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Robert Fisk, "Anglo-American Lies Exposed"

lazosubverto writes:

"Anglo-American Lies Exposed"

Robert Fisk in Baghdad -- 24 March 2003, The Independent

So far, the Anglo-American armies are handing their propaganda to the Iraqis on a plate. First, on Saturday, we were told -- courtesy of the BBC -- that Umm Qasr, the tiny Iraqi seaport on the Gulf, had "fallen". Why cities have to "fall" on the BBC is a mystery to me; the phrase comes from the Middle Ages when city walls literally collapsed under siege. Then we were told -- again on the BBC -- that Nassariyah had been captured. Then its "embedded" correspondent informed us -- and here my old journalistic suspicions were alerted -- that it had been "secured". "Embedded" reporters are those traveling with the American or British forces -- and who are now subject to a censorship that is willfully misleading the BBC's listeners, not just in Britain but all over the world.

Why the BBC should use the meretricious military expression "secured" is also a mystery to me. "Secured" is meant to sound like "captured" but almost invariably means, in the kind of parlance that the "embedded" reporters now adopt, that a city has been bypassed or half-surrounded or, at the most, that an invading army has merely entered its suburbs. And sure enough, within 24 hours, the Shiite city west of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigress rivers, proved to be very much unsecured, indeed had not been entered in any form -- because at least 500 Iraqi troops, supported by tanks, were still fighting there.

At one point on Saturday, the BBC introduced us to an "embedded" reporter "in Basra". This report fell to pieces when the correspondent admitted that he was not "in Basra itself"; which is why the BBC anchor in London later signed him off as a correspondent "in southeast Iraq". Quite so.

But it's not the nonsense that these journalists are churning out to us that matters. It's the treasure trove of point-scoring that it hands to the Iraqis. With what joy did Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan inform us all yesterday that "they claimed they had captured Umm Qasr but now you know this is a lie." With what happiness did the Iraqi information minister, Mohamed Said Al-Sahhaf, boast yesterday that Basra was still "in Iraqi hands", that "our forces" in Nassariyeh are still fighting.

And well could they boast because, despite all the claptrap put out by the Americans and British in Qatar, what the Iraqis said on this score was true. The usual Iraqi claims of downed US and British aircraft -- four supposedly "shot down" around Baghdad and another near Mosul -- were given credibility by the Iraqi ability to prove that the collapse of their forces in the south was untrue -- quite apart from the film of prisoners obtained last night. Indeed, the Iraqi government is slowly getting its own propaganda act together and was able, yesterday -- courtesy of a real live senior army officer (Gen. Hazim Al-Rawi) -- to read out what it claimed were the latest three dispatches from its army units in Basra and the marshes to the north. These reported that 77 civilians had been ?martyred? by US cluster bombs dropped in Basra.

It's not just the misleading American and British reporting emanating from what would once have been called the "pool". It's also what we know is not being divulged to us. We know, for example, that the Americans are again using depleted uranium (DU) munitions in Iraq, just as they did in 1991. Before the war began, they stated that they intended to use these warheads, which are manufactured from the waste of the nuclear industry -- to pierce armor -- and which are believed by thousands of Gulf War Syndrome sufferers, along with Iraqi doctors, to be responsible for a plague of cancers. Yesterday, the BBC told us that the US Marines had called up A-10 strike aircraft to deal with "pockets of resistance" -- a bit more military-speak from the BBC -- but failed to mention that the A-10 uses DU rounds. So for the first time since 1991, we -- the West -- are today spraying these uranium aerosols in battlefield explosions in southern Iraq; and we're not being told. Why not?

And where, for God's sake, does that wretched, utterly dishonest phrase "coalition forces" come from? There is no "coalition" in this Iraq war. There are the Americans and the British and a few Australians. That's it.

The "coalition" of the 1991 Gulf War does not exist. The "coalition" of nations willing to "help" with this illegitimate conflict includes, by a vast stretch of the imagination, even Costa Rica and Micronesia and, I suppose, poor old neutral Ireland with its transit rights for US military aircraft at Shannon. But they are not "coalition forces". Why does the BBC use this phrase? I repeat, why? Even in the Second World War, which so many journalists think they are now reporting, we didn't use this lie. When we landed on the coast of North Africa in Operation Torch, we called it an "Anglo-American landing".

And this is an Anglo-American war, whether we -- and I include the "embedded ones" -- like it or not. The Iraqis are sharp enough to remember all this. At first, they announced that captured US or British troops would be treated as mercenaries, a decision that Saddam himself wisely corrected yesterday when he stated that all prisoners would be treated "according to the Geneva Convention."

All in all, then, this has not been a great weekend for Messers Bush and Blair. Nor, of course, for Saddam although he?s been playing at wars for almost half the lifetime of Blair. One of our own Tornadoes is shot down by the Americans -- after the British lose personnel in three helicopter disasters -- and we haven't even totally captured the first town over the border from Kuwait. And even those journalists who have most bravely tried to see for themselves what is going on without the protection of their armies -- an ITV crew near Nassariyeh, for example -- are in mortal peril of their lives.

So here's a question from one who believed, only a week ago, that Baghdad might just collapse, that we might wake up one morning to find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi army gone and the Americans walking down Saadun Street with their rifles over their shoulders. If the Iraqis can still hold out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four days, if they can keep fighting in Basra and Nassariyeh -- the latter a city which briefly rose in successful revolt against Saddam in 1991 -- why should Saddam's forces not keep fighting in Baghdad?

Certainly, Iraqi history will not be complete without a new story of "martyrdom" in the country's eternal battle against foreign occupiers. The last fighters of Umm Qasr will become, in the years to come -- whatever the fate of Saddam -- men of song and legend. The Egyptians long ago did the same for their men killed at Suez in 1956.

Of course, this might all be a miscalculation. The pack of cards may be more flimsy than we think. But suddenly, this weekend, the quick and easy war, the conflict of "shock-and-awe" --the Pentagon's phrase is itself a classic slogan from the pages of the old Nazi magazine "Signal" -- doesn't seem so realistic. Things are going wrong. We are not telling the truth. And the Iraqis are riding high on it all."