The Devil’s Dictionary
Yet some more thoughts about the war.
No name could be more appropriate to the cooperation between the United States and the United Kingdom against Iraq.
In "The Devil’s Dictionary" of the American humorist Ambrose Bierce, published some 100 years ago, "coalition" is defined as (I quote from memory) the cooperation between two thieves who have their hands so deep in each others pockets that they cannot rob a third person separately.
The problem of the Brits and the Americans is that they are possessed by an unquenchable thirst for reconstructing.
They dream about it day and night. They cannot think and speak about anything else.
Trouble is, in order to rebuild something one has to demolish it first. No destruction, no reconstruction.
Therefore the British, together with the Americans, are occupied with destroying Iraq systematically. Missile and bombs, tanks and artillery, ships and infantry–everything is employed in order to facilitate the reconstruction of the country.
The main objective of the urge for reconstruction is, of course, Baghdad. A city of five million people, miles upon miles of buildings and streets, which can be reconstructed after their demolition. If Baghdad becomes indeed the site of Stalingrad-style street fighting, house after house, street after street, there will be indeed a lot to reconstruct. The New Mongols.
The appetite for rebuilding separates the new conquerors from their predecessors, the Mongols, who conquered Baghdad in 1258, killed the Caliph (who had already surrendered) and destroyed the city completely, after butchering all the inhabitants, men, women and babies.
They did not bring with them reconstruction crews, but laid waste to Iraq. The irrigation canals that had been built throughout thousands of years of civilization were devastated. The event has gone down in history as one of the biggest disasters ever to befall the Arab world.
By the way, two years later the Muslims annihilated the Mongol army in the battle of Ein-Jalud (today’s kibbutz Ein-Harod), a major chapter in Palestininian history. That was the end of the Mongols in the Middle East, but the region never recovered from the Mongol devastation to this very day.
Demolish and profit.
Apart from the idealist aim of helping the Iraqi people, there is also a more material side to reconstruction. It will be huge business. The big American corporations–some of which are connected with the paladins of the Bush administration–are already quarreling about the spoils. They will, of course, allow no foreigners to come into this. To quote an American saying: "To the victors belong the spoils".
A rather obnoxious sight: even before the Iraqi towns are destroyed, corporate giants are dividing among themselves the profits of their rebuilding.
The unquenchable idealism of the Anglo-Americans finds its expression also in the drive for humanitarian aid. This is becoming quite an obsession. Humanitarian aid must be brought to the Iraqi people, whether they want it or not.
The inhabitants of Basra do not want the promised aid? Ha, we’ll see about that. We shall bomb them, starve them–until they open their gates and allow the humanitarian aid in. After all, one cannot aid people as long as the city is controlled by the evil Saddam, cursed be his name, whose only aim is to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching his people.
The coalition could, of course, drop food and water – instead of bombs – from the air. One could also arrange for a short cease-fire, so as to bring the humanitarian aid into the besieged city. But that has been forbidden by Donald Rumsfeld, another great humanitarian. So there is really no alternative but to bomb them until they are ripe for aid.
Masters and natives.
As a preview of the humanitarian aid to come after the occupation of Basra, the British have distributed a film about the arrival of aid to a village on the way. They were so satisfied with this piece of reporting, that they ran it dozens of times on TV.
It looks like this: a British truck brings food and water. The villagers, mainly desperate women and children, besiege the truck. They beg for water. The soldiers distribute mineral water to the maddened crowd–one bottle to every child and woman. After days of thirst, one (one!) liter per family.
The whole scene is nauseating. The hunger and thirst of the population, caught in the middle of the fighting, are exploited for crude propaganda. The British look again as they have always looked in Iraq: overbearing colonial masters, doing a favor to the natives. For every Arab beholder, this is the ultimate humiliation.
Robbing for the robbed. In order to finance everything–the destruction, the reconstruction, the humanitarian aid and what not–money is needed. Where will it come from? From the Iraqi oil, of course.
Therefore, it is the humanitarian duty of the Americans to take hold of the oil fields as quickly as possible. Not for their own good, perish the thought, but for the Iraqis. In order to help them and do good.
Every child knows by now that this war is about oil. The US intends to take possession of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world (after the Saudi reserves), and control the neighboring reserves of the Caspian Sea, Iran and the Gulf. Now it appears that it is all for the benefit of the Iraqi people themselves. So that they shall have something to eat and medicines for the children.
All this after the UN sanctions, imposed as demanded by the Americans, that have for many years caused general malnutrition, the death of hundred of thousands of children from hunger and disease and the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure – all in the name of "oil for food".
Oh, Orwell, Orwell.
What would he have said about this war?
In his book "1984", he had the Ministry of Truth coin phrases like "War is Peace", Freedom is Slavery" and "Ignorance is Power". He would be right at home in this war.
Occupation is Liberation, War is a Humane Duty, Toppling a foreign government is Regime Change, Starvation is Humanitarian Aid, Struggle against a foreign invader is Serving a Tyrant, Bombing a city is Service to the People.
Truth is always the first victim of any war. But it seems that in this particular war it suffers even more than usual. Mendacity, hypocrisy, dis-information and plain brainwashing are having a ball. Four-star generals parrot manifestly mendacious slogans, star-journalist from all over the world accept them eagerly, world TV networks repeat them diligently and the Israeli media lap it all up.
URI AVNERY has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation. Avnery is featured in the new book, The Other Israel: Voices of Refusal and Dissent.