Russell, the great correspondent who reported the carnage of imperial
wars, may have first used the expression "blood on his hands" to
describe impeccable politicians who, at a safe distance, order the mass
killing of ordinary people.
In my experience "on his hands"
applies especially to those modern political leaders who have had no
personal experience of war, like George W Bush, who managed not to
serve in Vietnam, and the effete Tony Blair.
There is about them
the essential cowardice of the man who causes death and suffering not
by his own hand but through a chain of command that affirms his
In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi
leaders for war crimes left no doubt about what they regarded as the
gravest crimes against humanity.
The most serious was unprovoked
invasion of a sovereign state that offered no threat to one's homeland.
Then there was the murder of civilians, for which responsibility rested
with the "highest authority".
Blair is about to commit both these
crimes, for which he is being denied even the flimsiest United Nations
cover now that the weapons inspectors have found, as one put it,
Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, he has no democratic cover.
the archaic "royal prerogative" he did not consult parliament or the
people when he dispatched 35,000 troops and ships and aircraft to the
Gulf; he consulted a foreign power, the Washington regime.
in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian,
captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of "endless war"
and "full spectrum dominance" are a matter of record.
world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and
Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush's State of the Union speech
last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when
Hitler called his generals together and told them: "I must have war."
He then had it.
To call Blair a mere "poodle" is to allow him
distance from the killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children for
which he will share responsibility.
He is the embodiment of the
most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The
current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this
distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely
accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state
terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal
of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by
proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American
"interests", such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources,
When you next hear Blair or Straw or Bush talk about
"bringing democracy to the people of Iraq", remember that it was the
CIA that installed the Ba'ath Party in Baghdad from which emerged
"That was my favourite coup," said the CIA man
responsible. When you next hear Blair and Bush talking about a "smoking
gun" in Iraq, ask why the US government last December confiscated the
12,000 pages of Iraq's weapons declaration, saying they contained
"sensitive information" which needed "a little editing".
indeed. The original Iraqi documents listed 150 American, British and
other foreign companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical
and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions. In 2000
Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office Minister, blocked a parliamentary
request to publish the full list of lawbreaking British companies. He
has never explained why.
As a reporter of many wars I am
constantly aware that words on the page like these can seem almost
abstract, part of a great chess game unconnected to people's lives.
most vivid images I carry make that connection. They are the end result
of orders given far away by the likes of Bush and Blair, who never see,
or would have the courage to see, the effect of their actions on
ordinary lives: the blood on their hands.
Let me give a couple of
examples. Waves of B52 bombers will be used in the attack on Iraq. In
Vietnam, where more than a million people were killed in the American
invasion of the 1960s, I once watched three ladders of bombs curve in
the sky, falling from B52s flying in formation, unseen above the clouds.
dropped about 70 tons of explosives that day in what was known as the
"long box" pattern, the military term for carpet bombing. Everything
inside a "box" was presumed destroyed.
When I reached a village within the "box", the street had been replaced by a crater.
slipped on the severed shank of a buffalo and fell hard into a ditch
filled with pieces of limbs and the intact bodies of children thrown
into the air by the blast.
The children's skin had folded back,
like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood,
while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. A small leg had been so
contorted by the blast that the foot seemed to be growing from a
shoulder. I vomited.
I am being purposely graphic. This is what I
saw, and often; yet even in that "media war" I never saw images of
these grotesque sights on television or in the pages of a newspaper.
I saw them only pinned on the wall of news agency offices in Saigon as a kind of freaks' gallery.
years later I often came upon terribly deformed Vietnamese children in
villages where American aircraft had sprayed a herbicide called Agent
It was banned in the United States, not surprisingly for it contained Dioxin, the deadliest known poison.
terrible chemical weapon, which the cliche-mongers would now call a
weapon of mass destruction, was dumped on almost half of South Vietnam.
as the poison continues to move through water and soil and food,
children continue to be born without palates and chins and scrotums or
are stillborn. Many have leukaemia.
You never saw these children
on the TV news then; they were too hideous for their pictures, the
evidence of a great crime, even to be pinned up on a wall and they are
old news now.
That is the true face of war. Will you be shown it by satellite when Iraq is attacked? I doubt it.
was starkly reminded of the children of Vietnam when I travelled in
Iraq two years ago. A paediatrician showed me hospital wards of
children similarly deformed: a phenomenon unheard of prior to the Gulf
war in 1991.
She kept a photo album of those who had died, their
smiles undimmed on grey little faces. Now and then she would turn away
and wipe her eyes.
More than 300 tons of depleted uranium,
another weapon of mass destruction, were fired by American aircraft and
tanks and possibly by the British.
Many of the rounds were solid
uranium which, inhaled or ingested, causes cancer. In a country where
dust carries everything, swirling through markets and playgrounds,
children are especially vulnerable.
For 12 years Iraq has been
denied specialist equipment that would allow its engineers to
decontaminate its southern battlefields.
It has also been denied
equipment and drugs that would identify and treat the cancer which, it
is estimated, will affect almost half the population in the south.
November Jeremy Corbyn MP asked the Junior Defence Minister Adam Ingram
what stocks of weapons containing depleted uranium were held by British
forces operating in Iraq.
His robotic reply was: "I am
withholding details in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of
Practice on Access to Government Information."
Let us be clear
about what the Bush-Blair attack will do to our fellow human beings in
a country already stricken by an embargo run by America and Britain and
aimed not at Saddam Hussein but at the civilian population, who are
denied even vaccines for the children. Last week the Pentagon in
Washington announced matter of factly that it intended to shatter Iraq
"physically, emotionally and psychologically" by raining down on its
people 800 cruise missiles in two days.
This will be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.
military strategist named Harlan Ullman told American television:
"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has
never been seen before, never been contemplated before."
strategy is known as Shock and Awe and Ullman is apparently its proud
inventor. He said: "You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the
nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes."
What will his "Hiroshima effect" actually do to a population of whom almost half are children under the age of 14?
answer is to be found in a "confidential" UN document, based on World
Health Organisation estimates, which says that "as many as 500,000
people could require treatment as a result of direct and indirect
A Bush-Blair attack will destroy "a functioning
primary health care system" and deny clean water to 39 per cent of the
population. There is "likely [to be] an outbreak of diseases in
epidemic if not pandemic proportions".
It is Washington's utter
disregard for humanity, I believe, together with Blair's lies that have
turned most people in this country against them, including people who
have not protested before.
Last weekend Blair said there was no need for the UN weapons inspectors to find a "smoking gun" for Iraq to be attacked.
that with his reassurance in October 2001 that there would be no "wider
war" against Iraq unless there was "absolute evidence" of Iraqi
complicity in September 11. And there has been no evidence.
deceptions are too numerous to list here. He has lied about the nature
and effect of the embargo on Iraq by covering up the fact that
Washington, with Britain's support, is withholding more than $5billion
worth of humanitarian supplies approved by the Security Council.
has lied about Iraq buying aluminium tubes, which he told Parliament
were "needed to enrich uranium". The International Atomic Energy Agency
has denied this outright.
He has lied about an Iraqi "threat",
which he discovered only following September 11 2001 when Bush made
Iraq a gratuitous target of his "war on terror". Blair's "Iraq dossier"
has been mocked by human rights groups.
However, what is
wonderful is that across the world the sheer force of public opinion
isolates Bush and Blair and their lemming, John Howard in Australia.
few people believe them and support them that The Guardian this week
went in search of the few who do - "the hawks". The paper published a
list of celebrity warmongers, some apparently shy at describing their
contortion of intellect and morality. It is a small list.
CONTRAST the majority of people in the West, including the United
States, are now against this gruesome adventure and the numbers grow
It is time MPs joined their constituents and reclaimed
the true authority of parliament. MPs like Tam Dalyell, Alice Mahon,
Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway have stood alone for too long on this
issue and there have been too many sham debates manipulated by Downing
If, as Galloway says, a majority of Labour backbenchers are against an attack, let them speak up now.
figleaf of a "coalition" is very important to Bush and only the moral
power of the British people can bring the troops home without them
firing a shot.
The consequences of not speaking out go well
beyond an attack on Iraq. Washington will effectively take over the
Middle East, ensuring an age of terrorism other than their own.
next American attack is likely to be Iran - the Israelis want this -
and their aircraft are already in place in Turkey. Then it may be
"Endless war" is Vice-President Cheney's contribution to our understanding.
has said he will use nuclear weapons "if necessary". On March 26 last
Geoffrey Hoon said that other countries "can be absolutely confident
that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear
Such madness is the true enemy. What's more, it is right here at home and you, the British people, can stop it.