The triumphalism of the governments of USA and Britain and their subservient popular media is probably premature; and most certainly it is barbaric to be gloating at "success" of a project which has caused thousands of men and women, young and old, and children to be killed, maimed or made homeless by the actions of their armed forces.
We should reflect that this catastrophe would very probably not have occurred without the sustained support of Bush's war plans by Tony Blair and our government; and further that this killing is the first result of Bush's plan to force Pax Americana (brand name "democracy") on the world, and that its furtherance can only lead to more death and destruction culminating in WWIII.
Remember too, that the first charge to which Nazi war criminals were indicted at Nuremburg in 1945 was for:
This is a charge to which Bush, Blair and their governments are clearly subject, since they have jointly planned and executed a war of aggression against a sovereign country, on pretexts which have clearly turned out to be falsifications, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations, of which their countries were founding signatories. It should be obvious that the majority of people outside Britain and USA would support such a charge.
Edward ("Paddy") Apling
"They have blown off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Their victims overwhelm the morgues and flood into hospitals that lack even aspirin."
A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with "friendly fire", spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: "Listen, that's the sound of freedom."
Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer's page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: "The moment young Omar discovered the price of war". These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples.
No true epitaph for them in Britain's famous liberal newspaper; no honest headline, such as: "This American marine murdered this boy's family". No photograph of Omar's father, mother, sisters and brother dismembered and blood-soaked by automatic fire. Versions of the Observer's propaganda picture have been appearing in the Anglo-American press since the invasion began: tender cameos of American troops reaching out, kneeling, ministering to their "liberated" victims.
And where were the pictures from the village of Furat, where 80 men, women and children were rocketed to death? Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush's thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it.
"To initiate a war of aggression," said the judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." In stating this guiding principle of international law, the judges specifically rejected German arguments of the "necessity" for pre-emptive attacks against other countries.
Nothing Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing boys and their media court do now will change the truth of their great crime in Iraq. It is a matter of record, understood by the majority of humanity, if not by those who claim to speak for "us". As Denis Halliday said of the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq, it will "slaughter them in the history books". It was Halliday who, as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, set up the "oil for food" programme in Iraq in 1996 and quickly realised that the UN had become an instrument of "a genocidal attack on a whole society". He resigned in protest, as did his successor, Hans von Sponeck, who described "the wanton and shaming punishment of a nation".
I have mentioned these two men often in these pages, partly because their names and their witness have been airbrushed from most of the media. I well remember Jeremy Paxman bellowing at Halliday on Newsnight shortly after his resignation: "So are you an apologist for Saddam Hussein?" That helped set the tone for the travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport. In a leaked e-mail Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, described the BBC's war coverage as "extraordinary - it almost feels like World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you're switching between battles".
He is talking about murder. That is what the Americans do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole programme of murder called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars, as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along the way.
They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: "We shot the shit out of it." Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals - hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by America's deliberate withholding of $5.4bn in humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for by Iraq. The screams of children undergoing amputation with minimal anaesthetic qualify as the BBC man's "sound of freedom".
Heller would appreciate the sideshows. Take the British helicopter pilot who came to blows with an American who had almost shot him down. "Don't you know the Iraqis don't have a fucking air force?" he shouted. Did this pilot reflect on the truth he had uttered, on the whole craven enterprise against a stricken third world country and his own part in this crime? I doubt it. The British have been the most skilled at delusion and lying. By any standard, the Iraqi resistance to the high-tech Anglo-American machine was heroic. With ancient tanks and mortars, small arms and desperate ambushes, they panicked the Americans and reduced the British military class to one of its specialities - mendacious condescension.
The Iraqis who fight are "terrorists", "hoodlums", "pockets of Ba'ath Party loyalists", "kamikaze" and "feds" (fedayeen). They are not real people: cultured and cultivated people. They are Arabs. This vocabulary of dishonour has been faithfully parroted by those enjoying it all from the broadcasting box. "What do you make of Basra?" asked the Today programme's presenter of a former general embedded in the studio. "It's hugely encouraging, isn't it?" he replied. Their mutual excitement, like their plummy voices, are their bond.
On the same day, in a Guardian letter, Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, pointed us to evidence of this "hugely encouraging" truth - fleeting pictures on Sky News of British soldiers smashing their way into a family home in Basra, pointing their guns at a woman and manhandling, hooding and manacling young men, one of whom was shown quivering with terror. "Is Britain 'liberating' Basra by taking political prisoners and, if so, based on what sort of intelligence, given Britain's long unfamiliarity with this territory and its inhabitants . . . The least this ugly display will do is remind Arabs and Muslims everywhere of our Anglo-Saxon double standards - we can show your prisoners in . . . degrading positions, but don't you dare show ours.".
Roger Mosey says the suffering of Um Qasr is "like World Cup football". There are 40,000 people in Um Qasr; desperate refugees are streaming in and the hospitals are overflowing. All this misery is due entirely to the "coalition" invasion and the British siege, which forced the United Nations to withdraw its humanitarian aid staff. Cafod, the Catholic relief agency, which has sent a team to Um Qasr, says the standard humanitarian quota for water in emergency situations is 20 litres per person per day.
Cafod reports hospitals entirely without water and people drinking from contaminated wells. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million people across southern Iraq are without water, and epidemics are inevitable. And what are "our boys" doing to alleviate this, apart from staging childish, theatrical occupations of presidential palaces, having fired shoulder-held missiles into a civilian city and dropped cluster bombs?
A British colonel laments to his "embedded" flock that "it is difficult to deliver aid in an area that is still an active battle zone". The logic of his own words mocks him. If Iraq was not a battle zone, if the British and the Americans were not defying international law, there would be no difficulty in delivering aid....
From the Morning Star, 4 April, 2003:
TONY BENN answers those who claim that war is the only way.
THE Prime Minister's latest attempt to silence the peace movement is to argue that, whatever the arguments against the war, now that it has started, everyone must support our troops - it would be unpatriotic to continue to oppose the war.
In short, having ordered our forces to go and fight, he now hopes to shield behind them, knowing that most people are, quite properly, very concerned about their safety, although he is the man who has put their lives at risk.
And you can be sure that those soldiers who are lucky enough to come back alive, but are injured or traumatised, will not get all the support that they hope for from the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Social Security.
This is something that World War II and 1991 Gulf war veterans know only too well.
The most effective way of protecting our troops would be to bring them home. However unwelcome and unpopular that view may be at this moment, I believe that it has to be said and argued for consistently.
This is in the certain knowledge that more and more people will come to share that view as the war drags on and develops into guerilla fighting, against which Stealth bombers are useless.
Those who limit their comments to demands for more humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Iraq by the UN - which is sensible - cannot really dodge the immediate question, which is whether or not they can accept that the war has to be fought to a conclusion now, at whatever human cost.
Those of us who are arguing, as I am, for a ceasefire now and an end to war must also consider what other measures would be necessary to make that a viable policy by showing how it could be done in some detail.
First, we should be supporting those who are asking that the general assembly of the UN, attended by all nations, including Iraq, be called into session - where there is no big power veto that could frustrate any decision that it reached.
If the general assembly were, itself, to call for a ceasefire, it would strip away the last remnants of the excuse used by Bush and Blair that there is UN authority for this war. It would reflect the true opinion of the world that it is illegal and immoral.
It would then be open to the general assembly to ask UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to invite nations not involved in the war, with a strong Arab and Muslim contingent, to provide a UN peacekeeping force in blue helmets.
Under his control, it should be sent to Iraq, supervise a ceasefire, arrange for the withdrawal of US and British forces and distribute the food and medicines that are so urgently needed as the first stage in a genuine peace process.
Such a peacekeeping force should then make it possible for Hans Blix and his inspectors to return and carry on with their work.
UN human rights monitors should also be sent in to supervise the holding of free elections within two years, backed up by funds for reconstruction paid for by the US and Britain, which have caused the damage.
This is a task that could be undertaken at far less cost than that which would be incurred if the war was to go on.
All this may sound very visionary and unrealistic at a time when Bush and Blair are so obviously determined to continue the military conquest of Iraq, while pretending that they are liberators - an argument that no-one in the rest of the world believes.
Those who argue for a peace plan along the lines that I have outlined must expect to be denounced, our arguments distorted to make it look as if we are apologists for Saddam Hussein and all that he stands for.
They would be charged with betraying our boys and undermining the special relationship with the US, so carefully built up by Blair as he knelt before the throne of Emperor Bush.
But, if this peace plan is rejected, what is the alternative? We all know it very well. It is to continue the killing for weeks, maybe months and even, possibly, years to come, not only in Iraq but even in Iran and Syria.
They have now been threatened by Donald Rumsfeld, along with other nations which Washington has baned as "rogue states" or a part of the "axis of evil," which can be attacked at will.
From the Morning Star, 28 March, 2003
TONY BENN looks forward to the Labour Against the War conference.
TOMORROW, at the Friends Meeting House in London, Labour Against the War is holding a national delegate conference to discuss the grave crisis created by the invasion of Iraq, planned and executed by President Bush and Mr Blair. This meeting, which will be addressed by Labour MPs, trade union leaders and members of the Labour national executive committee, will provide the movement with an opportunity to review a situation which has far wider implications than may be fully recognised.
Obviously, the human tragedy that is now unfolding will be at the centre of our thoughts, with many innocent Iraqi civilians, British and US service people already killed, injured and taken prisoner, as will the possibility of a massive humanitarian catastrophe in Basra caused by the collapse of the water supply, which endangers far more lives than the bombing has done.
The justification for this war, which is endlessly repeated by Bush and Blair, is that it is in support of the United Nations - despite the plain fact that the security council refused to authorise it, that the secretary general Kofi Annan has said that it is illegal and that world opinion is overwhelmingly against it.
The first military objective was to kill Saddam Hussein, even though assassination is not authorised by the UN charter. Its second objective was to create a sense of "shock and awe," which means the use of terror against a whole nation to compel it to surrender to avoid being massacred, which was what Hitler's Blitz on London was all about in 1940.
But the war is about a lot more than Iraq and among the casualties are the Palestinians, who will suffer greatly as a by-product of the conflict.
This is why Sharon has been campaigning to force the US to act, planning to use the opportunities that it will create for him to extend the settlements and continue his ethnic cleansing, despite the so-called "road map" for a Palestinian state, which was cynically announced by Bush and Blair solely to win Arab backing for their war on Iraq.
Perhaps the real victims of all this are the poor, hungry and homeless in the world, who are forced to sit and watch the money and physical resources that they need to survive and develop being criminally wasted on a project that will not only deny them any hope of help but will drive the victims of the war into poverty, hunger and homelessness themselves.
But it is also a war against the people of this country, too, who now face a world-wide economic recession and will pay higher taxes to kill Iraqis and wait for even longer for the development of our own services and the better pay that is needed for those who work in them.
It is a war against democracy here in Britain, because the many millions who oppose it have been denied proper representation by a party in Parliament and have to watch a Labour Prime Minister who is sustained in office by the Tories, under a leader who just repeats what he has been told on his visits to Downing Street to get his secret briefings.
The great thing about the massive demonstrations that are going on all over Britain and world-wide is that they are offering us a form of unofficial representation where we can meet people who share our view, hear opinions that the BBC and the press do not give us and hence survive the barrage of lies which are directed at us by our political and military leaders.
All progress has always begun from below in the way that we are seeing at the demonstrations, but, to be fully effective, we need a proper movement able to win electoral support and take action, which is what the Labour Party was founded to do.
If there was a general election tomorrow, there would be no major party that a citizen could vote for which would promise to end the war.
That simple fact poses a deadly threat to the Labour Party itself and has led many good comrades to leave the party and despair for its future.
This fear is made all the more real because there are those who now believe that Tony Blair, like Ramsay MacDonald before him, would be glad to see the party that he leads disappear and be replaced by a coalition government made up of Tories and Liberals also under his leadership.
This was an idea in the minds of those who came together to found new Labour.
The growing realisation within the party that the decision to go to war may be a part of that strategy makes the meeting tomorrow all the more urgent, because we are calling for the recall of the party conference to allow our affiliated trade unions and constituency delegates to assert themselves to make it clear to the leadership that we have no intention of allowing the party to be hijacked and destroyed.
Those of us who are doing this are no longer voices in the wilderness, but represent the overwhelming majority in the party - and among the public, too - who are becoming increasingly disenchanted by the direction that new Labour is taking.
This majority wants to see our historic responsibilities honoured, safeguarding the interests of working people, the old and young, the sick and unemployed and to work for an international order based on solidarity, co-operation and peace - in place of the injustice of global capital and aggressive imperialism, which is what Bush believes in.
We must link the mass movement for peace with the Labour movement so that, as has happened so many times before, it can be fashioned into a political instrument capable of realising the hopes of humanity in a dangerous century when the choice is, as Rosa Luxembourg rightly warned, between "socialism or barbarism."
From the Eastern Daily Press, Thursday, April 10, 2003:
Cambridge Street, Norwich.
Stuart Griffin's letter (April 4) showed clearly that the smokescreen offered up by Bush and Blair is working for many people.
I do however look forward to news of when Mr Griffin will be setting off to liberate the people of Zimbabwe from a tyrannical regime, and I do wonder why I haven't heard of his long, courageous struggle to free oppressed people in other parts of the world.
Surely he would have been in South Africa fighting apartheid, and then he would have spent time in Sierra Leone, Congo, and Rwanda? We should be told.
Those of us who oppose the war in Iraq do not wish the suffering of the people of Iraq to continue. We just don't think that war is the right (or legal) means to prevent it.
That is a supremely important issue when our democratic constitution is based on the rule of law, and when the peace of the world depends on individual nations obeying international law.
We are not convinced that the Middle East will be a better place as a result of this conflict, and we have many justifiable concerns about its impact on the rise in terrorist activity in that region as well as closer to home.
Please don't continue to characterise anyone who is anti-war as spineless. Might is not always right, as any playground supervisor will tell you.