20th March, 2003. Dry, sunny, quite warm. Nice weather for war.
I've written a lot of stuff on here about the impending - well, not impending any more - war in Iraq. I've sworn a lot. I've ranted and raved. I've got msgs congratulating me, and my fair share of pro war people telling me I'm deluded, I'm a fool, why don't I go and live with Saddam in his palace (because he's insane, and the commute to London is a bitch), the only way to stop him is force, what would you do, blah blah blah. I even got one telling me to stop doing so many writeups about the same thing - well, sorry, this is another one.
Today, the day actual war has broken out, I feel strangely subdued. Depressed, even. I could rant and rave again, telling you why this is wrong, but I'm not going to. I'm going to present some facts, undeniable facts, and I want you to think about them, make your own mind up. If you're pro war, this is for you - I'm not telling you you're wrong, I just want you to consider all these facts, and ask yourself: am I absolutely, positively sure that war in this situation is the good and right thing to do? Under each fact is a link to a relevant story, but I encourage you to search for other stories corroborating this, don't just believe one link. In all cases, there is plenty of evidence backing them up.
Okay, here goes:
Fact: Over the past 10 years, sanctions have been in place preventing Iraqi people from receiving proper medical aid, "in case" the medicines are used to create weapons. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children have died so far, thanks to these sanctions. At one time, the estimate was placed at (incorrectly) half a million children - when confronted with the figure, UN ambassador (and later Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright, said, "The price is worth it." Even if the figure is "only" hundreds of thousands instead of half a million, that's still a lot of dead kids.
Fact: Saddam is blamed for the continuing sanctions - if only he'd disarm, we'd give the dying kids food and medicine. Not so. The sanctions were always going to stay until Saddam was removed. Of course, that doesn't mean he's totally innocent, but in this case, we're the ones hurting those people.
Fact: The US supported Saddam and helped him during his rise to power and afterwards. Both the US and UK gave him his weapons, chemical and otherwise, and supported him during his war against Iran. He was a dangerous tyrant back then, yet there was no worry that he might give weapons to terrorists.
Fact: There is still no evidence that Iraq possesses any weapons of blahblahsoundbites. In 2000, a former weapons inspector said that they had "eliminated Iraq's capabilities fundamentally". Although some "question marks" remained, these were being addressed by Hans Blix before his team were pulled out - nothing has yet been found. (Personal aside: Bush and Blair saying that "intelligence shows Iraq has weapons" is not evidence. That's like saying I can prove the moon is made of cheese, and then announcing that I have been told by a very good source that the moon is made of cheese. That's not evidence either.)
Fact: A major US company, Halliburton, is in line to win a half a billion dollar contract to rebuild Iraq after the war. Dick Cheney, US vice president, used to run Halliburton. These contracts were all being set up well before the war.
Fact: Rupert Murdoch owns a large percentage of the world media, publishing 175 papers on three continents, including The Sun. He is strongly in favour of war, and so, amazingly, are every single one of his editors. Murdoch goes along with the US and UK governments because he wants them to repeal or relax laws which prevent any one person owning too many newspapers or news channels.
Fact: During Gulf War 1, the media were kept at a distance from the fighting, and told what had happened, dutifully reporting only what they were given. This was a carefully stage managed pack of lies, with reporters terrified of upsetting those who gave them the information, in case they were left out of the loop. (struggle.ws/issues/war/gulf_media.html) Journalists were threatened, intimidated, arrested, and, in some cases, physically attacked. (www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,894708,00.html)
Fact: The US government also lied about the accuracy of their missiles, pretending to have a 100% success rate.
Fact: Disturbingly, it seems that the same old media show is going to be repeated for this war. Independent journalists may have their satellite uplink positions fired upon. When asked about the potential danger of this, a senior Pentagon officer replied: "Who cares... They've been warned." Charming. So again it looks like all we'll get from the front lines is exactly what the US military wants us to believe.
Fact: Iraqi troops withdrawing from Kuwait in 1991 were bombed in a series of ferocious airstrikes by US jets. Vehicles at the front and back of the 2000-strong convoy were disabled, and the rest were then systematically bombed. The troops had no way of defending themselves against airstrikes. A US pilot described it as "like shooting fish in a barrel". Read Highway of Death for more details, or go to www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,894708,00.html, where you can also read about the tanks with snowploughs that buried Iraqi troops alive in their trenches.
Fact: Whether you're for or against war, the government made its choice without you - you had no choice in the matter, your opinion didn't matter. For the pro war among you, imagine if Blair had refused entirely to get involved in this, refused to start a war - he would have dismissed you as effectively as he dismissed the anti war people. Think about that for a minute: the government isn't there because we think they know best, because they're cleverer than us, because they make the decisions we can't. They're there to represent us, to do what we, the people, want. Not to say "we know best, and we're doing this no matter what you think, so tough shit". For or against, you cannot deny that they have made this decision without consulting the people who elected them.
So, taking all this into account, we have a large proportion of the world press repeating exactly what the government tells them, helping to change people's minds and opinions, making war more palatable to them by demonising everyone else. The government, the one we elected, that is supposed to represent us, is ignoring us and pressing on regardless. The reason that they say they want the war (to protect the Iraqi people and us) are clearly lies, otherwise we'd stop the sanctions, or would have done something ages ago, or would step in when other countries oppress their people. A lot of people are set to make a lot of money out of this war, even if you don't subscribe to the "oil war" point of view. Iraq is clearly not a threat, and the fear that their alleged weapons will be given to terrorists is misguided - terrorists do not shop exclusively in Baghdad, they are quite capable of sourcing weapons and bombs from anywhere else (for example, any other countries we sold them to). They don't even need these weapons, as the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 proved. This war will maim and kill innocent Iraqis, and make even more people angry at the US and the UK. Some people will get so angry, they will be willing to commit suicide in protest, taking some of us with them. Obviously Hussein is a despotic madman, and the world is a better place without him. But murdering thousands of innocent people doesn't achieve that aim. There has to be a better way of getting Saddam out of there - but then, where do we stop? Do we have the right to remove him? What should we be doing about this?
Sure, Saddam is a very bad man. But any war will simply mean lots of bombs and weapons fire, killing lots and lots of innocent people while Saddam goes into hiding. Those innocent people will be killed by our troops, whether it is intentional or not. If this was really about protecting the Iraqis from Saddam, why didn't we do it sooner? Why did we sell Hawk bombers to Suharto in Indonesia, the ones he used to bomb East Timor? If we're so concerned about the Iraqis, why do we still impose these sanctions that only hurt them? Why are we about to bomb them into oblivion? So Saddam should be removed, because he's a dictator - okay, but why was it okay for him to be a dictator back in the Iran/Iraq war? We didn't mind then, and we knew he was gassing his own people, hey, we sold him the gas! If this is really about the Iraqi people, then why aren't we doing something to help them properly? I want to help them - we've been trying to help them for years, but the government refuses. Understand, I want Saddam gone as much as anyone, he's a crazy dictator who rules his people with fear, torture and death. But bombing the people of Iraq is just playing into his hands. You want Saddam, fine, sneak in one night and catch him - can't be that difficult, can it? Surely? Catching one man, and bringing him to trial? It's not as if he has a network of caves, we even know more or less where he is. Why are we bombing civilians?
Don't believe everything the government or the media tell you. Question everything. Don't even believe me, look up all these facts for yourself, find out as much as you can before making your mind up. You're going to be fed a lot of propaganda during this war, but don't watch the TV to get your news, don't trust the newspapers to report objectively and accurately. Find other sources. There are a lot of independent media sites on the internet, none of which are owned by Murdoch, none of which rely on money from big corporations - www.indymedia.org (uk.indymedia.org for the UK version) is a good place to start. But remember that some of them have their own bias, usually to counteract the bias of the normal news media. Take everything with a pinch of salt, learn to read between the lines, think about stories - why is this happening now? Why is this person involved? What is the connection? Don't just blindly accept what you're told. Don't dismiss anti war people as cowards, or pro-Saddam, or anti-American, or unpatriotic, or deluded.
Just because the war has started, that doesn't mean we should get behind the troops and support them - it's not a football match, they'll do fine without us on the sidelines, cheering them on. If you join the army, you understand that you may be asked to go and shoot people, and possibly get shot yourself. If you don't understand that, you really shouldn't join up. I feel sympathy for them, having to go and fight a war, of course I do, but I have a lot more sympathy for the people who don't have heavy weaponry and superbombs, the unarmed men, women and children. I just want everyone to come home and be with their families, safe, and alive. Would you be willing to go and kill Iraqis and get killed yourself? Would you happily send your kids over there, let them shoot some innocent folk, then get their legs ripped off or their guts blown out? Would you stand over the coffin of your son or daughter, and proudly say "Hey, we did the right thing", and mean it? This is war, and a lot of innocent people are going to be murdered. Right now, people are already being murdered. Not killed, not "left dead", not victims of collateral damage - murdered. Whatever way you look at it, we are murdering innocent people. And so for that reason, and many others, I am totally against this war - I absolutely do not want one single person killed, not in my name, ever.
But I guess now I don't have any choice in the matter. And neither do you. Operation Enduring Bullshit is underway. Let the murdering begin.
Thanks to O Boy for correcting my appalling plural/singular errors - remember folks, "the government is", not "the government are"...