The war on terror: the other victims
by John Pilger
International Socialist Review, November-December
The war against terrorism is a fraud. After three weeks' bombing,
not a single terrorist implicated in the attacks on America has
been caught or killed in Afghanistan.
Instead, one of the poorest, most stricken nations has been
terrorised by the most powerful-to the point where American pilots
have run out of dubious "military" targets and are now
destroying mud houses, a hospital, Red Cross warehouses, lorries
Unlike the relentless pictures from New York, we are seeing
almost nothing of this. Tony Blair has yet to tell us what the
violent death of children-seven in one family-has to do with Osama
And why are cluster bombs being used? The British public should
know about these bombs, which the RAF also uses. They spray hundreds
of bomblets that have only one purpose; to kill and maim people.
Those that do not explode lie on the ground like landmines, waiting
for people to step on them.
If ever a weapon was designed specifically for acts of terrorism,
this is it. I have seen the victims of American cluster weapons
in other countries, such as the Laotian toddler who picked one
up and had her right leg and face blown off. Be assured this is
now happening in Afghanistan, in your name.
None of those directly involved in the September 11 atrocity
was Afghan. Most were Saudis, who apparently did their planning
and training in Germany and the United States. The camps which
the Taliban allowed bin Laden to use were emptied weeks ago. Moreover,
the Taliban itself is a creation of the Americans and the British.
In the 1980s, the tribal army that produced them was funded by
the CIA and trained by the SAS to fight the Russians.
The hypocrisy does not stop there. When the Taliban took Kabul
in 1996, Washington said nothing. Why? Because Taliban leaders
were soon on their way to Houston, Texas, to be entertained by
executives of the oil company, Unocal.
With secret U.S. government approval, the company offered
them a generous cut of the profits of the oil and gas pumped through
a pipeline that the Americans wanted to build from Soviet central
Asia through Afghanistan.
A U.S. diplomat said: "The Taliban will probably develop
like the Saudis did." He explained that Afghanistan would
become an American oil colony, there would be huge profits for
the West, no democracy, and the legal persecution of women. "We
can live with that," he said.
Although the deal fell through, it remains an urgent priority
of the administration of George W. Bush, which is steeped in the
oil industry. Bush's concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and
gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped
fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to
meet America's voracious energy needs for a generation. Only if
the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the Americans hope to
So, not surprisingly, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
is now referring to "moderate" Taliban, who will join
an American-sponsored "loose federation" to run Afghanistan.
The "war on terrorism" is a cover for this: a means
of achieving American strategic aims that lie behind the flag-waving
facade of great power.
The Royal Marines, who will do the real dirty work, will be
little more than mercenaries for Washington's imperial ambitions,
not to mention the extraordinary pretensions of Blair himself.
Having made Britain a target for terrorism with his bellicose
"shoulder to shoulder" with Bush nonsense, he is now
prepared to send troops to a battlefield where the goals are so
uncertain that even the Chief of the Defense Staff says the conflict
"could last 50 years." The irresponsibility of this
is breathtaking; the pressure on Pakistan alone could ignite an
unprecedented crisis across the Indian sub-continent. Having reported
many wars, I am always struck by the absurdity of effete politicians
eager to wave farewell to young soldiers, but who themselves would
not say boo to a Taliban goose.
In the days of gunboats, our imperial leaders covered their
violence in the "morality" of their actions. Blair is
no different. Like them, his selective moralizing omits the most
basic truth. Nothing justified the killing of innocent people
in America on September 11, and nothing justifies the killing
of innocent people anywhere else.
By killing innocents in Afghanistan, Blair and Bush stoop
to the level of the criminal outrage in New York. Once you duster
bomb, "mistakes" and "blunders" are a pretense.
Murder is murder, regardless of whether you crash a plane into
a building or order and collude with it from the Oval Office and
If Blair was really opposed to all forms of terrorism, he
would get Britain out of the arms trade. On the day of the twin
towers attack, an "arms fair", selling weapons of terror
(like cluster bombs and missiles) to assorted tyrants and human
rights abusers, opened in London's Docklands with the full backing
of the Blair government. Britain's biggest arms customer is the
medieval Saudi regime, which beheads heretics and spawned the
religious fanaticism of the Taliban.
If he really wanted to demonstrate "the moral fiber of
Britain", Blair would do everything in his power to lift
the threat of violence in those parts of the world where there
is great and justifiable grievance and anger. He would do more
than make gestures; he would demand that Israel ends its illegal
occupation of Palestine and withdraw to its borders prior to the
1967 war, as ordered by the [UN] Security Council, of which Britain
is a permanent member.
He would call for an end to the genocidal blockade which the
UN-in reality, America and Britain-has imposed on the suffering
people of Iraq for more than a decade, causing the deaths of half
a million children under the age of five.
That's more deaths of infants every month than the number
killed in the World Trade Center.
There are signs that Washington is about to extend its current
"war" to Iraq; yet unknown to most of us, almost every
day RAF and American aircraft already bomb Iraq. There are no
headlines. There is nothing on the TV news. This terror is the
longest-running Anglo-American bombing campaign since the Second
The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. and Britain
faced a "dilemma" in Iraq, because "few targets
remain." "We're down to the last outhouse," said
a U.S. official. That was two years ago, and they're still bombing.
The cost to the British taxpayer; £800 million [$ 1.2 billion]
According to an internal UN report covering a five-month period,
41 percent of the casualties are civilians. In northern Iraq,
I met a woman whose husband and four children were among the deaths
listed in the report. He was a shepherd, who was tending his sheep
with his elderly father and his children when two planes attacked
them, each making a sweep. It was an open valley; there were no
military targets nearby.
"I want to see the pilot who did this," said the
widow at the graveside of her entire family. For them, there was
no service in St Paul's Cathedral with the Queen in attendance;
no rock concert with Paul McCartney.
The tragedy of the Iraqis, and the Palestinians, and the Afghans
is a truth that is the very opposite of their caricatures in much
of the Western media.
Far from being the terrorists of the world, the overwhelming
majority of the Islamic peoples of the Middle East and south Asia
have been its victims-victims largely of the West's exploitation
of precious natural resources in or near their countries.
There is no war on terrorism. If there was, the Royal Marines
and the SAS would be storming the beaches of Florida, where more
CIA-funded terrorists, ex-Latin American dictators and torturers,
are given refuge than anywhere on earth.
There is, however, a continuing war of the powerful against
the powerless, with new excuses, new hidden agendas, new lies.
Before another child dies violently, or quietly from starvation,
before new fanatics are created in both the east and the west,
it is time for the people of Britain to make their voices heard
and to stop this fraudulent war-and to demand the kind of bold,
imaginative non-violent initiatives that require real political
The other day, the parents of Greg Rodriguez, a young man
who died in the World Trade Center, said this: "We read enough
of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction
of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents,
friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further
grievances against us.
"It is not the way to go...not in our son's name."