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(superb doc) London Times: murder of British tourists and Iraqis

Does anyone have the contact information for Simon Jenkins and the London
Times, so that we may send supportive letters?


From: []

 March 5 1999
 London Times

 We deplore the murderers of British tourists, but bomb Iraqis with impunity
 It's dead wrong
 Simon Jenkins

 This week, as we are all aware, a group of non-Europeans killed a group of
 Britons in a most brutal fashion. The story is still being given
 coverage in the British media. Meanwhile a group of Britons have been
killing non-Europeans in a most brutal fashion. That story has been

 The killing of four Britons in Uganda, allegedly because of Britain's
support for the Tutsi regime in Rwanda, was ghastly and tragic. Travellers
to turbulent parts of the world take a risk. British visitors have been
killed in Yemen, in Chechnya and in South-East Asia. None received two,
three, four pages of gruesome coverage, day after day. Rwanda and its
borderland is the site of Africa's Cambodia, a bloodbath not yet over. The
genocide is ignored by British and American interventionists largely
because blacks are killing blacks, and doing so far from cameras and
aircraft carriers. It is hard not to conclude that the attention given to
this tragedy was because blacks killed whites, and with gruesome weapons,
thus conforming to the stereotype of "barbaric" Africa. 

 Now for the unimportant killing. Britain is currently conducting a
bombing campaign against Iraq in support of the War of Clinton's
Frustration. In December, British and American forces unleashed a rain of
terror on Baghdad with the macho title of Desert Fox. This was a 72-hour
burst of bombs and missiles, whose objectives were obscure. They were
variously to "teach Saddam a lesson", to "disarm him from the air", to
restore weapons inspections and possibly to yield a coup. Afterwards, Tony
Blair boasted "We have put Saddam back firmly in his cage and secured
it''. Washington agreed.  Its justification for Desert Fox was to achieve
what United Nations inspectors had failed to achieve: to neutralise
President Saddam Hussein's offensive weapons. This had been done. 

 In which case what was the point of continuing with sanctions after
December? The answer is that there was a wider war aim. Within weeks the
bombing resumed. In the past two months, more bombs have fallen on Iraq
than during Desert Fox. A wider list of targets has included vaguely
defined "command and control" sites. Even assuming a pilot knows what he
is aiming at, he cannot be sure of hitting it. The Pentagon recently
confirmed that only half of Desert Fox's 34 air defence targets were hit. 

 The UN staff in Baghdad are now auditing civilian casualties from some 80
recent Anglo-American raids. In the past two months, they confirmed 17
dead, including a woman and five children, in a housing estate in Basra,
an outrage that would have stunned the media had it been an Iraqi bomb in
a British housing estate. They have confirmed five women and five children
killed in Abu Khasib, six civilians killed in Najaf, and five civilians
killed in "southern Iraq" on February 15. There have been confirmations
that hundreds more have been maimed and wounded and thousands driven from
their homes. 

 The means of their death is no less "barbaric" than was used in Uganda. 
Blast and fragmentation weapons are designed to attack the body with
shrapnel pellets, like hundreds of stab wounds. They turn buildings either
into infernos or into concrete missiles or into live-burial tombs. The
deaths may not look ghastly from a pilot's cockpit, or from a targeting
computer, or on the follow-up video, or even from Downing Street. But
these weapons are the cruellest harbingers of death. The endgame of the
most sophisticated technology is not a clean bullet in the head, but a
medieval killing, the mutilating, shattering and crushing of the human

 Of course ministers will say that civilian casualties are mistakes. I am
sure some Hutu commander regards the killing of British tourists in Uganda
as a mistake. His gangsters were out for Tutsis and hit the wrong camp,
like a Tomahawk gone haywire. But British ministers are not crazed Hutus. 
They are acting within rules of engagement that should pass muster in a
civilised democracy. At present they do not pass muster. This war has not
even been put before the House of Commons. The reason is that it cannot be
defended there, even before a Commons which these days has all the
independence of a Baghdad military parade. 

 This week the poor Defence Secretary, George Robertson, was pushed
forward to parrot the old Vietnam War phrases. The targets, he explained,
were being "degraded" by British pilots "in self-defence" while flying
"humanitarian missions" intended "to protect the Iraqi people". I had a
flashback to General Westmoreland in Saigon, explaining why you must bomb
a village to save it. Meanwhile Mr Robertson and his friends this week
bombed the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline at Ceyhan, the conduit for
oil-for-food that is the one shred of humanitarianism left in this affair. 
We let Iraq sell oil for children's food, then bomb the oil. To hell with
the ethics. This is lunacy. 

 I am no pacifist. In my time I have visited some horrific, and justified,
wars. But this campaign is indefensible. The "official" objective is quite
different from December's Desert Fox, which was to punish the Iraqi
President and destroy his chemical and biological weapons. This campaign
is allegedly to protect the "no-fly" zones in the north and south of the
country. But Saddam is not threatening them. He is merely using his,
supposedly degraded, air force to "cheat and retreat": to entice the
British and American planes into bombing attacks that he hopes will win
him Arab and Eastern bloc support. His tactic appears to be working. 

 We are now told privately that the real reason for the war is different
again. It is to go on pounding Iraq with bombs, any old where, until they
do what bombers have never done before: bring about the downfall of a
regime.  This reason cannot be declared because it is illegal. For better
or worse, overthrowing the leader of a sovereign state by force runs
counter to both the UN Charter and international law. So what we have here
is, in reality, private war against Iraq that neither London nor
Washington can avow. The nearest parallels are the operations by
Presidents Nixon and Reagan against hostile Governments in Chile,
Nicaragua, Lebanon and Panama. Mostly they used mercenaries. Britain is
using the RAF. 

 In which case, cries a modern Palmerston, at least let it work. But how? 
This is a war without any plan, any tactic, any strategy or any
foreseeable victory. It is mere bombing. Toppling Saddam Hussein would
plainly require a ground assault. Britain has neither the will nor the
guts for that. If Anglo-American forces invaded, against the opposition of
half the world, they would have to fight and to stay. As in Bosnia and
presumably in Kosovo, they would have to take responsibility for the
aftermath. They would need to be proper policemen, rather the present
hit-and-run vendetta squad. 

 The British Government lacks the courage of its convictions in
thisventure.  It is pursuing low-cost, low-risk machismo. It is doing
something relatively easy, but obscenely cruel, to avoid having to do
something hard but sensible. This would be to admit that a decade of
anti-Saddam strategy has failed and sanctions should end. Bombing and
sanctions have merely entrenched him, and worsened the impoverishment of
his people. British ministers keep saying they have no quarrel with the
Iraqi people, only with Saddam. Not so. There are two quarrels. One is
with Saddam, which he is winning. The other is with the Iraqi people,
which they are losing. They are the ones Britain is bombing. 

 The present British Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party are largely
composed of one-time anti-war protesters. A general once told me that
whenever he saw ban-the-bombers on the march his instinct was to run for
cover. He was right. But I never thought the marchers would end up
dropping the bombs. 

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