We want an end to terrorism, not a new war

John Pilger Friday September 21, 2001 The Guardian

The prime minister's "we are at war" statements are irresponsible
in the extreme. It is said that some of his senior officials
understand this, as do many MPs: thus the messages of "restraint"
now being whispered to journalists.

Tony Blair is endangering the people of this country as well as
Britons abroad.

His willingness to join Bush's "crusade" and use military force
will neither avenge nor bring justice to nor honour the memory of
the ordinary people who died so terribly in America last week
because this will almost certainly lead to a gratuitous slaughter
of more innocents in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere.

It also risks nurturing a new generation of suicidal killers. Two
years ago, Denis Halliday, the assistant secretary general of the
United Nations who resigned over the Anglo-American-imposed embargo
of Iraq, told me: "We are likely to see the emergence of those who
may well regard Saddam Hussein as too moderate and too willing to
listen to the west. Such is the desperation of people whose children
are dying in their thousands and who are bombed almost every day
by American and British planes."

Blair's wanton disregard of this threat has been demonstrated in
recent years.

On a bogus pretext, he joined America's all-out assault on Iraq in
1998 and backed Clinton's missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory
in Sudan. The following year, his "moral crusade" with Clinton
against Yugoslavia killed hundreds of innocent civilians. This
summer, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported the Bush and Blair
governments had privately "given Sharon a green light" to invade
Palestinian territories. With each of these actions, and now his
bellicose declarations, Blair increases the risk of terrorist attack
against British citizens.

Blair's being "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush means allying this
country to a willingness to kill large numbers of non-Americans in
pursuit of uncertain immediate goals that has long been a feature
of US policy. This list is long.

Remember, if you can, the "free fire zones", including the use of
chemical weapons, that killed as many as 50,000 civilians every
year in Vietnam; the bombing of Cambodia that killed 600,000 people;
the unnecessary slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqis during
the 1991 Gulf war, the beginning of a silent holocaust that has
since claimed half a million children, according to the UN.

For Blair and Bush to say that war has been declared upon America
is rich.

During my lifetime, America has been constantly waging war against
much of humanity: impoverished people mostly, in stricken places.
Moreover, far from being the main perpetrators of terrorism, Islamic
peoples have been its victims - more often than not of an American
fundamentalism and its proxies.

Blair is acting like a schoolboy who has never seen war and what
cluster bombs do to human beings. He and the Queen shed tears for
the victims in America;

they have yet to shed tears for his - yes, his - victims in Iraq.
Nor will St Paul's cathedral be reconvened to mourn the innocents
who will die when he and Bush attack the shadows of Osama bin Laden.

In these surreal days, there is one truth. Nothing justified the
killing of innocent people in America last week and nothing justifies the
killing of innocent people anywhere else.

For the prime minister to behave responsibly, he would have to
speak out with a very different voice. He could say: "Our response
must not be to sink to the level of this criminal outrage and kill
for the sake of killing." He could seize this extraordinary historic
moment and call for the redirection of western politics away from
war and towards peace - specifically peace in those regions of the
world where one type of terrorism is the product largely of
imperialism, old and new. Britain is deeply implicated. As John
Cooley writes in Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International
Terrorism: "It was only Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's British
government which supported the jihad with full enthusiasm." The
CIA passed responsibility for backing mojahedin terrorism to the
British - much of it coordinated by an MI6 officer in Islamabad.
Osama bin Laden was given "free rein" in Afghanistan.

After more than a century of invasion, plunder and bombing (since
the 20s by the RAF), we in the west owe the people of Afghanistan
and the Middle East peace. The start of peace would be the
establishment of a Palestinian homeland, as laid down in international law
by a 34-year-old UN resolution; the lifting of the horrific embargo on the
civilian population of Iraq; and the careful, negotiated ending of
Afghanistan's isolation.

A tall order, yes. But these are the root causes of a grievance
and rage we can barely imagine, and there is no other enduring
solution than peace with justice. Unless real politics replaces
the autocratic impositions of power, the understudies of those who
murdered so many in America will appear and act;

nothing is surer. They cannot be bombed into oblivion. Only justice
for the millions of ordinary people, who are not murderers, will
bring the peace and security that is, after all, a universal right.