The Israeli journalist Amira Hass describes the
moment her mother, Hannah, was marched from a cattle train to the Nazi concentration
camp at Bergen-Belsen. "They were sick and some were dying," she says. "Then
my mother saw these German women looking at the prisoners, just looking. This
image became very formative in my upbringing, this despicable ‘looking
from the side'."
It is time we in Britain and other Western countries stopped looking from the
side. We are being led towards perhaps the most serious crisis in modern history
as the Bush-Cheney-Blair "long war" edges closer to Iran for no reason other
than that nation's independence from rapacious America. The safe delivery of
the 15 British sailors into the hands of Rupert Murdoch and his rivals (with
tales of their "ordeal" almost certainly authored by the Ministry of Defense
– until it got the wind up) is both a farce and a distraction. The Bush administration,
in secret connivance with Blair, has spent four years preparing for "Operation
Iranian Freedom." Forty-five cruise missiles are primed to strike. According
to Russia's leading strategic thinker General Leonid Ivashov: "Nuclear facilities
will be secondary targets... at least 20 such facilities need to be destroyed.
Combat nuclear weapons may be used. This will result in the radioactive contamination
of all the Iranian territory, and beyond."
One million Iraqis fill the streets of Najaf demanding that Bush and Blair
get out of their homeland – that is the real news: not our nabbed sailor-spies,
nor the political danse macabre of the pretenders to Blair's Duce delusions.
Whether it is treasurer Gordon Brown, the paymaster of the Iraq bloodbath, or
John Reid, who sent British troops to pointless deaths in Afghanistan, or any
of the others who sat through cabinet meetings knowing that Blair and his acolytes
were lying through their teeth, only mutual distrust separates them now. They
knew about Blair's plotting with Bush. They knew about the fake 45-minute
"warning." They knew about the fitting up of Iran as the next "enemy."
Declared Brown to the Daily Mail: "The days of Britain having to apologize
for its colonial history are over. We should celebrate much of our past rather
than apologize for it." In Late Victorian Holocausts, the historian Mike
Davis documents that as many as 21 million Indians died unnecessarily in famines
criminally imposed by British colonial policies. Moreover, since the formal
demise of that glorious imperium, declassified files make it clear that British
governments have borne "significant responsibility" for the direct or indirect
deaths of between 8.6 million and 13.5 million people throughout the world from
military interventions and at the hands of regimes strongly supported by Britain.
The historian Mark Curtis calls these victims "unpeople." Rejoice! said Margaret
Thatcher. Celebrate! says Brown. Spot the difference.
Brown is no different from Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the other warmongering
Democrats he admires and who support an unprovoked attack on Iran and the subjugation
of the Middle East to "our interests" – and Israel's, of
course. Nothing has changed since the US and Britain destroyed Iran's democratic
government in 1953 and installed Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose regime had "the
highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts
and a history of torture" that was "beyond belief" (Amnesty).
Look behind the one-way moral screen and you will distinguish the Blairite
elite by its loathing of the humane principles that mark a real democracy. They
used to be discreet about this, but no more. Two examples spring to mind. In
2004, Blair used the secretive "royal prerogative" to overturn a high
court judgment that had restored the very principle of human rights set out
in Magna Carta to the people of the Chagos Islands, a British colony in the
Indian Ocean. There was no debate. As ruthless as any dictator, Blair dealt
his coup de grâce with the lawless expulsion of the islanders from their
homeland, now a US military base, from which Bush has bombed Iraq and Afghanistan
and will bomb Iran.
In the second example, only the degree of suffering is different. Last October,
the Lancet published research by Johns Hopkins University in the US and
al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad which calculated that 655,000 Iraqis had
died as a direct result of the Anglo-American invasion. Downing Street officials
derided the study as "flawed." They were lying. They knew that the
chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defense, Sir Roy Anderson, had backed
the survey, describing its methods as "robust" and "close to
best practice," and other government officials had secretly approved the
"tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones." The
figure for Iraqi deaths is now estimated at close to a million – carnage
equivalent to that caused by the Anglo-American economic siege of Iraq in the
1990s, which produced the deaths of half a million infants under the age of
five, verified by Unicef. That, too, was dismissed contemptuously by Blair.
"This Labour government, which includes Gordon Brown as much as it does
Tony Blair," wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, "is
party to a war crime of monstrous proportions. Yet our political consensus prevents
any judicial or civil society response. Britain is paralyzed by its own indifference."
Such is the scale of the crime and of our "looking from the side." According
to the Observer of 8 April, the voters' "damning verdict" on the Blair
regime is expressed by a majority who have "lost faith" in their government.
No surprise there. Polls have long shown a widespread revulsion to Blair, demonstrated
at the last general election, which produced the second lowest turnout since
the franchise. No mention was made of the Observer's own contribution
to this national loss of faith. Once celebrated as a bastion of liberalism that
stood against Anthony Eden's lawless attack on Egypt in 1956, the new right-wing,
lifestyle Observer enthusiastically backed Blair's lawless attack on
Iraq, having helped lay the ground with major articles falsely linking Iraq
with the 9/11 attacks – claims now regarded even by the Pentagon as fake.
As hysteria is again fabricated, for Iraq, read Iran. According to the former
US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the Bush cabal decided to attack Iraq
on "day one" of Bush's administration, long before 11 September
2001. The main reason was oil. O'Neill was shown a Pentagon document entitled
"Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," which outlined the
carve-up of Iraq's oil wealth among the major Anglo-American companies.
Under a law written by US and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is
about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth
to Anglo-American companies.
Nothing like this piracy has happened before in the modern Middle East, where
OPEC has ensured that oil business is conducted between states. Across the Shatt
al-Arab waterway is another prize: Iran's vast oilfields. Just as nonexistent
weapons of mass destruction or facile concerns for democracy had nothing to
do with the invasion of Iraq, so nonexistent nuclear weapons have nothing to
do with the coming American onslaught on Iran. Unlike Israel and the United
States, Iran has abided by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
of which it was an original signatory, and has allowed routine inspections under
its legal obligations. The International Atomic Energy Agency has never cited
Iran for diverting its civilian program to military use. For the past three
years, IAEA inspectors have said they have been allowed to "go anywhere."
The recent UN Security Council sanctions against Iran are the result of Washington's
Until recently, the British were unaware that their government was one of the
world's most consistent abusers of human rights and backers of state terrorism.
Few Britons knew that the Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of al-Qaeda, was
sponsored by British intelligence as a means of systematically destroying secular
Arab nationalism, or that MI6 recruited young British Muslims in the 1980s as
part of a $4bn Anglo-American-backed jihad against the Soviet Union known as
"Operation Cyclone." In 2001, few Britons knew that 3,000 innocent
Afghan civilians were bombed to death as revenge for the attacks of 11 September.
No Afghans brought down the twin towers. Thanks to Bush and Blair, awareness
in Britain and all over the world has risen as never before. When homegrown
terrorists struck London in July 2005, few doubted that the attack on Iraq had
provoked the atrocity and that the bombs which killed 52 Londoners were, in
effect, Blair's bombs.
In my experience, most people do not indulge the absurdity and cruelty of the
"rules" of rampant power. They do not contort their morality and intellect
to comply with double standards and the notion of approved evil, of worthy and
unworthy victims. They would, if they knew, grieve for all the lives, families,
careers, hopes and dreams destroyed by Blair and Bush. The sure evidence is
the British public's wholehearted response to the 2004 tsunami, shaming
that of the government.
Certainly, they would agree wholeheartedly with Robert H. Jackson, chief of
counsel for the United States at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders at the
end of the Second World War. "Crimes are crimes," he said, "whether
the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared
to lay down a rule of criminal conduct which we would not be willing to have
invoked against us."
As with Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld, who dare not travel to certain
countries for fear of being prosecuted as war criminals, Blair as a private
citizen may no longer be untouchable. On 20 March, Baltasar Garzón, the
tenacious Spanish judge who pursued Augusto Pinochet, called for indictments
against those responsible for "one of the most sordid and unjustifiable
episodes in recent human history" – Iraq. Five days later, the chief
prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory,
said that Blair could one day face war-crimes charges.
These are critical changes in the way the sane world thinks – again, thanks
to the Reich of Blair and Bush. However, we live in the most dangerous of times.
On 6 April, Blair accused "elements of the Iranian regime" of "backing,
financing, arming and supporting terrorism in Iraq." He offered no evidence,
and the Ministry of Defense has none. This is the same Goebbels-like refrain
with which he and his coterie, Gordon Brown included, brought an epic bloodletting
to Iraq. How long will the rest of us continue looking from the side?