“. . . when [Saddam Hussein] chose to deny the [UN] inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did.”
George Bush, the President of the United States of America, March 21, 2006.
“Iraq has on the whole co-operated rather well so far with [the inspectors] . . . The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt . . . ”
Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix, Report to the Security Council, 27 January 2003.
“Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly.”
Blix, Report, February 14, 2003.
It is obvious from the above that the President of the United States of America has lied in his teeth to the people of his country.
But nobody who has the opportunity to speak to Bush has the courage to say: YOU HAVE TOLD A LIE. It certainly won’t be a reporter, but you might think at least somebody in public life–a senator or an equally highly-respected figure like a second-hand car salesman or a convicted conman–people who have access to Bush if they are rich enough–might stand up to say, MR PRESIDENT, YOU TOLD US A LIE. WHY DID YOU TELL US A LIE?
Zero chance, of course, because not one single person in the entire United States who could get anywhere near the holy figure of Bush is prepared to say anything that might offend him. He is more of an emperor than any Caesar ; more arrogant than any Sun King ; more well-protected against the slightest ray of revealing criticism than any Tsar of All the Russias ever was.
One of the Bush toadies, the outgoing chief of staff Andrew Card, described the culture of the White House when he said in 2003 that “One of the greatest privileges that anyone can have in any democracy is to say, ‘Good morning, Mr. President’.” What a load of baloney. It isn’t a “privilege” to talk to the president. It is, or should be, the right of all citizens to talk to him through their elected representatives and at public meetings. The cult of servility and sycophantic deference surrounding this president is unseemly and undemocratic, and should be repugnant to every American. The appointment, the actual position of president is deserving of courtesy, providing the incumbent is personally so deserving. But when it is apparent, through incontrovertible evidence, that the man is dishonorable and unworthy of the country’s trust, then the greatest privilege that could be awarded the people is to see the back of him.
Fawning lickspittles like Card, Rice, Rove and the rest of the White House flunkies have convinced Bush that he has a God-given right to power. They have encouraged development of a smug, self-obsessed and deceitful Administration.
Hitler, Stalin and Mao would envy this man his invulnerability in the face of devastating and conclusive evidence that he deliberately deceives the American people. They would particularly admire his success in duping his armed forces who follow his demented orders without question. Orders are orders! This has been the cry down the centuries when men in uniform explain their hideous atrocities by claiming they are bound to obey even the most lunatic instructions.
Which brings us to the US military in Iraq, which is following the example of the commander-in-chief by telling lie after lie after lie.
While Bush is protected against reality by the armored bubble of media support and the devious figures around him, the military’s shield can on occasions be penetrated. The most recent series of lies that the US Army’s most senior officers have told concern the slaughter of unarmed Iraqis on March 27.
The military first said that Iraqi forces killed 16 “insurgents” with US troops in support. The statement said “No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation. As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire [they] killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.”
Let’s compare this with the BBC’s report of March 28: “Graphic footage shown on Iraqi TV channels of the bodies of men lying close together, apparently unarmed, have further fuelled concerns over the incident. But the Americans have suggested the scenes were faked. ‘After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different than it was’, said Lt General Peter Chiarelli, the number two US commander in Iraq, when asked about accusations unarmed people in a mosque had been killed.”
Then there was Reuters: “Government-run television has shown footage of bodies lying without weapons in what Shi’ite ministers say is a mosque compound run by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The security minister accused Iraqi and U.S. troops of killing 37 unarmed men. . . . ”
Associated Press reported “Video showed male bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of what was said by the cameraman to be the imam’s living quarters, attached to the mosque itself.” It carried Chiarrelli’s statement that ‘It’s important to remember we had an Iraqi unit with us, an Iraqi unit of 50 folks and they told us point blank that this was not a mosque’. “Associated Press reporters who visited the scene of the raid identified it as a neighborhood Shiite mosque complex. Television footage taken Monday showed crumbling walls and disarray in a compound used as a gathering place for prayer.”
Consider the statement that “we had an Iraqi unit with us” and compare it to the other story that the Iraqis had US troops “in support”. If he had said “We were with an Iraqi unit” or something similar, then we might possibly believe that this was an Iraqi operation. But “we had an Iraqi unit with us” makes it clear that the Iraqis were subordinate to the American force.
When you read the words of another general you get a little more of the true picture through the lies: Major General JD Thurman “said an Iraqi special forces unit with about 25 US advisers, trainers, medical and bomb disposal crew in support arrived to raid the site at nightfall and were immediately fired on from a number of buildings around the compound. The troops ‘cleared the compound’, he said, killing or capturing those inside. ‘It was Iraqi forces who did the fighting’, he stressed. Thurman said US helicopters were in the air at the time but only in support of another mission.”
According to Britain’s ‘Daily Telegraph’, next day the idiotic General Pace, America’s most senior and disastrous soldier (who recently declared that “I would say [things are] going very, very well [in Iraq] from everything you look at”) “said he did not know if American forces had fired during the operation”. That is somewhat different from the assurance given by his subordinate that “Iraqi forces did the fighting”.
Nobody knows for certain if the attacking force was fired on, and it would not have made any difference if they had been fired on, because no matter what happened the US/Iraqi force was going to storm that complex of buildings in which, they had eventually to acknowledge, there was a structure that was a mosque. It doesn’t matter a stuff if it was a mosque or not: what matters is that the military first denied that it was a mosque (“No mosques were entered or damaged”) and then, when the lie was revealed, admitted that it was indeed a mosque–or, in the ludicrous words of Pace, it was a building with a minaret, “that some people are calling a mosque.” Yes: the people who “might” call it a mosque would include the score who were using it and were slaughtered by the 50 Iraqi troops and their 25 “advisers and trainers”.
And are we expected to believe that all the helicopter gunships zooming above the mosque complex were “only in support of another mission”? Nobody outside the military can prove that the gunships were not in support of “another mission” but as a former soldier I can say only that if they were involved in another operation and were anywhere near the US-Iraqi attack on the mosque compound on March 27 then this is sad evidence of appalling battle procedures. Maybe that is so. Or maybe Thurman was lying. But it is perfectly legitimate to have air support. So why lie?
The day before the slaughter at the place “that some people are calling a mosque” US forces had stormed another building. This one belonged to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, and the US forces, acting on the best intelligence they had, considered to be “a torture center”. It contained 17 Sudanese in legal detention for breach of residency laws. None of them had been mistreated in any way. This gives us real faith in the quality of US information in Iraq, especially concerning the place they blitzed on March 27.
The whole sordid saga is only one more example of the normal reflex in the military and other pro-Administration political groups in the Bush era: when things go wrong, just tell lies. Then, when they’re found out, issue a statement saying that there might just be a possibility that the mosque could have been a prayer place with a minaret–but all the unarmed men who were killed were not shot down like dogs: according to the generals their manner of death was a matter of “someone” making “the scene look different than it was”.
It’s comparable to the murder of fifteen women and children by revenge-seeking Marines last November. Nobody would have known a thing about it if it hadn’t been for Time magazine. The practice is for the military to ignore atrocities, then try to bluster their way out of the mess by lying ; then, when forced to acknowledge that there just might have been a mass slaughter, they grudgingly set up an inquiry. (“The military, which initially said the 15 were killed by [a bomb] blast but later acknowledged they were shot, said last week that a criminal investigation was under way.”) And we all know what happened after the ‘inquiry’ about the marine who murdered an unarmed wounded prisoner lying helpless on the floor–zilch. Stand by for a rerun.
Rumsfeld summed it up, unwittingly, last week: “The US government has not got to the point where we are as deft and clever and facile and quick as the enemy that is perfectly capable of lying, having it printed all over the world, and there’s no penalty for having lied.”
There is indeed no penalty for having lied. The privilege of impunity for lying has been assumed by the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of forces whose senior commanders appear to have lost touch with the world.
Certainly the Bush administration has not yet got to the point of telling lies in a manner that is “deft and clever and facile”. But it isn’t for want of trying–and it is trying its best to do so.
BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com