Robert Fisk: What the US President wants us to forget
[The Independent - 9 October 2002]:
Each day now, someone says something even more incredible even more
unimaginable about President Bush's obsession with war. Yesterday, George
Bush was himself telling an audience in Cincinnati about "nuclear holy
warriors". Forget for a moment that we still can't prove Saddam Hussein has
nuclear weapons. Forget that the latest Bush speech was just a re-hash of
all the "ifs" and "mays" and "coulds" in Tony Blair's flimsy 16 pages of
allegations in his historically dishonest "dossier". Forget that if Osama
bin Laden ever acquired a nuclear weapon, he'd probably use it first on
Saddam. No. We've got to fight "nuclear holy warriors". That's what we have
to do to justify the whole charade through which we are being taken now by
the White House, by Downing Street, by all the decaying "experts" on
terrorism and, alas, far too many journalists.
Forget the 14 Palestinians, including the 12-year-old child, killed by
Israel a few hours before Mr Bush spoke, forget that when his aircraft
killed nine Palestinian children in July, along with one militant, the
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon a "man of peace" in Mr Bush's words
described the slaughter as "a great success". Israel is on our side.
Remember to use the word "terror". Use it about Saddam Hussein, use it about
Osama bin Laden, use it about Yasser Arafat, use it about anyone who opposes
Israel or America. Bush used it in his speech yesterday, 30 times in half an
hour that's one "terrorism" a minute.
But now let's list exactly what we really must forget if we are to support
this madness. Most important of all, we absolutely must forget that
President Ronald Reagan dispatched a special envoy to meet Saddam Hussein in
December 1983. It's essential to forget this for three reasons. Firstly,
because the awful Saddam was already using gas against the Iranians which
is one of the reasons we are now supposed to go to war with him.
Secondly, because the envoy was sent to Iraq to arrange the re-opening of
the US embassy in order to secure better trade and economic relations with
the Butcher of Baghdad. Thirdly, because the envoy was wait for it
Donald Rumsfeld. Now you might think it strange that Mr Rumsfeld, in the
course of one of his folksy press conferences, hasn't chatted to us about
this interesting tit-bit. You might think he would have wished to enlighten
us about the evil nature of the criminal with whom he so warmly shook hands.
Strangely, Mr Rumsfeld is silent about this. As he is about his subsequent
and equally friendly meeting with Tariq Aziz which just happened to take
place on the day in March, 1984, that the UN released its damning report on
Saddam's use of poison gas against Iran. The American media are silent about
this too, of course. Because we must forget.
We must forget, too, that in 1988, as Saddam destroyed the people of Halabja
with gas, along with tens of thousands of other Kurds when he "used gas
against his own people" in the words of Messrs Bush/Cheney/Blair/Cook/Straw
et al President Bush senior provided him with $500m in US government
subsidies to buy American farm products. We must forget that in the
following year, after Saddam's genocide was complete, President Bush senior
doubled this subsidy to $1bn, along with germ seed for anthrax, helicopters,
and the notorious "dual-use" material that could be used for chemical and
And when President Bush junior promises the Iraqi people "an era of new hope
and democracy after the destruction of Saddam as he did last night we
must forget how the Americans promised Pakistan and Afghanistan a new era of
hope after the defeat of the Soviet army in 1980 and did nothing.
We must forget how President Bush senior urged the Iraqis to rise up against
Saddam in 1991 and when they obeyed did nothing. We must forget how
America promised a new era of hope to Somalia in 1993 and then, after "Black
Hawk Down", abandoned the country.
We must forget how President Bush junior promised to "stand by" Afghanistan
before he began his bombings last year and has left it now an economic
shambles of drug barons, warlords, anarchy and fear. He boasted yesterday
that the people of Afghanistan have been "liberated" this after he has
failed to catch bin Laden, failed to catch Mullah Omar, and while his troops
are coming under daily attack. We must forget, as we listen to the need to
reinsert arms inspectors, that the CIA covertly used UN weapons inspectors
to spy on Iraq.
And of course, we must forget about oil. Indeed, oil is the one commodity
and one of the few things which George Bush junior knows something about,
along with his ex-oil cronies Cheney and Rice and countless others in the
administration which is never mentioned.
In all of Bush's 30 minutes of anti-Iraq war talk yesterday pleasantly
leavened with just two minutes of how "I hope this will not require military
action" there wasn't a single reference to the fact that Iraq may hold oil
reserves larger than those of Saudi Arabia, that American oil companies
stand to gain billions of dollars in the event of a US invasion, that, once
out of power, Bush and his friends could become multi-billionaires on the
spoils of this war. We must ignore all this before we go to war. We must