Terror And The Whirlwind

Media Lens

No links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, no weapons of mass destruction, and now no question that the invasion of Iraq has led to a massive increase in the threat of terrorism, as the series of bombings across Iraq, in Riyadh, Casablanca, Jakarta, and Istanbul have made horrifically clear.
A statue of George W Bush is toppled in London's Trafalgar Square, in a renactment of the destruction of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad, as part of demonstrations against Bush's visit to London.
Last night, the UK?s ITN?s royal correspondent, Tom Bradby, asked the establishment media?s favourite question of protestors: “Is this the day to be demonstrating against the leaders of the free world?” During the war, reporters asked, “Is there any point in protesting now that the democratic decision has been taken to go to war?”

The media have conveniently forgotten a key lesson from the Vietnam War. Then, mass protests at the height of the war persuaded Pentagon officials to urge an end to the slaughter because the alternative, escalation, risked “provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions”. (The Pentagon Papers, Vol. IV, p. 564) The media have also forgotten the very essence of the Nuremberg charter, which is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience to the state.

Bradby asked protestors why they were carrying placards describing Bush as the world?s number one terrorist when “the real terrorists” had just killed and injured hundreds in Istanbul. It might seem unfair to pick on a royal correspondent. But then it might seem unfair that a royal correspondent should be picked to report on a serious and important peace movement.

Eleanor Goodman of the UK?s Channel 4 News declared that the latest bombings in Istanbul had, “ironically”, made Bush and Blair?s task easier at yesterday?s press conference ? they could point to the bombings as an example of exactly what they were fighting against.

Goodman made it sound as though this view was based on something more than her personal opinion. In fact the targeting of British interests in Istanbul should be the final nail in the coffin of Bush and Blair?s credibility ? the last justification for the war on Iraq has been exposed as a lie. The fact that one-quarter of London?s entire police force was required to protect Bush, at a cost of ?5 million, tells its own story. Is this what ?success? in responding to the “serious and current threat” of terror looks like?

Remarkably, in all the extensive coverage, almost no journalist managed to provide credible evidence indicating the central point about yesterday?s events ? that intelligence agencies and experts on security issues predicted “exactly” this outcome from a USA-UK attack on Iraq.

In early 2003, a high-level task force of the Council on Foreign Relations warned of likely terrorist attacks far worse than September 11, including possible use of weapons of mass destruction within the USA, dangers that became “more urgent by the prospect of the USA going to war with Iraq”. (Noam Chomsky, February 1, 2003)

This awareness created deep unease within the intelligence community. In a letter to the Guardian, Lt Cdr Martin Packard (ret.), a former NATO intelligence adviser, wrote, “In the case of Iraq the urgency for military action appears to arise not because of a gathering Iraqi threat but because of political and economic considerations in America. Scepticism over USA-UK spin on Iraq is validated by the number of senior military officers and former intelligence analysts who remain unconvinced that war at this stage is justified. Many of them believe that the threat to UK interests and to regional stability will be increased by a USA-led attack on Iraq rather than diminished.”

According to Douglas Hurd, former Conservative Foreign Secretary, war on Iraq ran “the risk of turning the Middle East into an inexhaustible recruiting ground for anti-western terrorism”. Shortly before the war, Saudi Arabia’s former oil minister, Sheikh Yamani, said: “What they are going to do if they embark on this is to produce “real” terrorists. I think sometime in the future Osama bin Laden will look like an angel compared to the future terrorists.”

The Bush/Blair strategy, Chomsky noted, “has caused shudders not only among the usual victims, and in ‘old Europe,’ [but] right at the heart of the USA foreign policy elite, who recognise that ‘commitment of the USA to active military confrontation for decisive national advantage will leave the world more dangerous and the USA less secure’.” There are, Chomsky pointed out, no precedents whatever for this kind of establishment opposition.

Anatol Lieven, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, wrote that the Bush administration is pursuing “the classic modern strategy of an endangered right-wing oligarchy, which is to divert mass discontent into nationalism,” inspired by fear of lethal threats. Lieven warned that America “has become a menace to itself and to mankind”.

Citing none of the above sources, today?s Guardian leader merely asks, lamely, “Who is this enemy that seems both invisible and ubiquitous? What causes this pitiless hatred? To say simply they ?hate freedom? is no explanation. Do Mr Bush and Mr Blair really believe that this is a war that can definitively be one? And are their policies in the Middle East and beyond steadily making matters worse, not better?”

The Naivety Of Realpolitik
Standing high above the surrounding buildings, the HSBC headquarters was a monument to capitalism in a country that is overwhelmingly Islamic.
“Ha ha ha to the pacifists”, wrote Christopher Hitchens in November 2001 after the fall of Kabul. But in January 2002, Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas of the Royal Institute of International Affairs said of this first phase of the “war on terror”, that “taking out the terrorist training camps might appear as if it?s a major step towards defeating international terrorism… But if anyone thinks that this temporary degradation of al-Qaeda?s capabilities through the elimination of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan somehow or other reduces the risks of terrorist attacks in the future, I?m afraid they?re wrong. Because terrorist training camps don?t have to be in Afghanistan, they can be anywhere. And indeed the temptation now for al-Qaeda will be to site the training of its operatives in Western Europe, Canada and even in the United States. And we have seen that they are capable of doing that, because the attack on September 11, if anything, seems to have been planned in Hamburg, not in Afghanistan.”

Nicholas Kristof notes in this month?s New York Times that “the big winner” of USA security strategy in Afghanistan “was the Taliban, which is now mounting a resurgence”. In the two years since the war, opium production in the demolished country [which had almost been eradicated under the Taliban] has soared 19-fold and become the major source of the world’s heroin. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, writes in a “grim new report” on Afghanistan, that “there is a palpable risk that Afghanistan will again turn into a failed state, this time in the hands of drug cartels and narco-terrorists.”

Paul Barker, the Afghan country director for CARE International, says that “things are definitely deteriorating on the security front.” Nancy Lindborg of Mercy Corps, the American aid group, says, “We’ve operated in Afghanistan for about 15 years and we’ve never had the insecurity that we have now.”

Writers like Hitchens, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch and Johann Hari have consistently mocked the naivety and sentimentality of anti-war protestors. But nothing could be more na?ve than attempting to fight suicide bombers with tanks and planes, than extinguishing fire with petrol, than fuelling hatred born of injustice with yet more hatred and injustice.

When IRA bombs exploded in London, the RAF was not sent to bomb the source of their finances in the United States. In dealing with the Mafia, no one would suggest sending B-52s over Sicily. The sane course, as Chomsky notes, would be “to consider realistically the background concerns and grievances, and try to remedy them, while at the same time following the rule of law to punish criminals”.

Earlier this year we cited Geshe Lhundub Sopa?s words on the issue of war and peace. The words bear repeating: “The consequences of activities such as destruction and killing motivated by a mind disturbed by greed and hatred are like light rays, in that they will spread everywhere, bringing war and suffering.” We can be absolutely certain that this will continue to be our reality until we rid ourselves of the greed and hatred that dominate our political and economic systems, and the policies they generate.

Published Friday, November 21st, 2003 - 08:15am GMT

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