David Kelly, and forced a judicial inquiry, a form of therapy much favoured by the English ruling class. This week Blair will be interrogated before Justice Hutton, but already the inquiry has uncovered a mound of wriggling worms. There is talk now that New Labour will offer the Defence Secretary, a talentless mediocrity by the name of Geoff Hoon, as a blood sacrifice to calm the public. But what if Hoon refuses to go alone? After all he knows where the bodies are buried.

And Australia? Here the Prime Minister – a perennial parrot on the imperial shoulder – managed to pull out his troops before the resistance began. They were badly needed in the Solomon Islands. Like Blair, John Howard parroted untruths to justify the war and like Blair, he's lucky that the official Opposition is led by a weak-kneed and ineffective politician scared of his own shadow.

And one day when the children of dead Iraqis and Americans ask why their parents died? The answer will come: because the politicians lied.

Meanwhile there will be no peace as long as Palestine and Iraq continue to be occupied and no amount of apologetics will conceal this fact.

Tariq Ali's new book, Bush in Babylon: The Recolonisation
of Iraq, will be published by Verso in October, 2003


Daily Times (Pakistan)
August 26, 2003

Op-ed: Imperialism and irony

Washington never tires of making clear that it is not going to surrender paramountcy or any real authority to the UN. After all, to do so would bring into question the right of Halliburton, Bechtel and other American corporations for whom the war was undertaken.

The literary device of ‘irony’, like all literary methods, is meant to present an entertaining, and explanatory view of reality. Its effectiveness in Greek drama came from the fact that the audience was already familiar with the details of the story being presented. Only the protagonists were unaware of their fate and as they went about making plans or assertions which ran counter to what was in store for them, the audience could appreciate the perils of ignorant vanity. That is one kind of irony but there is another, deeper one, much more poignant in its impact. And that concerns not a contrast between fate and words based on ignorance, but the contradiction between statements on a situation or theme made by someone at different times; or the words used to describe a situation which draw attention to the contradictory action or statements of someone about the same or a similar situation at an earlier time.

On May 1, this year President George Bush, all decked up in the uniform of a fighter pilot made a dramatic landing in a plane flown by someone else and addressed the people from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This was a high profile and bizarre case of impersonation, because this same valiant flying knight had used his familial connections to avoid combat in his youth. Indeed, it was irony of the classical type. Once on the not so heaving ship (his media manipulators had, like Canute, ordered the waves to be still) Bush declared the fighting over in Iraq.

That pronouncement, as later events have proved, was yet another example of irony since it heralded not the return of peace but the beginning of combat in the occupied country. Then, in the vainglorious tones of a Greek tragic hero, he challenged the Iraqi resistance. If they wanted a fight, they would get it, “Bring ‘em on, he declared. The enemy picked up the gauntlet. And this, as we know, has been most unfortunate for a lot of people, not least for American soldiers dying for the greater glory of the neo-conservative servitors of the American corporate establishment and UN personnel who had never been targeted in Iraq before the Americans embarked on their ‘civilizing mission’ in the land that created civilisation.

And the irony continues. Take His Excellency Ambassador John Negroponte’s remarks after the Security Council had decided to ‘welcome’ the formation of the ‘Governing Council’ of Iraq. He was gloating, a form of behaviour that has always been the distinguishing feature of the American establishment, but which comes ever more readily to them since their ‘success’ in Iraq. Speaking to journalists after the Security Council vote, he said that those who were opposed to American designs in Iraq would now know that they were isolated, they were an insignificant minority, and that the vast majority of the world approved what Washington was fashioning in that unfortunate country. The Ambassador did not realise that what he said would remind people of the Anglo-American position when they were pressing to be allowed to go to war. It was they who were isolated and were in a minority, miniscule in comparison to the level of opposition today. To boast that the Americans now enjoy world support, whatever that might mean, is yet another instance of irony from a people who were so contemptuous of world opinion or support.

Finally, there is the irony regarding ‘involvement’ of the United Nations. The American ultra-rightists never wanted to go to the UN to consult it on what needed to be done in Iraq before the war. They wanted a war whether or not it was legitimised by the international community. If, as has been said, Secretary Powell insisted on trying to get a Security Council resolution favouring the American plans, it was in the teeth of violent disagreement from the likes of Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney et al. When the trumped up case in favour of invasion did not convince the world, it was declared that the UN was ‘irrelevant’. And those in the Security Council that disagreed, principally France and Germany, were ostracised. These same members were, it should be remembered, necessary to obtain the overwhelming majority that the American Permanent Representative is now boasting about. Ironic though this is, the greater irony resides in the fact that the same ‘irrelevant’ United Nations has now become relevant again because the standard bearers of democracy need their urgent help in a situation that they cannot control on their own. The mendacious leaders of the two principal aggressors knew that Iraq was no military match for them. Now that their soldiers are being killed in what seems a war of attrition, regardless of whether it is called ‘guerrilla war’ or ‘terrorism’ or is given any other name, they need others to come in and help ‘restore’ peace and stability. They need some kind of UN cover because they want soldiers from France and Germany and India and Pakistan. But these dispensable men and women are needed for promoting the objectives for which the aggression was committed. Washington never tires of making clear that it is not going to surrender paramountcy or any real authority to the UN. After all, to do so would bring into question the right of Halliburton, Bechtel and other American corporations for whom the war was undertaken — to exploit Iraqi wealth at will. This was revealed by no less a minion of corporate America than the New York Times, when it said that the demands being made by France and Germany for the UN to have greater authority in Iraq was only because they wanted benefits for their companies. The United States will not tolerate anyone else nuzzling at the trough. As our ‘democratic General’ and his ‘intelligent’ foreign policy advisers from Aabpara and Chaklala contemplate the UN cover for dispatching their dispensable soldiers to Iraq, they should ensure that it is not a mere fig-leaf. It is the international community that should be in complete control to bring peace and security to a land which has been despoiled by the aggressors. Our people do not have to become targets so that their billionaires can make more billions.

Basit Haqqani is a former ambassador


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