Editorial from Irish Political Review, May 2004

Iraq And Irish Warmongering

The Irish State is not an innocent bystander in the disaster which has overtaken Iraq. And its involvement is not limited to fuelling the war planes on their way to subject the people of Iraq to "shock and awe". Ireland happened to hold the chairmanship of the United Nations Security Council at the moment when the state of Afghanistan had been destroyed and the world was wondering what was to be done next. Everybody knew that Iraq was next on the American agenda. The British Foreign Secretary was dismissing the suggestion that Iraq had any responsibility for the attack on the World Trade Center and was therefore on the "War on Terror" agenda. But Brian Cowen piped up and said, Yes, an invasion of Iraq would be in order without any further UN authorisation. (This was in October 2001.)

It can of course be argued that what Brian Cowen said during his brief moment of international authority had absolutely no influence on the course of events. He was doing his bit for Ireland by performing a service to the United States at a time when it needed somebody to speak up for it, and what happened would have happened anyway.

But that is something that cannot be known. All that can be known is the actual course of events. And Cowen's statement was part of the actual course of events leading to the invasion of Iraq. Cowen held the ring for war on Iraq at the moment when few people in the world believed that such a grossly irresponsible action would really be taken. It should be said that Cowen's position was not endorsed by the Irish people—one of the biggest demonstrations ever was held in Dublin against the war. There was also a substantial turn-out in Belfast. But, as Portillo said recently, the future of democracies is safe, as it has been shown that Governments can go to war in defiance of the wishes of their electorates. He instanced Spain, Italy and Ireland. It is doubtful whether there was a majority for the war in England but, being a well-established democracy, the elctorate knows that it is not entitled to determine foreign policy.

Britain eventually came into line with American wishes. Foreign Office caution was over-ruled by the charismatic Prime Minister—charisma being a kind of free-ranging personal conviction which knows neither law not authority. But in this instance Britain did not start the warmongering. Ireland did. It was Ireland that rushed in to assure the USA that it was not isolated. Credit where credit is due.

Apologists for the invasion plead that it was not an imperialist conquest—as if that was a point in its favour. An imperialist conquest would have sought to keep Iraq governable from the start—to maintain the established socio-political order of the state, slotting itself into the leadership of the previous administration. This is what Britain did in its first conquest, which began in November 1914. The real trouble began for Mesopotamia when Britain—bewildered by its own Great War propaganda—aborted the new Imperial regime which it had been establishing in place of the Ottoman regime and embarked on the pseudo-democratic and pseudo-nationalist project of what is now called "nation-building", and setting up a new territorial concoction called Iraq in place of Mesopotamia.

The nation of Iraq, conceived by Britain over eighty years ago, had reality only as a State—as a very strong State which was capable of over-ruling the incompatible social elements inhabiting the region.

Those social elements became incompatible when the nationalist structure of Iraq was imposed on them by British power. They had not been incompatible under the Ottoman regime. Under the Ottomans they had lived harmoniously together, each doing its own thing, without a thought of nationalism. But when Britain decided on a pseudo-nationalist, pseudo-democratic development of the Middle East they were no longer allowed to do their own thing. They had to be forged into an Iraqi people—a thing which of their own volition they had no conception of. And everybody knows how forging is done—with fire, hammer and anvil.

Under the long Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein the forging began to achieve its object. An independent Iraqi administration was established, with elements drawn into it from all the component parts of Iraq.

And then Britain and America decided to destroy all that had been achieved through so much pain.

They (and Ireland too of course with its inaudible voice) have their history of Saddam's crimes—the million people dead under his dictatorship—most of them dying in action that Ireland thoroughly approved of—suppression of the powerful Communist movement and the war by means of which the pan-Islamic revolution in Iran was contained.

Iraq saved Kuwait. Kuwait—a make-believe State—showed its gratitude by encroaching on its oil-fields. Iraq made its feelings known to the United States. The US Ambassador informed Saddam that it would not be taken amiss if he engaged in direct action against Kuwait. When the Iraqi army crossed the frontier the Government and Army of Kuwait went on a long holiday abroad, and a bright young thing of the al-Sabah aristocracy sold the world an invented story of the Iraqis killing prematurely born babies in their incubators. The US, instigated by Britain, did a volte-face, and declared that the Iraqi incursion into Kuwait was a heinous offence against the basic principle of the international order of the era of the United Nations—the sacredness of national borders. The Iraqi Government was outraged by the diplomatic deception which led it to move into Kuwait. Ameranglia then acted in a way that was calculated to make it virtually impossible for Iraq to retreat from Kuwait without catastrophic loss of face by the regime. (The US commander General Swartzkopf, later said that "the nightmare scenario" was that Iraq would nevertheless withdraw).

Then we had the United Nations war on Iraq, begun with what was officially described at the time as "the most violent twenty-four hours in the history of the world".

The retreating Iraqi Army was systematically slaughtered by Ameranglian air-power for a couple of days, and one began to hear stories that pilots became so sickened with what they were doing that mutiny was threatened.

Then the people of Iraq were called upon to rise in rebellion. And they rose. But what rose was the "fundamentalist" underlay which had been passively resisting the secular nationalism of the regime. Seeing what they had stirred up, America and Britain called off their support and gave the Iraqi Government free rein to deal with the insurrection. And that was the third major component of the million of his own people killed under Saddam.

For the next dozen years Iraq was shredded by UN sanctions and by unceasing bombing, and yet the regime managed to reconstitute the infrastructure destroyed in 1991, restore water and electricity supplies, make food available by rationing, and restore a semblance of civilised life.
And then, on the flimsy pretext that Iraq had acquired weapons of mass destruction during the twelve years of sanctions and inspections, and was in alliance with its deadly enemy, Islamic "fundamentalism", Ameranglia launched an invasion, inaugurated by an assassination attempt which only killed the wrong people, and by 24 hours of "shock and awe".

The invasion was advertised as a "liberation". But the forces within Iraq which might have responded with enthusiasm to the invasion as a liberation were the "Islamic fundamentalist" forces which had come out in 1991, but, remembering what had happened then, decided to stay at home this time.

In order to create for television the appearance of being welcomed in by the populace, the invading commanders deliberately encouraged looting—and members of the British Cabinet praised the looters.

The invasion was not welcomed, but it was endured passively by a populace that was waiting to see what would happen next.

The Americans brought in a Government of Iraq in its baggage train, led by Chabati whose adviser was Eoghan Harris. It built a huge Embassy complex, which was to be the real Government of Iraq (as the British Embassy was the real Government of Egypt for many decades.) And it awarded itself contracts for rebuilding what it had just destroyed, to be paid for by Iraqi oil.

And that is how, in the course of a year, the forces in Iraq which had been suppressed by the Ba'ath regime, and were therefore awaiting liberation, were finally stirred into action. And again, as in 1991, they were declared to be rebels, and their suppression began afresh.

A couple of months ago the Ameranglian story was that a Shia / Sunni civil war was brewing and the Occupying forces were averting it. Then, suddenly, in early April, one heard on one of the better British television news programmes about an "unholy alliance" that had been formed. Instead of fighting each other as the invading democrats had advertised, the Shia and Sunni had made an 'unholy alliance' against their liberators.

Let us now move to RTÉ's Prime Time of 14th April 2004. Nothing as crass as this would be broadcast by British Television, whose senior broadcasters are rather ashamed of what their Government has done to Iraq. But the Celtic Tiggers are new to the game—

Prime Time On Faluja Killings:

"'Faluja. The cemetery of the Americans', so chanted Iraqis yesterday after the horrific killing of four American civilian contractors.

"Dragged from their cars in the fiercely tribal town west of Baghdad their bodies were kicked, hacked, mutilated, burned and then decapitated. Dancing and cheering, local people beat the smouldering bodies with metal bars, stamped on their heads and cut off their limbs. It was testament to the crazed hatred of America that is dominating Iraq.

"In a moment we talk to a high profile Iraqi. First though this report from Donagh {Darragh?} Diamond

"Viewers should be aware that this report contains some extremely disturbing images.

[Diamond's Report:] The savage killing of four civilian security men in Iraq and the horrendous mutilation of their corpses yesterday has sent a wave of revulsion around the world. The security contractors working for the Coalition Provisional Authority were slaughtered in the area of Iraq known as the Sunni Triangle from which Saddam Hussein drew most of his support. The men were driving through the town when their vehicles came under attack from grenades and automatic weapons. As their four-wheeled drive vehicles were stopped and set ablaze by the attacks, some eye witness reports indicated that two of the men escaped or were dragged alive from the burning jeeps, but were doused in petrol and set alight. The mob then set upon the charred remains, beating them with sticks and crowbars. And in a deeply disturbing display of triumphalism the mutilated men's bodies bodies were then dragged through the streets accompanied by cheering crowds. Iraqi residents of Faluja were quoted as saying that the attack showed the depth of their hatred of the Americans, and violence has become common here. The town was the site of the killing of 13 demonstrators by US Marines last year, and the downing of three American helicopters which left 25 US Service personnel dead. But its hard to imagine any wrong done to the people of Faluja that could possibly justify yesterday's horrific mutilation of what were only minutes earlier living, breathing human beings. As the debate rages in the US over whether to broadcast untreated footage of the killings the question of whether or not these attacks and their reporting might represent a seminal moment in the conflict is also being raised. And if a US President keen to use his tough stance on terrorism in the forthcoming elections may have to contend with other untreated images of his war on Iraq being branded into the minds of his electorate.

[Miriam O'Callaghan:] That was a report from Donagh Diamond. I am now joined from London by Sabah al-Mukhtar, who is an Iraqi lawyer. Sabah al-Mukhtar, can anything justify the killings yesterday in Faluja?

Sabah al-Mukhtar (President, Arab League of Lawyers, London): Well, there are two things. First of all its a horrendous scene to be seen. However we must understand that a week ago the Americans killed fifteen people, fifteen civilians in Faluja. And a year ago Rumsfeld was talking about shock and awe. And the shock and awe wasn't directed at only four or five or six soldiers. It was——

——Miriam O'Callaghan: Let me just come back in there for one moment, Sabah al-Mukhtar. Sorry for cutting across you. I mean it's sounding to me like you aren't condemning what happened yesterday.

Sabah al-Mukhtar: Well certainly I'm not condemning it. It's a resistance movement. It shouldn't have taken the form it has taken. But use of force by the Americans, by any occupying force, must be met by force if people had the——

——Miriam O'Callaghan: Sabah al-Mukhtar, how can you call it resistance when you get four civilians mutilated, decapitated, burned, beaten with bars, hung from bridges. I mean that just grotesquely irresponsible of you, isn't it?

Sabah al-Mukhtar: Of course it is grotesque pictures to see. But probably you would have forgotten the 10,000 civilians who were scorched to death, you have forgotten the thousands of people who were mutilated, all they were called collateral damage, they were not intended victims. We seem to forget all these things. This world we're living in is not a very nice world. Whether you kill four and mutilate them or you kill fifty and mutilate them, or tens of thousands of people. This is the world we are living in. But at the end of the day this is an occupying force——

Miriam O'Callaghan [talking across him]: Do you understand how those pictures—do you understand how those pictures will be seen in the West, in particular in America?

Sabah al-Mukhtar: Oh, absolutely. First of all the Iraqis have been demonised. Anyway they are not being treated as human beings, anyway, by anybody, not certainly the Americans.

Miriam O'Callaghan: But that wasn't human behaviour yesterday.

Sabah al-Mukhtar: Well certainly over a whole year of behaviour which was not human, it was sub-human, by superior powers, by the civilised world, it's to be met by this horrendous event, and suddenly this becomes the only thing that is happening. It's really pushing it a bit too far.

Miriam O'Callaghan: I mean what is the game plan? Are Iraqis hoping like yesterday will be the Mogadishu for this war in Iraq and that it will force the Americans to retreat. Is that what people are hoping for?

Sabah al-Mukhtar: Well I think certainly some of the people who are taking these actions would be looking at this incident. This is where all the actions of the Occupied Territories people, because you don't have the weapons, you don't have the Apache helicopters, you don't have the rockets. You don't have the Humvees. So of course what you end up with is using brute force, which reduces men to lesser than criminals, just as much as men who are in the——

——Miriam O'Callaghan: OK——

——Sabah al-Mukhtar: and in the weapons are behaving inhumanly.

Miriam O'Callaghan: Sabah al-Mukhtar, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Prime Time April 14


Iraq & Irish Warmongering

Entente Cordiale?
Pat Walsh

The Clonbanin Column

Post Office Sabotage

An Cor Tuathail: I Am Awake
(Compiled by Pat Muldowney)

John Martin
(Review of John Gray's Straw Dogs)

Seán McGouran

Reclaiming Gender
Seán McGouran

John Martin

(Report of New Scientist article)

Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:
'Mortas Cinnagh'

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