When the attacks were launched against the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon two years ago today, who had ever heard of Fallujah or Hillah? When the Lebanese hijacker flew his plane into the ground in Pennsylvania, who would ever have believed that President George Bush would be announcing a “new front line in the war on terror” as his troops embarked on a hopeless campaign against the guerrillas of Iraq?
Who could ever have conceived of an American president calling the world to arms against “terrorism” in “Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza”? Gaza? What do the miserable, crushed, cruelly imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza have to do with the international crimes against humanity in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania?
Nothing, of course. Neither does Iraq have anything to do with 11 September. Nor were there any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, any al-Qa’ida links with Iraq, any 45-minute timeline for the deployment of chemical weapons nor was there any “liberation”.
No, the attacks on 11 September have nothing to do with Iraq. Neither did 11 September change the world. President Bush cruelly manipulated the grief of the American people–and the sympathy of the rest of the world–to introduce a “world order” dreamed up by a clutch of fantasists advising the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld.
The Iraqi “regime change”, as we now know, was planned as part of a Perle-Wolfowitz campaign document to the would-be Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu years before Bush came to power. It beggars belief that Tony Blair should have signed up to this nonsense without realising that it was no more nor less than a project invented by a group of pro-Israeli American neo-conservatives and right-wing Christian fundamentalists.
But even now, we are fed more fantasy. Afghanistan–its American-paid warlords raping and murdering their enemies, its women still shrouded for the most part in their burqas, its opium production now back as the world’s number one export market, and its people being killed at up to a hundred a week (five American troops were shot dead two weekends ago) is a “success”, something which Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld still boast about. Iraq–a midden of guerrilla hatred and popular resentment–is also a “success”. Yes, Bush wants $87bn to keep Iraq running, he wants to go back to the same United Nations he condemned as a “talking shop” last year, he wants scores of foreign armies to go to Iraq to share the burdens of occupation–though not, of course, the decision-making, which must remain Washington’s exclusive imperial preserve.
What’s more, the world is supposed to accept the insane notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–the planet’s last colonial war, although all mention of the illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank and Gaza have been erased from the Middle East narrative in the American press–is part of the “war on terror”, the cosmic clash of religious will that President Bush invented after 11 September. Could Israel’s interests be better served by so infantile a gesture from Bush?
The vicious Palestinian suicide bombers and the grotesque implantation of Jews and Jews only in the colonies has now been set into this colossal struggle of “good” against “evil”, in which even Ariel Sharon–named as “personally” responsible for the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre by Israel’s own commission of inquiry–is “a man of peace”, according to Mr Bush.
And new precedents are set without discussion. Washington kills the leadership of its enemies with impunity: it tries to kill Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and does kill Uday and Qusay Hussein and boasts of its prowess in “liquidating” the al-Qa’ida leadership from rocket-firing “drones”. It tries to kill Saddam in Baghdad and slaughters 16 civilians and admits that the operation was “not risk-free”. In Afghanistan, three men have now been murdered in the US interrogation centre at Bagram. We still don’t know what really goes on in Guantanamo.
What do these precedents mean? I have a dark suspicion. From now on, our leaders, our politicians, our statesmen will be fair game too. If we go for the jugular, why shouldn’t they? The killing of the UN’s Sergio Vieira de Mello, was not, I think, a chance murder. Hamas’s most recent statements–and since they’ve been added to the Bush circus of evil, we should take them seriously–are now, more than ever, personally threatening Mr Sharon. Why should we expect any other leader to be safe? If Yasser Arafat is driven into exile yet again, will there be any restraints left?
Of course, America’s enemies were a grisly bunch. Saddam soiled his country with the mass graves of the innocents, Mullah Omar allowed his misogynist legions to terrify an entire society in Afghanistan. But in their absence, we have created banditry, rape, kidnapping, guerrilla war and anarchy. And all in the name of the dead of 11 September. The future of the Middle East–which is what 11 September was partly about, though we are not allowed to say so–has never looked bleaker or more bloody. The United States and Britain are trapped in a war of their own making, responsible for their own appalling predicament but responsible, too, for the lives of thousands of innocent human beings–cut to pieces by American bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, shot down in the streets of Iraq by trigger-happy GIs.
As for “terror”, our enemies are closing in on our armies in Iraq and our supposed allies in Baghdad and Afghanistan–even in Pakistan. We have done all this in the name of the dead of 11 September. Not since the Second World War have we seen folly on this scale. And it has scarcely begun.
ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.