The Prime Minister has accused some journalists of almost wanting a
disaster to happen in Iraq. Robert Fisk, who has spent the past five weeks
reporting from the deteriorating and devastated country, says the disaster
has already happened, over and over again
The war is a fraud. I’m not talking about the weapons of mass destruction
that didn’t exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa’ida which
didn’t exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I’m talking
about the new lies.
For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did
not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq
has fallen outside the control of America’s puppet government in Baghdad
but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every
month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month’s death
toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 – the worst month since
the invasion ended. But we are not told.
The stage management of this catastrophe in Iraq was all too evident at
Saddam Hussein’s “trial”. Not only did the US military censor the tapes of
the event. Not only did they effectively delete all sound of the 11 other
defendants. But the Americans led Saddam Hussein to believe – until he
reached the courtroom – that he was on his way to his execution. Indeed,
when he entered the room he believed that the judge was there to condemn
him to death. This, after all, was the way Saddam ran his own state
security courts. No wonder he initially looked “disorientated” – CNN’s
helpful description – because, of course, he was meant to look that way. We
had made sure of that. Which is why Saddam asked Judge Juhi: “Are you a
lawyer? … Is this a trial?” And swiftly, as he realised that this really
was an initial court hearing – not a preliminary to his own hanging – he
quickly adopted an attitude of belligerence.
But don’t think we’re going to learn much more about Saddam’s future court
appearances. Salem Chalabi, the brother of convicted fraudster Ahmad and
the man entrusted by the Americans with the tribunal, told the Iraqi press
two weeks ago that all media would be excluded from future court hearings.
And I can see why. Because if Saddam does a Milosevic, he’ll want to talk
about the real intelligence and military connections of his regime – which
were primarily with the United States.
Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous
experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq.
Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police
vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been
abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad
watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero
of a school debating competition; so much for the Butler report.
Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is
like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn’t Blair realise that Iraq is about to
implode? Doesn’t Bush realise this? The American-appointed “government”
controls only parts of Baghdad – and even there its ministers and civil
servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya,
Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi,
the “Prime Minister”, is little more than mayor of Baghdad. “Some
journalists,” Blair announces, “almost want there to be a disaster in
Iraq.” He doesn’t get it. The disaster exists now.
“Deadly force is authorised,” it says on checkpoints all over Baghdad.
Authorised by whom? There is no accountability. Repeatedly, on the great
highways out of the city US soldiers shriek at motorists and open fire at
the least suspicion. “We had some Navy Seals down at our checkpoint the
other day,” a 1st Cavalry sergeant says to me. “They asked if we were
having any trouble. I said, yes, they’ve been shooting at us from a house
over there. One of them asked: That house?’ We said yes. So they have these
three SUVs and a lot of weapons made of titanium and they drive off towards
the house. And later they come back and say We’ve taken care of that’. And
we didn’t get shot at any more.”
What, indeed, are we to make of a war which is turned into a fantasy by
those who started it? As foreign workers pour out of Iraq for fear of their
lives, US Secretary of State Colin Powell tells a press conference that
hostage-taking is having an “effect” on reconstruction. Effect! Oil
pipeline explosions are now as regular as power cuts. In parts of Baghdad
now, they have only four hours of electricity a day; the streets swarm with
foreign mercenaries, guns poking from windows, shouting abusively at Iraqis
who don’t clear the way for them. This is the “safer” Iraq which Mr Blair
was boasting of the other day. What world does the British Government exist in?
Take the Saddam trial. The entire Arab press – including the Baghdad papers
– prints the judge’s name. Indeed, the same judge has given interviews
about his charges of murder against Muqtada Sadr. He has posed for
newspaper pictures. But when I mention his name in The Independent, I was
solemnly censured by the British Government’s spokesman. Salem Chalabi
threatened to prosecute me. So let me get this right. We illegally invade
Iraq. We kill up to 11,000 Iraqis. And Mr Chalabi, appointed by the
Americans, says I’m guilty of “incitement to murder”. That just about says