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[casi] TODAY is a day of shame / John Pilger

TODAY is a day of shame for the British military as it
declares the Iraqi city of Basra, with a stricken
population of 600,000, a "military target".

26 Mar 2003

You will not read or hear those words in the
establishment media that claims to speak for Britain.

But they are true. With Basra, shame is now our
signature, forged by Blair and Bush.

Having destroyed its water and power supplies, cut off
food supply routes and having failed to crack its
human defences, they are now preparing to lay siege to
Iraq's second city which is more than 40 per cent

What an ignominious moment in British history. Here is
an impoverished country under attack by a superpower,
the United States, which has unimaginable wealth and
the world's most destructive weapons, and its
"coalition" accomplice, Britain, which boasts one of
the world's best "professional" armies.

Believing their own propaganda, the military brass has
been stunned by the Iraqi resistance.

They have tried to belittle the militia defending
Basra with lurid stories that its fighters are killing
each other.

The truth is that the Iraqis are fighting like lions
to defend not a tyrant but their homeland. It is a
truth the overwhelming majority of decent Britons will

The historical comparison Tony Blair and his
propagandists fear is that of the British defending
themselves against invasion. That happened 60 years
ago and now "we" are the rapacious invaders.

Yesterday, Blair said that 400,000 Iraqi children had
died in the past five years from malnutrition and
related causes. He said "huge stockpiles of
humanitarian aid" and clean water awaited them in
Kuwait, if only the Iraqi regime would allow safe

In fact, voluminous evidence, including that published
by the United Nations Children's Fund, makes clear
that the main reason these children have died is an
enduring siege, a 12-year embargo driven by America
and Britain.

As of last July, $5.4billion worth of humanitarian
supplies, approved by the UN and paid for by the Iraqi
government, were blocked by Washington, with the Blair
government's approval. The former assistant secretary
general of the UN, Denis Halliday, who was sent to
Iraq to set up the "oil for food programme", described
the effects of the embargo as "nothing less than
genocide". Similar words have been used by his
successor, Hans Von Sponeck.

Both men resigned in protest, saying the embargo
merely reinforced the power of Saddam.

Both called Blair a liar.

And now Blair's troops are firing their wire-guided
missiles to "soften up" Basra.

I have walked the city's streets, along a road blown
to pieces by a US missile. The casualties were
children, of course, because children are everywhere.
I held a handkerchief over my face as I stood in a
school playground with a teacher and several hundred
malnourished youngsters.

The dust blew in from the southern battlefields of the
1991 Gulf War, which have never been cleaned up
because the US and British governments have denied
Iraq the specialist equipment.

The dust, Dr Jawad Al-Ali told me, carries "the seeds
of our death". In the children's wards of Basra's main
hospital, deaths from a range of hitherto unseen
cancers are common and specialists have little doubt
that up to half the population of southern Iraq will
die from cancers linked to the use of a weapon of mass
destruction used by the Americans and British -
uranium tipped shells and missiles.

ONCE again, the Americans are deploying what Professor
Doug Rokke, a former US Army physicist, calls "a form
of nuclear weapon that contaminates everything and

Today, each round fired by US tanks contains 4,500
grams of solid uranium, whose particles, breathed or
ingested, can cause cancer.

This, and the use by both the Allies of new kinds of
cluster bombs, is being covered up.

Once again, the British public is being denied the
reality of war.

Images of bandaged children in hospital wards are
appearing on TV but you do not see the result of a
Tornado's cluster bombing.

You are not being shown children scalped by shrapnel,
with legs reduced to bloody pieces of string.

Such images are "not acceptable", because they will
disturb viewers - and the authorities do not want
that. These "unseen" images are the truth. Iraqi
parents have to look at their mutilated children, so
why shouldn't those of us, in whose name they were
slaughtered, see what they see?

Why shouldn't we share their pain? Why shouldn't we
see the true nature of this criminal invasion?

Other wars were sanitised, allowing them to be

If you have satellite TV, try to find the Al Jazeera
channel, which has distinguished itself with its
coverage. When the Americans bombed Afghanistan, one
of their "smart" bombs destroyed the Al Jazeera office
in Kabul. Few believe it was an accident. Rather, it
was a testimony to the channel's independent

Remember, it is not those who oppose this war who need
to justify themselves, regardless of Blair's calls to
"support our troops". There is only one way to support
them - bring them home without delay.

In 1932, Iraqis threw out their British colonial
rulers. In 1958, they got rid of the Hashemite

Iraqis have shown they can overthrow dictators against
the odds. So why have they not been able to throw out

Because the US and Britain armed him and propped him
up while it suited them, making sure that when they
tired of him, they would be the only alternative to
his rule and the profiteers of his nation's resources.
Imperialism has always functioned like that.

The "new Iraq", as Blair calls it, will have many
models, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and
Nicaragua, all of them American conquests and American
ruled until Washington allowed a vicious dictatorship
to take over.

Saddam only came to power after the Americans helped
install his Ba'ath Party in 1979. "That was my
favourite coup," said the CIA officer in charge.

Keep in mind the cynicism behind these truths when you
next hear Blair's impassioned insincerity - and when
you glimpse, if you can, the "unacceptable" images of
children killed and mangled in your name, and in the
cause of what the Prime Minister calls "our simple

It's the kind of patriotism, wrote Tolstoy, "that is
nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers
their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the
ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason and

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