Bulletin 150



13 November 2004
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Our research center continues to receive much mail while
Iraq is burning. In Item A. another BLOG from Dahr Jamail brings another eyewitness account of the imperialist onslaught in Falluja, now underway, with speculations on future U.S. military operations in Iraq. In Item B. Professor Ed Herman has forwarded us an article by Professor John Pilger, at Cornell University, in which he discusses the phenomenon of the public collaboration with American war crimes in Iraq and the media censorship that facilitates it.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble 3


from Dahr Jamail :
Fri, 12 Nov 2004 20:07:44 +0300
Subject: Iraq Dispatches: "Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness..."

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
   November 12, 2004

Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness&

Leaving the hotel is always an adventure. Last night, with a full beard and a kefir draped around my shoulders, Abut Talat wisks me out into the chaotic streets of occupied Baghdad.

As we traveled around the capital, we took side roads, winding varying routes towards our destination, never daring to take the direct, most obvious path. Aside from the obvious threat of kidnapping which is my greatest concern, we travel accepting the fact that anywhere, anytime, we could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether that take the form of a car bomb like the one yesterday which detonated near a US patrol on Sa adoun street, killing 17 people and engulfing 20 cars in flames, or a full scale battle between occupation forces and resistance fighters like that which occurred in al-Adhamiya today.

The damp night air appeared as a haze which exaggerated the ever-present of smog in the capital. Driving around Baghdad always provides an assortment of smells-from beef kebobs cooking on the roadsides as vendors stoke their fires, or more commonly, as the stench of raw sewage as one passes through yet another un-reconstructed sewage infested area.

One of our stops is at the home of Dr. Wamid Omar Nathmi, a senior political scientist at Baghdad University. An older, articulate man who vehemently opposed the regime of Saddam Hussein, he is now critical of the US policy which is engulfing Iraq in violence, bloodshed and chaos.

He told me that during the buildup to the siege of Fallujah, he had sent John Negroponte, the current so-called ambassador of Iraq, a letter which, along with several other points, asked him, Do you think that by occupying Fallujah you will stop the resistance?

Of course his letter was ignored, and now we watch in fear as the resistance is spreading across Iraq like a wildfire, fanned by the pounding of Fallujah.

Dr. Nathmi added, Certainly the US military can eventually suppress Fallujah, but for how long? Iraq is burning with wrath, anger and sadness&the people of Fallujah are dear to us. They are our brothers and sisters and we are so saddened by what is happening in that city.

He asked what the difference was between what is occurring in Fallujah now to what Saddam Hussein did during his repression of the Shia Intifada which followed the 91 Gulf War. Saddam suppressed that uprising and used less awful methods than the Americans are in Fallujah today.

Dr. Nathmi is a brilliant man and certainly a warehouse of informative analysis about the events in Iraq. He was quick to point out another flaw in the US policy here, of how the US disbanded the entire Iraqi Police force in Ramadi the day before the siege of Fallujah began.

He held up his hands and asked, Who will provide security in Ramadi now, angels?

I can assure you, it is well over 75% of Iraqis who cannot even tolerate this occupation, he said a little later when discussing the Bush administrations attempts to whitewash the situation in Iraq. The right-wing Bush administration is blinded by its ideology, and we are all suffering from this, Iraqis and soldiers alike.

After our interview, we stopped by Abu Talat s home for a coffee and so I could say hello to his family. His son Hissan somberly asked me, When will the Americans leave, Dahr? I had no response. I don t know Hissan. I really don t know. He then said, I don t think they are ever going to leave Iraq.

I snuck back into the car and we wound our way across Baghdad, noting that most of the city sat in darkness. Baghdad is running on the generators Dahr, said Abu Talat, Even my home has been without electricity since 9am this morning. It was after 8pm.

He insisted we stop for ice cream, which I most certainly did not refuse, then he dropped me back at my hotel.

Today dawned a grey, windy day, with fighter jets scorching the sky en route to Fallujah.

Of course the flames of resistance have now engulfed other parts of Baghdad and Iraq alike. Here in Baghdad, the Amiriyah, Abu Ghraib and al-Dora regions have fallen mostly under the control of the resistance.

A friend of mine who lives in al-Dora said, The resistance is in control here now, they are controlling the streets.

What few US patrols still roam the streets are attacked often. This fact underscored earlier as several large explosions nearby shook the walls of my hotel this afternoon.

Abu Talat was once again trapped in his neighborhood and we were unable to conduct an interview when fighting broke out nearby his home. He called me and said, The Iraqi Police found a car bomb, and when they were warning people about it US troops showed up and were immediately attacked with RPG s. The fighting raged for at least half an hour, and several soldiers were wounded and taken away. Now fighter jets are flying so low over our neighborhood, using their loud voices to terrorize people.

Huge areas within the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, Baquba and Mosul are now controlled by the resistance. Will the slash and burn tactics of the US military in Fallujah be applied to those areas next?

Meanwhile, over near the Imam Adham mosque a huge demonstration organized by the Islamic Party (which just withdrew from the so-called interim government and recently called for a boycott of the elections), broke out. It was comprised of well over 5,000 angry people denouncing Ayad Allawi and demanding his resignation.

They also demonstrated to show that they were unafraid of the US military.

And they called for jihad against Allawi.


from Professor Ed Herman :
Subject: Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal


Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal

John Pilger
Monday 15th November 2004


Mainstream media speak as if Fallujah were populated only by foreign "insurgents". In fact, women and children are being slaughtered in our name. By John Pilger

Edward S Herman's landmark essay, "The Banality of Evil", has never seemed more apposite. "Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation'," wrote Herman. "There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals . . . others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public."

On Radio 4's Today (6 November), a BBC reporter in Baghdad referred to the coming attack on the city of Fallujah as "dangerous" and "very dangerous" for the Americans. When asked about civilians, he said, reassuringly, that the US marines were "going about with a Tannoy" telling people to get out. He omitted to say that tens of thousands of people would be left in the city. He mentioned in passing the "most intense bombing" of the city with no suggestion of what that meant for people beneath the bombs.

As for the defenders, those Iraqis who resist in a city that heroically defied Saddam Hussein; they were merely "insurgents holed up in the city", as if they were an alien body, a lesser form of life to be "flushed out" (the Guardian): a suitable quarry for "rat-catchers", which is the term another BBC reporter told us the Black Watch use. According to a senior British officer, the Americans view Iraqis as Untermenschen, a term that Hitler used in Mein Kampf to describe Jews, Romanies and Slavs as sub-humans. This is how the Nazi army laid siege to Russian cities, slaughtering combatants and non-combatants alike.

Normalising colonial crimes like the attack on Fallujah requires such racism, linking our imagination to "the other". The thrust of the reporting is that the "insurgents" are led by sinister foreigners of the kind that behead people: for example, by Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian said to be al-Qaeda's "top operative" in Iraq. This is what the Americans say; it is also Blair's latest lie to parliament. Count the times it is parroted at a camera, at us. No irony is noted that the foreigners in Iraq are overwhelmingly American and, by all indications, loathed. These indications come from apparently credible polling organisations, one of which estimates that of 2,700 attacks every month by the resistance, six can be credited to the infamous al-Zarqawi.

In a letter sent on 14 October to Kofi Annan, the Fallujah Shura Council, which administers the city, said: "In Fallujah, [the Americans] have created a new vague target: al-Zarqawi. Almost a year has elapsed since they created this new pretext and whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children and women, they said: 'We have launched a successful operation against al-Zarqawi.' The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah . . . and we have no links to any groups supporting such inhuman behaviour. We appeal to you to urge the UN [to prevent] the new massacre which the Americans and the puppet government are planning to start soon in Fallujah, as well as many parts of the country."

Not a word of this was reported in the mainstream media in Britain and America.

"What does it take to shock them out of their baffling silence?" asked the playwright Ronan Bennett in April after the US marines, in an act of collective vengeance for the killing of four American mercenaries, killed more than 600 people in Fallujah, a figure that was never denied. Then, as now, they used the ferocious firepower of AC-130 gunships and F-16 fighter-bombers and 500lb bombs against slums. They incinerate children; their snipers boast of killing anyone, as snipers did in Sarajevo.

Bennett was referring to the legion of silent Labour backbenchers, with honourable exceptions, and lobotomised junior ministers (remember Chris Mullin?). He might have added those journalists who strain every sinew to protect "our" side, who normalise the unthinkable by not even gesturing at the demonstrable immorality and criminality. Of course, to be shocked by what "we" do is dangerous, because this can lead to a wider understanding of why "we" are there in the first place and of the grief "we" bring not only to Iraq, but to so many parts of the world: that the terrorism of al-Qaeda is puny by comparison with ours.

There is nothing illicit about this cover-up; it happens in daylight. The most striking recent example followed the announcement, on 29 October, by the prestigious scientific journal, the Lancet, of a study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the Anglo-American invasion. Eighty-four per cent of the deaths were caused by the actions of the Americans and the British, and 95 per cent of these were killed by air attacks and artillery fire, most of whom were women and children.

The editors of the excellent MediaLens observed the rush - no, stampede - to smother this shocking news with "scepticism" and silence. They reported that, by 2 November, the Lancet report had been ignored by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others. The BBC framed the report in terms of the government's "doubts" and Channel 4 News delivered a hatchet job, based on a Downing Street briefing. With one exception, none of the scientists who compiled this rigorously peer-reviewed report was asked to substantiate their work until ten days later when the pro-war Observer published an interview with the editor of the Lancet, slanted so that it appeared he was "answering his critics". David Edwards, a MediaLens editor, asked the researchers to respond to the media criticism; their meticulous demolition can be viewed on the [http://www.medialens.org] alert for 2 November. None of this was published in the mainstream. Thus, the unthinkable that "we" had engaged in such a slaughter was suppressed - normalised. It is reminiscent of the suppression of the death of more than a million Iraqis, including half a million infants under five, as a result of the Anglo-American-driven embargo.

In contrast, there is no media questioning of the methodology of the Iraqi Special Tribune, which has announced that mass graves contain 300,000 victims of Saddam Hussein. The Special Tribune, a product of the quisling regime in Baghdad, is run by the Americans; respected scientists want nothing to do with it. There is no questioning of what the BBC calls "Iraq's first democratic elections". There is no reporting of how the Americans have assumed control over the electoral process with two decrees passed in June that allow an "electoral commission" in effect to eliminate parties Washington does not like. Time magazine reports that the CIA is buying its preferred candidates, which is how the agency has fixed elections over the world. When or if the elections take place, we will be doused in cliches about the nobility of voting, as America's puppets are "democratically" chosen.

The model for this was the "coverage" of the American presidential election, a blizzard of platitudes normalising the unthinkable: that what happened on 2 November was not democracy in action. With one exception, no one in the flock of pundits flown from London described the circus of Bush and Kerry as the contrivance of fewer than 1 per cent of the population, the ultra-rich and powerful who control and manage a permanent war economy. That the losers were not only the Democrats, but the vast majority of Americans, regardless of whom they voted for, was unmentionable.

No one reported that John Kerry, by contrasting the "war on terror" with Bush's disastrous attack on Iraq, merely exploited public distrust of the invasion to build support for American dominance throughout the world. "I'm not talking about leaving [Iraq]," said Kerry. "I'm talking about winning!" In this way, both he and Bush shifted the agenda even further to the right, so that millions of anti-war Democrats might be persuaded that the US has "the responsibility to finish the job" lest there be "chaos". The issue in the presidential campaign was neither Bush nor Kerry, but a war economy aimed at conquest abroad and economic division at home. The silence on this was comprehensive, both in America and here.

Bush won by invoking, more skilfully than Kerry, the fear of an ill-defined threat. How was he able to normalise this paranoia? Let's look at the recent past. Following the end of the cold war, the American elite - Republican and Democrat - were having great difficulty convincing the public that the billions of dollars spent on the war economy should not be diverted to a "peace dividend". A majority of Americans refused to believe that there was still a "threat" as potent as the red menace. This did not prevent Bill Clinton sending to Congress the biggest "defence" bill in history in support of a Pentagon strategy called "full-spectrum dominance". On 11 September 2001, the threat was given a name: Islam.

Flying into Philadelphia recently, I spotted the Kean congressional report on 11 September from the 9/11 Commission on sale at the bookstalls. "How many do you sell?" I asked. "One or two," was the reply. "It'll disappear soon." Yet, this modest, blue-covered book is a revelation. Like the Butler report in the UK, which detailed all the incriminating evidence of Blair's massaging of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq, then pulled its punches and concluded nobody was responsible, so the Kean report makes excruciatingly clear what really happened, then fails to draw the conclusions that stare it in the face. It is a supreme act of normalising the unthinkable. This is not surprising, as the conclusions are volcanic.

The most important evidence to the 9/11 Commission came from General Ralph Eberhart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad). "Air force jet fighters could have intercepted hijacked airliners roaring towards the World Trade Center and Pentagon," he said, "if only air traffic controllers had asked for help 13 minutes sooner . . . We would have been able to shoot down all three . . . all four of them."

Why did this not happen?

The Kean report makes clear that "the defence of US aerospace on 9/11 was not conducted in accord with pre-existing training and protocols . . . If a hijack was confirmed, procedures called for the hijack coordinator on duty to contact the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC) . . . The NMCC would then seek approval from the office of the Secretary of Defence to provide military assistance . . . "

Uniquely, this did not happen. The commission was told by the deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Authority that there was no reason the procedure was not operating that morning. "For my 30 years of experience . . ." said Monte Belger, "the NMCC was on the net and hearing everything real-time . . . I can tell you I've lived through dozens of hijackings . . . and they were always listening in with everybody else."

But on this occasion, they were not. The Kean report says the NMCC was never informed. Why? Again, uniquely, all lines of communication failed, the commission was told, to America's top military brass. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, could not be found; and when he finally spoke to Bush an hour and a half later, it was, says the Kean report, "a brief call in which the subject of shoot-down authority was not discussed". As a result, Norad's commanders were "left in the dark about what their mission was".

The report reveals that the only part of a previously fail-safe command system that worked was in the White House where Vice-President Cheney was in effective control that day, and in close touch with the NMCC. Why did he do nothing about the first two hijacked planes? Why was the NMCC, the vital link, silent for the first time in its existence? Kean ostentatiously refuses to address this. Of course, it could be due to the most extraordinary combination of coincidences. Or it could not.

In July 2001, a top secret briefing paper prepared for Bush read: "We [the CIA and FBI] believe that OBL [Osama Bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning."

On the afternoon of 11 September, Donald Rumsfeld, having failed to act against those who had just attacked the United States, told his aides to set in motion an attack on Iraq - when the evidence was non-existent. Eighteen months later, the invasion of Iraq, unprovoked and based on lies now documented, took place. This epic crime is the greatest political scandal of our time, the latest chapter in the long 20th-century history of the west's conquests of other lands and their resources. If we allow it to be normalised, if we refuse to question and probe the hidden agendas and unaccountable secret power structures at the heart of "democratic" governments and if we allow the people of Fallujah to be crushed in our name, we surrender both democracy and humanity.

John Pilger is currently a visiting professor at Cornell University, New York. His latest book, Tell Me No Lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, is published by Jonathan Cape