John Pilger: `The Americans want Iraq's oil'
BY JOHN PILGER
[Speaking in Sydney, Australia, 30 Nov]:
Today, I am reminded of all the other great demonstrations that have happened around the world. At the end of September, I addressed 400,000 people in the centre of London. In Washington, there have been something like 200 demonstrations in the last couple of months. In Florence, a couple of weeks ago, the population of that city was doubled when up to a million people marched and demonstrated against the outrageous prospect of attacking Iraq.
And your being here today is so important. You are the democratic opposition in this country. Newspapers often categorise people into moderates and extremists. You are the moderates, the members of the Australian government are the extremists.
They have to be extreme to attack — unprovoked — a country that offers no threat to Australia, a country with whom Prime Minister John Howard's government is prepared to trade. Iraq is a nation held hostage to a medieval embargo, which has strengthened the grip of Saddam Hussein. The people of Iraq — 22 million of them — are young, more than half are children. Many of the rest are widows, vulnerable people. Many of those are suffering after a dozen years of one of the most vicious blockades of any society in modern history.
Five-billion dollars worth of humanitarian goods approved by the United Nations Security Council are currently kept “on hold” in New York by the United States, with Britain's backing. They include medicines, dialysis machines, agricultural equipment, fire-fighting equipment, infrastructure for schools and school books. All are being blocked by the US.
We hear much propaganda about how the regime in Iraq is starving its own people and denying them medicine. In fact, it is the other way round. Our governments — the Australian government, the US government and the British government — have contrived, if not conspired, to kill more people in Iraq than in many wars in my life time.
They want to attack Iraq for one reason only. The stated reason, that of concern about Iraq's “weapons of mass destruction” is repeated incessantly in the media; and yet the issue is false. It is a red herring.
Four years ago, the same Hans Blix who is leading the UN weapon inspectors back to Iraq said that 90-95% of Iraq's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons had been dealt with. There was not a country in the world that had been so comprehensively disarmed. The basic structure of Iraq's weapons-making industry had been destroyed; and that is what the inspectors are finding now. But the US has no intention of accepting that truth.
On November 20, Richard Perle, one of US President George Bush's closest advisers, told a British parliamentary committee that regardless of what the inspectors found, the US reserved the right to attack anyway.
The true reason why the US wants to attack Iraq is strategic control of a country that is of pivotal importance to the US. Iraq is the only oil producing country in the world that can increase its production. Oil is running out. In five to 10 years, oil production will decline by about 5 billion barrels of oil per day. According to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Iraq is the only oil-producing country whose known reserves will increase. The Americans want that oil.
Saudi Arabia, the greatest oil source, is proving unreliable. Although a US oil protectorate, Saudi Arabia was the home of 15 of the alleged hijackers of September 11 and of al Qaeda. So Saudi Arabia is, in imperial thinking, unreliable.
Iraq is what they want. What they want is control of the oil fields of the Middle East. There is nothing new about this. Indeed, nothing has changed since the 1920s, when the British Royal Air Force bombed Iraq in order to control it. It is an insult to our intelligence for us to have to go through all these pretexts, of weapons of mass destruction and so on.
And that Australia should write another chapter in its melancholy history of following great power in its imperial adventures is tragic. Yet again, the Australian establishment is putting its hand up: “Please let us be part of this! Please!”
So our heroic SAS go from their great campaign against helpless asylum seekers on the high seas to chasing tribespeople in Afghanistan — for which they were just given medals. What for? Now, they are off to join the Americans in a new adventure.
I watched ABC news last night and there was an item about an Australian warship back from the Gulf. There were the familiar scenes that press all the right emotional buttons. Someone draped a sign over the ship, saying, “I will marry you”, and the fresh-faced sailors were reunited with their wives and children. All very touching. But what were they really doing in the Gulf?
The ABC didn't tell us. Instead, there was manufactured pride about Australia being given the leadership of the naval blockade of Iraq. Don't they understand — those sailors and the journalists who echo propaganda — exactly what is being blockaded? The Royal Australian Navy is blockading men, women and children, vulnerable human beings, a stricken nation.
For example, Iraq cannot import equipment that would decontaminate the southern battlefields, where depleted uranium — a genuine weapon of mass destruction — was used against the Iraqis by the Americans in 1991. The incidence of cancer there is eight to 10 times the rate anywhere else in the world.
I want to end by addressing my fellow journalists. I have been a journalist for many years. The media is more powerful than it has ever been. Propaganda now is more powerful than it has ever been. Censorship by omission is more powerful than it has ever been.
This great event today apparently was not important enough to appear in the Sydney Morning Herald, the pre-eminent newspaper of this city or to be reported in advance by the ABC, the national broadcaster. I attended a press conference on November 28. It was virtually boycotted.
The media in the end will have blood on their hands. I don't say that rhetorically. Only public opinion and the collective action of the public can safeguard humanitarian issues around the world.
But the public can only know about the issues — the truth about Iraq, for example — if journalists and broadcasters tell them. And I appeal to the many good people that there are in the media, who feel strongly about this form of censorship, but often don't know what to do. I appeal to them to reject this excluding and manipulative system and to start telling the truth.
I congratulate you all for coming today. Never lose heart. You are the opposition and the hope of many who do not demonstrate. You are at the heart of a huge new movement for which every rally like this one today is a victory.
[This speech was presented to the 20,000-strong Walk Against the War rally in the Sydney Domain on November 30.]
From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.