Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Baghdad Falls: President Bush Extends a Heartfelt Olive Branch to Iraq's Proud Population of Newly-Liberated, ..., ..., ...

April 10, 2003

Radio Statement by the President to the People of Iraq

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, people of Texraq. This is your superior white liberator speaking. Please discontinue your anarchic orgy of looting and burning for a few minutes in order to luxuriate in a rich sonic bath of my monosyllabic magnificence...
Baghdad Falls: President Bush Extends a Heartfelt Olive Branch...

Is Blair a neo-Conservative?

By Mark Mardell
2 April, 2003

At the recent Camp David summit between Tony Blair and President Bush, the news conference was packed and the overflow press corps listened from a big room, British and Europeans separated from their American colleagues by a thin partition...
BBC NEWS | Politics | Is Blair a neo-Conservative?

The first casualty of this war is common sense

If British troops get killed, it will be the fault of those who didn't want them to go to war in the first place, points out By Mark Steel

20 March 2003

I suppose Clare Short thinks she can get across her point of view more effectively by staying in the Cabinet. When civilian deaths go over 10,000, she'll give that Tony Blair such a look.

She seems to have convinced herself that she has to be part of a government that bombs Iraq, as without her they couldn't rebuild Iraq. That will be a comfort if there's a repeat of the incident in 1991, when 500 women and children were incinerated by a cruise missile in a Baghdad bomb shelter. As mothers reach out to touch their dying children they'll be thinking, "Thank God Clare's still in the Cabinet, so at least this site can be converted into a pedestrian precinct." If only Bin Laden had thought of this excuse. He could have said to Bush, "I know I've knocked your towers over, but I promise I'll help to rebuild them," and the two of them would now be the best of friends.

Sadly, a glance at previous US invasions suggests their promise of rebuilding might not be entirely believable. Because, to take the odd example at random, Nicaragua, Chile, Guatemala, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Grenada, Laos, and Somalia all seemed to miss out on this glorious regeneration scheme after the American military ripped them apart. They promise long-term commitment, have their way, then never phone, never write, you're just another notch on the Statue of Liberty. Or maybe the US government has the usual problems with builders. Someone in the White House rings up the firm they gave the job to, but every day they're told, "Alright mate, I had Somalia down for Tuesday, but I had a van break down on me."

To be fair to Clare Short, it's not just her who's tried to justify support for this war with arguments that wouldn't even be put by the mentally challenged. Peter Hain was one of several ministers who claimed the French made the war inevitable, by voting against the war. Similarly, I'm one of millions that should apologise for putting Margaret Thatcher into power by voting against her, and making the Cheeky Girls Number One by not buying their record. Hain went on to say, on Radio 5 on Tuesday, "The French have decided, by their veto, to not talk when the talk making war with their veto." John Prescott must have thought, "At last - someone who speaks my language."

Then came the claim that no country was going to bother voting for the UN resolution once they knew France was voting against. Because that's the way voting works - once one person has made their mind up, everyone else automatically votes the same way. Especially when it's the French. What hope has a beleaguered nation like America got when faced with the mighty French? True, Angola was threatened with crippling sanctions by the US if it voted the wrong way, just as Yemen once lost $ 700m in aid for a similar reason. But this counts for nothing next to the threats of the French, who could impose an export ban on black-and-white films or philosophical novels that could leave a country like Bulgaria in ruins.

If a weapons inspector reported no weapons, this was proof the weapons were being hidden. Maybe the police will take up this method. They'll burst through your door, rip up the floorboards and go "Absolutely nothing. That proves he's got the diamonds." The war will liberate the Kurds, making it essential to assure Turkey they won't be criticised for attacking Kurds. New evidence on Saddam's weapons has turned out to be an old student thesis. We've had the suddenly discovered "link between Saddam and Bin Laden". There was at least some truth in this, as there is one link - both only got to power through being armed and financed by the US in the first place.

Now they insist that we must support the safety of British troops invading Baghdad, by dropping opposition to them invading Baghdad. So if British troops are killed, it will be the fault of people who didn't want the troops to go.

There is a logic to all this, which is America's vision of a post-Cold- War world, in which every region of importance is ruled by those who are compliant to America. Which is why every protest against this war remains crucial. Even if it doesn't stop this war, it puts the brakes on them for the next one. And anyone who thinks protest makes no difference should imagine how many of those MPs would have opposed Blair if none had taken place.

No wonder that in trying to argue all this as valid, a once-articulate and principled character like Peter Hain has become a gibbering moron. They might as well put my two-year-old daughter on the radio to defend their case. So Dimbleby would say "Robin Cook, it's been put to you that Cat - there's a cat. Cat. Cat. Miaow. I want watch Barney.' How do you respond to that?

The Independent | Mark Steel | Comment

I'm losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush

Terry Jones
Sunday January 26, 2003

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: he's running out of patience. And so am I!

For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what. I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is.
The Observer | Comment | Terry Jones: I'm losing patience with my neighbours, Mr Bush

The Sketch: Are we going in? The PM replies with his weapons of mass obfuscation

By Simon Carr
14 January 2003

DURING THE Prime Minister's monthly press conference, Andrew Marr, the BBC's political editor, asked a question of such clarity and gravity I could hardly hear what he was saying. Never heard anything like it, certainly not in parliament. He genuinely expected to be answered. The novelty was deafening.

His question has often been asked in the House of Commons but no one expected it to produce anything useful in reply.

Marr asked the Prime Minister whether he believed he had UN authorisation to invade Iraq, whether or not the weapons inspectors found the famous smoking gun.

It is the fascinating question. Is Tony Blair going to invade Iraq without UN approval? He has always said the UN's authority must be upheld, so naturally we assume he'd ignore it when the time came. But knowing that he would defy it in the future means that he must ostentatiously kowtow to it now to bolster the UN's authority in the long term.

Peter Kelner is very good on this. Mr Blair can't offer a public guarantee to abide by a new UN resolution because that would encourage a veto by our ancient enemy (the French). Only by keeping alive the possibility of unilateral action will the French, Russians and Chinese be encouraged on to the winning side and thus allow a new UN resolution to be passed.

Never have our Prime Minister's quantum talents for being in two places at the same time been more useful.

"If a breach is discovered," he kept saying. He said it so often I started keeping a running total; it came to 11. Eleven times he said, "If there's a breach." But isn't the whole point that Saddam Hussein is in continuous breach of UN resolutions? And the 8,000-page document laying out in considerable detail his lack of weapons of mass destruction - wasn't that a breach in itself?

Mr Blair and the Americans insist they know Saddam has WMD. So what are the weapons inspectors for, as Channel 5 asked. "Aren't they a waste of time?" Oh no, no, no, the Prime Minister said. Or in other words, yes.

Don Macintyre from this paper referred to a quote assumed to be from the American hawk Donald Rumsfeld. January 27th was going to be a very big day; the beginning of the end. It's the day the weapons inspectors make their first report.

"None of us are putting speculative or arbitrary time frames on this," the Prime Minister said.

What did that mean? Should the weapons inspectors be given more time to find hard evidence? Or not?

"There is no point in speculating," the Prime Minister said.

Would we be able to go to war in April, May and June?

"Let's just see," he replied. "Put those questions to me in a few weeks' time.' Why? "Let's wait and see; if you speculate, people interpret it in different ways."

He went on to repeat that he didn't believe Saddam's claim that he lacked these weapons. "I'm quite sure he has them," he said.

Does that mean we're going in? It sounds very much like it. Which can only mean we aren't.

The Prime Minister's demand that Saddam be open and transparent must be open to cruel satire. But not from this loyal sketchwriter!



Don't ask for the evidence, just nuke Baghdad

'There will probably be an announcement soon that our steel industry was harbouring al-Qa'ida' says Mark Steel, tongue in cheek.

14 March 2002

THE AMERICAN military has become like one of these couples that always goes on holiday to the same resort. They're sat in the Pentagon muttering: "We always bomb the same place, every year. This year we looked through the brochures and thought of bombing somewhere new, like Yemen or North Korea, but in the end we thought we'd play safe and stick with Iraq as usual."

Because Saddam has acquired "weapons of mass destruction". Just now, at exactly the same time as the American military is on a roll and can justify anything it wants by pointing to Ground Zero. What a coincidence. And we know this is true because "there is evidence". Well that pretty much wraps the case up, then.

Some politically correct types might ask what the evidence is, but that's the sort of bureaucracy that snarls up any legal system. The evidence is bound to be as damning as that produced by Nato chief George Robertson when he held up an Iraqi canister and announced it would be lethal if Saddam filled it with deadly anthrax. Just as a bottle of lemonade would be lethal if you filled it with deadly anthrax, which is why the axis of evil should include Iraq, Iran and the Schweppes bottling plant in Sidcup.

What slightly confuses me is this. In 1991, following a 10-year war in which Saddam had been allowed, indeed encouraged, by the Americans to build up his military strength, the most destructive weapon he came up with was the Scud. Which is probably safe to let off in your garden as long as you make sure it stays upright and don't light it while it's in your hand. But since then Iraq has been observed day and night, pelted with cruise missiles and subjected to sanctions that prevent almost all imports. Even ping-pong balls are banned, presumably in case they're filled up with deadly anthrax.

Yet despite this, the place has got itself a pile of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam doesn't need to rule Iraq, he could play Las Vegas as the greatest magician in history. The climax of his show would be to invite someone on to the stage and say: "We've never met before, have we? Now I'd just like you to tell the audience if there's anything destructive here, anything at all." Then - kazoom - and out of a puff of smoke pops a beautiful assistant astride a silo full of nuclear warheads. Then David Blaine and Uri Geller say: "How the bloody hell has he managed that?"

It's also claimed that Iraq may have been connected to the attack on New York. For this is now the excuse for every act of American aggression. There will probably be an announcement soon that the British steel industry was harbouring al-Qa'ida terrorists.

Each new stage of the war against terrorism makes it clearer that the real aim has little to do with the twin towers and is a bid for what the American military describes as "full spectrum dominance". Partly, this entails revenge against anyone who's caused the US embarrassment, starting with the most recent and going back, making the named targets so far Iraq, Somalia, Iran and North Korea. Blair ought to be careful. Historically speaking, after that it goes Japan, Spain, the Confederacy, Mexico and then Britain.

But still Americans write in to newspapers such as this one, whining about any criticism of their government's warmongering. They're like a superpower version of Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager. Someone only has to suggest that maybe they shouldn't threaten to frazzle half the planet and they're screaming: "Oh it's so unfair. We're not allowed to do anything."

Almost every week sees a new "post 11/9 film" in which American soldiers blast their way heroically through a sinister land to deliver democracy to ungrateful savages. Mel Gibson's next effort will be to play Henry Kissinger parachuting into Santiago to help General Pinochet to stop the Chilean parliament drowning a litter of kittens.

In a typical article in one Sunday paper, an American writer lamented how he had "thought twice" about becoming a father in this "post September 11th world". Funny how it didn't bother him that he was bringing a child into a post -napalming-Cambodia world or a post-Chile-coup world or a post-Contra world. To the inevitable accusation that this makes me "anti- American", I would point out that three of my greatest living heroes are Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor and Bart Simpson. To suggest that anyone who questions the American military is "anti-American" is like suggesting that someone who voices concerns about the techniques of Harold Shipman holds an "instinctive hatred of doctors".

But no matter how barmy they get, there will be Tony Blair, shoulder to shoulder. Some people are suggesting that, by remaining faithful to George Bush, our Prime Minister has won some influence over him. This is true. Blair licks his arse so thoroughly that George now listens to Tony's opinion as to whether he should lick his right buttock first or his left.

The Independent | Steel | Comment