Fisk: America's Double Standards
- Robert Fisk: The double standards, dubious morality and duplicity of
this fight against terror
Meanwhile, we are ploughing on to war in Iraq, which has oil, but
avoiding war in Korea, which does not have oil
04 January 2003
I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear
agreements with the United States, throws out UN inspectors and sets
off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a
diplomatic issue". Iraq hands over a 12,000-page account of its
weapons production and allows UN inspectors to roam all over the
country, and after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous
chemicals in 230 raids President Bush announces that Iraq is a
threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded. So
that's it, then.
How, readers keep asking me in the most eloquent of letters, does he
get away with it? Indeed, how does Tony Blair get away with it? Not
long ago in the House of Commons, our dear Prime Minister was
announcing in his usual schoolmasterly tones the ones used on
particularly inattentive or dim boys in class that Saddam's
factories of mass destruction were "up [pause] and running [pause]
now." But the Dear Leader in Pyongyang does have factories that
are "up [pause] and running [pause] now". And Tony Blair is silent.
Why do we tolerate this? Why do Americans? Over the past few days,
there has been just the smallest of hints that the American media
the biggest and most culpable backer of the White House's campaign
of mendacity has been, ever so timidly, asking a few questions.
Months after The Independent first began to draw its readers'
attention to Donald Rumsfeld's chummy personal visits to Saddam in
Baghdad at the height of Iraq's use of poison gas against Iran in
1983, The Washington Post has at last decided to tell its own
readers a bit of what was going on. The reporter Michael Dobbs
includes the usual weasel clauses ("opinions differ among Middle
East experts... whether Washington could have done more to stop the
flow to Baghdad of technology for building weapons of mass
destruction"), but the thrust is there: we created the monster and
Mr Rumsfeld played his part in doing so.
But no American or British newspaper has dared to investigate
another, almost equally dangerous, relationship that the present US
administration is forging behind our backs: with the military-
supported regime in Algeria. For 10 years now, one of the world's
dirtiest wars has been fought out in this country, supposedly
between "Islamists" and "security forces", in which almost 200,000
people mostly civilians have been killed. But over the past five
years there has been growing evidence that elements of those same
security forces were involved in some of the bloodiest massacres,
including the throat-cutting of babies. The Independent has
published the most detailed reports of Algerian police torture and
of the extrajudicial executions of women as well as men. Yet the US,
as part of its obscene "war on terror", has cosied up to the
Algerian regime. It is helping to re-arm Algeria's army and promised
more assistance. William Burns, the US Assistant Secretary of State
for the Middle East, announced that Washington "has much to learn
from Algeria on ways to fight terrorism".
And of course, he's right. The Algerian security forces can instruct
the Americans on how to make a male or female prisoner believe that
they are going to suffocate. The method US personnel can find the
experts in this particular torture technique working in the basement
of the Château Neuf police station in central Algiers is to cover
the trussed-up victim's mouth with a rag and then soak it with
cleaning fluid. The prisoner slowly suffocates. There's also, of
course, the usual nail-pulling and the usual wires attached to
penises and vaginas and I'll always remember the eye-witness
description the rape of an old woman in a police station, from
which she emerged, covered in blood, urging other prisoners to
Some of the witnesses to these abominations were Algerian police
officers who had sought sanctuary in London. But rest assured, Mr
Burns is right, America has much to learn from the Algerians.
Already, for example don't ask why this never reached the
newspapers the Algerian army chief of staff has been warmly
welcomed at Nato's southern command headquarters at Naples.
And the Americans are learning. A national security official
attached to the CIA divulged last month that when it came to
prisoners, "our guys may kick them around a little in the adrenaline
of the immediate aftermath (sic)." Another US "national security"
official announced that "pain control in wounded patients is a very
subjective thing". But let's be fair. The Americans may have learnt
this wickedness from the Algerians. They could just as well have
learned it from the Taliban.
Meanwhile, inside the US, the profiling of Muslims goes on apace. On
17 November, thousands of Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans,
Afghans, Bahrainis, Eritreans, Lebanese, Moroccans, Omanis, Qataris,
Somalis, Tunisians, Yemenis and Emiratis turned up at federal
offices to be finger-printed. The New York Times the most chicken
of all the American papers in covering the post-9/11 story
revealed (only in paragraph five of its report, of course)
that "over the past week, agency officials... have handcuffed and
detained hundreds of men who showed up to be finger-printed. In some
cases the men had expired student or work visas; in other cases, the
men could not provide adequate documentation of their immigration
In Los Angeles, the cops ran out of plastic handcuffs as they herded
men off to the lockup. Of the 1,000 men arrested without trial or
charges after 11 September, many were native-born Americans.
Indeed, many Americans don't even know what the chilling acronym of
the "US Patriot Act" even stands for. "Patriot" is not a reference
to patriotism. The name stands for the "United and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism Act". America's $200m (£125m) "Total Awareness
Programme" will permit the US government to monitor citizens' e-mail
and internet activity and collect data on the movement of all
Americans. And although we have not been told about this by our
journalists, the US administration is now pestering European
governments for the contents of their own citizens' data files. The
most recent and most preposterous of these claims came in a US
demand for access to the computer records of the French national
airline, Air France, so that it could "profile" thousands of its
passengers. All this is beyond the wildest dreams of Saddam and the
Dear Leader Kim.
The new rules even worm their way into academia. Take the friendly
little university of Purdue in Indiana, where I lectured a few weeks
ago. With federal funds, it's now setting up an "Institute for
Homeland Security", whose 18 "experts" will include executives from
Boeing and Hewlett-Packard and US Defence and State Department
officials, to organise "research programmes" around "critical
mission areas". What, I wonder, are these areas to be? Surely
nothing to do with injustice in the Middle East, the Arab-Israeli
conflict or the presence of thousands of US troops on Arab lands.
After all, it was Richard Perle, the most sinister of George Bush's
pro-Israeli advisers, who stated last year that "terrorism must be
Meanwhile, we are on that very basis ploughing on to war in
Iraq, which has oil, but avoiding war in Korea, which does not have
oil. And our leaders are getting away with it. In doing so, we are
threatening the innocent, torturing our prisoners and "learning"
from men who should be in the dock for war crimes. This, then, is
our true memorial to the men and women so cruelly murdered in the
crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001.
12 January 2003 11:39
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