By John Pilger
24 March, 2006
The New Statesman
war lovers I have known in real wars have usually been harmless, except
to themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam and Cambodia, where drugs
were plentiful. Bosnia, with its roulette of death, was another favourite.
A few would say they were there "to tell the world"; the honest
ones would say they loved it. "War is fun!" one of them had
scratched on his arm. He stood on a landmine.
I sometimes remember these
almost endearing fools when I find myself faced with another kind of
war lover - the kind that has not seen war and has often done everything
possible not to see it. The passion of these war lovers is a phenomenon;
it never dims, regardless of the distance from the object of their desire.
Pick up the Sunday papers and there they are, egocentrics of little
harsh experience, other than a Saturday in the shopping mall. Turn on
the television and there they are again, night after night, intoning
not so much their love of war as their sales pitch for it on behalf
of the court to which they are assigned. "There?s no doubt,"
said Matt Frei, the BBC's man in America, "that the desire to bring
good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially
now to the Middle East ... is now increasingly tied up with military
Frei said that on 13 April
2003, after George W Bush had launched "Shock and Awe" on
a defenceless Iraq. Two years later, after a rampant, racist, woefully
trained and ill-disciplined army of occupation had brought "American
values" of sectarianism, death squads, chemical attacks, attacks
with uranium-tipped shells and cluster bombs, Frei described the notorious
82nd Airborne as "the heroes of Tikrit".
Last year, he lauded Paul
Wolfowitz, architect of the slaughter in Iraq, as "an intellectual"
who "believes passionately in the power of democracy and grass-roots
development". As for Iran, Frei was well ahead of the story. In
June 2003, he told BBC viewers: "There may be a case for regime
change in Iran, too."
How many men, women and children
will be killed, maimed or sent mad if Bush attacks Iran? The prospect
of an attack is especially exciting for those war lovers understandably
disappointed by the turn of events in Iraq. "The unimaginable but
ultimately inescapable truth," wrote Gerard Baker in the Times
last month, "is that we are going to have to get ready for war
with Iran . . . If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status,
it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there
with the Bolshevik revolution and the coming of Hitler." Sound
familiar? In February 2003, Baker wrote that "victory [in Iraq]
will quickly vindicate US and British claims about the scale of the
threat Saddam poses".
The "coming of Hitler"
is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was heard before Nato's "moral
crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in 1999, a model for the invasion
of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia, 2 per cent of Nato's missiles hit
military targets; the rest hit hospitals, schools, factories, churches
and broadcasting studios. Echoing Blair and a clutch of Clinton officials,
a massed media chorus declared that "we" had to stop "something
approaching genocide" in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in
2002 in the Guardian. "Echoes of the Holocaust", said the
front pages of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned of
a "Balkan Final Solution".
The recent death of Slobodan
Milosevic took the war lovers and war sellers down memory lane. Curiously,
"genocide" and "Holocaust" and the "coming
of Hitler" were now missing - for the very good reason that, like
the drumbeat leading to the invasion of Iraq and the drumbeat now leading
to an attack on Iran, it was all bullshit. Not misinterpretation. Not
a mistake. Not blunders. Bullshit.
The "mass graves"
in Kosovo would justify it all, they said. When the bombing was over,
international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute examination.
The FBI arrived to investigate what was called "the largest crime
scene in the FBI?s forensic history". Several weeks later, having
found not a single mass grave, the FBI and other forensic teams went
In 2000, the International
War Crimes Tribunal announced that the final count of bodies found in
Kosovo's "mass graves" was 2,788. This included Serbs, Roma
and those killed by "our" allies, the Kosovo Liberation Front.
It meant that the justification for the attack on Serbia ("225,000
ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead",
the US ambassador-at-large David Scheffer had claimed) was an invention.
To my knowledge, only the Wall Street Journal admitted this. A former
senior Nato planner, Michael McGwire, wrote that "to describe the
bombing as 'humanitarian intervention' [is] really grotesque".
In fact, the Nato "crusade" was the final, calculated act
of a long war of attrition aimed at wiping out the very idea of Yugoslavia.
For me, one of the more odious
characteristics of Blair, and Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or
gulled journalistic court, is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men
(and women) for bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have
to retch over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching
for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of unspoken
truth and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow compared with industrial-scale
killers such as Bush and Blair belongs to the former.