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Now that the Bush administration has realised that unless Iraq is certified as having no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) the UN sanctions cannot be permanently lifted and the Oil for Food Program will remain in force, the US President is changing his tune.
During a recent speech in Ohio, George W. Bush hinted for the first time that Iraq’s infamous WMD might never be uncovered. "It’s going to take time to find them, but we know he (Saddam Hussein) had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved them or hid them, we’re going to find out the truth," he said.
"One thing is for certain," Bush added. "Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction." As if he ever did!
So there you have it. We were told to believe that Saddam Hussein was a modern-day Stalin who wouldn’t hesitate in holding the world to ransom with his deadly weapons when it suited the Washington hawks.
Now that it doesn’t, we are being told that Saddam might have destroyed those weapons, which was exactly what Tariq Aziz, General Amer Al-Saadi, Mohammed Al-Douri and other Iraqi representatives were saying in the first place.
In the absence of WMD was the invasion, therefore, illegal, as Kofi Annan has suggested?
Is it proper that handpicked American companies with links to the US administration have been given reconstruction contracts?
Would it be right for the Occupier to be responsible for selling Iraq’s oil?
Should the Iraqi people be free to choose their own style of government, even an Islamic theocracy if they so choose?
Was the use of cluster bombs on a civilian neighbourhood a war crime? Did the US breach the Geneva conventions when it failed to protect hospitals and re-connect water and electricity?
Why were US Marines told to stand back while Baghdad’s museum and library were looted and burned? And why was the Oil Ministry the only one, which was surrounded by American tanks, to emerge unscathed?
Why is Britain’s Ministry of Defence arranging tests to see whether its returnee soldiers have been subjected the harmful effects of Depleted Uranium when Defence Minister Geoff Hoon has stated that DU is harmless?
And while British soldiers are offered urine tests, both America and Britain refuse to clean up their own DU, which could adversely affect the health of Iraqi civilians for generations to come, due to cost concerns.
It seems to me that given that ‘regime change’ does not figure in the Charter of the UN as a casus belli for invasion, in a just world the US should be apologising to the former Iraqi regime and liable for any reparations caused by American aggression. Otherwise, this means that anytime a nation doesn’t like the leader of another, it can feel free to come up with spurious, unproven accusations before launching an attack.
This precedent means that China could grab Taiwan at any time of its choosing, Russia could attempt to claim back some of its lost territory and the US could annex Canada. Ridiculous as that may sound, there is nothing now to stop it. After all, the Canadian government was anti-war too.
Bush and his cohorts will stop at nothing. They have spun, lied, and intimidated their way out of the tentacles of international laws and treaties. The United Nations and NATO are under threat, and the European Union in a shambles. The only law now worth noting is: might is right.
There are so many questions yet to be asked. But who is going to ask them and what’s more, who is going to ensure that consequences ensue under international laws and treaties?
Will dissenting countries and individuals continue to speak up or turn the other cheek in case the Superpower, its client states and its jingoistic supporters turn their intimidating spotlight on them?
In case you hadn’t noticed we have entered a brand new era. Not only must we be with the Bush administration or be considered as buddies of ‘the terrorists’ but we must also follow the dictates of America’s current leaders, or face punishment. Those behind-the-times nations or individuals who haven’t yet cottoned on to this new reality are in for a nasty surprise.
This rule is being applied from the top down. France, which led the nations blocking a Security Council resolution, which would have paved the way for an invasion of Iraq, has already been punished.
Tony Blair and some of his Commons’ toadies, publicly and hypocritically, coloured France’s pacifist stance as having caused the war in the first place.
The New York Post plastered photographs of American graves in Normandy across its pages with the headline "Has France Forgotten?" while phrases like "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" were clarion calls of the Franco-phobic masses.
Chefs in Congress began calling their French fries ‘freedom fries’ while Congressmen childishly took the lead in pouring fine French wines down the drain. French exporters are already feeling the pinch.
You would think those French had learned their lesson by now, wouldn’t you? But no, there they go again obstructing US ambitions by agreeing only to the temporary lifting of sanctions on Iraq and asking for Hans Blix to continue with his mandate, despite US objections.
There is only one thing for it from the point of view of the US State Department. France will have to be prepared for yet more punishment. Ways of doing this are being discussed but are likely to include France being sidelined in NATO with names of its delegates crossed off Washington’s invitation lists.
Syria had to be punished too. After all, it dared to adopt an anti-war position, which flew in the face of America’s demands. Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian President, actually suggested that the Anglo-American invasion was illegal and immoral, and like France, was another Security Council member vehemently opposed to the war.
As a neighbour of Iraq, Syria was easy to punish. All America had to do was throw around a few insinuations that Syria was developing chemical weapons and was harbouring Baath Party leaders, backed up with a couple of implied threats and that put Syria in its place.
Now, another neighbour of Iraq, Iran is being threatened with punishment should it dare to send Shia fifth columnists into southern Iraq to urge Iraq’s majority Shia population into demanding an Islamic state. Both Iran and Syria now have a red, white and blue damaclesian sword hanging over their heads with a US military presence firmly ensconced in the region.
Individuals have been punished too, starting with those reporters and cameramen who dared to oppose the Pentagon’s instruction to stay out of Baghdad. Al Jazeera lost one of its own when its Baghdad office was bombed, two members of the international media were killed when a US tank fired at the Palestine Hotel. US tanks surrounded the offices of Abu Dhabi television, forcing it to send an SOS to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Voices in the Wilderness, a human rights group – with members in Baghdad – was punished after it dared to publish critical accounts of the American presence. Its members are being physically prevented from talking with reporters in the Palestine Hotel and from getting their stories out. Volunteer American human shields had been threatened with a gaol term for treason or even with being stripped of their nationality for ‘providing aid and comfort to the enemy’.
Leader of the anti-war movement in Britain, the parliamentarian George Galloway, has been put in the negative spotlight shortly after describing both Bush and Blair as ‘wolves’. A long-time defender of the Palestinian cause and an opponent of the crippling sanctions on Iraq, Galloway is now being accused of accepting indirect payments from the former Iraqi regime in the form of oil contracts.
All of a sudden, files containing documents ‘incriminating’ Galloway are being discovered by reporters – employed by right-wing publications – in burnt-out ministries and looted leadership homes. ‘Coincidentally’ Blair had recently called Galloway’s verbal attacks on the war ‘disgraceful’ and had been searching for ways in which Galloway could be deprived of the Labour Party Whip, meaning that he would no longer be effective as a party member.
Documents discovered by a Daily Telegraph reporter – another Blair – are all photocopies and could not stand up in court but the damage against Galloway has been done. Whatever happens now, a slur has been forever cast on his name and other would-be dissenters will be taking note. It could happen to them too.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix – formerly feted by Washington and London – is being punished for daring to challenge US ‘intelligence’ concerning Iraq’s WMD and for pointing out that Powell’s assertions concerning the import of aluminium tubes and uranium from Niger was either erroneous or fabricated. He has been told in no uncertain terms by Arie Fleischer that his comments have been unhelpful and his expert inspections team has been pushed aside.
Anti-war entertainers have fallen victim to a McCarthy-type atmosphere, which prevails throughout Bush’s America. The Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore have all fallen foul of a flag-waving public, high on nationalistic ideals and the will to power. Invitees to this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, including Oscar nominees, were warned not to elucidate political views for the first time.
Hackers have attacked anti-war websites. ‘Patriotic’ servers have removed others, while the owner of Al Jazeerah (not connected to the network) Hassan al-Najjar has received death threats, forcing him to take his site off-line. <YellowTimes.com>, which has featured articles by the Iraqi former nuclear scientist Imad Khadduri asserting that Iraq destroyed its WMD more than a decade ago, has been forced to close on several occasions.
Anti-war writers barely find their work reproduced in America’s mainstream media with the views of that nation’s finest intellectuals such as Naom Chomsky and Edward Said being firmly kept away from the public screen.
In a half-hearted attempt to look as though they are being fair and balanced, American networks invariably invite pro-Western so-called Mid-East experts, like Mamoun Fandy or Fadhil Chalabi to appear on their programs. Neither of these erstwhile gentlemen can find a good word to say about Mid-East governments, Arabic culture or Arab achievements.
Interestingly, Russia and China, which both opposed the war, are not being subjected to intimidation and neither is North Korea, which has blatantly announced that it does have nuclear weapons and is ready to use them. Conclusions can be drawn that only those with military might – and are judged likely to use it – are protected in America’s New Century. What kind of message is this putting out?
Who will be punished next? Only those, who believe that silence equals death. The rest will continue saying "yessir", "three bags full, sir", and hope against hope that their turn won’t come.
Linda S Heard is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs and welcomes feedback at email@example.com