Have a Nice World War, Folks
By John Pilger
March 25, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and now the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the secretary of “defence” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March Hare.
According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception”. Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if The Hurt Locker were real and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.
“War is fun”, the helmets in Vietnam used to say with bleakest irony, meaning that if a war is revealed as having no purpose other than to justify voracious power in the cause of lucrative fanaticisms such as the weapons industry, the danger of truth beckons. This danger can be illustrated by the liberal perception of Tony Blair in 1997 as one “who wants to create a world [where] ideology has surrendered entirely to values” (Hugo Young, the Guardian) compared with today’s public reckoning of a liar and war criminal.
Western war-states such as the US and Britain are not threatened by the Taliban or any other introverted tribesmen in faraway places, but by the anti-war instincts of their own citizens. Consider the draconian sentences handed down in London to scores of young people who protested Israel’s assault on Gaza in January last year. Following demonstrations in which paramilitary police “kettled” (corralled) thousands, first-offenders have received two and a half years in prison for minor offences that would not normally carry custodial sentences. On both sides of the Atlantic, serious dissent exposing illegal war has become a serious crime.
Silence in other high places allows this moral travesty. Across the arts, literature, journalism and the law, liberal elites, having hurried away from the debris of Blair and now Obama, continue to fudge their indifference to the barbarism and aims of western state crimes by promoting retrospectively the evils of their convenient demons, like Saddam Hussein. With Harold Pinter gone, try compiling a list of famous writers, artists and advocates whose principles are not consumed by the “market” or neutered by their celebrity. Who among them have spoken out about the holocaust in Iraq during almost 20 years of lethal blockade and assault? And all of it has been deliberate. On 22 January 1991, the US Defence Intelligence Agency predicted in impressive detail how a blockade would systematically destroy Iraq’s clean water system and lead to “increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease”. So the US set about eliminating clean water for the Iraqi population: one of the causes, noted Unicef, of the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five. But this extremism apparently has no name.
Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era”. Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”
This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.
In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys”. The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a mite too eagerly, the British elite loves America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner”. We should interrupt their fun.
By Cesar Chelala
March 25, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- Captain Ferguson (not his real name) gets up early in the morning, and has breakfast with his wife and children. At the office, Captain Ferguson sits in front of the computer on and off for almost eight hours every day. At the end of the day he heads back home. Captain Ferguson’s wife is glad to see him back to discuss the events of her day. He does the same, with one omission. By most measures, it has been a beautiful day.
Beautiful, that is, if you don’t consider Captain Ferguson’s omission. While sitting in front of his computer, he was directing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, carrying powerful bombs to land in distant countries. He presumes, but he is not totally sure, that he has hit the right target. After the bombs exploded four suspected terrorists were killed. Four fewer criminals the U.S. will have to deal with.
A later investigation will later reveal that they were not terrorists but rather they were parents and children on a birthday party. As a result of the attack, four adults and eight children were killed, and several more seriously injured.
Captain Ferguson, of course, was unaware of the consequences of his actions. He only thinks that he has a somewhat tedious but rewarding job, since he is an important piece in the fight against terror. Only later he will know the truth, when the outcry of the victims’ relatives cannot be silenced any longer. The predictable apologies will not bring back the dead to life, nor heal those injured.
Let’s compare this made–up scenario with reality.
During the first year of the Obama administration, there were 51 drone attacks, compared to 45 drone attacks during President Bush’s two terms in office, according to The Year of the Drone, a report by the Washington-based New America Foundation. The report also states that the civilian fatality rate has been 32 percent in drone attacks since 2004.
“Drones are currently killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. It should be noted that the United States is not at war with any of those countries, which should mean in a sane world that the killing is illegal under both international law and the US Constitution,” states Philip Girald, a former CIA officer and fellow of the American Conservative Defense Alliance.
Girald’s observation is confirmed by Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. In a research paper entitled “Unlawful Killing with Combat Drones” Professor O’Connell says, “The CIA’s intention in using drones is to target and kill individual leaders of al-Qaeda or Taliban militant groups. Drones have rarely, if ever, killed just the intended target. By October 2009, the ratio has been about 20 leaders killed for 750-1000 unintended victims. Drones are having a counter-productive impact in Pakistan’s attempt to repress militancy and violence. The use of the drone is, therefore, violating the war-fighting principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality, humanity.”
In the meantime, the U.S. military plans to more than triple its inventory of high-altitude drones capable of 24-hour patrols by 2020. General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, which includes both Afghanistan and Iraq, declared in a speech last January, “We can’t get enough drones.”
War, we should sadly acknowledge, is not a Nintendo game. And innocent people’s lives are not expendable. If we don’t admit the tragic dimension of war we will be cursed by its consequences.
Cesar Chelala, a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award, is a contributing editor to The Globalist.
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