Who are the most enduring terrorists?
This article taken from "New Statesman," Aug 21st 1998
The bombings in East Africa and Northern Ireland have drawn responses of formidable hypocrisy. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said: "We will not be intimidated or pushed off the world stage by people who do not like what we stand for; and that is, freedom, democracy and the fight against disease, poverty and terrorism." It is now clear that the mostly African victims of the two US embassy bombs were left to suffer in appalling conditions while Albright flew home with the bodies of ten American dead to a flag-draped media event featuring a tearful Bill Clinton. Although more than 5,000 people were wounded in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, few were given medicl help by the Americans. One Boeing 707 chartered by the US government, able to carry 60 bed-bound casualties, flew from Nairobi to Pretoria with no Kenyans on board, only three Americans: one on a stretcher and two who were able to walk off the plane. In contrast, staff at Nairobi's Kenyatta Hospital were so overwhelmed that only the seriously injured were treated; in the morgue, hundreds of bodies were piled on tables.
This is the metaphor of the "world stage" across which Madeleine Albright struts. The source of the embassy bombs was undoubtedly the Middle East, where the policies of Albright's government and its predecessors cast long shadows. In 1991 a force led by the US killed more than 200,000 Iraqis in a colonial massacre, with one side having a huge advantage in forces and weapons. US and British forces fired tens of thousands of depleted uranium shells, an illegal weapon under UN Resolution 32/84, which bans the use of "radioactive material weapons". The Americans also bombed and buried alive Iraqi conscripts who were offering no resistance or were already in retreat. Both of these actions are war crimes.
Most important, the Middle East is subjected to an American-designed "peace process". This means the opposite. It is a war and terrorism process that has corralled the Palestinians between Israeli military forces and foreign invaders, known as "settlers", who are sponsored and armed by the Israeli government and subsidised by the US. The model is apartheid South Africa. In the meantime, the Palestinians and all Arabs must put up with stereotypes about Islamic fundamentalism and violence, when, in fact, not only have Muslims been responsible for a tiny proportion of deaths caused by terrorism, but in recent years it is they who have been the greatest sufferers from state terrorism: in Palestine, Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya and Somalia.
The omission from public debate of these truths, and of the pervasive violence of western fundamentalism as it goes about its divine work, is given respectabil-ity by western academics, journalists and thinktanks and by popular western culture. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the movie True Lies, kills 80 terrorists, all of them Arab Muslims. In Hollywood, as in the American and British media, it is apos-tasy to describe the democracies as terrorist states, regardless of their record.
Tony Blair said he "simply wept" for the victims of the terrorist act in Omagh. He also wept following the massacre of children at Dunblane when he vowed to "outlaw" handguns. Categories of guns were banned in Britain; but as the world's second biggest exporter of arms, the Blair government has secretly issued export licences for small arms sales to Kenya and Turkey, where members of the parlia-mentary opposition and journalists are routinely murdered. British-made hand-guns have also gone to the Far East, Alge-ria, Sri Lanka and Colombia - countries engulfed in day-to-day political and criminal violence. Rapid-firing Heckler and Koch machine guns, made by British Aerospace, equip Indonesia's militarised gestapo, Kopassus, which is responsible for the worst atrocities in East Timor.
In October, the UN Special Commission for Iraq is likely to recommend a partial lifting of the sanctions that have dev-astated that country since the 1991 slaughter. The US and Britain will almost certainly veto this. Protocol 1, Article 54 of the Geneva Convention states: "Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited." Under rules drawn up by a US-controlled committee, baby food and enriched powdered milk are banned. People are operated on without anaesthetic because vital equipment is blockaded, along with bandages, sutures, medical swabs, stethoscopes, X-ray equipment, scanners and water purifiers. Even ambulances are banned. Customs officers at Heathrow recently confiscated antibiotics from a humanitarian delegation flying to Iraq, and threatened to prosecute. Children's clothes, sanitary towels, light bulbs, schoolbooks, paper, pencils, shoelaces - all are banned.
Anyone doubting the scale of this terrorism by the governments of Britain and the US should read Geoff Simons' superb, scholarly and damningbook, The Scourging of lraq: Sanctions, law and natural justice (published by Macmillan, £9.99). Eight years of sanctions have killed two million Iraqis, including one million children. That is the child population of a medium-sized British city.
Robin Cook, who dreamt up the stunt of an ethical foreign policy, likes to talk about humanitarian exemptions. "Exemptions," writes Simons, "are for public relations. Sanctions are designed to kill. A doctor might as well call for the humane implementation of torture." George Bush, supported by John Major, began them. Now Clinton enforces them, backed by Blair, "the perfect peacekeeper" in the words of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Generally, this holocaust has been consigned to media oblivion. A recent ITN report blamed the "inadequacies of the Iraqi medical system" and concentrated on the brilliant care given to one Iraqi refugee in Britain. The genocidal effect of government policy was effectively airbrushed. According to the great American dis-senter Richard Falk, professor of international relations at Princeton, western scholarship and journalism have simply taken the humanity out of the study of nations. Western foreign policy, he says, "is formulated through a self-righteous, one-way moral/legal screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence." In other words, the most important terrorists are rarely identified.