FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nature and Man Conspire to Expose the Lies of the Powerful

by ROBERT FISK

The Independent

“Water is your friend” was the advice regularly given to a truly good friend of mine here in the Middle East. The speaker was a member of the One-Thousand- Litres- a-Day-Keeps-Dehydration-at-Bay Brigade, although I have to say that the Arabs take a different view. After generations of sword-like desert heat, they take tea in the morning, endure an oven-like day without sustenance, and then sip another scalding tea at dusk. The less you drink, the less you perspire, the less you need to drink. In a land with few oases, it’s a craft worth learning.

The problem is that today, water is not our “friend”. It comes smashing into New Orleans; it drowns the nursing home elderly in their baths; it assaults Galveston and Houston; it kills millions in Bangladesh, dozens in Andhya Pradesh; it floods south from the great ice-cold green bays of the Arctic; it carries 19th-century houses through the centre of Prague, and it bubbles into the bars of English pubs from the ancient, overflowing river-banks of Kent. Water has become our enemy.

There is a beautiful, delicate, inevitably cruel irony at the way in which nature and man conspire to uncover the lies of the rich and powerful. Just as President Bush’s disastrous environmental policies are now destroying the southern coast of the United States–yes, it is global warming that causes this massacre of the innocent–America is preparing to receive its 2,000th dead soldier back from Iraq. No bodies, please–let’s not dishonour the dead of New Orleans by taking photographs of them. Nor the American dead of Iraq by taking pictures of their coffins en route home. Death, as usual, is what happens to other people.

But the photographs of British soldiers, cowled in fire, hurling themselves from the top of their Warrior fighting vehicle in Basra this week, were the final iconic images of our uniquely British folly in Iraq. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara’s henchmen have concocted another monstrous lie about all this, of course. The Iraqi policemen who protested at Britain’s destruction of their prison–and the crowds who set fire to the Warrior (and its crew) — were only a few hundred people. Who were we to suggest they represented the millions of Shia Muslim voters who solemnly went to the polls last January? Ho, ho, ho. Yes, and who were we to suggest that the “few hundred” Saddam “remnants” identified as troublemakers in mid-2003 represented a Sunni insurgency? And who were we, back in 1971, to suggest that a few hundred stone-throwers in the Falls Road and Short Strand in Belfast represented “the vast majority of ordinary peace- loving Catholics” in Northern Ireland?

I speculated some weeks ago as to when the bubble will burst. With the insurgent capture (and massacre) of a US base in Iraq? With the overrunning of the Green Zone in Baghdad? Every day now brings Vietnam-style evidence of our collapse. The Americans batter their way into Tal Afar and kill, so they say, “142 insurgents”. Get that? US forces manage to kill 142 of their enemies, not a single innocent man, woman or child among them!

But let’s go back to the Brits. Remember how we were told that our immense experience of “peace- keeping” in Northern Ireland had allowed us to get on better with the Iraqis in the south than our American cousins further north? I don’t actually remember us doing much “peacekeeping” in Belfast after about 1969–the rest, I recall, was about biffing the IRA–but in any case the myth was burned out on the uniforms of British troops this week.

Indeed, much of the war in Northern Ireland appeared to revolve around the use of covert killings and SAS undercover operatives who blew away IRA men in ambushes. Which does raise the question, doesn’t it, as to just what our two SAS lads were doing cruising around Basra in Arab dress with itsy-bitsy moustaches and guns? Why did no one ask? How many SAS men are in southern Iraq? Why are they there? What are their duties? What weapons do they carry? Whoops! No one asked.

What we were actually doing to “keep the peace” in Basra was to turn a Nelsonian “blind eye” on the abuse, murder and anarchy of Basra since 2003 (including, it turns out, quite a bit of abuse by our very own squaddies). When Christian alcohol sellers were murdered, we remained silent. When ex-Baathists were slaughtered in the streets–including women and their children, a civil war if ever there was one–our British officers somehow forgot to tell the press. Anything to keep our boys out of harm’s way.

But this is what has been happening in Basra. As the locally recruited police force (paid by the occupation authorities) sucked into its ranks the riff-raff of every local militia–as it did in Sunni areas to the north–we ignored this. Even when an American reporter investigating this extraordinary phenomenon was murdered–almost certainly by these same policemen–the British remained silent. We were “controlling” the streets. In Amara–by awful coincidence, the very same Kut al-Amara with whose name, I’m sure, my favourite prime minister will soon be ennobled–British soldiers now operate just one heavily armed convoy patrol a day. That is the extent of our “control” over Amara. Now we are reducing our patrols in Basra. You bet we are.

And a familiar bleat is rising from the sheep pen. “Outside powers” are interfering in southern Iraq. Thirty-five years ago, it was the Irish Republic that was assisting Britain’s IRA enemies. Now it is Iran that is supposedly urging the Shia of Basra to revolt. In other words, it’s not our fault–yet again, it’s the bloody foreigners what’s to blame.

Alas, it is not. Iraqis do not need Iranian weapons or military expertise. Their country is afloat with weapons and they learned how to make bombs–in their millions–during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Half the Iraqi cabinet are linked to Iran–have the British forgotten that their honourable Dawa party government officials in Baghdad worked for the very same Dawa party that blew up the US and French embassies in Kuwait, and tried to kill the emir in the late 1980s? That these same gentlemen belong to a party which was effectively controlling the western hostages in Beirut during this same period?

No. All this is forgotten. Blame Iran. Later, no doubt, we’ll blame those ungrateful Iraqis and then we’ll declare victory and do what Defence Secretary John Reid claims we won’t do: cut and run. And there again, we’re in danger of forgetting the origin of such things. Faced with the imminent destruction of his vessel, a sailing ship captain would cut his anchor or sail ropes to allow his ship to move away from rocks or from being overwhelmed by the waves. Cutting and running was often an eminently sensible thing to do. But not for John Reid. We’re not going to cut and run. We’re going to be blown on to the rocks.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk’s new book, The Conquest of the Middle East, will be released this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail