Six Days of Shame
by John Pilger
March 26, 2003
TODAY is a day of shame for the British military as it declares the Iraqi city of Basra, with a stricken population of 600,000, a "military target.”
You will not read or hear those words in the establishment media that claims to speak for Britain.
But they are true. With Basra, shame is now our signature, forged by Blair and Bush.
Having destroyed its water and power supplies, cut off food supply routes and having failed to crack its human defences, they are now preparing to lay siege to Iraq's second city which is more than 40 per cent children.
What an ignominious moment in British history. Here is an impoverished country under attack by a superpower, the United States, which has unimaginable wealth and the world's most destructive weapons, and its "coalition" accomplice, Britain, which boasts one of the world's best "professional" armies.
Believing their own propaganda, the military brass has been stunned by the Iraqi resistance.
They have tried to belittle the militia defending Basra with lurid stories that its fighters are killing each other.
The truth is that the Iraqis are fighting like lions to defend not a tyrant but their homeland. It is a truth the overwhelming majority of decent Britons will admire.
The historical comparison Tony Blair and his propagandists fear is that of the British defending themselves against invasion. That happened 60 years ago and now "we" are the rapacious invaders.
Yesterday, Blair said that 400,000 Iraqi children had died in the past five years from malnutrition and related causes. He said "huge stockpiles of humanitarian aid" and clean water awaited them in Kuwait, if only the Iraqi regime would allow safe passage.
In fact, voluminous evidence, including that published by the United Nations Children's Fund, makes clear that the main reason these children have died is an enduring siege, a 12-year embargo driven by America and Britain.
As of last July, $5.4billion worth of humanitarian supplies, approved by the UN and paid for by the Iraqi government, were blocked by Washington, with the Blair government's approval. The former assistant secretary general of the UN, Denis Halliday, who was sent to Iraq to set up the "oil for food programme", described the effects of the embargo as "nothing less than genocide". Similar words have been used by his successor, Hans Von Sponeck.
Both men resigned in protest, saying the embargo merely reinforced the power of Saddam.
Both called Blair a liar.
And now Blair's troops are firing their wire-guided missiles to "soften up" Basra.
I have walked the city's streets, along a road blown to pieces by a US missile. The casualties were children, of course, because children are everywhere. I held a handkerchief over my face as I stood in a school playground with a teacher and several hundred malnourished youngsters.
The dust blew in from the southern battlefields of the 1991 Gulf War, which have never been cleaned up because the US and British governments have denied Iraq the specialist equipment.
The dust, Dr Jawad Al-Ali told me, carries "the seeds of our death". In the children's wards of Basra's main hospital, deaths from a range of hitherto unseen cancers are common and specialists have little doubt that up to half the population of southern Iraq will die from cancers linked to the use of a weapon of mass destruction used by the Americans and British - uranium tipped shells and missiles.
ONCE again, the Americans are deploying what Professor Doug Rokke, a former US Army physicist, calls "a form of nuclear weapon that contaminates everything and everyone".
Today, each round fired by US tanks contains 4,500 grams of solid uranium, whose particles, breathed or ingested, can cause cancer.
This, and the use by both the Allies of new kinds of cluster bombs, is being covered up.
Once again, the British public is being denied the reality of war.
Images of bandaged children in hospital wards are appearing on TV but you do not see the result of a Tornado's cluster bombing.
You are not being shown children scalped by shrapnel, with legs reduced to bloody pieces of string.
Such images are "not acceptable", because they will disturb viewers - and the authorities do not want that. These "unseen" images are the truth. Iraqi parents have to look at their mutilated children, so why shouldn't those of us, in whose name they were slaughtered, see what they see?
Why shouldn't we share their pain? Why shouldn't we see the true nature of this criminal invasion?
Other wars were sanitised, allowing them to be repeated.
If you have satellite TV, try to find the Al Jazeera channel, which has distinguished itself with its coverage. When the Americans bombed Afghanistan, one of their "smart" bombs destroyed the Al Jazeera office in Kabul. Few believe it was an accident. Rather, it was a testimony to the channel's independent journalism.
Remember, it is not those who oppose this war who need to justify themselves, regardless of Blair's calls to "support our troops". There is only one way to support them - bring them home without delay.
In 1932, Iraqis threw out their British colonial rulers. In 1958, they got rid of the Hashemite monarchy.
Iraqis have shown they can overthrow dictators against the odds. So why have they not been able to throw out Saddam?
Because the US and Britain armed him and propped him up while it suited them, making sure that when they tired of him, they would be the only alternative to his rule and the profiteers of his nation's resources. Imperialism has always functioned like that.
The "new Iraq", as Blair calls it, will have many models, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, all of them American conquests and American ruled until Washington allowed a vicious dictatorship to take over.
Saddam only came to power after the Americans helped install his Ba'ath Party in 1979. "That was my favourite coup," said the CIA officer in charge.
Keep in mind the cynicism behind these truths when you next hear Blair's impassioned insincerity - and when you glimpse, if you can, the "unacceptable" images of children killed and mangled in your name, and in the cause of what the Prime Minister calls "our simple patriotism".
It's the kind of patriotism, wrote Tolstoy, "that is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason and conscience."
John Pilger is a renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest book is The New Rulers of the World (Verso, 2002). Visit John Pilger’s website at: http://www.johnpilger.com