Posted by Andreas from dtm2-t8-1.mcbone.net (22.214.171.124) on Thursday, June 12, 2003 at 5:20PM :
Fisk on Anti-US Opposition In Iraq/Iraqi Press Censorship:
1) Anti-US Opposition In Iraq [And The So Called Roadmap]
2) Saddam or No Saddam, Iraqi Press Will Always Have Censors
Real Audio stream of the interview at:
Anti-US Opposition In Iraq [And The So Called Roadmap]
An Interview with Robert Fisk
by Amy Goodman and Robert Fisk
June 12, 2003
On June 11, 2003, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed Robert Fisk,
reporter with the Independent newspaper of London. He recently left Iraq
where he was chronicling the rising resistance to the U.S. occupation. Ten
American soldiers have been killed in ambushes across Iraq in the past 15
days including one yesterday in Baghdad who was attacked with rocket
propelled grenades. Fallujah has been a hotbed of Iraqi resistance since
April when U.S. troops fired into large crowds of civilians twice killing at
least 18 people. Democracy Now! is a national listener-sponsored radio and
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Fisk, can you talk more about what you found there?
ROBERT FISK: I don't think I've ever seen a clearer example of an army that
thought it was an army of liberation and has become an army of occupation.
It's important perhaps to say -- I did mention it in [a recent] article that
a number of those soldiers who were attached to the 3rd infantry division
who were military policeman, American ordinary cops like one from Rhode
Island, for example--they had a pretty shrewd idea of what was going on. You
got different kinds of behavior from the Americans. You got this very nice
guy, Phil Cummings, who was a Rhode Island cop, very sensitive towards
people, didn't worry if people shouted at him. He remained smiling. He just
said that if people throw rocks at me or stones at me, I give them candies.
There was another soldier who went up to a middle aged man sitting on a seat
and he said, "If you get out of that seat, I'll break your neck," and there
was quite a lot of language like that as well. There were good guys as well
as bad guys among the Americans as there always are in armies, but the
people who I talked to, the sergeants and captains and so on--most of them
acknowledge that something had gone wrong, that this was not going to be
One guy said to me, every time we go down to the river here--he was talking
about the river area in Fallujah--it's a tributary of the Tigris--it's like
Somalia down there. You always get shot at and you always get stoned, I
mean, have stones thrown at them. Some of the soldiers spoke very frankly
about the situation in Baghdad. One man told me--I heard twice before in
Baghdad itself, once from a British Commonwealth diplomat and once from a
fairly senior officer in what we now have to call the coalition, C.P.A., the
Coalition-- for the moment forces or whatever it's called--Authority, the
authority that's hanging on there until they can create some kind of Iraqi
government--they all say that Baghdad airport now comes under nightly sniper
fire from the perimeter of the runways from Iraqis. Two of them told me that
every time a military aircraft comes in at night, it's fired at. In fact
some of the American pilots are now going back to the old Vietnamese tactic
of cork screwing down tightly on to the runways from above rather than
making the normal level flight approach across open countryside because
they're shot at so much. It's a coalition provisional authority I'm thinking
of, the C.P.A., previously an even more long fangled name. There is a very
serious problem of security.
The Americans still officially call them the remnants of Saddam or
But in fact, it is obviously an increase in the organized resistance and not
just people who were in Saddam's forces, who were in the Ba'ath Party or the
There was also increasing anger among the Shiite community, those who were
of course most opposed to Saddam, and I think what we're actually seeing,
you can get clues in Iraq, is a cross fertilization. Shiites who are
disillusioned, who don't believe they have been liberated, who spent so long
in Iran, they don't like the Americans anyway. Sunni Muslims who feel like
they're threatened by the Shiites, former Sadaam acolytes who've lost their
jobs and found that their money has stopped. Kurds who are disaffected and
are beginning to have contacts, and that of course is the beginning of a
real resistance movement and that's the great danger for the Americans now.
GOODMAN: We're talking to Robert Fisk, who is just come out of Iraq. There's
a front page piece in The New York Times today, "GI's In Iraqi City Are
Stalked By Faceless Enemies At Night, and Michael Gordon writes about how
organized the resistance is, how it seems to come alive at night and that
what's clear, he says , is some attacks are premeditated, involve
cooperation among small groups of fighters including a system of signaling
the presence of American forces: talking about the use of red, white and
blue flares when forces come and then the attacks begin.
FISK: Yes, I've heard this. I also know that in Fallujah, for example,
there's a system of honking the horns of cars: when the vehicles approach,
the American convoy approaches, there's one honk on the horn. When the last
vehicle goes by the same spot, there's two honks on the horn, and the
purpose is to work out the time element between the first hooter and the
second because by that, they know how big is the convoy and whether it's
small enough to be attacked. That comes from a sergeant in the military
police in Fallujah taking part in this actual operation which I described to
you just now, which you read out from my report.
One of the problems with the Americans I think is that the top people in the
Pentagon always knew that this wasn't going to be human rights abuses ended,
flowers and music for the soldiers, and everyone lives happily every after
and loves America. You may remember when Rumsfeld first came to Baghdad,
something your president didn't dare to do in the end, he wanted to fly over
in an airplane.
He made a speech which I thought was very interesting, rather sinister in
the big hanger at Baghdad airport. He said we still have to fight the
remnants of Saddam and the terrorists in Iraq, and I thought, hang on a
minute, who are these people? And it took me a few minutes to realize I
think what he was doing, he was laying the future narrative of the
opposition to the Americans. I.E when the Americans get attacked, it could
be first of all laid down to remnants of Saddam, as in remnants of the
Taliban who seem to be moving around in Afghanistan now in battalion
strength, but never mind. It could be blamed on Al Qaeda, so America was
back fighting its old enemies again. This was familiar territory.
If you were to suggest that it was a resistance movement, harakat muqawama,
resistance party in Arabic, that would suggest the people didn't believe
they had been liberated, and of course, all good-natured peace loving people
have to believe they were liberated by the Americans, not occupied by them.
What you're finding for example is a whole series of blunders by Paul
Bremer, the American head of the so-called coalition forces, at least
coalition authority in Baghdad.
First of all, he dissolved the Iraqi Army. Well, I can't imagine an Army
that better deserves to be dissolved. But that means that more than quarter
of a million armed men overnight are deprived of their welfare and money.
Now if you have quarter of a million armed Iraqis who suddenly don't get
paid any more, and they all know each other, what are they going to do? They
are going to form some kind of force which is secret, which is covered; then
they will be called terrorists, but I guess they know that, and then of
course they will be saying to people, why don't you come and join us.
It was very interesting that in Fallujah, a young man came out to see me
from a shop just after the American searches there had ended and said some
people came from the resistance a few nights ago and asked him to join. I
said, what did you say, and he said, I wouldn't do that. But now, he said, I
might think differently. I met a Shiite Muslim family in Baghdad who moved
into the former home of a Saddam intelligence officer. This family had been
visited three nights previously by armed men who said, you better move out
of this house. It doesn't belong to you unless you want to join us. The guy
in Fallujah said that the men, the armed men who came to invite him to join
the resistance had weapons, showed their mukhabarat intelligence identity
card and said, we're still being paid and we are proud to hold our I.D.
cards for the Ba'ath Party. So, now you have to realize that Fallujah and
other towns like it are very unlike Tikrit, are very much pro-Saddam.
Fallujah is the site of a great munitions factory, it gave people massive
employment. They all loved Saddam in the way Arabs are encouraged to love
dictators or go to prison otherwise. But nonetheless, there is an embryo of
a serious resistance movement now.
On top of this, you can see the measure of what I think is basically
desperation. I've been writing about this in The Independent this morning in
London, well, last night for this morning's paper, and Paul Bremer now asked
the legal side of the coalition provisional authority to set up the
machinery of Iraqi press censorship. In other words, Iraqi newspapers are
going to be censored. Controlled I think is the official word they use, but
that means censorship.
That is the kind of language that Saddam used. Iraqis are used to a censored
press; after all, they lived with it for more than 20 years under Saddam
Now when you question the Americans about it, first of all they deny it.
Then the British half accept it; then other people involved in the coalition
say well it's probably true, yes, it is true.
But the problem is the wild stories appearing in the Iraqi press. Now, of
course there's no tradition of western style journalism in Iraq. There are
those that say it's a good idea, no tradition for example of letting the
other side have a say, checking the story out, going back on the ground and
asking the other side for their version of events. It doesn't exist. It's a
little bit, but not much. What you get after saying that Americans are going
with Iraqi prostitutes, American troops are chasing Iraqi women, that Muslim
women are being invited to marry Christian foreigners, that this is worse
than it was under Saddam. I'm actually quoting from one particular newspaper
called The Witness, which is a Shiite Muslim paper, basically that had its
first issue the other day. Other newspapers carry reports of American
beatings; they also carry reports of "I was Saddam's double" , and the
opening of mass graves. They're not totally one sided against the Americans.
But you can see how the occupation forces, let's call them by their real
name, are troubled by this kind of publication because it seems to them to
provoke or incite animosity towards the liberators of Iraq, which it is not
meant to do. But of course the problem is that the Imams in the mosques are
saying the same thing about the Americans. Now, the last quote I read from
American official said that it may be necessary to control what the Imams
were saying in the mosques; well, this is preposterous. I sat on Rashid
Street in Baghdad a few days ago and listened to the loud speaker carrying
the sermon of the imam from within the mosque.
I think he was saying the Americans must leave immediately, now. Well, under
the new rule presumably he's inciting the people to violence. What are we
going to do? Arrest all the Imams in the mosques, arrest all the journalists
who won't obey, close down the newspapers? I mean what Iraqi journalists
need are courses in journalism from reporters who work in real democracies.
You can come along and say, look, by all means criticize the Americans and
put the boot in if you want to, but make sure you get it right. And if you
also do that you have to look at your own society and what is wrong in it
and how Saddam ever came about. He didn't just come about because America
supported Saddam which my goodness they did. But Bremer is not interested in
this. What Bremer wants to do is control, control the press, control the
Imams, and it doesn't work. A lot of the incidents taking place now, the
violent incidents are not being divulged.
GOODMAN: Robert, you were just talking about a lot of the attacks we're
hearing about--what seems like a good number, a lot of the attacks--on U.S.
forces are not being reported.
FISK: I have a colleague, for example, who went down to Fallujah before the
incident I was describing to you earlier, after two gunmen, one American had
been killed in the fire fight, he reported, I spoke to both sides. On his
way back he was traveling past the town of Abu Garab a rather sinister place
where the huge prison is where Saddam executed so many prisoners, including
an Observer journalist back in the late 1980's.
As we were, as the colleague was passing by the town, he saw a young man
come up and throw a hand grenade at American troops in the Humvee.
The grenade missed them and exploded in the canal and wounded six Iraqi
children, a very clear account of what happened. I rang the coalition
forces, the telephone didn't answer as it very often doesn't do. And no
report ever emerged except in my paper that this incident had occurred.
Now, over and over again we keep seeing things, seeing small incidents
occur, soldiers threatening people outside petrol lines because people are
trying to jump the line and steal. And it just doesn't make it back into the
coalition record of what's actually happening in Iraq. The danger here is
not so much that we're not being told about it because we can see and find
out for ourselves. The danger is that the United States leadership in
Baghdad, and of course, especially back in the White House and Pentagon is
also not being told about it. Or if it is, information is only going to
certain people who can deal with that information.
It's very easy to say, well Iraq's been a great success we've got rid of a
dictatorship, the weapons of mass destruction which didn't exist have now
been destroyed or whatever interpretation you want to put on that. Human
rights abuses have ended, certainly the Saddam kind. But if you try and if
this information goes up the ladder every bit of it to people like Bremer,
I'm not sure it all is--I think it should be--then you can see how the
coalition doesn't represent the reality.
One of the big problems at the moment is the Americans and, to some extent
the British, particularly the Americans in Baghdad. They're all ensconced in
this chic gleaming marble palace, largest, most expensive palace. There they
sit with their laptops trying to work out with Washington how they're going
to bring about this new democracy in Iraq. They rely upon for the most part
former Iraqi exiles who never endured Saddam Hussein, who are hovering
around making sure that they get the biggest part of the pie possible. When
they leave the palace, when they go into the streets of Baghdad, the
dangerous streets of Baghdad, they leave in these armored black Mercedes
with gunmen in the front and back, soldiers, plain clothes guys with weapons
One Iraqi said to me the other day "who did you think was the last person we
saw driving through town like [this]?" I said, Saddam Hussein? They all
burst out laughing, of course, they said, exactly the same.
We are used to this just like they're used to press censorship. I think it's
difficult--you need to be in Baghdad to understand the degree to which
there's been this slippage of ambition and slippage in the ideological war.
I was in small hotel called the Al Hama the other day--it has a swimming
pool, 24-hour generators. Just going down to have a meal in the evening, I
came across two westerners, one with a pump action shotgun, the other with a
submachine gun passing me in the hallway.
I said, "Who are you?"
He said, "Well, who are you?"
"I'm a guest in the hotel. You have guns. Who are you?"
He said, "We work for D.O.D"
"Department of Defense, right?" (But he was obviously English--he had a
British accent.) "Hang on a second you're not American."
"No, we're a British company that is hired to look after D.O.D. employees in
Baghdad. That's why we're armed."
I said, "Who gives you permission to have weapons?"
He said, "The coalition forces, we're here protecting them."
Now, how often have Iraqis seen armed plain clothes men moving in and out of
hotels, they have for more than 20 years, now seeing them again. Well these
guys are not going to string them up by their fingernails and electrocute
them in torture cells. But again, the image, the picture is the same. The
armored escort, limousines in the street, soldiers kicking down the doors
searching for, "terrorists." The press censorship plans. Plain clothes
armed men going into a hotel asking who you are immediately by asking them
who they are, same system as before. It has this kind of ghastly ghostly
veneer of the old regime about it. The Americans are not Saddam, they're not
murdering people - they're not lining up people at mass graves, of course
they're not. But if you see through the eyes of the Iraqis, it doesn't look
quite that simple.
GOODMAN: We are talking to Robert Fisk, just came out of Iraq but you've
also written about the so-called road map to peace. I just wanted to get
your response to what happened yesterday in Gaza, with the Israeli
helicopter gun ships attempting to assassinate the political leader for
Hamas, Abdel Azziz Rantizzi. And also Bush strongly criticizing the
attempted assassination on the part of the Israel.
FISK: First of all he didn't strongly criticize them, he mildly, rather
pathetically and rather cowardly criticized the Israelis. This was an attack
which was meant to kill the political head of Hamas. And in the ghastly role
which the Palestinians and Israelis play in their bloody and useless
conflict, I can understand why the attack was made in that context.
But that attack did not kill Rantizzi, it killed a little child of five and
a young woman. Now your president said that that was "troubling". That isn't
troubling that's a shameful act, that's a despicable thing to do. But there
was no strong condemnation from Mr. Bush, he just said it was troubling. If
a Palestinian had attacked Israeli forces or Israeli political leader
involved in encouraging violence, had killed a little Israeli girl, and a
young innocent Israeli woman Mr. Bush would not have called it troubling. He
would have said it was a shameful, terrorist act, which it would have been.
How can it work when the most powerful president of the most powerful state
in the world, United States of America, can be so gutless and cowardly in
condemning the killing of two innocent people.
It is not troubling. It is an outrage that those two innocent people died.
Just as it would be if the Palestinians had done it. Just as it is when the
Palestinians do do it. [For Bush]It is not an outrage. Not a tragedy. Not
shameful. It is merely troubling. Like a flood is troubling or a heavy
rainfall that kills people or a storm is troubling. In that context how can
this new peace possibly work.
It's called a road map, who invented the phrase road map? I suppose the poor
old State Department and all the journalists dutifully used the word road
They can't use peace process because that's associated with Oslo and that
failed. You remember the cliche for the peace process, always had to be put
back on track. I suppose peace process was a railway line or a railway train
so it presumably always has to be put back on the main road or back on the
highway that is the cliche.
What has Sharon done? he's closed down a few empty caravans on hilltops.
At large and continuing to expand Jewish settlements, the Jews and Jews only
in occupied Arab land. What have the Palestinians done? Mahmoud Abbas says
I'm going to finish terrorism, there's going to be no more violence by the
Palestinians and, bang, there immediately is. We have the three main violent
groups, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa immediately carrying out the
And then praised by Rantizzi, I remember thinking, he's praising them,
that's against the road map so Israelis have got a green light to knock him
off and they tried and failed. I remember interviewing Rantizzi along
similar lines about six months ago in Gaza, as I was talking to him I saw an
Israeli helicopter emerge in the window and his body guard looked around
very nervously and I thought, oh, no, please go away and so I finished the
But I always thought he was a target, he always had two gunmen with him all
the time. That's not the point. Rantizzi is a very tough Hamas man, a very
ruthless man. He was one of the Palestinians who was illegally deported from
Israeli prisons into Lebanon in 1992. I actually met him there in the
southern Lebanon in the hills, when he was living rough, months after months
in a tent.
This is a very rough character, very tough guy--grew up the hard way in
guerrilla warfare as well as politics.
But when you're going to have a situation where you have an Israeli prime
minister who doesn't want to end the settlements, who is indeed the creator
of the settlements, and a Palestinian prime minister who can't stop the
intifada and a U.S. president who is so gutless he can only call a killing
of a woman and a child troubling, what chance is there for a road map or
peace process or any other kind of agreement in the Middle East?
GOODMAN: We're talking to Robert Fisk, who is just come out of Iraq and who
has reported extensively on the Middle East for more than 30 years.
I wanted to end, back in Iraq. CNN is reporting today that Ahmed Chalabi who
has addressed the Council on Foreign Relations is saying that Saddam Hussein
is moving in an arc around the Tigris River starting northeast of Baghdad.He
said finding Saddam would just be a matter of knowing whom to talk to.He
says based on information from credible sources, he believes the former
Iraqi president wants revenge and has obtained two suicide bombing vests for
attacks on U.S. forces. Chalabi says Saddam is paying bounty for every U.S.
soldier killed. Your response?
FISK: I long ago gave up putting any credit in anything that Ahmed Chalabi
says.The real issue is not where is Saddam Hussein, he could be sitting in
Minsk or Belarus or he could be sitting in Tikrit or in the Iraqi
countryside somewhere.Obviously there were plans to hide him in advance. You
know this goes back to another issue of the degree of real effort to find
him. Just look back, the Americans wanted to arrest Valadich and put him in
the Hague. We were going to capture Osama bin laden, he's still on the
loose. We were going to capture Mullah Omar, he's only got one eye, not
difficult to identify. But he's still on the loose. We can't get vice
president Ramadan in Iraq or Uday Hussein, the sons of Saddam. We can't get
Saddam himself. Can't get Naji Sabri the foreign minister.
I was sitting in a restaurant in Baghdad a week and a half ago, at the next
table next to me was Saddam's personal translator. I sort of did a double
take, I said, hi, how are you? I knew the guy. I'd known him for years and
years. I said, are you okay? Fine, fine no problem, he was having a beer
with friends. And he walked out. This is the same restaurant that later on I
saw Paul Bremer walk into with several special forces men to protect him and
his guests for dinner. I have to ask myself sometimes what's going on. Ahmed
Chalabi says that Saddam is moving in an arc, he maybe moving in a circle or
square for all I know but it's clear he's still alive. That's the point.
GOODMAN: Well, Robert Fisk, thank you very much for being with us.Robert
Fisk of the Independent of London just out of Iraq.
Saddam or No Saddam, Iraqi Press Will Always Have Censors
By Robert Fisk
BAGHDAD, 12 June 2003 (The Independent)
Paul Bremer has ordered his legal department in Baghdad to draw up rules for
press censorship. A joke, I
concluded, when one of the newly-styled Coalition Provisional Authority
officials tipped me off last week. But no, it really is true.
Two months after ‘liberating’ Iraq, the Anglo-American authorities and their
boss Paul Bremer — whose habit of wearing combat boots with a black suit
continues to amaze his colleagues — have decided to control the new and free
Iraqi press. Newspapers which publish ‘wild stories’, material deemed
provocative or capable of inciting ethnic violence will be threatened or
It’s for the good of the Iraqi people, you understand. A controlled press is
a responsible press — which is exactly what Saddam Hussein used to say about
the trashy newspapers his regime produced. It must seem all too familiar to
the people of Baghdad.
Now let’s be fair. Many stories in the emerging newspapers of Baghdad are
untrue. There is no tradition of checking reports, of giving opponents the
opportunity to be heard. There are constant articles about the behavior of
American troops. One paper has claimed that US soldiers distributed
postcards of naked women to schoolgirls — they even published the pictures,
with Japanese script on the cards. Even the most cynical Westerner can see
how this kind of lie can stir up sentiment against Iraq’s new foreign
“The people of Iraq have fallen,” Waleed Rabia, a 19-year-old student, wrote
in the new paper ‘Al-Mujaha’. “Invaders are in our country. The wild animals
of this jungle called a world are trying to rip us apart. We’ve been through
hard times under the old regime, but we were better then than we are
now...Look at those girls who are having sex with the Americans in their
tanks, or in the bathrooms of the Palestine Hotel...What about those Muslim
girls marrying Christian foreigners? No one can accept this as a true Muslim
or true Iraqi...” It isn’t difficult to understand the fury that this kind
of article might arouse — and the idea that the Anglo-American presence is
as awful as Saddam’s torturers betrays a truly eccentric mind — though it
would help if certain Iraqi police officers were not admitting that they
were arranging ‘dates’ for US troops.
What the Iraqis need, of course, is journalistic help rather than
censorship, courses in reporting — by experienced journalists from real
democracies (rather than the version Bremer seems set on creating) — rather
than a colonial-style suppression of free speech, which is what censorship
will become. But we’re now hearing that imams in the mosques may be censored
if they provoke unrest — this would obviously include the imam of the Rashid
Street mosque in Baghdad outside of which I heard him preaching last week.
The Americans must leave, he said. Immediately. Subversive stuff. Definitely
likely to provoke violence. So good-bye in due course, I suppose to the
Rashid Street imam. And of course, we all know how the first pro-American
Iraqi government of ‘New Iraq’ will treat the laws. They will
enthusiastically adopt the Western censorship law, just as former colonies
almost always take over the repressive legislation of their former imperial
I can obviously see the kind of stories that must be, at the least,
discouraged. Take last week’s extraordinary UN announcement — mercifully
ignored in most of the Western press — that Afghanistan is once more the
world’s No. 1 producer of opium. The hateful Taleban banned all poppy
production under their vicious rule, cutting off the Northern Alliance
warlords from their narcotics production. But since America’s ‘success’ in
routing the Taleban, the drug barons — the very same Northern Alliance lads
who were US allies in the ‘war on terror’ — have gone back into business.
Not one American official dares to comment on this shameful fact. Quite a
memorial to the thousands who died in the international crimes against
humanity of Sept. 11, 2001.
As for the Iraqis, what lessons are they to draw? If the Americans can let
the narco-terrorists rule again in Afghanistan, why should they be any more
moral in Baghdad where drugs are reappearing for sale on the streets,
courtesy — you guessed it — of the Afghan drugs trade. So censor the story.
Then we have German UN arms inspector, Peter Franck, telling ‘Der Spiegel’
magazine that Colin Powell’s evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass
destruction which he presented to the UN Security Council in February was
merely ‘a big bluff’. Former UN inspector Scott Ritter — who all along told
audiences before the war that Saddam had no WMDs — appears to have been
telling the truth. Saddam, he says, “couldn’t have destroyed weapons of mass
destruction without leaving traces.” So much for Donald Rumsfeld’s cheerful
suggestion that the Iraqi dictator had got rid of his nasties just before
the Americans and British staged their illegal invasion. “Britain and the
United States should admit they lied,” Ritter now suggests. Censor the
Out at Baghdad airport, the Americans are now holding 3,000 prisoners
without any intention of putting them on trial or charging them with
offenses. Where is Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister? The
Americans say they have him. But we don’t know where. What’s he being asked?
About Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? Or — my own guess — how much he
knows about America’s close relations with Saddam after 1978? In fact, Aziz
knows far too much about that shameful alliance; after all, he met Donald
Rumsfeld several times. One thing’s for sure. They’ll be no trial for Tariq
Aziz. Keeping him silent will be the first priority. But that’s not
something the Iraqis should learn about. Censor the story.
While we’re still on the subject of Baghdad Airport, it’s important to note
that American forces at the facility are now coming under attack every
night — I repeat, every night — from small arms fire. So are American
military planes flying into the airbase. The pilots have seen the gunfire
directed at them — some US air crews have now adopted the old Vietnam tactic
of corks crewing tightly down onto the runways instead of risking sniper
fire during a conventional final approach. The source is impeccable (it’s
within the Third Infantry Division, if the int. boys want to know). But what
will that tell the Iraqis? That the Americans cannot keep order? That a
resistance movement is well under way? Censor the story.
Then we have Paul Wolfowitz — or ‘Wolfie, as George Bush likes to call him —
blowing the whistle on America’s motives for the invasion of Iraq. Asked at
a Singapore conference why the (real) threat of North Korean nuclear weapons
was being treated differently from Iraq’s (less real) threat, Wolfie was
reported in ‘Die Welt’ to have given a truly revealing reply. “Let’s look at
it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is
that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea
of oil.” This, by the way, comes from the same man who told Vanity Fair that
“for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we
settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on: Weapons of mass
For Iraqis, this is incendiary material. The one suspicion held in common by
both Saddam’s former Baathists and Saddam’s bitterest opponents in Iraq is
that Britain and America invaded their country, not because of chemical or
biological or nuclear weapons, not because of human rights abuses, but for
oil. Clearly, Wolfie’s words are highly provocative, could give valuable
propaganda to Saddam’s ‘remnants’ — who are becoming as lethal as the now
famous Taleban ‘remnants’ — and stir up disorder among the vast majority of
peace-loving Iraqis who trust the Americans. Censor the story.
And what to print? Well, there’s the charnel house of mass graves being
discovered every day, the visits to the Saddamite torture rooms, the
continued and uproarious memoirs of the man who claims to have been Saddam’s
double — anything, in fact, which will remind the people of how awful Saddam
truly was and take their mind off what is really being done to their
country. Bremer is trying to quick-fix his new ‘consultative’ council of
wise Iraqis prior to the famous democratic election which has been briefly
postponed. And meanwhile he’s fired a quarter of a million Iraqi soldiers
from their jobs — ready, no doubt, to join the nascent resistance movement.
Yes, it truly is time for press censorship in Iraq.
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