Pol Pot, Palestine and Pilger

ON Friday I signed off my fortnight of continuous writing about the ongoing slaughter in the Middle East with a tribute to my journalist hero John Pilger.

And I make no apologies by beginning this week with Mr Pilger once again.

Following the ISIS outrages in Beirut and Paris, John has now updated this prescient essay on the root causes of terrorism and what we can do about it.

I believe it is essential reading:

 

From Pol Pot to ISIS: The Blood Never Dried

IN transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”.

As Barack Obama wages his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Francois Hollande promises a “merciless” attack on the rubble of Syria, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again.

A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B-52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.

The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left giant necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air.

The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”

A Finnish Government Commission of Inquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.

ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of at least 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism.

The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common.

Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of ‘Shock and Awe’ and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey.

The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”

ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington, London and Paris who, in conspiring to destroy Iraq, Syria and Libya, committed an epic crime against humanity.

Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies, making accomplices of those who suppress this critical truth.

It is 23 years since a holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege.

Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.

Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”.

The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.

Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”

Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”

A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.”

When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.” Last year, a not untypical headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.

Here was Hain demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”.

The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce.

Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria? Instead, there is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Hollande, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They seem to relish their own violence and stupidityso much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally,  the government in Syria.

This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:

“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”

That was written in 1957, although it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes.

In 2013, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”

The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and now Russia.

The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of Nato, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS.

Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.

A truce – however difficult to negotiate and achieve – is the only way out of this maze; otherwise, the atrocities in Paris and Beirut will be repeated. Together with a truce, the leading perpetrators and overseers of violence in the Middle East – the Americans and Europeans – must themselves “de-radicalise” and demonstrate a good faith to alienated Muslim communities everywhere, including those at home.

There should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear.

Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.

More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered.

The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq, and the Nato and “coalition” crimes in Libya and Syria. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”.

Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”.  Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst and stop denying ourselves the truth will the blood begin to dry.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

 

Zionist Lies and Suppression of the Truth

SO I have come to end of 14 days of almost continuous writing about the ongoing slaughter in the Middle East.

This small journey started two Fridays ago when I challenged the official statements and propaganda of the killing of so-called Jihadi John.

In my 1,500 word piece entitled Roll On John I pointed at CIA and Mossad dirty tricks and false flag attacks and how all is not as it seems.

Like the rest of the world I was stunned some eight hours later by the massacres in Paris.

So many more pieces followed, including I Cried for You – Now It’s Your Turn to Cry Awhile which looked at the double standards within Western media in grieving over the Paris killings while ignoring similar atrocities in Beirut and Nigeria and Beyond the Horizon o’er the Treacherous Sea which examined the US and Israeli funding and arming of ISIS.

There were many more articles, culminating in a look at how apartheid Israel is supported and allowed to thrive by Christian Zionism in the West.

Now almost 20,000 words later (not including the poems) I need to take stock before I decide how to move on, and whether what I am writing must now become a fully-fledged campaign.

But I cannot do this without doing two things.

First to thank the wonderful friends I have made over the past fortnight, fellow campaigners for a free Palestine and others for a more general peace in the Middle East.

So for the lovely Jane and Samantha in the USA, Nahida, Elleanne and Jackie here in the UK, the amazing warrior Anissa in Paris, Shirene in South Africa, the historian and compiler Hayat in Iran and my long-time friends in Pakistan and India, thank you all.

But before I take a weekend break, I need to pay homage to my one true living journalist hero: John Pilger.

John set me out on the path of investigative journalism when I first read his book Distant Voices way back in 1992.

Since that first reading it has been my journalist’s bible… never accept what you are told by the State, because often it is a pack of lies! So dig and keep digging until you find the truth.

What follows is a piece written by John in 2007 about the situation in Palestine and Israel. It is as relevant then as it is now:

 

Israel: An important marker has been passed

by John Pilger

FROM a limestone hill rising above Qalandia refugee camp you can see Jerusalem.

I watched a lone figure standing there in the rain, his son holding the tail of his long tattered coat.

He extended his hand and did not let go.

“I am Ahmed Hamzeh, street entertainer,” he said in measured English. “Over there, I played many musical instruments; I sang in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and because I was rather poor, my very small son would chew gum while the monkey did its tricks.

“When we lost our country, we lost respect. One day a rich Kuwaiti stopped his car in front of us. He shouted at my son, “Show me how a Palestinian picks up his food rations!”

“So I made the monkey appear to scavenge on the ground, in the gutter. And my son scavenged with him. The Kuwaiti threw coins and my son crawled on his knees to pick them up. This was not right; I was an artist, not a beggar . . . I am not even a peasant now.”

“How do you feel about all that?” I asked him.

“Do you expect me to feel hatred? What is that to a Palestinian? I never hated the Jews and their Israel . . . yes, I suppose I hate them now, or maybe I pity them for their stupidity. They can’t win. Because we Palestinians are the Jews now and, like the Jews, we will never allow them or the Arabs or you to forget. The youth will guarantee us that, and the youth after them . . .”

That was 40 years ago. On my last trip back to the West Bank, I recognised little of Qalandia, now announced by a vast Israeli checkpoint, a zigzag of sandbags, oil drums and breeze blocks, with conga lines of people, waiting, swatting flies with precious papers.

Inside the camp, the tents had been replaced by sturdy hovels, although the queues at single taps were as long, I was assured, and the dust still ran to caramel in the rain.

At the United Nations office I asked about Ahmed Hamzeh, the street entertainer. Records were consulted, heads shaken. Someone thought he had been “taken away . . . very ill”.

No one knew about his son, whose trachoma was surely blindness now. Outside, another generation kicked a punctured football in the dust. And yet, what Nelson Mandela has called “the greatest moral issue of the age” refuses to be buried in the dust.

For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever.

Documentation of the violent expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 is voluminous. Re-examination of the historical record has put paid to the fable of heroic David in the Six Day War, when Ahmed Hamzeh and his family were driven from their home.

The alleged threat of Arab leaders to “throw the Jews into the sea”, used to justify the 1967 Israeli onslaught and since repeated relentlessly, is highly questionable.

In 2005, the spectacle of wailing Old Testament zealots leaving Gaza was a fraud.

The building of their “settlements” has accelerated on the West Bank, along with the illegal Berlin-style wall dividing farmers from their crops, children from their schools, families from each other.

We now know that Israel’s destruction of much of Lebanon was pre-planned.

As the former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison has written, the recent “civil war” in Gaza was actually a coup against the elected Hamas-led government, engineered by Elliott Abrams, the Zionist who runs US policy on Israel and a convicted felon from the Iran-Contra era.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America’s crusade as Israel’s. On 16 August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30billion military “aid package” for Israel, the world’s fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France.

No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close.

International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel.

There is nothing like it in UN history. But something is changing. Perhaps last summer’s panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world’s TV screens provided the catalyst.

Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair – and latterly Obama and Cameron – and the incessant use of the inanity, “terror”, together with the day-by day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.

I got a sense of this recently in the United States. A full-page advertisement in the New York Times had the distinct odour of panic. There have been many “friends of Israel” advertisements in the Times, demanding the usual favours, rationalising the usual outrages. This one was different. “Boycott a cure for cancer?” was its main headline, followed by “Stop drip irrigation in Africa? Prevent scientific co-operation between nations?” Who would want to do such things? “Some British academics want to boycott Israelis,” was the self-serving answer.

It referred to the University and College Union’s (UCU) inaugural conference motion in May, calling for discussion within its branches for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

As John Chalcraft of the London School of Economics pointed out, “the Israeli academy has long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for an occupation in direct violation of international law [against which] no Israeli academic institution has ever taken a public stand”.

The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle. In Britain, an often Jewish-led academic campaign against Israel’s “methodical destruction of [the Palestinian] education system” can be translated by those of us who have reported from the occupied territories into the arbitrary closure of Palestinian universities, the harassment and humiliation of students at checkpoints and the shooting and killing of Palestinian children on their way to school.

These initiatives have been backed by a British group, Independent Jewish Voices, whose 528 signatories include Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Eric Hobsbawm.

The country’s biggest union, Unison, has called for an “economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott” and the right of return for Palestinian families expelled in 1948.

Remarkably, the Commons’ international development committee has made a similar stand.

In April, the membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted for a boycott only to see it hastily overturned by the national executive council.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for divestment from Israeli companies: a campaign aimed at the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of Israel’s exports under an EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended.

This is unusual, for these were once distant voices. And that such grave discussion of a boycott has “gone global” was unforeseen in official Israel, long comforted by its seemingly untouchable myths and great power sponsorship, and confident that the mere threat of anti-Semitism would ensure silence.

When the British lecturers’ decision was announced, the US Congress passed an absurd resolution describing the UCU as “anti-Semitic”. (Eighty congressmen have gone on junkets to Israel this summer.)

This intimidation has worked in the past. The smearing of American academics has denied them promotion, even tenure. The late Edward Said kept an emergency button in his New York apartment connected to the local police station; his offices at Columbia University were once burned down.

Following my 2002 film, Palestine is Still the Issue, I received death threats and slanderous abuse, most of it coming from the US where the film was never shown.

When the BBC’s Independent Panel recently examined the corporation’s coverage of the Middle East, it was inundated with emails, “many from abroad, mostly from North America”, said its report. Some individuals “sent multiple missives, some were duplicates and there was clear evidence of pressure group mobilisation”.

The panel’s conclusion was that BBC reporting of the Palestinian struggle was not “full and fair” and “in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture”. This was neutralised in BBC press releases.

The courageous Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, believes a single democratic state, to which the Palestinian refugees are given the right of return, is the only feasible and just solution, and that a sanctions and boycott campaign is critical in achieving this.

Would the Israeli population be moved by a worldwide boycott? Although they would rarely admit it, South Africa’s whites were moved enough to support an historic change. A boycott of Israeli institutions, goods and services, says Pappé, “will not change the [Israeli] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [the premises of Zionism] are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

And so would the rest of us.