Saturday, September 11, 2004

We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world

We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world
By Robert Fisk

11 September 2004

So, three years after the international crimes against humanity in New York ,
Washington and Pennsylvania we were bombing Fallujah. Come again? Hands up those who knew the name of Fallujah on 11 September 2001 . Or Samarra . Or Ramadi. Or Anbar province. Or Amarah. Or Tel Afar, the latest target in our "war on terror'' although most of us would find it hard to locate on a map
(look at northern Iraq , find Mosul and go one inch to the left). Oh, what a
tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.
Three years ago, it was all about Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida; then, at about
the time of the Enron scandal  and I have a New York professor to thank for
spotting the switching point  it was Saddam and weapons of mass destruction
and 45 minutes and human rights abuses in Iraq and, well, the rest is history.
And now, at last, the Americans admit that vast areas of Iraq are outside
government control. We are going to have to "liberate" them, all over again.

Like we reliberated Najaf and Kufa, "to kill or capture Muqtada Sadr'',
according to Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, and like we lay siege to Fallujah
back in April when we claimed, or at least the US Marines did, that we were
going to eliminate "terrorism'' in the city. In fact, its local military
commander has since had his head chopped off by the insurgents and Fallujah,
save for an occasional bloody air raid, remains outside all government control.

These past two weeks, I've been learning a lot about the hatred Iraqis feel
towards us. Trowelling back through my reporter's notebooks of the 1990s, I've
found page after page of my hand-written evidence of Iraqi anger; fury at the
sanctions which killed half a million children, indignation by doctors at our
use of depleted uranium shells in the 1991 Gulf War (we used them again last
year, but let's take these things one rage at a time) and deep, abiding
resentment towards us, the West. One article I wrote for The Independent in
1998 asked why Iraqis do not tear us limb from limb, which is what some Iraqis
did to the American mercenaries they killed in Fallujah last April.

But we expected to be loved, welcomed, greeted, fêted, embraced by these people.
First, we bombarded Stone Age Afghanistan and proclaimed it "liberated", then
we invaded Iraq to "liberate" Iraqis too. Wouldn't the Shia love us? Didn't we
get rid of Saddam Hussein? Well, history tells a different story. We dumped the
Sunni Muslim King Feisal on the Shia Muslims in the 1920s. Then we encouraged
them to rise against Saddam in 1991, and left them to die in Saddam's torture
chambers. And now, we reassemble Saddam's old rascals, their torturers, and put
them back in power to "fight terror'', and we lay siege to Muqtada Sadr in

We all have our memories of 11 September 2001 . I was on a plane heading for
America . And I remember, as the foreign desk at The Independent told me over
the aircraft's satellite phone of each new massacre in the United States , how I
told the captain, and how the crew and I prowled the plane to look for possible
suicide pilots. I think I found about 13; alas, of course, they were all Arabs
and completely innocent. But it told me of the new world in which I was
supposed to live. "Them'' and "Us''.

In my airline seat, I started to write my story for that night's paper. Then I
stopped and asked the foreign desk in London  by this time the aircraft was
dumping its fuel off Ireland before returning to Europe  to connect me to the
newspaper's copytaker, because only by "talking" my story to her, rather than
writing it, could I find the words I needed. And so I "talked" my report, of
folly and betrayal and lies in the Middle East , of injustice and cruelty and
war, so it had come to this.

And in the days to come I learnt, too, what this meant. Merely to ask why the
murderers of 11 September had done their bloody deeds was to befriend
"terrorism". Merely to ask what had been in the minds of the killers was to
give them support. Any cop, confronted by any crime, looks for a motive. But
confronted by an international crime against humanity, we were not to be
allowed to seek the motive. America 's relations with the Middle East ,
especially the nature of its relationship with Israel , was to remain an
unspoken and unquestioned subject.

I've come to understand, in the three years since, what this means. Don't ask
questions. Even when I was almost killed by a crowd of Afghans in December 2001
furious that their relatives had been killed in B-52 strikes  The Wall
Street Journal announced in a headline that I had "got my due" because I was a
"multiculturalist". I still get letters telling me that my mother, Peggy, was
Adolf Eichmann's daughter.

Peggy was in the RAF in 1940, repairing radios on damaged Spitfires, as I
recalled at her funeral in 1998. But I also remember, at the service in the
chancel of the little stone Kentish church, that I angrily suggested that if
President Bill Clinton had spent as much money on research into Parkinson's
disease as he had just spent in firing cruise missiles into Afghanistan at
Osama bin Laden (and it must have been the first time Bin Laden's name was
uttered in the precincts of the Church of England) then my mother would not
have been in the wooden box beside me.

She missed 11 September 2001 by three years and a day. But there was one thing
she would, I feel sure, have agreed with me: That we should not allow 19
murderers to change our world. George Bush and Tony Blair are doing their best
to make sure the murderers DO change our world. And that is why we are in Iraq .

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