"Children, Ardent for Some Desperate Glory"

by ROBERT FISK


The Independent

We are now in the greatest crisis since the last greatest crisis. That’s how we run the Iraq war–or the Second Iraq War as Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara would now have us believe. Hostages are paraded in orange tracksuits to remind us of Guantanamo Bay. Kidnappers demand the release of women held prisoner by the Americans. Abu Ghraib is what they are talking about. Abu Ghraib? Anyone remember Abu Ghraib? Remember those dirty little snapshots? But don’t worry. This wasn’t the America George Bush recognised, and besides we’re punishing the bad apples, aren’t we? Women? Why, there are only a couple of dames left–and they are "Dr Germ" and "Dr Anthrax".

But Arabs do not forget so easily. It was a Lebanese woman, Samia Melki, who first understood the true semantics of those Abu Ghraib photographs for the Arab world. The naked Iraqi, his body smeared with excrement, back to the camera, arms stretched out before the butch and blond American with a stick, possessed, she wrote in CounterPunch, "all the drama and contrasting colours of a Caravaggio painting".

The best of Baroque art invites the viewer to be part of the artwork. "Forced to walk in a straight line with his legs crossed, his torso slightly twisted and arms spread out for balance, the Iraqi prisoner’s toned body, accentuated by the excrement and the bad lighting, stretches out in crucifix form. Exuding a dignity long denied, the Arab is suffering for the world’s sins."

And that, I fear, is the least of the suffering that has gone on at Abu Ghraib. For what happened to all those videos which members of Congress were allowed to watch in secret and which we–the public–were not permitted to see? Why have we suddenly forgotten about Abu Ghraib? Seymour Hersh, the journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib story–and one of the only journalists in America who is doing his job–has spoken publicly about what else happened in that terrible jail.

I’m indebted to a reader for the following extract from a recent Hersh lecture: "Some of the worst things that happened that you don’t know about. OK? Videos. There are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib… The women were passing messages out saying please come and kill me because of what’s happened. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomised, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking…"

Already, however, we have forgotten this. Just as we must no longer talk about weapons of mass destruction. For as the details slowly emerge of the desperate efforts of Bush and Blair to find these non-existent nasties, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. US mobile site survey teams managed, at one point, to smash into a former Iraqi secret police headquarters in Baghdad, only to find a padlocked inner door. Here, they believed, they would find the horrors that Bush and Blair were praying for. And what did they find behind the second door? A vast emporium of brand new vacuum cleaners. At Baath party headquarters, another team–led by a Major Kenneth Deal–believed they had discovered secret documents which would reveal Saddam’s weapons’ programme. The papers turned out to be an Arabic translation of A J P Taylor’s The Struggle for Mastery in Europe. Perhaps Bush and Blair should read it.

So as we continue to stagger down the crumbling stairway of our own ghastly making, we must listen to bigger and bigger whoppers. Iyad Allawi, the puppet prime minister–still deferentially called "interim prime minister" by many of my reporter chums–insists that elections will be held in January even though he has less control of the Iraqi capital (let alone the rest of the country) than the mayor of Baghdad. The ex-CIA agent, who obediently refused to free the two women prisoners the moment Washington gave him instructions not to do so, dutifully trots over to London and on to Washington to shore up more of the Blair-Bush lies.

Second Iraq War indeed. How much more of this tomfoolery are we, the public, expected to stomach? We are fighting in "the crucible of global terrorism", according to Lord Blair of Kut. What are we to make of this nonsense? Of course, he didn’t tell us we were going to have a Second Iraq War when he helped to start the First Iraq War, did he? And he didn’t tell the Iraqis that, did he? No, we had come to "liberate" them. So let’s just remember the crisis before the crisis before the crisis. Let’s go back to last November when our Prime Minister was addressing the Lord Mayor’s banquet. The Iraq war, he informed us then–and presumably he was still referring to the First Iraq War–was "the battle of seminal importance for the early 21st century".

Well, he can say that again. But just listen to what else Lord Blair of Kut informed us about the war. "It will define relations between the Muslim world and the West. It will influence profoundly the development of Arab states and the Middle East. It will have far-reaching implications for the future of American and Western diplomacy."

And he can say that again, can’t he? For it is difficult to think of anything more profoundly dangerous for us, for the West, for the Middle East, for Christians and Muslims since the Second World War–the real second war, that is–than Blair’s war in Iraq. And Iraq, remember, was going to be the model for the whole Middle East. Every Arab state would want to be like Iraq. Iraq would be the catalyst–perhaps even the "crucible"–of the new Middle East. Spare me the hollow laughter.

I have been struck these past few weeks how very many of the letters I’ve received from readers come from men and women who fought in the Second World War, who argue ferociously that Blair and Bush should never be allowed to compare this quagmire with the real struggle against evil which they waged more than half a century ago.

"I, now 90, remember the men maimed in body and mind who haunted the lanes in rural Wales where I grew up in the years after 1918," Robert Parry wrote to me. "For this reason, Owen’s ‘Dulce et decorum est’ remains for me the ultimate expression of the reality of death in war, made now more horrific by American ‘targeted’ bombing and the suicide bombers. We need a new Wilfred Owen to open our eyes and consciences, but until one appears this great poem must be given space to speak again." It would be difficult to find a more eloquent rejoinder to the infantile nonsense now being peddled by our Prime Minister.

Not for many years has there been such a gap–in America as well as Britain–between the people and the government they elected. Blair’s most recent remarks are speeches made–to quote that Owen poem–"to children ardent for some desperate glory". Ken Bigley’s blindfolded face is our latest greatest crisis. But let’s not forget what went before.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?