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Fisk: About to Explode

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    CAN T BLAIR SEE THAT THIS COUNTRY IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE? CAN T BUSH? By Robert Fisk - The Independent (Britain) Sunday, August 1, 2004
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 4 4:15 PM
      By Robert Fisk - The Independent (Britain)
      Sunday, August 1, 2004

      The Prime Minister has accused some journalists of almost wanting a
      disaster to happen in Iraq. Robert Fisk, who has spent the past five
      weeks reporting from the deteriorating and devastated country, says
      the disaster has already happened, over and over again.

      The war is a fraud. I'm not talking about the weapons of mass
      destruction that didn't exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein
      and al-Qa'ida which didn't exist. Nor all the other lies upon which
      we went to war. I'm talking about the new lies.

      For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats
      that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist.
      Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America's puppet
      government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are
      made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we
      are not told. This month's death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has
      now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we
      are not told.

      The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident
      at Saddam Hussein's "trial". Not only did the US military censor the
      tapes of the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of
      the 11 other defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to
      believe - until he reached the courtroom - that he was on his way to
      his execution. Indeed, when he entered the room he believed that the
      judge was there to condemn him to death. This, after all, was the way
      Saddam ran his own state security courts. No wonder he initially
      looked "disorientated" - CNN's helpful description - because, of
      course, he was meant to look that way. We had made sure of that.
      Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: "Are you a lawyer? ... Is this
      a trial?" And swiftly, as he realised that this really was an initial
      court hearing - not a preliminary to his own hanging - he quickly
      adopted an attitude of belligerence.

      But don't think we're going to learn much more about Saddam's future
      court appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster
      Ahmad and the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told
      the Iraqi press two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from
      future court hearings. And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a
      Milosevic, he'll want to talk about the real intelligence and
      military connections of his regime - which were primarily with the
      United States.

      Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous
      experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in
      Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out
      police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles
      has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in
      Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if
      he is the hero of a school debating competition; so much for the
      Butler report.

      Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days
      is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn't Blair realise that Iraq is
      about to implode? Doesn't Bush realise this? The American-appointed
      "government" controls only parts of Baghdad - and even there its
      ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba,
      Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside
      government authority. Iyad Allawi, the "Prime Minister", is little
      more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair
      announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn't
      get it. The disaster exists now.

      When suicide bombers ram their cars into hundreds of recruits outside
      police stations, how on earth can anyone hold an election next
      January? Even the National Conference to appoint those who will
      arrange elections has been twice postponed. And looking back through
      my notebooks over the past five weeks, I find that not a single
      Iraqi, not a single American soldier I have spoken to, not a single
      mercenary - be he American, British or South African - believes that
      there will be elections in January. All said that Iraq is
      deteriorating by the day. And most asked why we journalists weren't
      saying so.

      But in Baghdad, I turn on my television and watch Bush telling his
      Republican supporters that Iraq is improving, that Iraqis support the
      "coalition", that they support their new US-manufactured government,
      that the "war on terror" is being won, that Americans are safer. Then
      I go to an internet site and watch two hooded men hacking off the
      head of an American in Riyadh, tearing at the vertebrae of an
      American in Iraq with a knife. Each day, the papers here list another
      construction company pulling out of the country. And I go down to
      visit the friendly, tragically sad staff of the Baghdad mortuary and
      there, each day, are dozens of those Iraqis we supposedly came to
      liberate, screaming and weeping and cursing as they carry their loved
      ones on their shoulders in cheap coffins.

      I keep re-reading Tony Blair's statement. "I remain convinced it was
      right to go to war. It was the most difficult decision of my life."
      And I cannot understand it. It may be a terrible decision to go to
      war. Even Chamberlain thought that; but he didn't find it a difficult
      decision - because, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, it was the
      right thing to do. And driving the streets of Baghdad now, watching
      the terrified American patrols, hearing yet another thunderous
      explosion shaking my windows and doors after dawn, I realise what all
      this means. Going to war in Iraq, invading Iraq last year, was the
      most difficult decision Blair had to take because he thought -
      correctly - that it might be the wrong decision. I will always
      remember his remark to British troops in Basra, that the sacrifice of
      British soldiers was not Hollywood but "real flesh and blood". Yes,
      it was real flesh and blood that was shed - but for weapons of mass
      destruction that weren't real at all.

      "Deadly force is authorised," it says on checkpoints all over
      Baghdad. Authorised by whom? There is no accountability. Repeatedly,
      on the great highways out of the city US soldiers shriek at motorists
      and open fire at the least suspicion. "We had some Navy Seals down at
      our checkpoint the other day," a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to
      me. "They asked if we were having any trouble. I said, yes, they've
      been shooting at us from a house over there. One of them asked: 'That
      house?' We said yes. So they have these three SUVs and a lot of
      weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards the house. And
      later they come back and say 'We've taken care of that'. And we
      didn't get shot at any more."

      What does this mean? The Americans are now bragging about their siege
      of Najaf. Lieutenant Colonel Garry Bishop of the 37th Armoured
      Division's 1st Battalion believes it was an "ideal" battle (even
      though he failed to kill or capture Muqtada Sadr whose "Mehdi army"
      were fighting the US forces). It was "ideal", Bishop explained,
      because the Americans avoided damaging the holy shrines of the Imams
      Ali and Hussein. What are Iraqis to make of this? What if a Muslim
      army occupied Kent and bombarded Canterbury and then bragged that
      they hadn't damaged Canterbury Cathedral? Would we be grateful?

      What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy
      by those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear
      of their lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press
      conference that hostage-taking is having an "effect" on
      reconstruction. Effect! Oil pipeline explosions are now as regular as
      power cuts. In parts of Baghdad now, they have only four hours of
      electricity a day; the streets swarm with foreign mercenaries, guns
      poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis who don't clear the
      way for them. This is the "safer" Iraq which Mr Blair was boasting of
      the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?

      Take the Saddam trial. The entire Arab press - including the Baghdad
      papers - prints the judge's name. Indeed, the same judge has given
      interviews about his charges of murder against Muqtada Sadr. He has
      posed for newspaper pictures. But when I mention his name in The
      Independent, I was solemnly censured by the British Government's
      spokesman. Salem Chalabi threatened to prosecute me. So let me get
      this right. We illegally invade Iraq. We kill up to 11,000 Iraqis.
      And Mr Chalabi, appointed by the Americans, says I'm guilty
      of "incitement to murder". That just about says it all.



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