Tag Archives: violence

Robert Fisk: Why do we keep letting the politicians get away with lies?

How on earth do they get away with it? Let’s start with war between Hizbollah and Israel – past and future war, that is.

Back in 2006, Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers from their side of the Lebanese frontier and dragged them, mortally wounded, into Lebanon. The Israelis immediately launched a massive air bombardment against all of Lebanon, publicly declaring Beirut’s democratically-elected and US-backed – but extremely weak – government must be held to account for what Hizbollah does. Taking the lives of more than 1,000 Lebanese, almost all civilians, Israel unleashed its air power against the entire infrastructure of the rebuilt Lebanon, smashing highways, viaducts, electric grids, factories, lighthouses, totally erasing dozens of villages and half-destroying hundreds more before bathing the south of the country in three million cluster bomblets.

After firing thousands of old but nonetheless lethal rockets into Israel – where the total death toll was less than 200, more than half of them soldiers – Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah’s leader, told a lie: if he had known what Israel would do in revenge for the capture of two soldiers, he announced, he would never have agreed to Hizbollah’s operation.

But now here comes Israel’s environment minister, Gideon Ezra, with an equally huge whopper as he warns of an even bigger, more terrible war should Hizbollah attack Israel again. “During the (2006) war, we considered the possibility of attacking Lebanon’s infrastructure but we never (sic) resorted to this option, because we thought at the time that not all the Lebanese were responsible for the Hizbollah attacks… At that time, we had Hizbollah in our sights and not the Lebanese state. But the Hizbollah do not live on the moon, and some (sic) infrastructure was hit.” This was a brazen lie. Yet the Americans, who arm Israel, said nothing. The European Union said nothing. No journalistic column pointed out this absolute dishonesty.

Yet why should they when George Bush and Condoleezza Rice announced that there would be peace between Israelis and Palestinians by the end of 2007 – then rolled back the moment Israel decided it didn’t like the timetable. Take this week’s charade in Jerusalem. The moment Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni announced that “premature” efforts to bridge gaps in the “peace process” could lead to “clashes” (Palestinians, it should be remembered, die in “clashes”, Israelis are always “murdered”), my friends in Beirut and I – along with a Jewish friend in London – took bets on when Condi would fall into line. Bingo, this was Her Holiness in Jerusalem last week: “It’s extremely important just to keep making forward progress rather than trying prematurely to come to some set of conclusions.” “Some set”, of course, means “peace”‘. Once more, US foreign policy was dictated by Israel. And again, the world remained silent.

So when the world’s press announced that Barack Obama’s new running mate, the silver-haired Joe Biden, was “an expert in foreign policy”, we all waited to be told what this meant. But all we got was a reminder that he had voted for the 2003 Iraq invasion but thought better about it later and was now against the war. Well, Goddam blow me down, that certainly shows experience. But “expertise”? No doubt in government he’ll be teemed up with those old pro-Israeli has-beens, Madeleine Albright and Martin Indyk, whose new boss, Obama, virtually elected himself to the Israeli Knesset with his supine performance in Israel during his famous “international” tour.

As one of the Arab world’s most prominent commentators put it to me this week, “Biden’s being set up to protect Israel while Obama looks after the transportation system in Chicago.” It was a cruel remark with just enough bitter reality to make it bite.

Not that we’ll pay attention. And why should we when the Canadian department of national defence – in an effort to staunch the flow of Canadian blood in the sands of Afghanistan (93 servicemen and women “fallen” so far in their hopeless Nato war against the Taliban) – has brought in a Virginia-based US company called the Terrorism Research Centre to help. According to the DND, these “terrorism experts” are going, among other subjects, to teach Canadian troops – DO NOT LAUGH, READERS, I BEG YOU DO NOT LAUGH – “the history of Islam”! And yes, these “anti-terrorism” heroes are also going to lecture the lads on “radical (sic) Islam”, “sensitivities” and “cultural and ideological issues that influence insurgent decision-making”. It is a mystery to me why the Canadian brass should turn to the US for assistance – at a cost of almost a million dollars, I should add – when America is currently losing two huge wars in the Muslim world.

But wait. The counterinsurgency school, which claims links to the US government, is reported to be a branch of Total Intelligence Solutions, a company run by infamous Cofer Black, a former director of CIA counterterrorism, and Erik Prince, a former US navy seal. Both men are executives with the Prince Group, the holding company for Total Intelligence Solutions and – and here readers will not laugh – a certain company called Blackwater. Yes, the very same Blackwater whose mercenary thugs blithely gunned down all those civilians on the streets of Baghdad last year. So Canada’s soldiers are now going to be contaminated by these mercenary killers before they head off to the Muslim world with their unique understanding of “the history of Islam”. How do they get away with it?

On a quite separate matter, you might ask the same of Conrad Black, languishing in a Florida prison after his business convictions. Responding to an enquiry from Murdoch’s grotty New York Post into body searches and other appalling humiliations at the jail, Uncle Conrad, as I like to call him – for he is among the rogues I would love to have interviewed (others include the younger Mussolini and the older Yeltsin) – responded that the Florida facility was not oppressive, that “many of the people here are quite (sic) interesting” but – AND HERE IT COMES, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! – “if saintly men like Gandhi could choose to clean latrines, and Thomas More could voluntarily wear a hair shirt, this experience won’t kill me”.

Now when Uncle Conrad likens himself to the assassinated Mahatma, the apostle of India, that is mere hubris. But when he compares himself to England’s greatest Catholic martyr, a man of saintly honour if ruthless conviction, this is truly weird. “I die the King’s good servant but God’s first,” More reportedly said on 6 July 1535, before they chopped off his head on Tower Hill. And many are there among Uncle Conrad’s enemies who might wish the same fate for the former owner of The Daily Telegraph. After all, Henry VIII didn’t let Thomas get away with it.

The Independent


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Robert Fisk: Snapshots of life in Baghdad

Three bodies lie beside a Baghdad street on a blindingly hot day. The one on the right is dressed in a white shirt and bright green trousers, his hands tied behind his back. Two others on the left lie shoeless, both dressed in check shirts, dumped – how easily we use that word of Baghdad’s corpses – on a yard of dirt and bags of garbage. They, too, of course, are now garbage. The wall behind them, a grim barrier of dun-coloured brick, seals off this horror from two two-storey villas and a clutch of palm trees, the normal life of Baghdad just a wall away from the other “normal” life of Baghdad’s sectarian killings. No one knows whose bodies they are and the picture – taken from a car window – was snapped in fear by an unknown Iraqi.

It is a cell-phone picture, for now only the cell phones of the Iraqi people can record their tragedy. Another shows a young man’s body, taken from beside a car wing mirror, hands tied behind his back with his own shirt. Bombs explode across the Baghdad skyline, columns of smoke move into the air like sinister ghosts. Palm trees block off streets of fearful Iraqis. A car bomb blazes, the faint image of a US Humvee outlined against the trees. There are broken bridges, wounded friends, blood-soaked cloth.

But there are also families; even a Muslim family celebrating Christmas, all dressed in Santa Claus hats, and a graduation party where the girls wear Bedouin black dresses with gold-fringed scarves and the boys wear Arab headdress and white abayas – something quite foreign to the middle classes of what was once one of the most literate and educated cities of the Middle East.

But it is the cell phone that has captured this terrible, fearful, brave face of Baghdad. Western photographers can no longer roam the streets of the Iraqi capital – and few other cities in Iraq – and in south-west Afghanistan, the same phenomenon has occurred.

We Westerners need the locals to photograph their tragedy and their ragged, often fuzzy, poorly framed pictures contain their own finely calibrated and terrible beauty. The fear of the cell-phone snapper is contained in almost every frame. Most of the Iraqis are refugees-to-be, for the Dutch photographer Geert van Kesteren, who collected 388 pages of photographs for his book Baghdad Calling, wanted to catalogue the tragedy of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who are the largely ignored victims of our demented 2003 invasion and occupation.

Van Kesteren, an unassuming but imaginative journalist whom I met recently in Holland, noticed that refugees used their cell phones as family albums and decided, in the words of Brigitte Lardinois, formerly director of Magnum Photos in London, “to let the pictures of ordinary, non-professional photographers tell the story this time”. Iraqi refugees in Jordan asked friends to send more pictures from Baghdad.

Some were rejected because of their suspect provenance – alas, we therefore do not see the picture of an American soldier, apparently firing a rifle from atop a donkey, but which might have been digitally edited – but others cannot be anything but the truth. The smiling families, hiding in their homes as the killers roam the darkness outside, the young men relaxing in the safety of Kurdistan, swimming in the lakes, revelling in the nightlife, the plump nephew of one of the anonymous cell-phone photographers sitting on a bright red sports car, have to be real.

It must have been hard for Van Kesteren, a news photographer in his own right, to have submerged his own work for this brilliant amateur collection. A few of Van Kesteren’s own professional pictures appear in Baghdad Calling but they are taken in the safety of Syria, Jordan or Turkey and – save for a group photograph of courageous Iraqis captured after illegally crossing the Turkish border but still determined to escape from their country again – they lack the power and immediacy of the Iraqi snapshots.

The refugee statistics are so appalling that they have become almost mundane. Four million of Iraq’s 23 million people have fled their homes – until recently, at the rate of 60,000 a month – allegedly more than 1.2 million to Syria (a figure now challenged by at least one prominent NGO), 500,000 to Jordan, 200,000 to the Gulf, 70,000 to Egypt, 57,000 to Iran, up to 40,000 to Lebanon, 10,000 to Turkey. Sweden has accepted 9,000, Germany fewer – where an outrageous political debate has suggested that Christian refugees should have preference over Muslim Iraqis. With its usual magnanimity – especially for a country that set off this hell-disaster by its illegal invasion – George Bush’s America has, of course, accepted slightly more than 500.

This collection of pictures is therefore an indictment of us, as well as of the courage of Iraqis. The madness is summed up in an email message sent to Van Kesteren by a Baghdad Iraqi. “This summer,” he wrote, “a workman wanted to quench his thirst by putting ice in his tea. A car pulled up, the driver stepped out and began to beat and kick the man, cursing him as an unbeliever. ‘What do you think you’re doing? Did the Prophet Mohamed put ice in his water?’

The man being attacked was furious and asked his assailant: ‘Do you think the Prophet Mohamed drove a car?'”

* The Independent


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Abel Samir: El reciente viaje de Bush a Oriente Medio: ¿crear un frente político-militar antiiraní?

nte vive sin recurrir a la violencia para dirimir sus dificultades o diferencias. Pero Bush intenta separar ambas corrientes y ponerlas una contra la otra para obtener dividendos favorables a su geopolítica en Oriente Medio.

En Irak esta política le ha dado un cierto resultado positivo toda vez que el actual gobierno pronorteamericano a pedido de USA permitió el regreso a los cargos públicos de las personas sunitas que antes formaban parte del aparato administrativo y burocrático del gobierno de Sadam. Esa era, en parte, la estrategia que llevaba Bush para lograr disminuir la resistencia armada en Irak contra las tropas invasoras. Sin lugar a dudas que el extremismo religioso de Al Kaeda influyó también en que muchos grupos de resistencia integrados por sunitas se volcasen contra esta organización recibiendo de parte de USA armas y dinero, dada la cesantía y la pobreza general en la que está hoy sumida la población de ese país. Era también de interés norteamericano que los sunitas cesaran de resistir militarmente y que aceptasen la ocupación. Al parecer, una parte importante de los sunitas han dejado de atacar a los marines y se han enfrascado en luchas contra los integrantes de Al Kaeda que, hoy por hoy, no constituye una fuerza pequeña, sino más bien fuerte y muy bien organizada. Además, existen todavía sectores sunitas que son sus aliados dentro y fuera de Irak. Sin el apoyo sunita Bush se ve imposibilitado de agredir a Irán. Piensa que neutralizados los sunitas, las posibilidades de resistencia los marines de los combatientes chiítas sería menor y tendría más tropas con las manos libres para emplearlas eventualmente contra Irán.

En un principio, el mejor apoyo a su política en Irak provenía tanto de los kurdos como de los chiítas del sur que integraron el gobierno actual. Posteriormente, una parte importante de los chiítas continuó resistiendo a los invasores y, sin lugar a dudas, de alguna forma son apoyados por Irán, aunque no hay pruebas de que ese apoyo sea mediante armas, explosivos y municiones. La influencia de Irán en el sur de Irak es grande y muy difícil de erradicar. En una guerra contra Irán, esa gente se volcará a apoyar activamente a ese país. Se transformarán en una quinta columna dentro del territorio iraquí contra los marines norteamericanos. La lucha guerrillera se intensificará indudablemente. Y allí está la importancia que los norteamericanos le dan a los combatientes sunitas, ex-miembros de la Guardia Republicana. Les interesa el apoyo de los sunitas iraquíes para neutralizar a los chiítas proiraníes. Esta es una de las razones que determinan la persistencia de fuerzas de ocupación norteamericanas hoy en Irak, aunque se hable de una pronta disminución, pero no de un término de la ocupación.

La visita de Bush pasa por tratar de convencer a sus aliados árabes (en su gran mayoría compuestos por estados monárquicos antidemocráticos) de participar en un frente unido contra Irán. Bush sostiene que Irán es hoy y también en el futuro el peligro mayor que existe en Oriente Medio. ¿De cuál peligro se trata? ¿Qué Irán produzca la bomba nuclear y la emplee contra sus enemigos, especialmente Israel? Cualquier político o militar con conocimientos en la materia y medianamente inteligente sabe que una guerra atómica no es posible cuando ambos bandos poseen esas terribles armas del fin del mundo. Y en esa zona Israel es una potencia nuclear, además de las armas nucleares que poseen sus aliados Inglaterra, Francia y USA. Es totalmente absurdo siquiera pensar que los iraníes, así desarrollen el arma nuclear, vayan a hacer uso de ella. Eso sería el fin del mundo. Y los iraníes son gente bastante inteligente como para no dar ese paso. Pero, por otro lado, el poseer el arma nuclear y misiles de larga distancia es como un seguro de vida para no ser agredido ni por Israel, USA o alguno de sus aliados.

Pero, ¿qué teme USA realmente? El temor está en que Irán se fortalezca demasiado y se desarrolle a tal nivel tecnológico que sea imposible someterla a la política de dominio que desarrolla USA. Y USA necesita dominar los Estados de esa importante zona estratégica, tanto por ser la puerta de Asia como por ser una zona rica en energéticos, los cuales se hacen más necesarios para la economía de USA y mundial. El cierto grado de recesión económica alcanzado actualmente por USA puede agravarse si el precio del petróleo sigue subiendo. Ya declaró Bush que va a conversar con los empresarios saudíes sobre el elevado precio del crudo que hace sufrir la economía norteamericana. Y USA debe asegurarse de que el petróleo siga llegando a ese país por largo tiempo y a un precio más bajo. Irán boicotea el dólar norteamericano contribuyendo directamente a su caída. Además, Irán hasta ahora no ha demostrado deseos de someterse a la política norteamericana y lleva una política independiente que no es del agrado de USA. Asimismo, Irán está cayendo más bajo la influencia geopolítica de Rusia y de China, lo que debilita la posición norteamericana lograda gracias al derrumbe de la URSS que tenía tanta influencia en esa zona en la década de los setenta del siglo pasado. La lucha de las grandes potencias por dominar al mundo no ha terminado como se dice normalmente. USA quiere asegurarse el dominio absoluto de la Tierra, así sea directa o indirectamente. Indirectamente a través de Estados aliados o Estados sometidos. El corazón de Europa está en litigio. Una vez sostuve en un artículo sobre la integración latinoamericana que la UE llamaría a la puerta de Ucrania y Georgia. Y ya en Georgia la gente junto con elegir al nuevo gobierno, votaron recientemente por una gran mayoría solicitar el ingreso a la OTAN. Un paso muy preocupante para Rusia que va perdiendo terreno en el Mar Negro. Sin duda que hay en todo esto razones geopolíticas que no se pueden desestimar. La “Guerra Fría” supuestamente terminó, pero en la práctica sigue existiendo, porque hay un duro bregar por dominar zonas importantes, sobre todo las zonas productoras de minerales estratégicos como el uranio y los energéticos.

Indudablemente que la situación en Oriente Medio es cada vez más compleja. Si bien es cierto en Irak USA ha logrado un cierto respiro, el problema de Líbano Y Palestina está que arde. Y ya no se trata simplemente de chiítas contra sunitas. De hecho Hamás (un movimiento sunita) es apoyado por Irán, así como Hizbollá de Líbano que es chiíta. En Siria conviven los chiítas y los sunitas en armonía y la mayoría son antinorteamericanos y antiisraelíes.

Pero el esfuerzo de Bush no ha logrado resultados muy positivos. Si bien es cierto le ha prometido una gran venta de armas a su principal aliado árabe, Arabia Saudita (con gran preocupación de parte de Israel), el príncipe y primer ministro de ese país, Saud Al-Faisal, ha dicho que tiene grandes reservas sobre la provocación de Irán enunciada por Bush. Además ha manifestado que el problema nuclear de Irán no puede ser solucionado ni por Arabia Saudita ni por Francia. Ahora eso es lo manifestado por él, pero no sabemos hasta dónde está dispuesto a apoyar a Bush en su próxima aventura en la zona. Afirma que la negativa de Irán de someterse a los dictados de las NU, que no es otro que la política impuesta por USA, es contrario a los intereses de la zona.

* Argenpress
* http://www.argenpress.info/nota.asp?num=051072&Parte=0

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