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"America's Best Political Newsletter" Out of Bound Magazine
April 19, 2003
Roadmap to Resistance
Apathy and Amnesia: a Major Weapon of the Bush/Blair Alliance
by PABLO MUKHERJEE
I have just come back from a two week trip to India, having stopped over at Dubai both on the way out and back. While still a comfortable distance from Iraq, the Gulf Emirates and even India felt much closer to the full horror of the Anglo-American invasion. Satellite and cable television ensured that the presence of BBC and CNN could be felt in a Calcutta restaurant and a Dubai cafe But the availability of numerous alternative local television channels, newspapers, and above all the animated discussion in the streets suddenly made me realise what a bliss it was to be out of the suffocating shield of Anglo-American propaganda that passes, with grim irony, as 'free press' in the West.
Everywhere on my trip, as soon as it came to be known that I worked and lived in Britain, I was besieged with questions. Not only were the anguished queries about Blair's motive behind destroying a society that he claimed he was 'liberating'; it was too late for that, and Arabs and Indians know only too well about the sinister and murderous implications of 'liberation' by British and Americans. But what people wanted to know was about resistance to Blair within Britain. In Calcutta, probably the most inspiring teacher and scholar I have ever met asked me with whispered urgency - what was happening to the long and venerable tradition of British dissent, which he traced as far back as Wat Tyler? People had seen more than a million march in London on February 14. They were eager to build bridges with them. The day I landed in Calcutta, 30th of March, more than 300,000 people gathered for an anti-war demonstration. They wanted to know where the anti-war movement in Britain would go next.
I flew back to Britain just in time to join the anti-war rally on April 12. I was back in the land of 'embedded' journalists being congratulated for having a good war. Where Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw and Tony Blair were publicly congratulating themselves for using cluster bombs, for having plotted the fall of Baghdad so meticulously, for having stood shoulder to shoulder with the Bush regime. The mood in the rally was sad, angry but also determined. A Guardian/ICM poll published today (15.4.03) showed what it calls one the most dramatic swing in public mood in Britain. Whereas at one point about 70 per cent of Britons opposed a war against Iraq without a second U.N. resolutions, now about the same number of people supported the war. What has changed between January and April?
During this period, the thinking of the British people seem to have developed along these lines - (a) Britain has seen one of the most intense debates about its foreign policy in its entire history. The Parliament had taken note of the strength of the anti-war movement, but had voted to go to war. Once the troops go in, it is unpatriotic not to 'back our boys'; (b) the war has gone well - with minimal British casualties and 'acceptable' levels of Iraqi civilian deaths. Tony Blair has drummed in the message that although every Iraqi civilian death is regrettable, more of them were dying unheard and unseen under Saddam Hussein's regime; (c) Unlike the U.S., where companies have been lining up to carve up Iraq for their profit (the process that with cruel irony, has been dubbed the 'reconstruction' of Iraq), the British role in the looting of Iraq has been a relatively low key affair so far. This surely means that Blair was in it for the reasons he tirelessly cited - bringing democracy to Iraq and the moral imperative of getting rid of Saddam Hussein.
Only one of these points, of course, begins to engage with the core arguments of the anti-war movement. Britain was taken into war by Tony Blair for three reasons - Iraq had developed weapons of mass destruction and was capable of causing direct harm to Britain; Iraq was a direct military threat to its neighbours; Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator and Britain wanted to liberate the Iraqis. Against this, the anti-war movement argued that there was no evidence of Iraq's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction; Iraq's neighbours did not feel threatened by it and there were no demands for the invasion from the region; and, while there was no doubt about the nature of Saddam's regime, the history of Anglo-American support for him in the past as well as the proposed American occupation (direct and indirect) of the country after the war would not lead to either 'liberation' or democratisation of Iraq.
The war has almost entirely vindicated the anti-war movement's position. The much-vaunted biological and chemical weapons of Iraq have failed to turn up. A regime of this nature and facing annihilation would almost certainly have used them if it had the capacity of developing, storing and delivering them. The repeated 'news exclusives' about US marines discovering these weapons have all turned out to be false. There is still a chance that US will plant some form of evidence in Iraq , perhaps some of the weapons-grade anthrax that seems to have 'escaped' from US army laboratories after September 11 and helped stoke the spectre of a world Islamic terror. A while ago I had written about a leaked Russian intelligence report that suggested Pentagon would plant some WMD in Iraq, after a decent interval, to vindicate the Washington hawks. All in all, the war has proved beyond doubt that Iraq was not a WMD threat to any country in the world. Similarly, Iraq's neighbours had always expressed deep misgivings about the invasion, not because of the possibility of Iraqi retaliation but because of the consequences of the destruction of the remnants of Iraqi society. Turkey, deeply threatened by Kurdish nationalism, had at one point in the war actually ordered its army to cross over into Iraq to pre-empt any Kurdish nationalist aspirations. It remains extremely wary. Syria finds itself being branded as a Ba-athist dictatorship with weapons of mass destruction by the Pentagon and the warlord Rumsfeld, and is looking nervously across the border at the massed US troops and firepower, wondering when its turn will come. There is absolutely no doubt that these states are far more threatened by the proximity of US military machine than they ever were by a degraded and contained Saddam Hussein.
This brings us to the only position of the warmongers that ahs any validity - the removal of Saddam Hussein. Despite allegations that the anti-war movement was actually a front for Stalinists and authoritarians of all shapes and kinds secretly in love with the Ba-athist ideal, there is almost no individual in it who mourns the departure of Saddam Hussein. What they mourn is what has come to pass in post-Saddam Iraq. As I write this piece, news is filtering in of 12 Iraqi protesters shot dead by the US marines at Mosul. They were demonstrating against the occupation and the US appointed 'governor'. The Shia organisations have boycotted the talks about the political future of Iraq because they have been outraged by the fact that only those invited by the US and were on the occupying army's 'guest list' could attend the meeting. The massive condescension with which Blair and Bush declared that Iraqi civilians would welcome the invading army with flowers and music has been exposed by the Iraqi civilians - 'No Saddam, No US' was the chant in 'liberated Iraq' yesterday captured on BBC news.
In the face of this evidence, why then has a majority of the British people apparently swung back to a pro-war position? I think a number of factors interlock to produce this particular British structure of feeling. First, there is the persistent 'Little Englander' parochialism that battle against the instinct of internationalism in Britain. During one of the more energetic anti-war rallies, one of my students said how surprised she was to find so many young people there because no one in her generation really cared about what happened to Iraqis anyway. A portion of the anti-war sentiment was certainly generated by a fear of the consequence of British entanglement in Iraq - army casualties, increased risk of terrorist attack, global resentment against Britain etc. Once it became clear that British soldiers would not die in large numbers, that Britain was probably not a less safer place than before the campaign, and that global resentment was overwhelmingly focussed on the US - these fears were allayed. Then, there is the deeply rooted British nostalgia for global imperial and moral authority. Despite its murderous history, the British empire had always been sold and repackaged to Britons as a force of moral good. In contrast to the French, Spanish, Belgian, Russian, and now (whisper it) American imperial systems, the British has always claimed to be a force for the rule of law and moral authority. Blair understands this and has cleverly pitched his argument accordingly. Britain's stake in the war, claims Blair, - unlike the US- is not Iraqi oil or reconstruction, but the moral and ethical satisfaction of seeing a murderous tyrant removed. This facade is carefully maintained by differentiating British rhetoric British battle strategy (for example in Basra) from the American. We talk about liberating and compassion, we don't carpet bomb Basra, our forces ensure access to humanitarian measures, our boys don't hide behind space-age helmets and shades but chat to Iraqis in their berets - the British public murmur. This appeals to their sense of decency. They begin to grudgingly admire the Prime Minister. Finally, this confluence of British parochialism and latent 'moral' imperialism are maintained in Britain by an almost blanket bombardment of misinformation and propaganda by the media. This is not just that portion of the media owned by the self-confessed admirers of the US imperium like Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black whose newspapers and television channels regularly convey vitriolic and militant racist calls for the subjugation of Muslims, immigrants, Arabs, liberals and other 'aliens'. What has affected those Britons sceptical or opposed to the war is the much more insidious campaign by the so-called 'objective' or 'liberal' organs of information. 'Embedded' reporters have regularly presented the campaign from either the invading army's perspective, or from the perspective of the crumbling Iraqi information ministry. The effect has been the further demonisation of the Iraqis as habitual liars (summed up in the presentation of the hapless Iraqi Information minister nicknamed 'comical Ali') and pathetically defeated people against the earnest, triumphant, organised British and American forces. The obligatory shots of the Iraqis celebrating their 'liberation' have been fed directly to bolster the moral claims of Jack Straw and Tony Blair without any qualifications - that the handful of Iraqis who did come out to celebrate were also a part of the overwhelming majority who are opposed to US-UK presence in their country just as they were against Saddam Hussein. The murder of the protesters in Mosul by the US marines on the 15th of April is a clear signal of the US empire's lack of patience with any Iraqi demands for genuine democracy. In British liberal press today, this first significant murderous crackdown by the US on free 'Iraq' is buried deep within accounts of the 'reconstruction' meetings organised by the American Generals Jay Garner and Tommy Franks. Despite its commitment and occasional living up to the standards of 'objective' reporting, even those sections of the British media outside the baneful influence of Murdoch and Black are saturated with (ultimately racist) assumptions about Iraqis and remain biased in favour of the spurious 'liberation' rhetoric of Downing street and the so-called achievements of the invasion. As these remain the main sources of information for the war-sceptics, they make the relatively easy switch to being in favour of Blair's position once the war has been declared a success.
What then of those in Britain who have remained convinced about the political, ethical and moral failings of this invasion? Does the anti-war movement have enough reserve to continue the slow and painful task of winning the hearts and minds of the British majority? I hope so. I have seen British school children mobilise and unite against the war, often in the face of serious disciplinary threats, with a conviction that has put veteran trade union leaders to shame. I have seen Labour party members occupy their own regional offices to protest against their party leader and prime minister. I have seen the senior Labour MP Tam Dalyell take the extraordinary step of calling for the indictment of Tony Blair. I have seen journalists walk out of their jobs in frustration with their bosses who have instructed them to follow the government 'line' on the war. I have seen teachers suspend their classes and organise debates with their students about the invasion of Iraq. The roots of the movement are sinking deep in Britain. Even more crucially, the movement has internationalised Britain to perhaps an unprecedented degree. Over Afghanistan, and now Iraq, the Britons have felt that they are a part of a global movement against war, an international coalition for peace and justice and against the US imposed 'new world order'. This 'alternative' globalisation will also sustain the people here.
Perhaps even more than during the conflict, it is now the time for the anti-war movement in Britain to make its presence felt. Leaders like Bush and Blair rely on apathy and amnesia to push through their agenda. How else can Tony Blair look his MPs and the electorate in the eye and say 'just as we did in Afghanistan, we shall liberate Iraq'. Afghanistan, where even last week 'stray' American missiles killed at least 11 villagers; where the puppet ruler Hamid Karzai's closest associates have been assassinated and Karzai himself relies on American protection for survival; where the promised elections have failed to materialise and the country carved up again by the warlords; where less than a month ago a western Red Cross worker was gunned down and his Afghan assistants warned that the same fate awaited them if they worked for 'foreigners'. This is the result of 'liberation' US style. Blair can afford to shamelessly use this as a justification for further wars precisely because he knows that the media will work tirelessly to make people forget what happens when the cameras leave. The same way the media is now lying, omitting and manipulating the reality of post-Saddam Iraq.
It is the instilling of this amnesia that the anti-war movement has now got to fight in Britain:
We must not forget the reasons we were given for this invasion and we must not let them forget that none of them have been justified by the subsequent events
We must call Blair and his coterie to account every time the army of occupation kills Iraqis protesting against the American presence
We must ask what is happening to Iraqi oil, to Iraqi reconstruction, to the American companies circling like vultures to move in for the kill as soon as the country is 'pacified'
We must call on the media to keep following up on Iraq. Iraqis, Afghans are not circus creatures whose torture, death and grief can be served up as prime time television and then replaced by East Enders once the war is over. We want their oppression under US occupation to be kept in the full glare of the cameras. We want to see what Blair-Bush's liberation looks like in real life.
We must extend our support to Iraqis in the democratisation of their society, and oppose Pentagon-appointed rulers and governors who will oversee the transferring of Iraqi wealth to the US and its allies.
To do this we must continue to write, to march, to strike, to protest, to discuss as long as it takes. This is not going to be a soft ride.
Iraqis have been repeatedly betrayed by both the official 'left' and 'right' in Britain for too long. For the sake of our common human future, we cannot betray them once again through apathy and amnesia.
Dr Pablo Mukherjee teaches in the school of english at University of Newcastle. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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ブッシュ母の "Beautiful Mind" コメント。 絶句してしまいました。
投稿者 tom 日時 2003 年 4 月 23 日 15:41:01:SPeB63Xu/A8jA
ブッシュだけでなく、アルコール中毒を経て突然Born-again Christianになった、このドラ息子を育てた母親、Barbara Bush、そしてホワイトハウスでのイベントに招待されていた詩人達の反戦抗議予定を事前に察知し、恐れをなして急遽予定を延期したファースト・レディ、どやつもこやつも合わせて全て敵であります。
「彼は見ますが、私は読書をします。 悪く取らないでほしいですが、TVニュースの内容については９０％は、推測であることが私には良く分かっております。 戦死者のBody bags（遺体袋）のことや、そしてその数、それがいつ起こるかについて、そして予想はなどとの情報を聞く必要がはたしてあるのかしら？
The following is from an immensely interesting transcript of Barbara Bush on an ABC-TV morning show. She was asked if she and her husband, the former president, watch television.
"He sits and listens and I read books because I know perfectly well that - don't take offense - that 90 percent of what I hear on television is supposition, when we're talking about the news. And he's not, not as understanding of my pettiness about that. But why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it's, not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that? And watch him suffer."
Published on Wednesday, April 16, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
For Lack of a Beautiful Mind
by Joyce Marcel
For lack of a beautiful mind, I care about the Iraqi dead and wounded. I care about the looting and destruction. I care about the lies and hypocrisy of my government and what comes next: the profiteering and the attempt to convert the Iraqis to Christianity.
For lack of a beautiful mind, I can not be like Barbara Bush, the queen mother, our lady of the white hair and pearls, who believes that her son the president was called upon by God to lead this nation. "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths...?" she said on television just before the war. "Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
For lack of a beautiful mind, I care about Bubbling Bob.
"Dozens of corpses lay rotting by roadsides or in cars blown up by U.S. forces as they captured Baghdad," reported David Fox of Reuters. "Nearby, the corpse of an airport worker rolled around in the current of a pool... 'That's 'bubbling Bob',' said one soldier. 'Been there a while. I ain't gonna fish him out. Let the Iraqis do it.'"
For lack of a beautiful mind, I am condemned by conservatives like Cal Thomas, who is syndicated in 540 papers. He wants me, among many others, to stand trial in a "cultural war crimes tribunal" for being "wrong" about the war in Iraq, as if might makes right.
For lack of a beautiful mind, anti-war protesters like myself "have proven themselves irrelevant of today's reality, which includes a freed Iraqi people for whom the operative conjunctive phrase isn't 'yes but' but 'yes and,'" crows Kathleen Parker, whose column is syndicated in 300 newspapers.
Yes and let's loot? Yes and let's destroy 8,000 years of mankind's history by smashing every precious artifact in our own museum? Yes and let's burn the priceless documents in the National Library and Archives? Yes and let's take revenge? Yes and let's steal the hospital beds out from under the wounded? Yes and let's protest the installation of a puppet government and be shot by American troops? Yes and let's let anarchy and chaos rein.
For lack of a beautiful mind, I cannot be like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said about the looting, "Freedom's untidy. And a free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes."
"Is this your liberation?" a frustrated shopkeeper screamed at a US tank crew as they watched a gang of young men steal everything in his hardware store and cart it off in one of his own wheelbarrows.
"'Hell, it ain't my job to stop them,' drawled one young marine, lighting a cigarette as he looked on," Fox reported. "'Goddamn Iraqis will steal anything if you let them. Look at them.'"
For lack of a beautiful mind, I have a hard time supporting soldiers like Sgt. Michael Sprague of While Sulphur Springs, W. Va., who told British reporter James Meek, "I've been all the way through this desert from Basra to here and I ain't seen one shopping mall or fast food restaurant. These people got nothing. Even in a little town like ours of twenty five hundred people you got a McDonald's at one end and a Hardees at the other."
For lack of a beautiful mind, I am repelled by the words of Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, 28, who, while explaining to New York Times reporter Dexter Filkens how frustrating it is when Iraqi soldiers use civilians as human shields, said he had deliberately killed an Iraqi woman. "I'm sorry, but the chick was in the way."
For lack of a beautiful mind, I agree with the Iraqi man who told a U.S. Marine, "I'm going to exercise my right of free speech for the first time in my life - we want you out of here as soon a possible."
For lack of a beautiful mind, I noticed right away that there were only a few people in Fardus Square when the Americans toppled that large statue of Saddam Hussein. Granted that it was a beautiful piece of symbolic video footage, why didn't our corrupt media report that the square had been blocked off by U.S. soldiers, the few Iraqis allowed inside were exiles who had been flown into the country a few days before, and that the entire production had been staged for the cameras?
For lack of a beautiful mind, even though North Korea, Iran and Syria are now making conciliatory overtures to the U.S., I believe that the theory behind this war, that America will be safer when the Middle East is a series of "Americanized" democracies because democracies don't make unprovoked attacks on other countries, is corrupt. As David Olive wrote in The Toronto Star, "When the world's most powerful democracy launched its invasion of Iraq last month, that theory failed its first test."
For lack of a beautiful mind, I am repelled that Bush's Republican party contributors are lining up for contracts: Halliburton, SteveDoring Services of America, Bechtel, International Resources Group, Exxon.
For lack of a beautiful mind, I am disgusted that the Rev. Franklin Graham, who said after Sept. 11 that "The God of Islam ... is a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion," is planning to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq, along with other Christian fundamentalist groups.
"We are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian I do this in the name of Jesus Christ," Graham said.
For lack of a beautiful mind, I believe that George Monbiot of The Guardian told the truth when he said, "They have unlocked the spirit of war, and it could be unwilling to return to its casket until it has traversed the world."
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel for a variety of newspapers and magazines. More of her work can be found at The American Reporter (american-reporter.com).
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