[T]he conflict of "shock-and-awe" -- the Pentagon's phrase is itself a classic slogan from the pages of the old Nazi magazine "Signal" -- doesn't seem so realistic.
Things are going wrong. We are not telling the truth.
Anglo-American Lies Exposed
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
The Independent - 24 March
So far, the Anglo-American armies are handing their
propaganda to the Iraqis on a plate. First, on Saturday, we
were told -- courtesy of the BBC -- that Umm Qasr, the tiny
Iraqi seaport on the Gulf, had "fallen". Why cities have to
"fall" on the BBC is a mystery to me; the phrase comes from
the Middle Ages when city walls literally collapsed under
siege. Then we were told -- again on the BBC -- that
Nassariyah had been captured. Then its "embedded "
correspondent informed us -- and here my old journalistic
suspicions were alerted -- that it had been "secured".
"Embedded" reporters are those traveling with the American
or British forces -- and who are now subject to a censorship
that is willfully misleading the BBC's listeners, not just
in Britain but all over the world.
Why the BBC should use the meretricious military expression
"secured" is also a mystery to me. "Secured" is meant to
sound like "captured" but almost invariably means, in the
kind of parlance that the "embedded" reporters now adopt,
that a city has been bypassed or half-surrounded or, at the
most, that an invading army has merely entered its suburbs.
And sure enough, within 24 hours, the Shiite city west of
the junction of the Euphrates and Tigress rivers, proved to
be very much unsecured, indeed had not been entered in any
form -- because at least 500 Iraqi troops, supported by
tanks, were still fighting there.
At one point on Saturday, the BBC introduced us to an
"embedded" reporter "in Basra". This report fell to pieces
when the correspondent admitted that he was not "in Basra
itself"; which is why the BBC anchor in London later signed
him off as a correspondent "in southeast Iraq". Quite so.
But it's not the nonsense that these journalists are
churning out to us that matters. It's the treasure trove of
point-scoring that it hands to the Iraqis. With what joy did
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan inform us all
yesterday that "they claimed they had captured Umm Qasr but
now you know this is a lie." With what happiness did the
Iraqi information minister, Mohamed Said Al-Sahhaf, boast
yesterday that Basra was still "in Iraqi hands", that "our
forces" in Nassariyeh are still fighting.
And well could they boast because, despite all the claptrap
put out by the Americans and British in Qatar, what the
Iraqis said on this score was true. The usual Iraqi claims
of downed US and British aircraft -- four supposedly "shot
down" around Baghdad and another near Mosul -- were given
credibility by the Iraqi ability to prove that the collapse
of their forces in the south was untrue -- quite apart from
the film of prisoners obtained last night. Indeed, the Iraqi
government is slowly getting its own propaganda act together
and was able, yesterday -- courtesy of a real live senior
army officer (Gen. Hazim Al-Rawi) -- to read out what it
claimed were the latest three dispatches from its army units
in Basra and the marshes to the north. These reported that
77 civilians had been "martyred" by US cluster bombs dropped
It's not just the misleading American and British reporting
emanating from what would once have been called the "pool".
It's also what we know is not being divulged to us. We know,
for example, that the Americans are again using depleted
uranium (DU) munitions in Iraq, just as they did in 1991.
Before the war began, they stated that they intended to use
these warheads, which are manufactured from the waste of the
nuclear industry -- to pierce armor -- and which are
believed by thousands of Gulf War Syndrome sufferers, along
with Iraqi doctors, to be responsible for a plague of
cancers. Yesterday, the BBC told us that the US Marines had
called up A-10 strike aircraft to deal with "pockets of
resistance " -- a bit more military-speak from the BBC --
but failed to mention that the A-10 uses DU rounds. So for
the first time since 1991, we -- the West -- are today
spraying these uranium aerosols in battlefield explosions in
southern Iraq; and we're not being told. Why not?
And where, for God's sake, does that wretched, utterly
dishonest phrase "coalition forces" come from? There is no
"coalition" in this Iraq war. There are the Americans and
the British and a few Australians. That's it.
The "coalition" of the 1991 Gulf War does not exist. The
"coalition" of nations willing to "help" with this
illegitimate conflict includes, by a vast stretch of the
imagination, even Costa Rica and Micronesia and, I suppose,
poor old neutral Ireland with its transit rights for US
military aircraft at Shannon. But they are not "coalition
forces". Why does the BBC use this phrase? I repeat, why?
Even in the Second World War, which so many journalists
think they are now reporting, we didn't use this lie. When
we landed on the coast of North Africa in Operation Torch,
we called it an "Anglo-American landing".
And this is an Anglo-American war, whether we -- and I
include the "embedded ones" -- like it or not. The Iraqis
are sharp enough to remember all this. At first, they
announced that captured US or British troops would be
treated as mercenaries, a decision that Saddam himself
wisely corrected yesterday when he stated that all prisoners
would be treated "according to the Geneva Convention."
All in all, then, this has not been a great weekend for
Messers Bush and Blair. Nor, of course, for Saddam although
he's been playing at wars for almost half the lifetime of
Blair. One of our own Tornadoes is shot down by the
Americans -- after the British lose personnel in three
helicopter disasters -- and we haven't even totally captured
the first town over the border from Kuwait. And even those
journalists who have most bravely tried to see for
themselves what is going on without the protection of their
armies -- an ITV crew near Nassariyeh, for example -- are in
mortal peril of their lives.
So here's a question from one who believed, only a week ago,
that Baghdad might just collapse, that we might wake up one
morning to find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi army gone
and the Americans walking down Saadun Street with their
rifles over their shoulders. If the Iraqis can still hold
out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four
days, if they can keep fighting in Basra and Nassariyeh --
the latter a city which briefly rose in successful revolt
against Saddam in 1991 -- why should Saddam's forces not
keep fighting in Baghdad?
Certainly, Iraqi history will not be complete without a new
story of "martyrdom" in the country's eternal battle against
foreign occupiers. The last fighters of Umm Qasr will
become, in the years to come -- whatever the fate of Saddam
-- men of song and legend. The Egyptians long ago did the
same for their men killed at Suez in 1956.
Of course, this might all be a miscalculation. The pack of
cards may be more flimsy than we think. But suddenly, this
weekend, the quick and easy war, the conflict of
"shock-and-awe" -- the Pentagon's phrase is itself a classic
slogan from the pages of the old Nazi magazine "Signal" --
doesn't seem so realistic. Things are going wrong. We are
not telling the truth. And the Iraqis are riding high on it all.