Here are questions that are not being asked about
the latest twist of a cynical war. Were explosives and a remote-control detonator
found in the car of the two SAS
special forces men "rescued" from prison in Basra on Sept. 19? If true,
what were they planning to do with them? Why did the British military authorities
in Iraq put out an unbelievable version of the circumstances that led up to armored
vehicles smashing down the wall of a prison?
According to the head of Basra's Governing Council, which has cooperated with
the British, five civilians were killed by British soldiers. A judge says nine.
How much is an Iraqi life worth? Is there to be no honest accounting in Britain
for this sinister event, or do we simply accept Defense Secretary John Reid's
customary arrogance? "Iraqi law is very clear," he said. "British
personnel are immune from [the] Iraqi legal process." He omitted to say that
this fake immunity was invented by Iraq's occupiers.
Watching "embedded" journalists in Iraq and London, attempting to protect
the British line was like watching a satire of the whole atrocity in Iraq. First,
there was feigned shock that the Iraqi regime's "writ" did not run outside
its American fortifications in Baghdad and that the "British-trained"
police in Basra might be "infiltrated." An outraged Jeremy Paxman wanted
to know how two of our boys in fact, highly suspicious foreigners dressed
as Arabs and carrying a small armory could possibly be arrested by police
in a "democratic" society. "Aren't they supposed to be on our side?"
Although reported initially by the Times and the Mail, all mention
of the explosives allegedly found in the SAS men's unmarked Cressida vanished
from the news. Instead, the story was the danger the men faced if they were handed
over to the militia run by the "radical" cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "Radical"
is a gratuitous embedded term; al-Sadr has actually cooperated with the British.
What did he have to say about the "rescue"? Quite a lot, none of which
was reported in this country. His spokesman, Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, said the
SAS men, disguised as al-Sadr's followers, were planning an attack on Basra ahead
of an important religious festival. "When the police tried to stop them,"
he said, "[they] opened fire on the police and passersby. After a car chase,
they were arrested. What our police found in the car was very disturbing
weapons, explosives, and a remote-control detonator. These are the weapons of
The episode illuminates the most enduring lie of the Anglo-American adventure.
This says the "coalition" is not to blame for the bloodbath in Iraq
which it is, overwhelmingly and that foreign terrorists orchestrated
by al-Qaeda are the real culprits. The conductor of the orchestra, goes this line,
is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian. The demonry of al-Zarqawi is central to
the Pentagon's "Strategic Information Program" set up to shape news
coverage of the occupation. It has been the Americans' single unqualified success.
Turn on any news in the U.S. and Britain, and the embedded reporter standing inside
an American (or British) fortress will repeat unsubstantiated claims about al-Zarqawi.
Two impressions are the result: that Iraqis' right to resist an illegal invasion
a right enshrined in international law has been usurped and delegitimized
by callous foreign terrorists, and that a civil war is under way between the Shi'ites
and the Sunni. A member of the Iraqi National Assembly, Fatah al-Sheik, said this
week, "There is a huge campaign for the agents of the foreign occupiers to
enter and plant hatred between the sons of the Iraqi people and spread rumors
in order to scare the one from the other.
The occupiers are trying to start
religious incitement, and if it does not happen, then they will start an internal
The Anglo-American goal of "federalism" for Iraq is part of an imperial
strategy of provoking divisions in a country where traditionally the communities
have overlapped, even intermarried. The Osama-like promotion of al-Zarqawi is
integral to this. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel, he is everywhere but nowhere. When
the Americans crushed the city of Fallujah last year, the justification for their
atrocious behavior was "getting those guys loyal to al-Zarqawi." But
the city's civil and religious authorities denied he was ever there or had anything
to do with the resistance.
"He is simply an invention," said the Imam of Baghdad's al-Kazimeya
mosque. "Al-Zarqawi was killed in the beginning of the war in the Kurdish
north. His family even held a ceremony after his death." Whether or not this
is true, al-Zarqawi's "foreign invasion" serves as Bush's and Blair's
last veil for their "war on terror" and botched attempt to control the
world's second biggest source of oil.
On Sept. 23, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington,
an establishment body, published a report that accused the U.S. of "feeding
the myth" of foreign fighters in Iraq, who account for less than 10 percent
of a resistance estimated at 30,000. Of the eight comprehensive studies into the
number of Iraqi civilians killed by the "coalition," four put the figure
at more than 100,000. Until the British army is withdrawn from where it has no
right to be and those responsible for this monumental act of terrorism are indicted
by the International Criminal Court, Britain is shamed.
First published in the New Statesman.