Tag Archives: Saddam Hussein

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

The view from Planet Blair

I’ve always thought that Tony Blair lived in a world of his own. He is an attention-seeker; a narcissist whose own ego is so large it may as well have its own MEP. So convinced was he of the need to overthrow Saddam Hussein that he lied to the country and lied to Parliament about the alleged stockpiles of WMD that Saddam had supposedly been building up over the years. In reality he only wanted one thing: to make his mark on history. Pure ego-driven stuff

In his book titled Journey, Blair has claimed that Labour lost the election because Brown had abandoned his Nu Labour policies. But such a monstrous ego refuses to recognize the glaringly obvious: Brown lost because he dithered over whether or not to hold a snap election in October 2007.  In the meantime, the Tories seized on Brown’s indecision and made hay while the sun shone. From that moment on he was a weakened figure. So no, it had nothing to do with you or your massive ego.

As for Brown abandoning Nu Labour policies, that is a figment. As this blog notes, the 2010 election campaign was fought on the same, tired old Nu Labour ideas that the 3  previous elections had been fought on.

I spoke to Patrick Diamond, who worked for Blair and Brown in Downing Street, when writing about the election debate. Diamond says “we very quickly reverted to a New Labour formula”. Despite an awareness that Labour had to contest the argument on “change versus change”, the argument became about the risk of the Tories.

Tony Blair has blood on his hands and so too does his anointed leadership candidate, David Miliband who covered up the fact that Britain outsources torture to other countries in order to avoid being directly implicated in torture and human rights abuses. It’s as if to say “We don’t torture but those savages do. We’re not savages. Let them do the job for us”.

Since leaving office, Blair has made millions from a variety of revenue streams which includes working in a senior capacity for investment bank JP Morgan, who have made a fortune from the Iraq War. This reminds us the reason why wars are often fought in the first place; wars represent a gravy train in which all kinds of businesses from investment banks to construction companies can make a killing. Blair was given his reward for helping JP Morgan to realize their dreams in Iraq.

Most of Nu Labour’s period in office was marked by the running Blair-Brown soap opera; it was a sideshow and it often diverted attention from elsewhere. In his book Blair accuses Brown of lacking emotional intelligence.

Many will point to Blair’s ‘achievements’ in Northern Ireland but I was never convinced by his handling of the talks and suspected that the Good Friday Agreement had been cobbled together and rushed through in order to enhance Blair’s reputation as ‘statesman’. This article from UTV suggest that he may have “bent the truth”. Unfortunately the story doesn’t give away too much detail and leaves much to the imagination.

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State-sponsored murder and the selective application of moral standards.

I see the usual Telegraph bloggers are a little quiet on today’s announcement of the findings of the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday. Just as well; they have nothing to crow about; the British Army shot 14 unarmed protesters on the 30th of January, 1972 and there isn’t a single word that can honestly be said in defence of the Para’s actions on that day. The Widgery Report published in the immediate aftermath of the massacre was recognised by many to be a total whitewash.  It exonerated the actions of those soldiers who did the killing with some of the culprits claiming that they had been “fired upon”. In their minds and in the mind of the State, they were acting in ‘self-defence’. Now we know the truth: the dead were unarmed and were killed in cold blood and the responsibility for this tragedy goes all the way to the top of the Army.

There is an irony to all of this: in 2001 when Blair was preparing the country to go to war in Iraq, he and others repeatedly made the claim that “Saddam killed his own people”. The justification for this accusation lay with the events in Halabja in Northern Iraq in 1989, at the tail end of the brutal and bloody Iran-Iraq War, when Kurdish villagers were gassed to death (in what was, in effect, a repeat of the British actions in Iraq in the 1920’s).  Through the clever use of denial and moral relativism they constructed a demon in the minds of the people: states don’t go around murdering their own citizens…and Britain is the sort of place where this kind of thing doesn’t happen.  We are honest and decent; we respect the rule of law. Now we know that this is a nonsense. On 30 January 1972, the British state killed its own people – 14 of them. There is no getting away from it, this is state-sponsored murder.

As for the Saville Inquiry itself, the only thing the Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, could offer on Newsnight was that “it will be divisive”. Another pointed to its cost (£191m) and its time-scale. It has taken 44 years for the truth to be revealed and the Inquiry took 12 years to reach its conclusion. It took a while but we finally got there.  Now the families of the dead can move on, though I won’t be naive enough to suggest that Northern Ireland is going to suddenly lose its sectarian tensions over night; they still exist in spite of Blair’s PR job.

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Nation-states, self-determination and having the right to possess your own nuclear device.

Nuclear weapons: every country should have one?

A couple of days ago, the UN Security Council, which is dominated by the victors of WWII and a few of their friends, voted to impose further sanctions on Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program. Now I am not a fan of the Iranian regime or the Revolutionary Guard but there is an awful lot of talk about themes such as ‘self-determination’ and ‘the right to exist’ but more often than not those themes are mentioned within the confines of Israel’s existence. If we are going to keep the current world formation of  nation-states with their overlapping (and occasionally contradictory) trading and ‘defence’ blocs, then surely it stands to reason that all countries have the right to exist and have the right to self-determination and those rights shouldn’t be in the gift of a small group of people who already possess a good deal of power and influence.

But what about Iran’s nuclear weapons progam, I hear some people cry. The truth is that there is no hard evidence that Iran actually has the capability to produce such a weapon and most of the commentators who talk darkly about an Iranian state bristling with nuclear weapons do so because they want a war with Iran. They want this war because they never recovered from the way in which their puppet, the Shah was ousted and all national assets – including oil- were seized by the revolutionary government. The desire for a war with Iran has very little to do with human rights or any other kind of rights, it is all about oil, oil, oil.

Furthermore, if Israel didn’t have a covert nuclear weapons program, I doubt Iran would have even bothered to begin the development of one…that is, if they have one or are working towards one.  Israel doesn’t face UN sanctions for its nuclear ambitions nor does it pay any attention to UNSC resolutions which are often vetoed by the US, UK and others.

It has been noted in the past that because there is no oil in many of those countries under authoritarian regimes, the West does no more than wring its hands. Burma, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and others are routinely lambasted for their lack of human rights but are not invaded nor do Western governments make bellicose noises in their direction. If oil was discovered off the coast of Burma/Myanmar, the Western powers would move hell and earth to oust the military regime.

At the forefront in the call for a war against Iran is Israel who acts as the West’s ‘eyes and ears’ in the Middle East. Indeed, Israel will make all kinds of claims with regards to Iran, even pointing to Gaza and claiming that it’s a nest of pro-Iranian vipers in order to justify their continued and illegal blockade.

I find it tragic that some people will continue to fall for the same old lies time and again. Remember Iraq and  Saddam Hussein’s alleged cache of WMD? I bet Tony Blair remembers and he still continues to insist that it was “the right thing to do” even though there were no WMD and the entire drive to invade Iraq was generated by the need to take back the oilfields that the West had lost when they were nationalised by Qasim in 1959. Of course, few politicians in this country and the US will ever mention Qasim or the real history of Iraq and how the nation’s oil was divided between the British, the French, the Americans and the Dutch in 1917 (Calouste Gulbenkian got 5% of the shares for brokering the ‘deal’); or how Iraq remained under British occupation until 1953.  We can’t let historical facts get in the way of ,er, democracy – right?

In the final analysis, it’s all about the filthy stuff that comes out of the ground; the same filthy stuff that continues to pollute the planet. As the old saying goes “where there’s muck there’s brass”. So which country should have the right to tell another country that they can’t have nuclear weapons? I’m not in favour of nukes. I hate them. I wish they weren’t there, but none of us can go back in time and assassinate the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. Now can we?But what if every country had its own nuclear device? Which one would be the first to press the button? It’s a heavy responsibility for anyone to bear. You can kill your enemy but, at the same time, you will find yourself running the risk of being nuked after having done the initial nuking.  This stand-off between the so-called ‘free’ and ‘communist’ hemispheres was referred to as  “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “MAD”. How apt.

Are we living through another MAD phase? Don’t ask.

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