The Great Game
[for Middle East Oil]
excerpted from the book
The New Rulers of the World
by John Pilger
Verso, 2002, paper
To me, I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard )
upon which is being played out a great game for the domination
of the world.
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, 1898
George Kennan, US strategic planner, 1948
"We have 50 per cent of the world's
wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation,
our real job in the coming period . . . is to maintain this position
of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality
. . . we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising
of living standards and democratisation."
Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2001 [of the war on terrorism
- after 9-11]
"This is World War Three."
Independent [newspaper, London] on Sunday during the Gulf War
"War is never pleasant. There are
certain actions that a civilised society can never contemplate.
This carpet bombing is undeniably terrible. But that does not
make it wrong."
... cluster bombs are landmines. The crucial difference from those
banned under international treaty is that they are dropped from
aircraft. At the time of writing, an estimated 70,000 American
cluster 'bomblets' lie unexploded in Afghanistan, already the
most landmined country in the world.
This is the nature of the 'war against
'Surely, the point about civilisation,' wrote a Guardian columnist,
Isobel Hilton, 'is that it does not descend lightly into terror
- and barbarism? . . . The Afghans, we hear, have a bent for savagery
and it would be absurd to expect a war in Afghanistan to be fought
by Queensberry rules. But whose war is this? . . . Were [the Americans
and British] fighting by Dostum's rules or by their own? Or do
we no longer bother with the distinction?'
Nothing has changed. Not the clusters, which were tested in Vietnam.
Not the shock to the liberal conscience when forced to acknowledge
the truth that mass murder, 'terror and barbarism' are standard
practice on 'our' side: only the technology is different. Not
the concealment of true objectives in moral illusions by the richest
country on earth using its terrifying military might against the
poorest, and in the name of 'civilisation'.
Neither has the disregard for peaceful
resolution changed. In 1954, US Secretary of State John Foster
Dulles walked out of a Geneva conference because the majority
had agreed on democratic elections in Vietnam that would unify
the north and south of the country. His action ignited a war that
took as many as five million lives.
In the spirit of Lord Curzon's 'great game', the bombing of Afghanistan
replaced unwanted tribes with preferred tribes. That both groups,
in the vernacular of the modern game, are 'terrorists' is beside
the point. The difference is that President Bush calls the present
occupiers of Kabul, the Northern Alliance, 'our friends'. These
are the same people welcomed with kite-flying in 1992, who then
killed an estimated 50,000 in four years of internecine feuding.
'In 1994 alone,' reported New York-based Human Rights Watch, 'an
estimated 25,000 people were killed in Kabul, most of them civilians,
in rocket and artillery attacks. One-third of the city was reduced
Today, having tortured and executed hundreds
of prisoners-of-war, as well as looted foreign aid warehouses,
the new heroes have quietly re-established their monopoly over
the affairs of the nation, as well as the heroin trade. Life is
meant to be easier for Afghan women, but the burqa remains, along
with most of the Taliban's laws. Only a third of children are
educated; of these, less than three per cent are girls. Sexual
policing thrives; and the much-trumpeted Women's Affairs Minister,
Dr Sima Samar, has been disposed of and charged with blasphemy.
Fazul Hadi Shinwari, the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
has said the Taliban's Sharia punishments will continue, including
stoning and amputation.
The president, Hamid Karzai, installed
by Washington, rules over a tribal council that is seen by most
Afghans as an unrepresentative sham. Karzai is guarded by 46 American
Special Forces soldiers and has survived one assassination attempt.
His country is stricken, with the arrival of only a fraction of
the money promised by its 'liberators' with which, they pledged,
to build a civilian infrastructure. The Americans dropped 10,000
tonnes of bombs. The United Nations estimates that between 50
and 100 people are killed or injured every week by unexploded
The greater sham is the 'war on terrorism'
itself. The search for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts in the
mountains of Afghanistan was a circus spectacle. The American
goal is, and always was, the control, through vassals, of former
Soviet Central Asia, a region rich in oil and minerals and of
great strategic importance to competing powers, Russia and China.
By February 2002, the United States had established permanent
military bases in all the Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan,
whose post-Taliban government is American approved. 'America will
have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind
that we could not have dreamed of before [September 11],' said
Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is just a beginning. The
ultimate goal is a far wider American conquest, military and economic,
which was planned during the Second World War and which, as Vice
President Cheney says, 'may not end in our lifetimes', or until
the United States has positioned itself as gatekeeper of the world's
remaining oil and gas.
| Since the end of the cold war, a new opportunity has arisen.
The economic and political crises in the developing world, largely
the result of post-colonialism, such as the blood-letting in the
Middle East and the destruction of commodity markets in Africa,
now serve as retrospective justification for imperialism. Although
the word remains unspeakable, the western intelligentsia, conservatives
and liberals alike, boldly echo the preferred euphemism, 'civilisation'.
From Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an ally of crypto-fascists,
to the former British liberal editor Harold Evans, the new imperialists
share a concept whose true meaning relies on an unexpressed contrast
with those who are 'uncivilised', i.e. inferior, and might challenge
the 'values' of the West, specifically its God-given right to
control and plunder.
There are many blueprints for the new
imperialism, but none as cogent as that of Zbigniew Brzezinski,
adviser to several presidents and one of the most influential
gurus in Washington, whose 1997 book is said to have biblical
authority among the Bush gang and its intelligentsia. In The Grand
Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives,
Brzezinski writes, 'Ever since the continents started interacting
politically, some 500 years ago, Eurasia has been the center of
He defines Eurasia as all the territory
east of Germany and Poland, stretching through Russia and China
to the Pacific Ocean and including the Middle East and most of
the Indian sub-continent. The key to controlling this vast area
of the world is Central Asia. Dominance of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan ensures not only new sources of energy
and mineral wealth, but a 'guardpost' over American control of
the oil of the Persian Gulf. 'What is most important to the history
of the world?' wrote Brzezinski. 'The Taliban or the collapse
of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation
of central Europe . . . ?' The 'stirred-up Muslims' replied on
September 11, 2001.
The first priority has been achieved,
says Brzezinski. This is the economic subjugation of the former
superpower. Once the Soviet Union had collapsed, he writes, the
United States looted some $300 billion in Russian assets, destabilising
the currency and ensuring that a weakened Russia would have no
choice but to look westward to Europe for economic and political
revival, rather than south to Central Asia. Brzezinski's analysis
dismisses the notion of 'local wars as responses to terrorism'.
Rather, they are the beginning of a final conflict leading inexorably
to the dissolution of national governments and world domination
by the United States.
Nation states will be incorporated in
the 'new order', controlled solely by economic interests as dictated
by international banks, corporations and ruling elites concerned
with the maintenance (by manipulation and war) of their power.
'To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal
age of ancient empires,' he writes, 'the three grand imperatives
of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain
security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant
and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.'
In 2001 ... US Council on Foreign Relations and the Baker Institute
for Public Policy described the significance of this decline for
American power. 'The world,' it said, 'is perilously close to
utilising all its available global oil production capacity.' If
the global demand for oil continues to rise, world shortages could
reduce the status of the US to that of 'a poor developing country'.
'The American way of life is not up for negotiation.'
'The hidden hand of the market,' wrote Thomas Friedman, the guardian
of American foreign policy in the New York Times, 'will never
work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without
McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist
that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is
called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.'
'Governments are reduced to playing the role of servile lackeys
to big business," wrote Noreena Hertz, the dissident London
... an elite of fewer than a billion people controls 80 percent
of the world's riches.
'Globalisation does not mean the impotence of the state,' wrote
the Russian economist and dissident Boris Kagarlitsky, 'but the
rejection by the state of its social functions, in favour of repressive
ones, irresponsibility on the part of governments and the ending
of democratic freedoms.' Since Thatcher and Reagan in the eighties,
social democratic states have looked to America and progressively
shed their 'social functions'. Repression has become a corollary.
Following September 11, 2001, Congress enacted the so-called Patriot
Act, which lays the foundation of a police state.
'The atmosphere is such,' wrote Andrew Stephen, the New Statesman's
Washington correspondent, 'that supposedly liberal columnists
debate the pros and cons of torturing prisoners, and then finally
conclude that, yes, torture is OK in these extraordinary times.'
This evokes the McCarthy period of the fifties when a state-promoted
paranoia consumed much of American life, suspending the Bill of
Rights and dictating foreign policy. Obeying the totalitarian
impulses that are as American as the Fourth of July, the United
States has become a plutocracy.
The unelected Bush cabal consists of authentic
fundamentalists, the heirs of John Foster Dulles and his brother
Alan, the Baptist fanatics who ran the State Department and the
CIA respectively, smashing reforming governments in country after
country-Iran, Iraq, Guatemala-tearing up international agreements,
such as the 1954 Geneva accords on Indochina.
The World Bank now admits that few of the poorest countries will
meet its 'poverty reduction targets' by 2015. In other words,
'structural adjustment programmes', consisting of privatisation,
indebtedness and the destruction of public services, have further
impoverished and disaffected a large proportion of the world's
This was illustrated at the fourth annual meeting of the World
Trade Organisation at Doha, in the Gulf state of Qatar, in November
2001. Although the WTO has 143 members, only twenty-one governments,
the richest, are permitted to draft policy, most of which has
already been written by the 'quad': the United States, Europe,
Canada and Japan. These rich nations demanded a new 'round' of
what they call 'trade liberalisation', which is the power to intervene
in the economies of poor countries, to demand privatisation and
the destruction of public services. Only they are permitted to
protect their home industries and agriculture; only they have
the right to subsidise exports of meat, grain and sugar and to
dump them in poor countries at artificially low prices, thereby
destroying the livelihoods of small farmers. (In India, says the
environmentalist Vandana Shiva, suicides among poor farmers are
Before the conference opened, the US trade
representative Robert Zoellick invoked the 'war on terrorism'.
He said, 'The United States is committed to global leadership
of openness and understands that the staying power of our new
coalition depends on economic growth . . .'4' The implication
could not be clearer. 'Economic growth' (rich elite, poor majority)
equals antiterrorism. Mark Curtis, the historian and Christian
Aid's head of policy, who attended Doha, described 'an emerging
pattern of threats and intimidation of poor countries' that amounted
to 'economic gunboat diplomacy'. He said, 'It was utterly outrageous.
Wealthy countries exploited their power to spin the agenda of
big business. The issue of multinational corporations as a cause
of poverty was not even on the agenda; it was like a conference
on malaria that does not even discuss the mosquito.' 'If I speak
out too strongly,' said an African delegate, 'the US will phone
my minister. They will say that I am embarrassing the United States.
My government will not even ask, "What did he say?"
They will just send me a ticket tomorrow . . . so I don't speak,
for fear of upsetting the master.' Haiti and the Dominican Republic
were threatened with the withdrawal of their special trade preferences
with the United States if they objected-to the new 'round' of
The truth about the West's various claims to furthering the 'development'
of the poor world, 'forgiving' its debt and generally promoting
'poverty reduction', can be found in the statistics on foreign
aid. Although members of the United Nations have agreed that the
rich countries should give a minimum of 0.7 per cent of their
Gross National Product in genuine aid to the poor world, Britain
gives just 0.34 per cent and the United States barely registers,
Two illustrations tell the story. One
of Clare Short's enterprises is in Ghana where, according to internal
documents, British officials have made clear that aid money for
a clean water project is conditional on the privatisation of the
country's water supply. This would reap profits for at least one
British multinational company, while ensuring the doubling of
water bills for the poorest. In the last Foreign Aid bill passed
by the US Senate in 2000, a pittance of $75 million went to the
poorest countries, a tenth of the cost of one B-52 bomber. The
same bill approved $1 .3 billion for the Colombian military, one
of the world's worst human rights violators.
US Space Command - Vision for 2020.
Historically, military forces have evolved
to protect national interests and investments-both military and
economic. During the rise of commerce, nations built navies to
protect and enhance their commercial interests. During the westward
expansion of the continental United States, military outposts
and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements
and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these
models . . . Although unlikely to be challenged by a global peer
competitor, the United States will continue to be challenged regionally.
The globalisation of the world economy will continue, with a widening
gap between 'haves' and 'have-nots' . . .
Shortly before Christmas 1991, the Medical Educational Trust in
London published a comprehensive study of casualties. Up to a
quarter of a million men, women and children were killed or died
as a direct result of the American-led attack on Iraq.
'Whatever faults we have,' he said, 'Britain is a very moral nation
with a strong sense of right and wrong...
With an arms business second only in size to that of the United
States, Britain continued to sell two-thirds of its lethal weapons
and military equipment to governments with appalling human rights
records. Its biggest customer is Saudi Arabia, the most extreme
Islamic regime on earth, tutors of the Taliban and home to most
of the alleged September 11 hijackers. An investigation by the
National Audit Office into the £20 billion 'Al Yamamah'
(The Dove) arms deal, whose report both Conservative and Labour
governments refused to release, describes 'commissions' paid on
Tornado fighters - £15 million on one aircraft is said to
be the going rate.
Britain is a major arms supplier to at
least five countries with internal conflict, where the combined
death toll runs to almost a million people. Countries on the verge
of war with each other are also clients: for example, India and
Pakistan. For twenty years, Britain armed the Indonesian genocidists
in East Timor.
When the Blair Government came to power,
and Cook made his 'mission statement' at the Foreign Office, he
met the two 1997 Nobel Peace Prize-winners, Bishop Carlos Belo
and Jose Ramos Horta, of East Timor He assured them Britain would
not license weapons that might be used for internal repression
in their occupied country. At a public meeting in London soon
afterwards, I listened to Bishop Belo make an emotional appeal
to the government. 'Please, I beg you,' he said, 'do not sustain
any longer a conflict which without these sales could never have
been pursued in the first place, nor for so long.' He might have
been speaking for much of humanity.
The government's response was to increase
arms shipments to Indonesia under cover of the Official Secrets
In the United States, the world's supermarket of weapons, the
making and selling of arms is central to any economic 'boom'.
The American 'military-industrial complex' is held aloft by arms
and other military-related contracts. Forty cents in every tax
dollar ends up with the Pentagon, which, in the financial year
2001/2, spent more than $400 billion. War ensures the industry's
prosperity. Following the Gulf War, American arms sales increased
by 64 per cent. The NATO attack on Yugoslavia resulted in an extra
$17 billion in sales. Following September 11, a 'boom' is already
evident in the weapons business.
The day the stock markets re-opened after
the attacks, the few companies showing increased value were the
military contractors Raytheon, Alliant Tech Systems, Northrop
Gruman and Lockheed Martin. As the US military's biggest supplier,
Lockheed Martin's share value rose by 30 per cent. The company's
main plant is in George W Bush's home state of Texas. As governor,
Bush tried unsuccessfully to sell the Texas welfare system to
Lockheed Martin-owned companies. In 1999, the company had record
arms sales of more than $ 25 billion, and received more than $12
billion in Pentagon contracts.
Within six weeks of the Twin Towers attacks,
Lockheed Martin had secured the biggest military order in history:
a $200 billion contract to develop a fighter aircraft. The aircraft
will be built in Fort Worth, Texas, creating 32,000 new jobs.
'Amidst all the bad news these days,' said a company executive,
'what's happening to our stake in America is good news.'
The British arms industry has also boomed
since September 11. At the time of writing, BAE Systems is selling
a $40 million air defence system to Tanzania, one of the world's
poorest countries. With a per capita income of $250 a year, half
the population has no clean running water, and one in four children
dies before their fifth birthday. Even though the World Bank has
opposed the sale, Tony Blair has given it his personal backing,
no doubt in the spirit of his evangelical speech to the Labour
Party Conference in which he called Africa's poverty 'a scar on
the conscience of the world'.
That the US is the only nation on record to have been condemned
by the World Court for international terrorism (in Nicaragua),
and has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on governments
to observe international law, is unmentionable. There is no conspiracy
to keep this beyond public gaze. Compliance to institutional and
corporate needs is internalised early in a journalist's career.
The difference, in authoritarian societies, is that the state
makes these demands directly. Self-censorship and censorship by
omission are rarely pointed out to practising journalists and
students in media colleges. Much of it is subliminal, giving it
pervasive influence. Minimising the culpability of western power,
indeed reporting countries in terms of their usefulness to the
West, becomes almost an act of professional faith.
In 1998, President Clinton went before the United Nations to speak
on terrorism. 'What are our global obligations?' he asked. 'To
give terrorists no support, no sanctuary.' Following September
11, 2001, President George W Bush said almost the same words.
'In the war against terrorism,' he said, 'we're going to hunt
down these evil-doers wherever they are, no matter how long it
takes.' Strictly speaking, it should not take long, as more terrorists
are given 'training, support and sanctuary' in the United States
than anywhere on earth. They include mass murderers, torturers,
former and future tyrants and assorted international criminals
who fit the President's description. This is virtually unknown
by the American public.
Hijacking is generally regarded as the
gravest of crimes, especially since September 11. As William Blum
points out in Rogue State, 'although there have been numerous
air and boat hijackings over the years from Cuba to the US, at
gunpoint, knifepoint and/or with the use of physical force, including
at least one murder, it's difficult to find more than a single
instance where the United States brought criminal charges against
the hijackers.' All the hijackers were anti-Castro.
As for sanctuaries, there is none to compare
with Florida, currently governed by the President's brother, Jeb
Bush. Blum describes a typical Florida trial of three terrorists,
who hijacked a plane to Miami at knifepoint. 'This is like trying
someone for gambling in a Nevada court,' he noted. 'Even though
the kidnapped pilot was brought back from Cuba to testify against
the men, the defence simply told the jurors the man was Iying,
and the jury deliberated for less than an hour before acquitting
Former Guatemalan Defence Minister Hector
Gramajo Morales was ordered by a US court to pay $47.5 million
in damages for his responsibility for the torture of an American
nun and the massacre of eight Guatemalans from one family. The
evidence suggests,' said the judge, 'that Gramajo devised and
directed the implementation of an indiscriminate campaign of terror
against civilians.' Gramajo graduated from the Kennedy School
of Government at Harvard, where he had studied on a US government
scholarship. He was never arrested, and eventually returned home,
saying he had merely carried out 'a more humanitarian' way of
dealing with opponents of the regime.
Former general Jose Guillermo Garcia has
lived in Florida since the 1990s. As head of El Salvador's military
during the eighties, Garcia oversaw the murder of thousands of
people by death squads connected to the army. Garcia's successor,
General Carlos Vides Casanova, who ran the feared National Guard,
is another resident of Jeb Bush's Sunshine State. 'According to
the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador,' writes Blum, 'Vides
covered up and protected those who raped and murdered three American
nuns and a lay worker in 1980. He was physically present on at
least two occasions when Dr Juan Romagoza was tortured; in the
end, the injuries inflicted on Arce left him unable to perform
General Prosper Avril, the Haitian dictator,
liked to display the bloodied victims of his torture on television.
When he was overthrown, he was flown to Florida by the US government.
The notorious Haitian death squad leader Emanuel Constant, whose
thugs terrorised Haiti, mutilating people with machetes, lives
in New York. Armando Fernandez Larios, a member of a Chilean military
squad responsible for torture and executions following the overthrow
of Salvador Allende in 1973, lives in Miami. Argentine Admiral
Jorge Enrico, who was associated with the infamous 'Dirty War'
of torture and 'disappearances' in the 1970s, lives in Hawaii.
Thiounn Prasith, Pol Pot's henchman and apologist at the United
Nations, lives in Mount Vernon, New York.
In California, in the eighties, I met
four Vietnamese who had been assassins in America's Operation
Phoenix; one of them ran a fast food drive-in. He seemed a contented
man. What all these people have in common, apart from their history
of terrorism, is that they were either working directly for the
US government or carrying out the dirty work of American policies.
Operation Phoenix, for example, devised, funded and run by the
CIA, was responsible for up to 50,000 murders.
Much was made of al-Qa'ida's training
camps in Afghanistan, the target of American bombers. But these
were kindergartens compared with the world's leading university
of terrorism at Fort Benning in Georgia. Known until recently
as the School of the Americas, it trained some 60,000 Latin American
soldiers, policemen, paramilitaries and intelligence agents. Forty
per cent of the Cabinet ministers who served in the genocidal
regimes of Lucas Garcia, Rios Montt and Mejia Victores in Guatemala
In 1993, the UN Truth Commission for El
Salvador named the army officers who had committed the worst atrocities
of the civil war; two-thirds of them had been trained at Fort
Benning. They included Roberto D'Aubuisson, the leader of the
death squads and the murderers of Archbishop Oscar Romero and
a group of Jesuit priests. In Chile, the school's graduates ran
Pinochet's secret police and three principal concentration camps.
In 1996, the US government was forced to release copies of the
school's training manuals. For aspiring terrorists, these recommended
blackmail, torture, execution and the arrest of witnesses relatives.
Renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute
for Security Cooperation, or Whisc, the school's website is missing
its 'History' pages. George Monbiot asked:
Given that the evidence linking the school
to continuing atrocities in Latin America is rather stronger than
the evidence linking al-Qa'ida training camps to the attack on
New York, what should we do about the 'evil-doers' in Fort Benning,
Georgia? Well, we could urge our governments to apply full diplomatic
pressure and to seek extradition of the school's commanders for
trial on charges of complicity in crimes against humanity. Alternatively,
we could demand that our governments attack the United States,
bombing its military installations, cities and airports in the
hope of overthrowing its unelected government and replacing it
with a new administration administered by the UN. In case this
proposal proves unpopular with the American people, we could win
their hearts and minds by dropping naan bread and dried curry
in plastic bags stamped with the Afghan flag.
Putting aside his mockery, Monbiot pointed
out that the only moral difference between America's terrorism
and that of al Qa'ida is that the latter was puny by comparison.
The trail of blood is endless: from the
subjugation of the Philippines and Central America, to the greatest
terrorist acts of all, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
from the devastation of Indochina, such as the murder of 600,000
peasants in neutral Cambodia, and the use of chemicals and starvation
against civilian populations, to the shooting down of an Iranian
passenger plane and the bombing of prisoners-of-war in a mud fort
The documentation of American terrorism
is voluminous, and because such truths cannot be rationally rebutted,
those who mention them, drawing the obvious connections between
them, are often abused as 'anti-American', regardless of whether
or not they themselves are American. During the 1930s, the term
'anti-German' was deployed against critics the Third Reich wished
When President Clinton ordered that missiles be fired at the Al
Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998, claiming it was a
'chemical weapons facility', it was, by any measure, a major act
of terrorism. The plant was well known as the only source of 90
per cent of the basic medicines of one of the poorest countries.
It was the only factory producing chloroquine,
the most effective treatment for malaria, and anti-tuberculosis
drugs that were lifelines to more than 100,000 patients at a cost
of about £1 a month. Nowhere else produced veterinary drugs
that killed the parasites passed from cattle to people, one of
Sudan's main causes of infant mortality.
As a result of the American attack, wrote
Jonathan Belke of the Near East Foundation, a respected humanitarian
organisation, 'tens of thousands of people-many of them children
- have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis and other
treatable diseases . . . [American] sanctions against Sudan make
it impossible to import adequate amounts of medicines to cover
the serious gap left by the plant's destruction.'
How many Sudanese have since died as a
result of Clinton's bombing? According to Germany's Ambassador
to Sudan, 'several tens of thousands seems a reasonable guess.'
A United Nations investigation, requested by the Sudanese government,
was blocked by Washington. None of this has been reported as news.
It is rarely reported that of the hundreds killed and thousands
wounded in the second intifada, 90 per cent have been Palestinian
civilians, 45 per cent have been under eighteen, and 60 per cent
were shot while in | their homes, schools and workplaces.
Unlike the Palestinians, the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo
was given an almost immediate right of return by the United States
and its NATO partners. The western media overwhelmingly supported
the NATO action. Yet this was a civil war, and NATO did not dispute
Yugoslav sovereignty. While the Kosovars were being repatriated,
250,000 Serbs and Roma were expelled or fled in fear from the
province. NATO's 40,000 occupying troops stood by as this ethnic
cleansing took place and did virtually nothing to prevent the
Kosovo Liberation Army from murdering, torturing, abducting, desecrating
churches and generally living up to its previous description by
Secretary of State Albright and Foreign Secretary Cook as 'a terrorist
During the Kosovo 'war', the list of civilian
targets in Yugoslavia was published on the internet, but no newspaper
carried it. Code-named 'Stage Three', these targets included public
transport, non-military factories, telephone exchanges, food processing
~ plants, fertiliser depots, hospitals, schools, museums, churches,
heritage-listed monasteries and farms.
'They ran out of military targets in the
first couple of weeks,' said James Bissell, the Canadian Ambassador
to Yugoslavia. 'It was common knowledge that NATO then went to
Stage Three: civilian targets. Otherwise, they would not have
been bombing bridges on Sunday afternoons and market places.'
Admiral Elmar Schmahling, head of German Military Intelligence,
said, 'The plan was to first put pressure on the civilian population
and second to destroy the Yugoslav economy so deeply it would
During the latter weeks of the bombing,
I watched the BBC's Kirsty Wark interviewing General Wesley Clark,
the NATO commander, on Newsnight. She asked not one question about
the targeting of civilians, even though the city of Nis had been
recently sprayed with cluster bombs, killing women, old people
and children caught in the open. That only 2 per cent of NATO's
precision-guided missiles hit military targets was fleeting news.
The headlines spoke of 'mistakes' and 'blunders'; barely a handful
of journalists, notably Robert Fisk, exposed them as deliberate.
The overall 'coverage' was exemplified by the work of Mark Laity,
the BBC's correspondent in Brussels, soon afterwards appointed
Personal Adviser to the Secretary-General of NATO.
The 'coverage' became a series of official
justifications, or lies, beginning with US Defence Secretary William
Cohen's claim that 'we've now seen about 100,000 military-aged
[Albanian] men missing . . . they may have been murdered' . Two
weeks later, David Scheffer, the US Ambassador at Large for war
crimes, announced that as many as '225,000 ethnic Albanian men
aged between 14 and 59' may have been killed. The British press
took their cue. 'Flight
from genocide', said the Daily Mail. 'Echoes
of the Holocaust', chorused the Sun and The Mirror. Tony Blair
also invoked the Holocaust and 'the spirit of the Second World
War', apparently unaware of the irony. The Serbs, in their epic
resistance to the Nazi invasion, lost more people, proportionally,
than any other European nation.
By June 1999, with the bombardment over,
international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute
examination. The American FBI arrived to investigate what was
called 'the largest crime scene in the FBI's forensic history'.
Several weeks later, having not found a single mass grave, the
FBI went home. The Spanish forensic team also returned home, its
leader complaining angrily that he and his colleagues had become
part of 'a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines,
because we did not find one-not one-mass grave.'
In November 1999, the Wall Street Journal
published the results of its own investigation, dismissing 'the
mass grave obsession'. Instead of 'the huge killing fields some
investigators were led to expect . . . the pattern is of scattered
killings [mostly] in areas where the separatist Kosovo Liberation
Army had been active.' The paper concluded that NATO stepped up
its claims about Serb killing fields when it 'saw a fatigued press
corps drifting toward the contrarian story: civilians killed by
Nato's bombs.' Many of the claims of numbers killed could be traced
back to the KLA. 'The war in Kosovo was cruel, bitter, savage,'
said the Journal. 'Genocide it wasn't.'
NATO had bombed, according to British
Defence Secretary George Robertson, 'to prevent a humanitarian
catastrophe' of mass expulsion and killing. In December 1999,
the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whose
monitors were in Kosovo just before the bombing, released its
report, which went virtually unreported. It disclosed that most
of the crimes against the Albanian population had taken place
after the bombing began: that is, they were not a cause, but a
consequence, of the bombing. 'While Serb forces were clearly the
instrument of the unfolding "humanitarian disaster",'
wrote former senior NATO planner Michael McGwire, 'Nato's long-trailered
urge to war was undoubtedly a primary cause [and description of
the] bombing as "humanitarian intervention" [is] really
In the summer of 2000, the International
War Crimes Tribunal, a body effectively set up by NATO, announced
that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's 'mass graves'
was 2,788. This included Serbs, Roma and combatants. It meant
that the figures used by the British and US governments and most
of the media were inventions. Little of this was reported.
Those journalists who had swallowed Nato's
lies were the loudest in their abuse of the few who had questioned
the bombing and exposed the charade of the 'breakdown' of the
Rambouillet talks that were manipulated to justify the bombing.
The tactic of their abuse was to equate objections to the killing
of civilians with support for Milosevic. This was the same propaganda
that equated humane concern for the Iraqi and Afghan peoples with
support for Saddam Hussein and the Taliban respectively. It is
a time-honoured intellectual dishonesty. In the wake of September
11, 2001, the proponents of the 'war on terrorism' fortified themselves
with the cry, 'We were right over Kosovo, we are right now' as
the cluster bombs rained down again, with only a change of terrain.
Writing in the Washington Post, the columnist Michael Kelly spoke
for the consensus in the media when he wrote, 'The American pacifists
. . . are on the side of future mass murders of Americans. They
are objectively proterrorist . . . that is the pacifists' position,
and it is evil.'
On September 11, 2001, George W Bush told America: 'I have directed
the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities
to find those responsible and bring them to justice.'
Well over a year later, the 'full resources'
of America's thirteen intelligence agencies have failed to secure
the conviction of a single person in connection with September
11.. Not one of the 22 men on the 'Terrorists Wanted' poster has
been sighted; not a cent of the $500 million reward money has
been claimed. As failures go, the enormity of this has few historical
equals. Yet, the heads of the two principal agencies, the CIA
and the FBI, have not been dismissed or forced to resign, or shamed
by Congress. For a while, George W Bush's popularity rating was
at an all-time high.
What Bush never explained to his fellow
Americans was that his and the previous Clinton administration
had been warned that al Qa'ida, or 'the Base', a network spawned
in an American client state, Saudi Arabia, was planning audacious
attacks on New York and Washington. Hidden from the public was
the CIA's long relationship with Osama bin Laden during the majaheddin
war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and that the President's
father still worked as a consultant to the immensely rich bin
In July 2001, a briefing paper was prepared for Bush. It began:
'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.'
And that is what happened.
Within days of the hijackers taking off
from Boston for the Twin Towers, reported the BBC, 'a special
charter flight out of the same airport whisked 11 members of Osama's
family off to Saudi Arabia. That did not concern the White House,
whose official line is that the bin Ladens are above suspicion.'
In January 2002, CNN reported that 'Bush personally asked Senate
majority leader Tom Daschle to limit the Congressional investigation
into the events of September 11 . . . The request was made at
a private meeting with Congressional leaders . . . Sources said
Bush initiated the conversation . . . He asked that only the House
and Senate intelligence committees look into the potential breakdowns
among federal agencies that could have allowed the terrorist attacks
to occur, rather than a broader enquiry . . . Tuesday's discussion
followed a rare call from Vice-President Dick Cheney last Friday
to make the same request . . .' The excuse given was that 'resources
and personnel would be taken' away from the 'war on terrorism'.
The study of post-war international politics, 'liberal realism',
was invented in the United States, largely with the sponsorship
of those who designed and have policed modern American economic
power. They included the Ford, Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations,
the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA) and the Council on Foreign
Relations, effectively a branch of government. Thus, in the great
American universities, learned voices justified the cold war and
its great risks.
In Britain, this 'transatlantic' view
found its clearest echo. With honourable exceptions, scholars
have taken the humanity out of the study of nations and congealed
it with a jargon that serves the dominant power. Laying out whole
societies for autopsy, they identify 'failed states' and 'rogue
states', requiring 'humanitarian intervention'. As Noam Chomsky
points out, imperial Japan described its invasion of Manchuria
as a 'humanitarian intervention' and Mussolini used the term to
justify seizing Ethiopia, as did Hitler when the Nazis drove into
In academic literature and the media, Bill Clinton was described
as 'centre left', a denial of the historical record. During the
Clinton years, the principal welfare safety nets were taken away
and poverty in America increased, an aggressive missile 'defence'
system known as 'Star Wars 2' was instigated, the biggest war
and arms budget in history was approved, biological weapons verification
was rejected, along with a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty,
the establishment of an international criminal court, a worldwide
ban on landmines and proposals to curb money laundering. Contrary
to myth, which blames his successor, the Clinton administration
effectively destroyed the movement to combat global warming. In
addition, Haiti was invaded; the blockade of Cuba was reinforced;
Iraq, Yugoslavia and Sudan were attacked.
'It's a nice and convenient myth that
liberals are the peacemakers and conservatives the war-mongers,'
wrote Hywel Williams, 'but the imperialism of the liberal may
be more dangerous because of its open-ended nature-its conviction
that it represents a superior form of life."
There is no conspiracy, and that should be emphasised. It is simply
the way the system works, ensuring 'access' and 'credibility'
in an academic hierarchy always eager to credit more ethical intent
to government policy-makers than the policy-makers themselves.
In politics departments, the task of liberal realists is to ensure
that western imperialism is interpreted as crisis management,
rather than the cause of the crisis and its escalation. By never
recognising western state terrorism, their complicity is assured.
To state this simple truth is deemed unscholarly; better to say
Martin Luther King
'The time has come when silence is betrayal.'
New Rulers of the World