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[casi] Bush's Occupation Of Iraq / by John Pilger

Bush's Occupation Of Iraq
by John Pilger
November 20, 2003

JOHN PILGER is a veteran journalist and documentary
filmmaker. In a career that spans more than three
decades, he has reported from the scenes of some of
the U.S. government's most terrible war crimes--from
Vietnam and Southeast Asia, to the frontline states
attacked by apartheid South Africa, to Palestine and
Iraq in the Middle East.

In his new documentary, Breaking the Silence: Truth
and Lies in the War on Terror, Pilger demolishes the
case for going to war on Iraq as it was put forward by
George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In particular, Pilger uncovered videotape footage from
2001 of Secretary of State Colin Powell and National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice admitting the
truth--that Iraq wasn't a military threat and had not
developed weapons of mass destruction since the first
Gulf War a decade before.

The documentary premiered on British television in
September. Pilger's most recent book, The New Rulers
of the World, is a collection of several essays that
was updated and expanded to take up George W. Bush's
"war on terror."

Here, Pilger talks to Socialist Worker's ANTHONY
ARNOVE about why the U.S. went to war--and why its
colonial occupation is in crisis.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

* IN YOUR new documentary, you expose evidence that
Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice knew that Iraq was
not a threat. Can you describe this evidence?

* IT'S THERE in their own words. I found some
extraordinary archive footage in the middle of looking
at hours of the Bush gang's pronouncements, which I
used in Breaking the Silence.

In Cairo, Egypt, on February 24, 2001, Powell said:
"He [Saddam Hussein] has not developed any significant
capability with respect to weapons of mass
destruction. He is unable to use conventional power
against his neighbors." This, of course, is the very
opposite of what Bush and Blair told their respective

Powell even boasted that it was the U.S. policy of
"containment" that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi
dictator--again, the opposite of what Bush and Blair
said time and again. On May 15, 2001, Powell went
further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able
to "build his military back up or to develop weapons
of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years." America,
he said, had been successful in keeping him "in a

Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a
weak, divided and militarily defenseless Iraq. "Saddam
does not control the northern part of his country,"
she said. "We aim to keep his arms from him. His
military forces have not been rebuilt."

So here were two of Bush's most important officials
putting the lie to their own subsequent propaganda.

* NOW THAT the war is over, how does Tony Blair's
"dossier" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
program hold up to scrutiny?

* IT'S A laughing stock. Part of it was plagiarized
from an American student's PhD thesis. Even his
spelling mistakes were used, and terms like
"opposition groups" were changed to "terrorist
groups." This is seriously incompetent lying. The rest
of the dossier has been refuted by Blair's senior
intelligence officials, even his own chief of staff,
in appearances before the Hutton Inquiry.

* HAVE YOU found any information regarding the claim
that Iraq was linked to al-Qaeda?

* NONE. INDEED, my two best sources for this are the
president of the United States and his defense
secretary, who within days of each other in September
dismissed the very notion that Iraq and al-Qaeda were
linked. This is the measure of their cynicism. Lie to
the nation and the world, so that a majority of
Americans believe you, then quietly refute it. Looking
at all the reports, there is no evidence even now that
al-Qaeda is in Iraq. They may well be there, but, like
the weapons of mass destruction, there is no evidence.

* WHAT DO you think about the Bush administration's
claims that the resistance to its occupation of Iraq
comes from "foreign terrorists."

* HOW IRONIC it is when American officials speak about
"foreign fighters" attacking Americans? It is as if
Americans are Iraqis, or that Iraqis don't exist.

As Robert Fisk has pointed out, there are 200,000
foreign fighters in Iraq, and 146,000 wear U.S.
uniforms. There may well be other foreign fighters in
Iraq. The Anglo-American invasion was an assault on
the Arab world, and I would not be surprised to see an
ad hoc pan-Arab resistance. The French Resistance was
assisted by foreigners, notably the British, and
terrible things happened. There is no difference. The
propaganda now is aimed at obfuscating the truth of a
nationalist resistance.

Like it or not, to many Iraqis, Saddam Hussein
embodied a certain nationalism, and the so-called
"Saddam remnants" are nationalists. This is such a
proud society, and not as divided tribally as some
Western commentators would like us to believe.
The occupation does have parallels with Vietnam, but
the closest likeness is the Soviet disaster in
Afghanistan. And it really hasn't begun in earnest
yet. That will happen when the Shia make their move.
I understand that a Shia army is quietly forming; they
have a tradition of patience, and they will wait for
their moment, just as they did under the Shah in Iran.
The occupation and Bush are in deep trouble.

* WHY DO you think the corporate media, especially in
the U.S., has been so slow to report this evidence of
government deceit and distortion?

* THE CORPORATE media is an extension of the state.
That is a truism, which is almost never taught at
media schools. Look back on the reporting of the
McCarthy period; read the papers, listen to the radio
archives. With honorable exceptions, there is an
uncanny echo of today. For most of his rise,
McCarthy's bile was channeled and amplified by the
mainstream media.

Even the great Edward R. Murrow waited until 1954
before denouncing McCarthy, who was then beginning to
fade. It was only when McCarthy made his off-the-wall
accusations that the U.S. military was riddled with
communists that he came unstuck, and no thanks to the

Now, in the 21st century, the corporate media cried
wolf for extremism. Charles Lewis, who heads the
Center for Public Integrity and is a former CBS
journalist, told me he believed that had the media
challenged Bush's deceptions, the invasion might not
have happened; it would have been exposed and
untenable. I agree.

That's the potential power of journalists to act as an
agent of truth and the people, not of propaganda and
power. It's time that journalists who are serious
about their craft began examining their conscience and
stop trying to distort their intellect and moral sense
for the sake of the job.

* IF WEAPONS of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda
were fraudulent justifications for the invasion of
Iraq, what do you think was the real motivation?

* IT WAS about oil, of course, and directly
controlling the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, America's
proxy, is unreliable these days. The U.S. wanted Iraq,
an entire country, as a base, as well as its oil. Read
the principal reports that Bush and Dick Cheney saw
soon after the inauguration. One Council on Foreign
Relations report is striking for the warning it gives,
saying, in effect, "Move now and get the oil before it
starts to run out, or China grabs it."

The invasion was also what Alexander Haig called "a
demonstration war." It demonstrated the sheer
rapaciousness of the Bush extremists, and their
resolve to impose their brand of capitalism on
humanity. It was sending a message: "Watch out. You
might be next."

* WHAT ARE conditions like for ordinary Iraqis?

* I CAN'T say what the conditions are personally. But
friends there tell me that it is, as one wrote, "a
hell we never expected." An institute in Baghdad has
done the first credible polling since the invasion,
and found that a majority of Iraqis believe the
situation, for ordinary people, is worse than under
Saddam Hussein.

There are certainly more prisoners--at least 4,000
have been incarcerated, and possibly many more. There
is collective punishment, torture, the violation of
every international law on the books. Amnesty
International reports on this could have been
describing any totalitarian state.

* YOU RECENTLY visited postwar Afghanistan. What can
we learn about the occupation of Iraq from the
conditions there?

* WE CAN learn that America has the undisputed
capacity to crush weak and mostly defenseless
countries, but it has almost no capacity to control
them directly thereafter. In Afghanistan, the
Americans are holed up in Bagram airbase, which
reminds me of the base at Pleiku in Vietnam.

They are surrounded by distrust and hostility, and
they have no interest in attempting to construct the
kind of colonial situation that allowed the British to
control whole populations with only a few troops. I
think that the U.S. will be driven out of Iraq, and
the implications of that will be as serious for Bush
as Vietnam was for President Lyndon Johnson.

* HOW DO you see the U.S. responding to the current
crisis? Do you think that they will try to retake the

* AMERICA has the material power and firepower, so
that is possible. But it would be artificial and

* WHAT DO you think should be the main priority for
the antiwar movement?

* MASS DIRECT action, however small. In every small
town and on every city block, let there be voices
heard and people ready to take all the risks of civil

Do on an American stage what the Bolivian people did
recently in their small impoverished country, where
they toppled a president. Build momentum. Connect with
the families of GIs serving in Iraq, or who have been
killed and wounded there.

Remember, the antiwar movement is the democratic
opposition. Now there is none other. The choices and
responsibility are clearer now than at any time in my

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