The Monster of
Baghdad is Now
the Hero of Arabia
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
1 April 2003
So it's a "truly remarkable
achievement'', is it? General Tommy Franks says so. Everything is going
"according to plan'', according to the British. So it's an achievement
that the British still have not "liberated" Basra. It is "according
to plan" that the Iraqis should be able to launch a scud missile
from the Faw peninsula supposedly under "British control"
for more than a week. It is an achievement, truly remarkable of course,
that the Americans lose an Apache helicopter to the gun of an Iraqi
peasant, spend four days trying to cross the river bridges at Nasiriyah
and are then confronted by their first suicide bomber at Najaf.
One half of the entire Anglo-American
force still called 'the coalition' by journalists who like to
pretend it includes 35 armies rather than two and a bit (the "bit"
being the Australian special forces) is now guarding and running
the supply line through the desert. And Baghdad is bombed but not besieged.
The military "plan"
is so secret, according to General Franks, that very few people have
seen it all or understand it. But his plan he says, is "highly
flexible''; it would have to be, to sustain the chaos of the past 12
days, and, of course, we hold the moral high ground. The Americans bomb
a passenger bus close to the Syrian border and don't even apologise.
An Iraqi soldier kills himself attacking US marines and it is an act
of "terrorism''. And now Secretary of State Colin Powell announces
to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the largest
Israeli lobby group in the US who of course support this illegal war
that Syria and Iran are "supporting terror groups'' and
will have to "face the consequences''.
So what's the plan? Are we
going to forget Baghdad for a few months and wheel our young soldiers
west to surround Damascus? Where, for heaven's sake, is all this going?
We were going to "liberate" Iraq. But the war could be "long
and difficult'', Bush now tells us he didn't tell us that before,
did he? and, according to Tony Blair, this is "only the
Strange, isn't it, how all
that fuss about chemical and biological warfare has been forgotten.
The "secret" weapons, the gas masks, the anti-anthrax injections,
the pills and chemical suits have been erased from the story
because bullets and rocket-propelled grenades are now the real danger
to British and American forces in Iraq. Even the "siege of Baghdad"
a city that is 30 miles wide and might need a quarter of a million
men to surround it is fading from the diary.
Sitting in Baghdad, listening
to the God-awful propaganda rhetoric of the Iraqis but watching the
often promiscuous American and British air attacks, I have a suspicion
that what's gone wrong has nothing to do with plans. Indeed, I suspect
there is no real overall plan. Because I rather think that this war's
foundations were based not on military planning but on ideology.
Long ago, as we know, the
right wing pro-Israeli lobbyists around Bush planned the overthrow of
Saddam. This would destroy the most powerful Arab state in the Middle
East Israel's chief of staff, Shoal Mofaz, demanded that the
war should start even earlier and allow the map of the region
to be changed forever. Powell stated just this a month ago. False intelligence
information was mixed up with the desires of the corrupt and infiltrated
Fantasies and illusions were
given credibility by a kind of superpower moral overdrive. Any kind
of mendacity could be used to fuel this ideological project 11
September (oddly unmentioned now), links between Saddam and Osama bin
Laden (unproven), weapons of mass destruction (hitherto unfound), human
rights abuses (at which we originally connived when Saddam was our friend)
and, finally, the most heroic project of all the "liberation"
of the people of Iraq.
Oil was not mentioned, although
it is the dominating factor in this illegitimate conflict no
wonder General Franks admitted that his first concern, prior to the
war, was the "protection'' of the southern Iraqi oil fields. So
it was to be "liberation" and "democracy". How boldly
we crossed the border. With what lordly aims we invaded Iraq.
Few Iraqis doubt even
the ministers in Baghdad speak about this that the Americans
could, ultimately, occupy the country. They have the force and they
have the weapons to smash their way into every city and rule the land
by martial law. But can they make Iraqis submit to that rule? Unless
the masses rise up as Bush and Blair hope, this is now a nationalist
war against the most obvious kind of imperial power. Without Iraqi support,
how can General Franks run a military dictatorship or find Iraqis willing
to serve him or run the oilfields? The Americans can win the war. But
if their project fails they will have lost.
Yet there is one achievement
we should note. The ghastly Saddam, the most revolting dictator in the
Arab world, who does indeed use heinous torture and has indeed used
gas, is now leading a country that is fighting the world's only superpower
and that has done so for almost two weeks without surrendering. Yes,
General Tommy Franks has accomplished one "truly remarkable achievement''.
He has turned the monster of Baghdad into the hero of the Arab world
and allowed Iraqis to teach every opponent of America how to fight their