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First We Take Basra And Then We Take … Basra Again

The People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders, That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country - Herman Goering at the Nuremberg Trial.

Anthony McIntyre • 30.03.03

Those of us who fell for the pre-war hype expected Iraq to be ruled by a new dictator this week, one more inclined towards accommodating a Western need for oil than the present tyrannical incumbent, and who would also know his country’s subservient place in the new world order. Instead we are witnessing Coalition forces lost in the sand dunes without a camel. ‘We didn't know that they would fight like this, the enemy is different to the one we “war-gamed” ’ said Lieut Gen William Walker commander of the US 5th Corps.

An account from Robert Fisk conveys something of the success the Iraqis have attained in frustrating the Coalition forces in their conquest of Iraq:

An Iraqi general, surrounded by hundreds of his armed troops, stands in central Basra and announces that Iraq's second city remains firmly in Iraqi hands ... Basra - reportedly "captured'' and "secured'' by British troops last week - is indeed under the control of Saddam Hussein's forces ... Basra remains totally outside British control.

Elsewhere, there is also an all too familiar anger etched into the faces of enraged Iraqi mourners as they bury their civilian dead. No fanfare, six gun salutes or embroidered caskets to bid them adieu. Just plain cheap coffins, reflecting their impoverished status in both life and death. How often have we witnessed that in Palestine? What resentment does it breed? How many does it drive into the ranks of those determined to end their own lives if they can take an eye for an eye?

Those still hopeful of an anti-Saddam uprising which would serve as cover for the myth that the invasion is about liberation should consider a report from John Daniszewski of the LA Times:

So far, the invading forces have been met more with clenched fists than open arms. This has been true even in cities and towns with large Shiite populations that rose up against Hussein after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Few listened when after the opening salvo of bombs rained down on Baghdad Saddam Hussein’s son Uday proclaimed that ‘this is the day that we have been waiting for to defend the beloved land of Iraq and its beloved leader President Saddam Hussein with our lives.’ While considerably more will die to defend Iraq than Saddam, their willingness to do so is prompting people to ask, how is the Coalition going to take Baghdad when it cannot take Basra?

Both sides appeal to God in these matters. Bush concludes some of his addresses with ‘God Bless America’ while Uday claims ‘victory will be achieved with help from God.’ But as the philosopher Epicurus, once reminded those around him, ‘if the gods listened to the prayers of people, all humankind would quickly perish since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another.’

Not that all those who are superstitious and adher to priestcraft actually support the war. The front page headline of The Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, blazed ‘The Madness of This War.’

Still, in the midst of it all there still seemed a few moments of light heartedness. Geoff Hoon the British Defence Secretary was described as a donkey by an Iraqi minister. Such language is evocative of the scathing World War One indictment of Britain’s military planners from the trenches - the British were an army of lions led by donkeys.

These days it is hard to believe that all those out fighting with the British Army are lions. The British are supplemented by the Royal Irish Regiment for whom the biggest dilemma is trying to work out who are Catholic Arabs and who are the Protestant ones. Of course it being IRAQ the brainless sectarian thugs of the RIR will have little difficulty persuading themselves that everybody is in the IRA with a Q on the end of it and should therefore be beaten. And for that no doubt, the loyal unionist population of Ulster, will support them.

Republican views of the war have been somewhat different if only discursively. It all depends on what side the leadership tell them to be on. If Gerry Adams were to announce at the close of today’s Ard Fheis ‘bomb Iraq’ hordes of party activists would stream out of the RDS in Dublin screaming ‘Iraqi bastards’ and seeking anti-war protestors to attack and denounce as ‘contras’ who fail to understand the revolutionary nature of the summersault as only the faithful can. Wags have it that when the Sinn Fein president was criticised for attending the early St Patrick’s Day party at the Whitehouse his response was that he was merely advising the president on how to solve the crisis through a peace process. Whatever he had to say George Bush appeared to have listened because at the next presidential address to the nation he denied ever having been commander in chief of US forces and claimed that he had always opposed the war on Iraq.

Of course humour in this situation has a limited currency, particularly in the United States. The climate is not propitious to be criticising the Coalition strategy facetiously or otherwise. For his moral courage at the Oscars, Michael Moore was booed and heckled. Paddy Woodworth found while driving through the rural west that a combination of talking to people and listening to their views on the radio could prove very revealing. Those who were critical of the president were by definition treacherous anti-Americans not welcome in the land of the free and should pack their bags for Iraq. We in Europe who oppose the war are "moral morons". Moral geniuses alone seem capable of supporting the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. ‘Anti-war protesters should be caged by the police, like the rabid animals they are.’ The particular author of such sentiment found himself in the company of Uday Hussein who is busy calling the Coalition hyenas. All of which brings to mind former British Home Secretary Leon Brittans’s comment on discovering that he was viewed as a poodle of Margaret Thatcher - ‘zoological metaphors.’

Deal with it as we may, it seems certain that we shall be dealing with it for some time to come. This is a war that will continue to be waged well into the foreseeable future. And the dust and the sand of Iraqi deserts should not be allowed to blind us with a form of moral glaucoma where we succumb to indifference and the advice of the powerful which is, as Eddie Holt points out, to ‘carry on as before - keep swimming in the afternoon if that is your gig - and leave the "war" to the people in charge.’




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

7 April 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Adams Will Tell Bush He's Anti-War
Eoin O'Broin


Stand Firm
Davy Carlin


Anti-War Human Rights Activists on Trial


First We Take Basra, And Then We Take ...Basra Again
Anthony McIntyre


Belfast - Building an Anti-War Movement

Davy Carlin


28 March 2003


"Stop the Deportations of the Irish in America!"
Sean O'Neill


The Horse's Head
Anthony McIntyre


"Sprint to Baghdad"
Karen Lyden Cox


Bombing Basra to Baghdad
Anthony McIntyre


Operation 'Coxswain' Continues





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