(Al Qaeda Network) Iraq by John Pilger

Submitted by Editor on Fri, 26/11/2004 - 00:46

Mainstream media speak as if Fallujah were populated only by foreign "insurgents". In fact, women and children are being slaughtered in our name.

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Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal

John Pilger

November 24, 2004.

Edward S Herman's landmark essay, "The Banality of Evil", has never seemed more apposite. "Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation'", wrote Herman. "There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals ... others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public."

On Britain's Radio 4's November 6 Today, a BBC reporter in Baghdad referred to the coming attack on the city of Fallujah as "dangerous" and "very dangerous" for the US. When asked about civilians, he said, reassuringly, that the US marines were "going about with a Tannoy" telling people to get out. He omitted to say that tens of thousands of people would be left in the city. He mentioned in passing the "most intense bombing" of the city with no suggestion of what that meant for people beneath the bombs.

As for the defenders, those Iraqis who resist in a city that heroically defied Saddam Hussein; they were merely "insurgents holed up in the city", as if they were an alien body, a lesser form of life to be "flushed out" (the British Guardian): a suitable quarry for "rat-catchers", which is the term another BBC reporter told us the Black Watch use.

Normalising colonial crimes like the attack on Fallujah requires such racism, linking our imagination to "the other". The thrust of the reporting is that the "insurgents" are led by sinister foreigners of the kind that behead people: for example, by Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian said to be al Qaeda's "top operative" in Iraq.

No irony is noted that the foreigners in Iraq are overwhelmingly from the US and, by all indications, loathed. These indications come from apparently credible polling organisations, one of which estimates that of 2700 attacks every month by the resistance, six can be credited to the infamous al Zarqawi.

In a letter sent on October 14 to Kofi Annan, the Fallujah Shura Council, which administers the city, said: "The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah . . . and we have no links to any groups supporting such inhuman behaviour. We appeal to you to urge the UN (to prevent) the new massacre which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start soon in Fallujah, as well as many parts of the country."

Not a word of this was reported in the mainstream media in Britain and the US.

Baffling silence

"What does it take to shock them out of their baffling silence?" asked the playwright Ronan Bennett in April after the US marines, in an act of collective vengeance for the killing of four US mercenaries, killed more than 600 people in Fallujah, a figure that was never denied. Then, as now, they used the ferocious firepower of AC-130 gunships and F-16 fighter-bombers and 500-pound bombs against slums. They incinerate children; their snipers boast of killing anyone, as snipers did in Sarajevo.

Bennett was referring to the legion of silent British Labour Party backbenchers, with honourable exceptions. He might have added those journalists who strain every sinew to protect "our" side, who normalise the unthinkable by not even gesturing at the demonstrable immorality and criminality. Of course, to be shocked by what "we" do is dangerous, because this can lead to a wider understanding of why "we" are there in the first place and of the grief "we" bring not only to Iraq, but to so many parts of the world: that the terrorism of al Qaeda is puny by comparison with ours.

There is nothing illicit about this cover-up; it happens in daylight. The most striking recent example followed the announcement, on October 29, by the prestigious scientific journal, the Lancet, of a study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the Anglo-American invasion. Eighty-four per cent of the deaths were caused by the actions of the US and Britain, and 95% of these were killed by air attacks and artillery fire, most of whom were women and children.

The editors of the excellent MediaLens observed the rush - no, stampede - to smother this shocking news with "scepticism" and silence. They reported that, by November 2, the Lancet report had been ignored by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others.

The BBC framed the report in terms of the government's "doubts" and Channel 4 News delivered a hatchet job, based on a Downing Street briefing. With one exception, none of the scientists who compiled this rigorously peer-reviewed report was asked to substantiate their work until 10 days later when the pro-war Observer published an interview with the editor of the Lancet, slanted so that it appeared he was "answering his critics".

David Edwards, a MediaLens editor, asked the researchers to respond to the media criticism; their meticulous demolition can be viewed at (http://www.medialens.org), the November 2 alert. None of this was published in the mainstream. Thus, the unthinkable that "we" had engaged in such a slaughter was suppressed - normalised. It is reminiscent of the suppression of the death of more than a million Iraqis, including half a million infants under five, as a result of the Anglo-American-driven embargo.

In contrast, there is no media questioning of the methodology of the Iraqi Special Tribune, which has announced that mass graves contain 300,000 victims of Saddam Hussein. The Special Tribune, a product of the quisling regime in Baghdad, is run by the US; respected scientists want nothing to do with it. There is no questioning of what the BBC calls "Iraq's first democratic elections". There is no reporting of how the Americans have assumed control over the electoral process with two decrees passed in June that allow an "electoral commission" in effect to eliminate parties Washington does not like. When or if the elections take place, we will be doused in cliches about the nobility of voting, as Washington's puppets are "democratically" chosen.

Volcanic 9/11 Commission

Flying into Philadelphia recently, I spotted the Kean congressional report from the 9/11 Commission on sale at the bookstalls. "How many do you sell?" I asked. "One or two", was the reply. "It'll disappear soon." Yet, this modest, blue-covered book is a revelation. The Kean report is a supreme act of normalising the unthinkable. This is not surprising, as the conclusions are volcanic.

The most important evidence to the 9/11 Commission came from General Ralph Eberhart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad). "Air force jet fighters could have intercepted hijacked airliners roaring towards the World Trade Center and Pentagon", he said, "if only air traffic controllers had asked for help 13 minutes sooner . . . We would have been able to shoot down all three .. all four of them."

Why did this not happen?

The Kean report makes clear that "the defence of US aerospace on 9/11 was not conducted in accord with pre-existing training and protocols . . . If a hijack was confirmed, procedures called for the hijack coordinator on duty to contact the Pentagon's National Military Command Center ... The NMCC would then seek approval from the office of the Secretary of Defence to provide military assistance."

Uniquely, this did not happen. The commission was told by the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Authority that there was no reason the procedure was not operating that morning. "For my 30 years of experience", said Monte Belger, "the NMCC was on the net and hearing everything real-time ... I can tell you I've lived through dozens of hijackings ... and they were always listening in with everybody else."

But on this occasion, they were not. The Kean report says the NMCC was never informed. Why? Again, uniquely, all lines of communication failed, the commission was told, to America's top military brass. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, could not be found; and when he finally spoke to US President George Bush an hour and a half later, it was, says the Kean report, "a brief call in which the subject of shoot-down authority was not discussed". As a result, Norad's commanders were "left in the dark about what their mission was".

The report reveals that the only part of a previously fail-safe command system that worked was in the White House where vice- president Dick Cheney was in control that day, and in close touch with the NMCC. Why did he do nothing about the first two hijacked planes? Of course, this could be due to the most extraordinary combination of coincidences. Or it could not.

In July 2001, a top secret briefing paper prepared for Bush read: "We (the CIA and FBI) believe that OBL (Osama Bin Laden) will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."

On the afternoon of September 11, Donald Rumsfeld, having failed to act against those who had just attacked the United States, told his aides to set in motion an attack on Iraq - when the evidence was non-existent. Eighteen months later, the invasion of Iraq, unprovoked and based on lies now documented, took place.

This epic crime is the greatest political scandal of our time, the latest chapter in the long 20th-century history of the West's conquests of other lands and their resources. If we allow it to be normalised, if we refuse to question and probe the hidden agendas and unaccountable secret power structures at the heart of "democratic" governments and if we allow the people of Fallujah to be crushed in our name, we surrender both democracy and humanity.

(This article reprinted from http://www.johnpilger.com.)

From Green Left Weekly, November 24, 2004.
http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/607/607p15.htm

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